Because Altdorfer colored the print with blocks rather than the less durable stencils that were commonly used, he could produce more copies and more quickly. It is this expediency that relates the work to an unsavory chapter in the history of 16th-century Europe. In the most crass terms, the
Tensions between Christians and Jews had existed in Regensburg for decades. As in many places across Europe, the town’s Jewish residents were blamed for an economic downturn that occurred in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Earlier there had been accusations of ritual murder; now disputes centered mostly on money lending and economic competition. Jews in Regensburg, which was an imperial city, were under the legal protection of the emperor (who extracted heavy taxes in exchange for this privilege). When Maximilian I died in January 1519, the town council, of which Altdorfer was a member, lost no time: in February they voted to expel the Jews. A community of about 500 people was forced from homes and businesses in a matter of days. They were ordered to evacuate the synagogue within hours. An unruly mob immediately tore down the Gothic structure—a building that Altdorfer recorded in two etchings.