Limits of Tolerance: Justice and Anti-Semitism in a Sixteenth-Century Dutch Town

  • Florike Egmond


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  1. 1.
    In Dutch theGrote Raad van Mechelen or in French theGrand Conseil de Malines. This article is largely based on the records of the Great Council (further GC) and the records in the Municipal Archive of Leiden (MAL). The original records of the Great Council can be found in the Algemeen Rijksarchief in Brussels. All sentences and all dossiers concerning the provinces of Holland and Zealand are also available on microfilm and microfiche at the Department of Legal History of Leiden University. This article is part of a larger research project on sixteenth-century judicial history financed by NWO.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See the Criminal Records in the Municipal Archive of Leiden for the 1530s–1550s. Cf. P.J. Blok,Geschiedenis eener Hollandsche stad (4 vols, The Hague, 1910–18), here vol. 2 (1912), 172–82; and L. Knappert,De opkomst van het Protestantisme in eene Noord-Nederlandsche Stad. Geschiedenis van de Hervorming binnen Leiden van den aanvang tot op het beleg (Leiden, 1908), 194. For a survey of various policies in dealing with heresy in Holland, see J.D. Tracy,Holland under Habsburg Rule, 1506–1566. The formation of a body politic (Berkeley, 1990), 147–75.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For some fragmentary genealogical information about the Van Berendrechts, see J.P. de Man, “Eenige genealogische en heraldische aanteekeningen betreffende de familie van Berendrecht,”Maandblad van het genealogisch en heraldisch genootschap De Nederlandsche Leeuw vol. 33 (April 1915): 98–108, 133–41; S.A. Lamet,Men in government. The patriciate of Leiden, 1550–1600 (Ph.D. diss., Massachusetts, 1979), 391; and J.F. Dröge, “De Latijnse School en de Rectorswoning,”Leids Jaarboekje 78 (1986): 35–52, here 38–9. Further information can be found in MAL, Schouts- & Magistraatslijsten; and in MAL, Rechterlijk Archief (further RA) 102, which contains a two-volume inventory of Claes van Berendrecht's possessions and debts by the time of his illness and death in 1566–67. Bangs has made use of these volumes for his brief discussion of Van Berendrecht's library in an article about book and art collections in Leiden (see J. D. Bangs, “Book and Art Collection of the Low Countries in the Later Sixteenth Century: Evidence from Leiden,”Sixteenth Century Journal 13 (1982): 25–39.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    For the Dutch Revolt, see G. Parker,Spain and the Netherlands, 1559–1659 (Glasgow, 1979). Tracy,Holland under Habsburg Rule offers an excellent survey of political and administrative conditions in pre-Revolt Holland.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Later, I hope to discuss in more detail both the medical side of the conflict and the relations between different administrative and political levels in the Netherlands. For a discussion of the general theme of Jews and Dutch tolerance, see A.H. Huussen, “De Joden in Nederland en het probleem van de tolerantie,” in M. Gijswijt-Hofstra, ed.,Een schijn van verdraagzaamheid (Hilversum, 1989), 107–29.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    J.D. Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz., a Converted “Rabbi and Doctor” in Leiden (1553–1561),”Jewish Social Studies 40 (1978): 271–86.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Ibid., 271. He does not refer to any evidence in support of this statement. If the prosecution of Anabaptists alone was enough to be characterized in this way, Bangs could have described dozens of other Dutch sheriffs in similar terms.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
  9. 10.
    See, for instance, A.H. Huussen, “The Legal Position of Sephardi Jews in Holland, circa 1600,” inDutch Jewish History. Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on the History of the Jews in the Netherlands, Jerusalem, 1991 (Jerusalem, Assen & Maastricht, 1993): 19–41; and O. Vlessing, “New Light on the Earliest History of the Amsterdam Portuguese Jews,” inDutch Jewish History, 43–75. Historians have, moreover, concentrated on Portuguese (Sephardi) Jews, mainly because of their greater economic importance to Dutch society and higher status. In the histories of specific towns occasional references occur to Jews, and the survey of Jewish history in the Netherlands by Brugmans & Frank [H. Brugmans & A. Frank, eds.,Geschiedenis der Joden in Nederland 1 (Amsterdam, 1940)] does discuss the early modern period, but I know of no books or even articles which focus on the sixteenth-century history of Ashkenazi Jews in the Netherlands.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Sixteenth-century Habsburg policies included several mass evictions of Jews and a ban on immigration; Huussen, “De Joden in Nederland,” 114, mentions as dates of the placcards 1532, 1544, 1549/50 and 1570.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    For Italy see M.A. Shulvass,The Jews in the World of the Renaissance (Leiden, 1973; 1st, Hebrew ed., 1955); and R. Po-Chia Hsia,The Myth of Ritual Murder: Jews and Magic in reformation Germany (New Haven, 1988); idem, Trent 1475.Stories of a ritual murder trial (New Haven, 1992); and idem, ed.,In and out of the Ghetto (Los Angeles/Washington, forthcoming). For Germany see, for instance, L. Siegele-Wenschkewitz, ed.,Juden und Christen im Zeitalter der Reformation (Frankfurt am Main, 1992); and F. Battenberg, “Die Ritualmordprozesse gegen Juden in Spätmittelalter und Frühneuzeit-Verfahren und Rechtsschutz,” in Rainer Erb, ed.,Blutbeschuldigungen gegen Juden (Berlin, 1993), 95–132; and idem, “Jews in the Ecclesiastical Territories” in R. Po-Chia Hsia, ed.,In and Out of the Ghetto. Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    For a lucid discussion of anti-semitism and anti-Judaism in early modern Europe, see M. Yardeni,Anti-Jewish Mentalities in Early Modern Europe (Lanham, 1990).Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1408–13.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Ibid., 1391–96.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    For the Leiden magistrate, see H. Goudappel & F. Snapper, “Het Leidse schoutambt, 1564–1795,”Leids Jaarboekje 71 (1979): 31–58, especially 31–37.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1413. Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 273, states that because no such sentence can be found in the “fully preserved” Leiden legal records of this period, Salomon's appeal to the provincial court cannot have been “an appeal of a decision of the Leiden court.”Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Sheriff Van Berendrecht stated that Salomon was doing his utmost to speed up the appeal case because he wanted to resume his medical activities. According to the same statement by the sheriff, it had been the Leiden court which had forbidden salomon to practice as a doctor. See MAL, Secretarie Archief (further SA) 414, 25 January 1554 (=1555).Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    In a request addressed to the Great Council, sheriff Van Berendrecht stated that it was Salomon himself who decided to let the matter of his (Salomon's) qualification as a doctor rest; still according to the sheriff, Salomon was diffident about his chances of success in this matter. See MAL, SA 414, 25 January 1555.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1396–99.Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    See GC, Dossier Beroepen 803 and MAL, SA 414.Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    GC, Dossier EA 628, 4 February 1555 [=1556].Google Scholar
  22. 24.
  23. 25.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1414; and MAL, RA, Wedboeken, 12 March 1554.Google Scholar
  24. 26.
    Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 278. Neither Salomon nor his legal representative had been present at an important court session on 31 August 1555, either because of a genuine mistake about the date, or because of manipulations by the sheriff's party, which may have prevented a message about this session from reaching Salomon. His absence nearly made him lose the case. See MAL, SA 414, 31 August 1555 and 5 September 1555.Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1402–03.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    The untranslatable name of (southern and northern) Netherlands during pre-Revolt Habsburg times; it might be called more or less literally as the Lands of Yonder Across.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [= 1561], 1387–1433.Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    Cf. E. Cohen,The Crossroads of Justice. Law and Culture in late Medieval France (Leiden/New York, 1993); D.A. Berents,Misdaad in de Middeleeuwen. Een onderzoek naar de criminaliteit in het Laat-Middeleeuwse Utrecht (Utrecht, 1976); idem,Het werk van de vos. Samenleving en criminaliteit in de late Middeleeuwen (Zutphen, 1985). Bangs (“Andries Salomonsz.”) is right to emphasize the shame involved in having to bare one's head in a public ritual. The removal of outer garments was no less humiliating, however.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    See, for instance, Berents,Het werk van de vos, 109. In Salomon's case explicit reference is made in the final sentence to the “pena talionis” (GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1428).Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    Cf. Berents,Misdaad in de Middeleeuwen, 93–94.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    Cf. on criminal law, ritual and punishment, Cohen,The Crossroads of Justice; see also A. Blok, “The Symbolic Vocabulary of Public Executions,” in J. F. Collier & J. Starr, eds.,History and Power in the Study of Law. New directions in legal anthropology (Ithaca, 1989), 31–55; and F. Egmond, “Fragmentatie, Rechtsverscheidenheid en Rechtsongelijkheid in de Noordelijke Nederlanden tijdens de 17e en 18e eeuw,” in S. Faber, ed.,Nieuw licht op oude Justitie. Misdaad en straf ten tijde van de Republiek (Muiderberg, 1989): 9–23.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [= 1561], 1430–32; cf. the abridged version in MAL, RA, Criminele Vonnissen, (1533–1584), f. 183 (17 March 1561).Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [= 1561], 1387–1433; for the abridged version — the archival reference of which Bangs fails to give — see MAL, RA, Criminele Vonnissen (1533–1584), f. 183 (17 March 1561).Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    See GC, Dossier EA 628, 5 February 1553 [=1554].Google Scholar
  35. 38.
    See MAL, RA 42, Wedboeken, 19 May 1553, 16 June 1553, 24 July 1553, 13 November 1553, 12 January 1554: civil cases concerning payment of doctor's and other bills. Cf. Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 271–2.Google Scholar
  36. 39.
    Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 271–72. Bangs himself admits that his inference creates only further problems. Yet, he goes on to assume the existence of a group of Jews in or near Leiden, and to conclude that Salomon “could have been both a Jew among Leiden Jews and also a doctor in Leiden.”Google Scholar
  37. 40.
    The wordwijlen is only employed in modern Dutch to denote a deceased person; apparently, in sixteenth-century usage it might refer to any former status. Bangs declares it unlikely “that court officials might have used it [= i.e. the term rabbi] as a term of respect, not referring to religious office, after Andries Salomonsz. conversion to Christianity”, but gives no reasons why (Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 283, n.5.).Google Scholar
  38. 42.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1389.Google Scholar
  39. 43.
  40. 44.
    Ibid., 1389–90. The Dutch wordneef means either cousin or nephew.Google Scholar
  41. 45.
    For a survey of the medical profession in Leiden in the second half of the fifteenth century, see D.E.H. de Boer, “Het Leids medisch “netwerk” omstreeks 1465,”Leids Jaarboekje 76 (1984): 60–76.Google Scholar
  42. 46.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1405.Google Scholar
  43. 47.
    Ibid., 1407.Google Scholar
  44. 48.
    Ibid., 1410.Google Scholar
  45. 49.
    Ibid., 1405–7.Google Scholar
  46. 50.
    The position of a Jewish doctor could be vulnerable indeed, especially if sick children were involved. In other parts of Europe, the accusation of child murder might not have been far off. About ritual murder charges, see for instance Hsia,The Myth of Ritual Murder; idem, Trent 1475; and Battenberg, “Die Ritualmordprozesse gegen Juden.”Google Scholar
  47. 51.
    See theBurgerboeken and theMagistraatsboeken at the Municipal Archive of Maastricht. Salomon does not figure in J.M. Lemmens,Joods leven in Maastricht (Maastricht, 1990).Google Scholar
  48. 52.
    MAL, SA 414, 11 March 1558. Bangs describes this remark as “an outburst of clear anti-semitism” (“Andries Salomonsz.,” 281). It should be mentioned that the person describing the sheriff's behavior here was by no means an impartial witness: Vincent van Bakenesse was a friend of Salomon's, who had been asked to witness the presentation of the injunction and make a deposition with a notary by Salomon. Bangs sounds remarkably naïve when he declares: “Vincent Jansz van Bakenesse and heer Phillips Ambrosius were among the leading citizens of Leiden, and their word should be taken as accurate testimony (in this case, that of van Bakenesse) at least equivalent to that of the litigants” (Ibid.).Google Scholar
  49. 53.
    Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 280.Google Scholar
  50. 54.
    One can be found in a description of enquiries made by the sheriff into Salomon's sources of income (“to ascertain whether he was involved in the same business as his father and as all Jews usually were”) (GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1390–91). The other belongs in a document containing a formal complaint by the sheriff about the humiliating injunction served in December 1555 by a bailiff of the Great Council. According to the sheriff, this bailiff had eventually admitted that “such orders had been given to him by the said Jew or Jewish master, denoting the said Salomon” (GC, Dossier EA 628, 4 February 1555 [=1556], 3).Google Scholar
  51. 55.
    Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 282.Google Scholar
  52. 56.
    Bangs himself points out that van Berendrecht may have claimed to uphold the new charter of the surgeon's guild in order to shield his personal vindictiveness (Ibid., 273). He subsequently ignores this part of his own evidence.Google Scholar
  53. 57.
    Bangs, who echoes the attorney general's unsupported statement about the sheriff's bad reputation, does not offer any evidence (Ibid., 271). A preliminary inquiry in the Leiden records has not yet produced any evidence of bullying, corruption or other forms of unorthodox activity. It should be emphasized again that status and reputation were at the heart of this conflict: it is especially dangerous, if for that reason alone, to believe any statements concerning reputation made by either party.Google Scholar
  54. 58.
    It looks very much as if it was Salomon himself who dropped the matter of his competence and qualifications when appealing to the Great Council. See MAL, SA 414, 25 January 1555.Google Scholar
  55. 59.
    Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 271, cf. 275. Bangs far too easily equates the adverse sentence pronouced by the Great Council with the sheriff's inimical expressions, linking both with Salomon's Jewishness. It is one thing to point to the sheriff's attitude. It is something else to assume without any evidence at all that Salomon lost his appeal case because of anti-semitism (Ibid., 271, 280–82).Google Scholar
  56. 60.
    MAL, Criminele Vonnisssen I (1533–1584), f. 183, Sentence of 17 March 1561.Google Scholar
  57. 61.
    Bangs, “Andries Salomonsz.,” 275.Google Scholar
  58. 62.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1428.Google Scholar
  59. 63.
    The Council's final verdict imposed severe punishment on this priest as well: he had to pay a fine of 300 Carolus guilders, and was subsequently handed over to an ecclesiastical court (geestelijke rechter) to be judged for perjury and falsehood. Cf. note 52.Google Scholar
  60. 64.
    See GC, Sentence 8 March 1560 [=1561], 1428–29.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Haifa University Press 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Florike Egmond
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeidenNetherlands

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