JEWISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME • JEWISH MUSEUM IN CYBERSPACE
ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY AS CHRONICLED BY HISTORICAL MEDALS


 
 Edict of Emancipation Medal
Figure 40. Edict of Emancipation Medal

Johann Leonhard Oexlein, Holy Roman Empire, Archduchy of Austria, 1781, Silver struck medal, 45 mm. Ref: Friedenberg p.36. (Image courtesy of Tradart)

Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, while intolerant toward anyone not Roman Catholic, had a special animosity toward Jews and was considered to be the most anti-Semitic monarch of her time. During her reign, she proposed expelling all the Jews from her hereditary dominions, and in 1777 she wrote of the Jews: "I know of no greater plague than this race, which on account of its deceit, usury and avarice is driving my subjects into beggary. Therefore as far as possible, the Jews are to be kept away and avoided." Her son Joseph II, who followed her as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, did not share these bigoted views, and in 1781 granted religious toleration to Protestants and partial toleration to Jews (Patent of Toleration, enacted in 1781) and a year later extended full religious freedom to the Jewish population (Edict of Tolerance). These edicts were celebrated by the striking of medals commemorating his historic acts.

One of these (figure 40) depicts on the obverse a bust of Joseph II with the legend reading “Love and Happiness of Mankind.” The reverse legend translates as: AThe One Who Commands that All Live Fully@. A child stands before a base on which is inscribed: “Freedom of Worship Was Given by Joseph II to Protestants and Jews in His Empire in 1781.” (Although some additional guarantees were given to Jews at that time, their full civil rights were not established until 1782).

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