BESANÇON: 25000. (Doubs département, Franche-Comté région) Print

47°14′35″N, 06°01′19″E.

The capital and principal city of the Franche-Comté région of northeastern France, with approximately 220,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 1999, Besançon is the center of the French watchmaking industry. The city also is famous for its microtechnology. Located close to the border with Switzerland, it is the préfecture (capital) of the Doubs département. Sited with three sides within an oxbow of the Doubs River (a tributary of the Rhône River) with the fourth side closed by a mountain, in the first century BCE through the modern era, the town held a significant military vantage point aided by the fact that to the immediate south, the Alps rise abruptly presenting a significant natural barrier. In historic times the town was first recorded in the journals detailing Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul as the largest town of the Sequani, a smaller Gaulic tribe; he named the town as Vesontio (possibly Latinized) and mentions that it was surrounded by a wooden palisade. The locals retain their ancient heritage, referring to themselves as Bisontins (feminine: Bisontine). As part of the Holy Roman Empire since 1034, the city became the Archbishopric of Besançon and was granted the status of Imperial Free City (an autonomous city-state under the Holy Roman Emperor) in 1184. Besançon came under the influence of the dukes of Burgundy when Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. The city was in effect a Habsburg fief, which took it from Austrian to Spanish influence. Surrounding the central city are walls built in that era. Between the train station and the central city is a complex moat system through which traffic has been directed. Surrounding the city a large number of fortifications were built including the Fort de Trois Châtels, Fort Chaudanne, Fort du Petit Chaudanne, Fort Griffon, Fort des Justices, Fort Beauregard and Fort de Brégille, but the crown jewel of these is la Citadelle. Built on a mountaintop and bounded by sheer cliffs on one side, the Doubs River on the others, and the Boucle or Shield, the city center had a fantastic defensive stance. Upon this hilltop, Vauban built the largest of his structures in the region. The Citadelle has a dual dry moat, with an outer and inner court. The Citadelle was used by the Nazis during World War II. Nevertheless, action was limited to a bombing of the railway complex in 1943 and four days of ultimately futile German resistance to U.S. attacks in 1944. Across the Doubs sits the Forts Brégille and Beauregard. The Brégille Heights were reached by a funicular built in 1913. In the 14th century, Besançon and the vicinity were on the favorable trade roads between Italy and Germany. Also the local government granted approvals for a right "of entrage" and an annual "census" to the Jews. By his marriage with Jeanne of Burgundy, King Philip the Tall of France became ruler of this province in 1316. In a letter of December 14, 1321, he gave to the queen the spoils from the Jews, whom he had driven from his territory. Some years afterward they were recalled. When Black Plague broke out in 1348, the Jews were accused of being the cause, persecuted, and many executed.  In 1360, the wretched survivors who had escaped the massacres were exiled from the province by a decree of Princess Marguerite. There is no mention of Jews in the city of Besançon (which is the capital of the county) before 1320, when, in the depth of winter, they were driven from the environs, and knocked at the gates of this free city, which was under the patronage of the emperor of Germany. Five of them, on account of previous commercial relations, having succeeded in entering the city, asked permission to remain at least until the end of the winter. The leading men of the city, in order to please the barons D'Arlay, who were favorably inclined toward the Jews, gave their consent that the fugitives should reside among them. The new inhabitants of Besançon, however, paid for their right to remain by many and burdensome obligations. They were required to pay a heavy poll-tax every month to the city treasury, were forbidden to appear in the city without a white and red cloth attached to the breast, and were ordered to dwell in a specified street, the gates of which were closed every evening. The street which they inhabited is now called "Rue Richebourg"; and it is said the Jews' sojourn there gave rise to this name. In 1454, a piece of land, chosen by the leading men of the city, was assigned to them as a burial place. The 1393 census shows twelve Jewish families that maintained Joseph de Trèves for their "schoolmaster". The next year, King Charles VI evicted the Jews of his states. In 1693, the registers of local deliberation pointed out that it was forbidden for Jewish traders to visit frequently without having declared themselves. They could stay no more than three successive days or make no sale without the assistance of one of the local property managers. In 1526 the city obtained the right to mint coins and continued until 1673 in the name of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Spaniards originally built the main defense complex, "la Citadelle" around 1668. In 1674, French troops took the city and upgrade its fortifications for 30 years. At the Treaty of Nijmegen the city was awarded to France. In 1736, for eight days in May, two Jews of Metz accepted the approval to "fiddle"(trade). In 1768, Jew Salomon SAX, a fine stone engraver, received permission to exercise his art in Besançon. At the beginning of The Revolution, Jews still could not stay more than three days in Besançon. In December 1790, Antoine Melchior NODIER, mayor of Besançon, evicted the Jew WOLF claiming he had traded longer than he should and was approved by the municipality. But on September 27th, 1791, the Jews acquire French citizenship by decree on the condition of performance of their civic solemn promise. Pogroms broke out then in Alsace: Jews are hung on the crocs of the butcheries [?]. The survivors run away south; and some families become established in Besançon. The Jews acquired free access from the city and province only after the French Revolution. In 1792, these families addressed a petition to the municipality to acquire a synagogue. Shortly after approval, they met in the ancient nunnery of the Cordeliers (instead of the Secondary school St-François Xavier, secondary school). Very quickly, these families are attacked by the Jacobin newspaper " La Vedette" that reproached them their fidelity to Judaism and that these families are idle on Shabbat and work on Sunday. In 1793, as the Catholics, they were forced to close their place of worship. In 1808, the structure of the Jewish communities was profoundly changed further by the creation of a centralized organization binding the different communities. By decree of August 24th, 1857, the community of Besançon was attached to the consistory of Lyons, formerly with that of Nancy, having as its spiritual head Solomon Wertheimer. The Jewish families increasingly became established in Besançon, so a "rabbinical seat" was created by imperial decree of August 1, 1864. January 13th, 1881, a Consistory for Doubs and le Jura was created, regrouping the communities of Montbéliard, Isle-sur-le Doubs, Baume-les-Dames, Dole and Lons-le-Saunier were included, Since the death of Wertheimer in 1865, J. Auscher served as the first with the title of rabbi and later as consistorial chief rabbi; in 1872, after the emigration of the Jews from Alsace and the redistribution of the districts following the Franco-German war, the community of Besançon became the seat of a consistory. In 1902 that included the following Jewish communities: Dôle, Baume-les-Dames, L'Ile sur Doubs, and Montbéliard. The Jewish Community was formed in 1810 and the Synagogue constructed in 1867. After a first plan was considered too expensive by the city, a second plan of 94,349,55-francs was accepted "not including the additional expenses caused by decorations of the facade intended, at the request of the municipality, to beautify the new Quay Napoleon ". Complete expenses came to 14,105,90 francs including state participation of the 10,000-francs. A subscription by the Jewish community raised 70,000 francs (20,000 francs from the family Veil-Picard). A 70,000-franc borrowing supplemented the financing. An inheritance from Alexander Lipman enabled payment of part of the interest that represented a heavy load for the community. On November 18th, 1869, the synagogue is dedicated "in the middle of a big crowd of people". On that occasion, the banker Veil-Picard made available to the charitable organization of the Community, 1,000-francs "for distribution of meat to indigent Catholic and Protestant families of the city". This generous patron of the arts also gave the gate and fence that encircles the synagogue. During the unveiling, the Grand Rabbi of Besançon (Jacques Auscher) gave a speech that was printed with the title "The Future of Israel". Quay Napoleon became Quay of Strasbourg. After more than a century, the imposing original building was damaged by the Occupation, always raising its "Moorish" facade along Doubs. http://www.viejuive.com/associations/communautes/besancon.htm has a picture.The Community Center dates from 1973. Services are celebrated according to Sephardic ritual. The Community, 150 families, consists of principally dealers, [?] and employees. There is a booklet relating the history of the Community available from the rabbi. Synagogue at 23c quai de Strasbourg, 25000 Besançon and Centre Communautaire, MAISON Jérôme CAHEN. Responsable: M. Alain SILBERSTEIN - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 10, rue Grosjean - 25000 [January 2008]

·          Private Cemetery: rue Anne Franck. possibly about 3000 graves [January 2008]

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 17:09