The first Jews came to Prussia, i.e. the Teutonic State, as early as the 13th century. However, their presence was conditioned with many far-going restrictions. The situation significantly changed only in the first half of the 19th century under the Municipal Ordinance of 1808 which made it possible to cover Jews with the municipal law and then under an edict by the Prussian king William III of 1812 who allowed them to settle down and carry out craft businesses (with few exceptions). Finally, Frederick William IV established an act in 1847 which provided Jews with rights that were almost identical to those given to other subjects (except for the right to hold some higher administrative judicial and police positions).
To use simple terms, the vast majority of the Jewish community inhabiting the Western and Eastern Prussia in the 19th century was already a well assimilated and emancipated group. Also worth noting is a relatively good position of at least part of Jewish entrepreneurs who – considering the nature of economy of West and East Prussia – were mainly involved in trade and forwarding, especially of grain, wood, wooden products and horses. Most merchant house founded in larger and smaller towns of West and East Prussia at the half of the 19th century were established by Jewish merchants. Considering the close neighbourhood of the University in Królewiec (Königsberg) where the medical department admitted students of the Jewish origin without restrictions, there were relatively many Jewish physicians on the concerned territories.
The history of Jews in East and West Prussia in the first half of the 20th century is strongly marked first by the immigration of the so-called Eastern Jews (Ostjuden) to these provinces, the Great War and then (simultaneously..?) the growing wave of anti-Semitism, persecutions and finally extermination in the Third Reich period.
In my studies of the selected parts of the history of Jews in East and West Prussia in the 19th and the 20th century, I concentrate on the area which remains within the German cultural area, that is, the German Empire (until 1918), then the Weimar Republic and the Free City of Danzig (until 1939) and the German Reich (until 1945).
Selected research issues:
- Persecutions of Jewish population in the West Prussia district (Regierungsbezirk Westpreußen) in East Prussia (1933-1939)
- Persecutions and extermination of Jewish population in the Kwidzyń/Marienwerder district (Regierungsbezirk Marienwerder) in the Danzig-West Prussia District of the Reich (1939-1945)
- History of Jewish communities in selected cities of the Eastern Prussia
- Jewish merchant houses in East and West Prussia – mostly in Königsberg, Elbing and Danzig
- Jewish organizations and sport clubs
- Jewish students and lecturers at Technische Hochschule zu Danzig