Black Death, Persecution of Jews in Germany, Pogroms, German Empire, Swiss states, Guilds in Germany, Judicial torture, Strasbourg, Basel


When the Black Death approached the German Empire in 1348, civic authorities in Germany tried to prevent the disease from striking their cities. No one knew what the Plague was, but there were unfounded rumors that the contagion was caused by Jews who were poisoning the water sources. Civic authorities soon tortured Jews for confessions, and the largest single persecution of Jews in Germany before the 1940s broke out. Jews were attacked in more than three hundred communities, their wealth was plundered, and many thousands were burned to death. The pogroms in Strasbourg and Basel are well-documented examples of what happened in many places. These persecutions were often mandated by civic authorities, but the mob of lower-class citizens was almost always involved as well. The Jews were eradicated in many areas, and some of the survivors sought refuge in Poland. In many instances the Jews were not allowed to return to the cities for centuries.

Original Publication Citation

Winkler, A. (2005). The Medieval Holocaust: The Approach of the Plague and the Destruction of Jews in German, 1348-1349. Federation of East European Family History Societies, vol. XIII, 6-24.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Federation of East European Family History Societies




Harold B. Lee Library