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Title: Leibzoll  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fiscus Judaicus, Dazdie, History of taxation, Israel Jacobson, David Friedländer
Collection: History of Taxation, Jewish History
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Leibzoll was a special toll which Jews had to pay in most of the European states in the Middle Ages and up to the beginning of the nineteenth century.


  • Rate of the toll 1
  • Development of Leibzoll 2
  • Exemptions 3
  • Wolf Breidenbach 4
  • Russia 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7

Rate of the toll

The origin of the Leibzoll may be traced to the political position of the Jews in Germany, where they were considered crown property and, therefore, under the king's protection. In his capacity as Frederick II of Austria, in his law on the Jews, issued 1244, decreed that within the limits of his state they should not pay more than the legal rate of toll—the same rate that all other citizens had to pay (Scherer, l.c. p. 181). As in the stipulations regulating the tolls of Raffelstetten, and as in the law of Frederick II, only customs duties for goods or slaves were mentioned: therefore a personal tax was unknown.

As the Jews in increasing numbers passed under territorial jurisdiction, the exemption from personal tax, which was granted them as long as they remained crown property, was no longer respected, for each territorial ruler considered himself entitled to levy taxes on all foreign Jewish subjects who passed through his territory. But these taxes continued as customs duties until, with the growing hostility of the free cities, and with the frequent expulsion from vast territories which became the rule in the fifteenth century, those rulers who had expelled the Jews from their domains determined on the adoption of a policy of keeping them away from their borders. International relations, however, would not permit of the disregard of a passport granted by a foreign ruler to one of his subjects, so when Jews visited a territory in which no Jew was permitted to settle they were subjected to the payment of a toll.

Development of Leibzoll

Owing to the weakness of the imperial power of the Holy Roman Empire, Jews expelled from a place could easily settle in the vicinity, and on the strength of their passports do business in the place from which they had been expelled. So the Jews expelled from Nuremberg in 1499 settled in Fürth; those expelled from Nördlingen (1507) settled in Kleinerdlingen; those who could not gain entrance into the city of Lübeck settled in the village of Lübeck-Moisling—all places of settlement within easy walking distance of the cities in which they were denied residence. On the passports issued to them by their respective sovereigns they could engage in trade in the latter places, at least during the day, and, therefore, since the local governments wished to enforce the decrees excluding the Jews, they were driven to adopt new measures ("R. E. J." viii. 212). Administrators soon recognized the financial utility of the Leibzoll, and the territorial rulers in the German empire levied such a toll from all traveling Jews, whether foreigners or their own subjects. In Nuremberg the average annual value of the toll for the last ten years during which Leibzoll was levied (1797–1806) was 2,448 florins (Barbeck, "Gesch. der Juden in Nürnberg und Fürth," p. 106, Nuremberg, 1878).

The wording of the laws sometimes also suggests an intention of humiliating the Jews. For example, an ordinance of Philip V of Spain (1703) fixes the toll for a wagon-load of merchandise, one head of cattle, or one Jew, when passing over the bridges of Luxembourg, at four sols ("R. E. J." viii. 208). Sometimes the humiliation lay in the form in which the tax was levied. In some places a Jew passing a toll-gate had to cast dice in remembrance of the crucifixion (Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., viii. 14); elsewhere, as in Freiberg, in Saxony, Jews were forced to pay for a guard to follow them as long as they remained within the city. Even after the Leibzoll had been officially abolished, as in Austria by Emperor Joseph II in 1782, Jews entering Vienna or staying there for some time had to pay a special tax which differed from Leibzoll only in name. The same may be said of Nuremberg, where Leibzoll was abolished theoretically in 1800, but was levied practically until 1806 under the name of "Passier- und Eintrittsgeld". In Warsaw, where the French government had emancipated the Jews, the Russian government re-introduced the Leibzoll under the name of "Tagzettel", requiring every Jew entering the city to pay five silver groschen for the first day and three for every additional day he remained ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1862, p. 12).


Certain exemptions from Leibzoll were granted. Under the Austrian law of 1244, corpses were exempt. Albert III, Duke of Austria gave free safe-conduct to three Austrian Jews to bring "etrogim" from Triest free of duty in 1389 (Scherer, l.c. p. 535). The Jews living within the territory of the Elector of Mayence were exempted from Leibzoll when they were traveling to attend one of the regular landtags, or to meetings of the district congregations (see Bamberger, "Histor. Berichte über die Juden der Stadt Aschaffenburg," p. 26, Strasburg, 1900). As a mark of special favor, court Jews or mint-farmers were exempt from the payment of such tolls (see Harburg). Later the exemption was extended to manufacturers; and Hirsch David, velvet-manufacturer of Berlin, was exempted by the king (1731) because his business required him to travel frequently ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1902, p. 477). When Meyerbeer went to Vienna, the "Judenamt" received orders to treat him "not as a Jew, but as a cavalier" (ib. 1847, p. 91). Native Jews were often exempted, for a fixed sum, from paying this toll, but naturally this freed them from it only within the confines of their own country. Thus the Jews of Saxony were exempt from the Leibzoll by an order dated 16 April 1773 (Levy, "Geschichte der Juden in Sachsen," p. 71, Berlin, 1901). The Jews of Berlin compromised with the elector, in 1700, by paying 1,000 ducats annually; this sum ("Jüdische Presse," 22 Aug. 1902) exempted only those who were in the possession of a lawful charter ("Schutzbrief"), which had replaced the old safe-conduct ("Judengeleit"), and who therefore were called "vergleitete Juden" or escorted Jews.

In December, 1787, Frederick William II of Prussia abolished the Leibzoll in Berlin, and in July, 1788, he abolished it in other places. The abolition of the toll was due largely to the exertions of David Friedländer. In 1791 the Bishop of Salzburg also abolished the toll in his own dominions.

Notwithstanding the liberal spirit which these abolitions showed, the majority of the German states still clung to the tax. With the advent of the French, however, some of them were compelled to abolish the Leibzoll. Early in July, 1798, the French general Cacatte informed the members of the government at Nassau-Usingen that, at the order of the division commander Freitag, the special taxes of the Jews were to be abolished, as they were repugnant to justice and humanity. In consequence of this order the Jews on the left bank of the Rhine were relieved from the payment of Leibzoll. At the conclusion of the peace of Lunéville (21 July 1801) the toll was re-imposed.

Wolf Breidenbach

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Jews of Germany found a courageous champion in Wolf Breidenbach, who worked persistently for the abolition of this impost. Perceiving that ample resources would be required to carry on his campaign, and not being personally able to command these, he invoked the aid of the German and foreign Jews in 1803, asking them to subscribe to the fund raised for this purpose. He instituted negotiations with the minor German princes at the Diet of Ratisbon (1804), and, aided by Dalberg, the imperial chancellor, succeeded in obtaining free passage for the Jews throughout the Rhine provinces and Bavaria. It was largely due to his efforts that the Leibzoll was abolished in Kurhessen, Hohenlohe, Neuwied, Wied-Runkel, Braunfels, Solms-Rödelheim, and also in Nassau (September, 1806). The emancipation of the Jews from these imposts created much antagonism; and among those opposed to it were such men as Paalzow, Grattenauer, and Buchholz. In the northern Hanse towns the French garrisons compelled the burghers to relieve the Jews from the payment of the Leibzoll, and, notwithstanding much opposition, secured the privilege for the Jews of Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen. The Leibzoll was abolished in Brunswick-Lüneburg 23 April 1823, through the efforts of Israel Jacobson, court agent to the Duke of Brunswick. Although the tax had been almost universally abolished, its collection still continued from the Jews visiting Vienna in the reign (1804–1835) of Francis I of Austria. Of the German states, Saxony was the last to abolish it.


Up to 1862 the Polish Jews visiting Russia were treated as foreigners, and as such were not admitted into the interior of the empire. On the other hand, the Russian Jews had great difficulty in entering Poland, and those who went there for business had to pay a "Geleitzoll." In 1826 the representatives of the Jewish community of Kovno petitioned the government for the abolition of the tax, which amounted then to fifteen Polish florins. By order of Emperor Nicholas I this application was referred to the Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, then Viceroy of Poland, who stated that he considered the abolition of the tax inexpedient, but proposed decreasing its amount and regulating it according to age, sex, and business occupation. He deemed it advisable to introduce a similar tax in Russia, and suggested that each Polish Jew entering Russia, and each Russian Jew entering Poland, should be supplied with a pass descriptive of the place of its issuance, the bearer's business, etc. The local police was to be charged with the inspection of the passes. In consequence of this report, Emperor Nicholas ordered the minister of finance to communicate with the proper authorities, and to draft the regulations for the introduction of the tax in question. After a prolonged correspondence with the Polish authorities the minister found the proposed measure to be inexpedient, not only because of the decrease in the revenues which it would effect, but also because of possible complications and abuses in its enforcement. The "Geleitzoll", therefore, remained until abolished by an ukase of 24 May 1862.

See also


  • Geiger, Jüd. Zeit. vol. v., pp. 126–145, 335–347;
  • Jewish Chronicle, 12 June 1903;
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1890, No. 28;
  • Grätz, Geschichte der Juden, passim;
  • Pervy Polny Svod Zakonov, vol. x., No. 6703;
  • Mysh, Rukovodstvo k Russkomu Zakonodatelstvu o Yevreyakh, p. 18, St. Petersburg, 1890.


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