German connections


Although the Danish state was no longer able to offer trade at the levels that capital-heavy Sephardic Jews could handle, industrious merchants were still in demand in the late 17th century. Ashkenazi Jews therefore started immigrating to Denmark.

When Fredericia was founded in 1682, the King offered religious freedom to new citizens, in order to boost the city's growth. Several Jewish families moved to Frede-ricia, where they were not charged the usual fee of 1,000 Danish Rigsdaler for a residence permit. Several other cities, such as Nakskov, Horsens, Randers, Ålborg, Fåborg, Assens and Odense, acquired Jewish commun-ities of varying sizes.

Two persons a year

From 1700 to 1780, Jews immigrated to Denmark at an average rate of two Jews per year. The entrance ticket to Danish society was fortune, industriousness and a good reputation. Jews were not admitted to the existing craft guilds before 1788, and were not allowed to own land. They therefore worked in sectors that were so new they had not been monopolised yet, or that were not subject to existing craft or trade regulations. Examples of Jewish professions are: tobacco spinning, garment professions such as cotton printing, finance, and trading in coffee, tea, chocolate, hides and fur, cattle and horses, ribbons and second-hand clothing.
Denmark was no more restrictive than other European countries, but followed the pragmatism of the time: the Jews were an alien element and a separate nation, and could therefore only be allowed into the country if they would be of immediate use. Although Jews were allowed to practise their religion, they had to do it secretly, to avoid public outrage.

"Are harmful to the population..."

Prejudices against Jews abounded, and it was held that especially poor Jews "are harmful to the population and encourage thievery and fraud". Danish Jews were also against an influx of poor Jews to Denmark, because they would have to bear the burden, since the state did not give poor relief to Jews. Notwithstanding, at least half of the 380 Jewish families in Copenhagen were poor at the time of the 1787 census.

Space and spaciousness

- an exhibition about Jews in Denmark

The exhibition is a broad story of Jewish life in Denmark and focuses on co-exixstence and indentity through 400 years. Read more...

Openings hours

September - May:
Tuesday - Friday: 13 - 16
Saturday - Sunday: 12 - 17
Monday closed

June - August
Tuesday - Sunday: 10-17
Monday closed