‘The Many Deaths of Jew Süss’: Mintzker Grapples with Truth in History
Q&A with Yair Mintzker: The Many Deaths of Jew Süss: The Notorious Trial and Execution of an Eighteenth-Century Court Jew
Yair Mintzker, an associate professor of history, joined the Princeton faculty in 2009 after earning his Ph.D. at Stanford University. He studies early modern and modern Germany, with a particular focus on the “Sattelzeit,” or the transitional period between the early modern age and the late modern age (1750-1850). This spring, Mintzker’s latest book, The Many Deaths of Jew Süss: The Notorious Trial and Execution of an Eighteenth-Century Court Jew, was published by Princeton University Press.
The topic of the book is the trial and execution of Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, one of the most famous figures in the history of anti-Semitism. Oppenheimer, also known as “Jew Süss,” was the personal banker (“court Jew”) of a German prince in the early 18th century. After the death of his patron, Oppenheimer was arrested and put on trial for unspecified “misdeeds.” On February 4, 1738, Oppenheimer was hanged in front of a large crowd just outside Stuttgart. When his jailers asked that he convert to Christianity, he refused. In The Many Deaths of Jew Süss, Mintzker investigates conflicting versions of Oppenheimer’s life and death as told by four contemporaries, none of whom provide a straightforward account of the events.
Mintzker’s first book is The Defortification of the German City, 1689-1866 (Cambridge University Press, 2012), which tells the story of the metamorphosis of 18th- and 19th-century German cities from walled to defortified (open) places.