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Rescue the Surviving SoulsThe Great Jewish Refugee Crisis of the Seventeenth Century$
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Adam Teller

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161747

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161747.001.0001

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Over the Border

Over the Border

Refugee Settlement in the Empire’s Eastern Regions

Chapter:
(p.231) Chapter Twenty-Two Over the Border
Source:
Rescue the Surviving Souls
Author(s):

Adam Teller

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691161747.003.0022

This chapter studies refugee settlement in the Holy Roman Empire's eastern regions. The Swedish invasion of Poland began during the first week of July of 1655, sparking a flight of refugees across the Commonwealth's western border to the neighboring region of Silesia. Even before the Swedish army arrived, a group of Jews from Great Poland wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor, the Habsburg Ferdinand III, asking permission to enter his territory. However, the Swedish army got to them before Ferdinand's response, so they were forced to cross into Silesia without permission. Once there, they wrote a second letter to the emperor in which they gave a moving description of their sufferings. The emperor gave them the permission they wanted on August 22. These two documents—the Jews' letter and the emperor's response—deepen one's understanding of the refugee experience in the mid-1650s in a number of ways. The Jews' letter suggests that even in cases where a central authority in the Commonwealth was willing to allow the Jewish refugees to return, there were still hostile local forces trying to prevent them from doing so. Meanwhile, the emperor's response indicates that the refugees' choice to make for Silesia, Bohemia, and Moravia as safe havens was a function not only of those regions' geographical proximity to Poland but of the generous terms of travel and settlement that Jews were granted there.

Keywords:   refugee settlement, Holy Roman Empire, Swedish invasion, Poland, Ferdinand III, refugee experience, Jewish refugees, Silesia, Bohemia, Moravia

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