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Glückel of Hameln (also spelled Gluckel, Glueckel, or Glikl of Hamelin; also known as Glikl bas Judah Leib) (1646 – September 19, 1724) was a Jewish businesswoman and diarist, whose account of life provides scholars with an intimate picture of German Jewish communal life in the late-17th-early 18th century Jewish ghetto. It was a time of transition from the authority and autonomy of the Medieval kehilla, toward a more modern ethos in which membership in the community was voluntary and Jewish identity far more personal and existential; a time historian Jacob Katz has defined as 'tradition and crisis',in his 1961 book by that name.[1] Written in Yiddish, her diaries were originally intended for her descendants. The first part is actually a living will urging them to live ethical lives. It was only much later that historians discovered the diaries and began to appreciate her account of life at that time.


Glückel was born in the city of Hamburg in 1646. Her family was expelled, along with the rest of the Ashkenazic Jewish community, in 1649. When she was twelve years old, her parents betrothed her to Hayyim of Hamelin, whom she married in 1660, at the age of 14. After the marriage, the couple lived in his parents’ home in Hamelin.[2] A year after their marriage, the couple moved in with Glückel's parents in Hamburg, where Hayyim became an affluent businessman. Already involved in his business during his lifetime, when he died in 1689, she took over the business, conducting trade with markets as far as Amsterdam, Leipzig, Berlin, Vienna, Metz and Paris.

In 1700 she remarried, to a banker from Metz in Lorraine, and relocated there. Two years later, her husband Cerf Levy failed financially, losing not only his own fortune but hers as well. He died in 1712, leaving her a widow for a second time.[3] She died in Metz in 1724.

Glückel had 14 children by her first husband, 12 of whom survived and were married into the most prominent Jewish families of Europe.[3]

Content of the diaries

Glückel started writing her diaries after her first husband's death in 1689. At the time she was a 44-year-old widow, with 14 children. She left off writing the diaries in 1699, shortly before her second marriage, and resumed 1715–1719, after her second husband's death.[3]

In her diaries she tells how she guided the financial and personal destinies of her children, how she engaged in trade, ran her own factory, and promoted the welfare of her large family. Her diaries, a rare account of an ordinary woman, described day-to-day life among the Jewish inhabitants of the Rhine valley in the 17th century. She tells of the impact of the Swedish wars waged by King Charles XII, plague, pirates, soldiers, the hysteria of the false messiah Sabbatai Zevi, murder, bankruptcy, wedding feasts, births, deaths. She writes of the frightening and precarious situation under which the Jews of northern Germany lived.[4]

History of the diary

The manuscript of Glückel's diaries, handwritten in Western Yiddish, was kept by her children and grandchildren. It was created by Glückel's son Moshe Hamel who copied her original manuscript, and the copy was inherited first by Moshe's son Chayim Hamel (d. 1788) and then by members of the next generation, Yosef Hamel and Chayim Hamel Segal of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). The manuscript was deposited in the Bavarian State Library in the second half of the 19th century. [Comments by David Kauffman, quoted by Rabinovitz 1929]

The Bavarian State Library manuscript was published as a book in 1892 by David Kauffman in Pressburg (Bratislava) under the name "Zikhroynes Glikl Hamel" (Yiddished Hebrew: the Memoirs of Glikl Hamel). Bertha Pappenheim, one of her descendants, translated the Memoirs into German and published them in Vienna in 1910. An abridged translation into German with commentary by Alfred Feilchenfeld appeared in 1913, and went through four print runs by 1922/23. The first Hebrew translation was published in 1929 by Rabinovitz, who had also added detailed references for the many quotes often used by Glückel.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin has devoted an entire exhibit to Glückel of Hamelin, intended to provide a sense of what life was like for the Jews of Germany before their emancipation.

Sol Liptzin describes Glückel as "well versed in the legendary lore of the Talmud", familiar with the popular, ethically oriented Musar tracts, and "profoundly influenced by Tkhines, devotional prayers for women". "Her style," he writes, "had the charm of simplicity and intimacy and the qualities of sincerity, vividness and picturesqueness."[3]


Because her family is so well documented, it has been possible to identify many of her descendants. Among these have been such notable figures as Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888) and Bertha Pappenheim (1859–1936) (also known as "Anna O.").[citation needed]


Original publication:

  • Zikhroynes Glikl Hamel זיכרונות גליקל האמיל Die Memoiren der Glückel von Hameln, 1645-1719. Herausg. von David Kaufmann. Frankfurt am Main, J. Kauffmann, 1896. 8vo. In Yiddish (in Hebrew letters), with introduction in German.

German translations:

  • "Die Memoiren der Glückel von Hameln" Aus dem Jüdisch-Deutschen von Bertha Pappenheim (Autorisierte Übertragung nach der Ausgabe von Prof. Dr. David Kaufmann, Wien 1910). Mit einem Vorwort von Viola Roggenkamp. Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag, 2005.
  • Denkwürdigkeiten der Glückel von Hameln Aus dem Jüdisch-Deutschen übersetzt, mit Erläuterungen versehen und hrsg. von Alfred Feilchenfeld. Mit 25 Bildbeigaben. Berlin, Jüdischer Verlag, 1913.

Translation into English:

  • Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln translated by Marvin Lowenthal, 1977 (ISBN 0805205721)
  • The Life of Glückel of Hameln 1646-1724, written by herself. Translated from the original Yiddish and edited by Beth-Zion Abrahams, Yoselof 1963 (1962 Horovitz Publ. Co., London).

On these two translations, see: Bilik, Dorothy. “The Memoirs of Glikl of Hameln: The Archaeology of the Text.” Yiddish 8/2 (1992): 5–22.

Translation into Hebrew:

  • Gliḳl : zikhronot / hehedirah ṿe-tirgemah mi-Yiddish Translated by Chava Turniansky, Jerusalem 2006 (ISBN 9652272132). This edition also includes the Yiddish text, side by side with the Hebrew translation.


  1. ^ Steven Bayme, Understanding Jewish History, p.258-259
  2. ^ "Chava Turniansky, ''Glueckel of Hameln'', in Jewish Women". 2009-03-01. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 
  3. ^ a b c d Liptzin, Sol, A History of Yiddish Literature, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 1972. ISBN 0-8246-0124-6. pp.14-15.
  4. ^ The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln – Glueckel (of Hameln) – Google Books. Retrieved 2014-06-15. 

Further reading