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Middle Ages

"Usury"


Warning against
Jewish "usury"...



A playing card...



A farmer and a
Jewish moneylender...



"The Jurist, the Jew
and the Woman...



"How a Jew has
to swear before..."


DURING THE SECOND HALF of the Middle Ages, towns grow and trade expands. Many economic functions the Jews had fulfilled in the past are taken over by other groups. More and more professions and crafts are organized in guilds. As only guild members are allowed to practice in these professions, and new members have to pledge an oath on the Bible, Jews are effectively excluded from membership.

In Western and Central Europe, Jews are driven from one occupation after another. Only trade and money-lending remains open to them. Many Jewish communities sink into poverty, and only a few continue to prosper. As the Church forbids Christians to lend money against interest, but the need for credit in the expanding economy increases, Jews are often the only ones to provide loans. Interest on loans is high because of the risks involved and the lack of capital.

Jews become identified with "usury," the lending of money against excessive interest. Another stereotype of "the Jew" is created against the background of the same economic circumstances: the Jews as poor peddlers of second-hand articles. These two contradictory images of the Jews, the harsh and unfair moneylender and the poor and untrustworthy peddler, survive into the 20th century - long after their origins in religious intolerance and economic marginalization have disappeared.



Caricature...


"Jewish Greed"...

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