This Day In History: September 17

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King Charles VI of France orders the expulsion of all Jews from his kingdom. The culmination of a series of anti-Semitic orders from the monarchs of France, the order outlived the monarchy and remains one of the major contributing factors to the tiny percentage of the French population that identifies as Jewish.

As with most European nations, France had been home to Jews since antiquity. Also as in the rest of Europe, the Jews of France faced frequent discrimination and persecution. French Jews had already suffered through burnings of their religious texts, discriminatory taxes and other fiscal policies targeted at Jews, being scapegoated for the Black Plague, and multiple prior attempts to expel them from France. Various cities in France independently expelled their Jews throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. They were formally expelled from the country 1306 and had their lands confiscated by the government, only to be recalled in 1315 and made to pay for the privilege of returning. Under the rules set in 1315, Jews were ordered not to discuss their religion publicly, made to wear a badge identifying themselves, and cautioned against committing usury, an accusation often leveled at Jews based on racist stereotypes.

For a time, the Crown was happier to have Jews in its lands paying taxes, but in 1394 Charles VI suddenly demanded they leave once again. France's Jews were given a bit of time to sell to their possessions before being escorted out of French lands. There was not a major Jewish population in France again until the 1700s, when Jews fleeing violence and discrimination further East arrived in Alsace and Lorraine. By the eve of the revolution, there were roughly 40,000 Jews in France. Over the course of the turbulent years that followed 1789, the newly “enlightened” governments gradually restored Jews’ rights to live in France, but they continued to face discrimination and their numbers were further decimated during the Nazi occupation of France. Today, roughly one percent of France is Jewish.