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BERGHEIM: (Haut-Rhin département, Alsace région) PDF Print E-mail


See Selesat for burials and Ribeauvillé (adjacent city) for additional history. [January 2008]

This small medieval town and commune located at 48°12′16″N, 7°22′0″E is a completely fortified and has magnificent towers and walls. The Jewish community dating from the 14th century was expelled in 1349. In 1375, some Jewish families acquired the right of residence in Ribeauvillé at the same time as in Hattstatt and in Bergheim from a privilege granted by Leopold, archduke of Austria, dated from Basel on August 9th. On the same date, Archduke Leopold II gave to the inhabitants of Bergheim the rights for which the Jews paid him. Clewelin Siler and his wife Ann lived in the synagogue of Bergheim and on 20 December 1398 paid Reitbruderschaft, a kind of religious rent of 3 bâlois deniers for a "wine room" [probably vineyard]. Two Jewish families, Deyot and his brother Symunt Bergheim, whose family may have run away in 1349, asked for permission to settle here. In 1434, they gave two measures of wine to Smassmann de Ribeaupierre. This information also proves that the Jewry of Ribeauvillé and Bergheim, contrary to those of other régions, could have fields and grapevines since the wine given to Smassmann had not been bought by Jewry, but came from their own grapevines. On April 16th, 1458, Lazarus de Bergheim declared to have given up a "wine room" in Claus Schuler's for nine-florins coming from the purchase of a grapevine and a three-florin loan. In 1472, Hans Schelkopf and his wife Mergallen of Rorschwihr bought from Jacob de Brettenheim "a half room of wine" located in the suburbs of Bergheim in the place "uf der bunen" next to Hans Anckenfesel on one hand, and Fissel the Jew on the other. As everywhere else, political events had repercussions on the Jewry of the county of Ribeaupierre. Following war between Charles the Bold, King of the Burgundies, and René, Duke of Lorraine, the Swiss Confederates in Alsace in 1476 and in 1477 found that the Jews of Bergheim was manhandled as were those of Colmar, Kaysersberg, Ammerschwihr and others. On Friday, May 12th, 1525, angry peasants entered Bergheim, taking all the Jews first though their leaders had said to the lord of Ribeaupierre that they wanted only the priests, the monks, the nuns and the Jews. They took all their books and their Torah and tore them up, although the Jews had asked to buy them back for 400-florin. Then, they destroyed the synagogue, locking up all Jews in a home and making them watch. Finally, they took all of their property and sold it. A new difficulty arose the following year. In 1526, to the detriment of the same Jews of Bergheim, William de Ribeaupierre confiscated all wine that they had in Ribeauvillé as well as all their debt receipts supposedly because they had trafficked despite a ban published in front of the parish church. The Jews protested this accusation by invoking the evidence of Ulric de Ribeaupierre, son of William, who gathered facts and spoke for them. The hearing was carried out in front of the Council of Regency of Ensisheim, which issued following judgment: *William de Ribeaupierre had to return the property of the Jews while they had to return the letter to his son Ulric and to conform to the stipulations: *The Jews had to grant to their debtors without ability to repay their debts a respite of two years in three terms, while the others had to repay them according to their means. *The Jews had to record their debt holding only with the Ministries of Justice and secretaries of the domicile of their debtors, failing [nonentity] of the act being discussed. * Debts contracted with Jewry must not be guaranteed by chores, nor by buildings, private incomes or arrears, but only by negotiable guarantees. If the guarantees of a deceased debtor were insufficient for the repayment of the debts to the Jews, the order of repayments for the seigniory was Christian creditors first; and, in third line only, the Jews would be repaid. The Jews had to give 150-florins to Guillaume de Ribeaupierre, in the three traunches, as a reward for this arrangement. As for the twenty-eight or thirty measurements of wine confiscated by William de Ribeaupierre? They had to be returned to the Jews. From the end of the fifteenth to the end of the sixteenth century, the Jews lived only in Bergheim, not in Ribeauvillé. The Jewry of Bergheim pawned for silver; naturally, these pawns were not always of unquestionable provenance. From Vergichtbuch (Colmar's book of admissions) in 1488: Heinrich Hans de Cresswiller confessed that he had stolen two men's jackets from a home in Oterswiller on the other side of Rhine and a pair of trousers and that he had pawned them with a Jew from Bergheim for a florin, and that he also had stolen several leather pieces of someone in Fribourg-en-Brisgau and that he had pawned them to the Jew of Bergheim for eight shillings. These Jews therefore had to be known also except in the county of Ribeaupierre, probably because they were business acquaintances from distant regions. That probably explains the fact that two Jews of Bergheim named Ephraim and Michael paid not only a right of protection by the seigniory of Ribeaupierre, but also by the bishopric of Strasbourg from 1495 to 1505. From a list of judicial acts kept in the Archives of Colmar, the Jews of Bergheim traded goods with the inhabitants of Ribeauvillé, Guémar, Beinweiler, Riquewihr, Bennwihr and with Lord Hans of Hattstatt. Further were the trade relations of Jäcklin of Bergheim, who lived in the first half of the sixteenth century. He had a dispute with a Claus Zwinger de Bischofsheim regarding a debt of 2 Taler in Rottweil before the court of Turn that sentenced Zwinger to death. This Jäcklin was one of the richest and most famous Jews in the région. The courts tried to swindle him. In 1540, they still remembered an ancient tradition regarding the regional Court held at Eggenbach in which supposedly a Jew had to sit at the feet of the judge or a bed under the feet of the judge, undoubtedly to mark the dependency of Judaism towards Christianity. Financial standing of the free cities: The middle classes and trade developed extraordinarily during the sixteenth century, while small lords, nobility and the peasants lost more and more influence. The consequence of this evolution rendered Jewish presence in cities more and more useless, while in the country and on small seigniory lands, they played a role in economic life since they provided the necessary silver. For this reason, the Jewish population continuously grew in the county of Ribeaupierre as did the incomes that the counts so greatly needed. A rough idea of the increase of these incomes can be considered in the number of Jewish household in Ribeauvillé and in Bergheim during the seventeenth and the eighteenth century and in Bergheim 36 household in 1735 and, in 1784, 67 household with 327 individuals. Following the Revolution, problems still occurred for the Jews. A serious disturbance occurred for the Jews on June 12th, 1832 when four young and drunk people in the Brasserie Schoepfert addressed some jibes at a Jew who had been at their table. He had answered, provoking an exchange. Shortly after, these young people left the brasserie and were met by a rather considerable number of Jews dressed in their National Guard uniforms and weapons. As a joke, the object of which their Jew had been, they blocked passage of their adversaries and threatened them with their swords. Immediately, a conflict arose in which one of four young people was gravely injured. The attackers ran away. They were followed. One of them took refuge in the small boutique of Netter. The four young people entered there. Exasperated at the sight of the wound that their friend had sustained and warmed by the wine, these young people broke a shutter and some pieces of furniture in Netter's boutique. The authorities of the village arrested the authors of these disturbances, who were driven to the police. The following day at about four o'clock, state troopers transferred the four prisoners to the prison of Colmar. Groups formed in public. Soon these groups grew to about eight hundred persons. They broke into the prison until the prisoners escaped, going immediately toward the home of a person named Blum. The cellar was breached, wine distributed, and drunkenness took over. Rioting ensued during the rest of the day and into the night. Thanks to the arrival of the Prosecutor of the King and the troops stationed in Ribeauvillé as well as the just organized National Guard, order could finally be restored. More than hundred and fifty persons, a large portion to the population, were detained. All measures taken to investigate by the authorities should have produced useful results. Doors were kept locked. The city was surrounded both by the troops of line and by the National Guard. All transport was intercepted or stopped. More than two hundred home searches happened during the state of siege. Finally, a large group was taken away and objects stolen were returned. Israel-Gabriel Sée and twelve other Jew from Bergheim claimed a 169,960-franc sum, more the double of the value of the stolen objects. The village of Bergheim was compelled by authorities to pay damages and the expenses of the trial. Disregarding this conflict between the Christian and Jewish population, in general the Jewry of the area of Ribeaupierre enjoyed a favorable situation from the political, economic, and social point of view. Amazingly, Jews from Ribeauvillé and Bergheim were among the first in France to make use of the beneficial effects of Emancipation. Some members of the Sée family are good examples, later known in Letters, Sciences and the Arts of France. Samuel Sée, 1775-1862 in Ribeauvillé, was a benefactor for all his fellow-countrymen irrespective of religion. He gave considerable sums not only to Jewish institutions and synagogues, but even to churches such as that in Housen. Catholic notables, Protestants, and Jews of Ribeauvillé and vicinity all attended his funeral. Leopold Sée, born in Bergheim in May 5th, 1822 and died in Paris March 17th, 1904) was general of the division, member of the Central and Large Consistory, high officer of the Legion of Honor. Mark-Daniel Sée, born in Ribeauvillé on February 11th, 1827, was professor in the Faculty and Member of the Academy of Medicine. Julien Sée was historian, librarian and collaborator of Jean Macé in the Library of the Colmarienne League of education. German Sée was member of the Academy of Medicine and commander of the Legion of Honor. Camille Sée, former member, state adviser, officer of the Legion of Honor, author of the law that created girls' secondary schools in France. Rosel Sée from Bergheim, an eighteen-year-old girl, in 1793 saved her father on trial. She appeared, wrists bound, in front of the revolutionary court of Strasbourg. His accusers were dismissed as she was cheered by the Court that returned the following order: "Considering the importance of the filial devotion of the petitioner regarding her father and her generous devotion to keep him free by presenting herself as prisoner instead is known by the public as an example deserving of praise. The court orders that the judgment was translated in both languages and sent to all municipalities of the departement. "Made in Strasbourg, 7 nivôse of the year II of the French Republic one and indivisible." The old archivist of Colmar, Xavier Mossmann, wrote at the end of his Study on the History of Jewry in Colmar: "Assimilation is made, slowly but surely; and success shows that when it is a question of resisting old prejudices, repairing ancient injustice, the law risks nothing if taking the initiative on opinion and morals. No, the men of great French Revolution risked nothing by granting equality of rights to Jews; on the contrary, they returned an invaluable service to France and to all humanity." The synagogue, confiscated in 1349, was bought back by the Jews restoring the community in the 16th century, then enlarged on several occasions. The actual synagogue, constructed on the site of previous in 1863, was vandalized in the course of the WWII and abandoned in 1991. The rabbinate was abolished in 1910. has a photo. [January 2008]

There never has been Jewish graveyard either in Ribeauvillé or in Bergheim. In 14th and 15th centuries, they buried their dead in Colmar, because when the authorities of this city confiscated the Jewish cemetery in 1510 with the consent of Emperor Maximilian, William de Ribeaupierre protested because this graveyard was not only for the use of the Jewry of Colmar, but also for all those of Austrian domains. Later, the Jewry of Ribeauvillé, Bergheim and communities in the vicinity bought ground in the suburbs of Sélestat in a Burner district (called also Paradies-weg) and established a cemetery there. This ground was enlarged at different times through purchases of fields by the representatives of the community and those of Ribeauvillé.  [January 2008]

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