This German surname of BACKER was an occupational name, and may have been used for someone whose special task in the kitchen of a great house or castle was the baking of bread, but since most humbler households did their own baking in the Middle Ages, it may also have referred to the owner of a communal oven used by the whole village. The right to be in charge of this and exact money or loaves in return for its use was in many parts of the country a hereditary feudal privilege. The name may also occasionally have been used by someone noted for baking particularly fine bread or by a baker of pottery or bricks. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state. The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. The name is also spelt as Baak, Bakker, Baeck and Bakke. Leo BAECK (1873-1956) was the German-Jewish religious leader, born in Lissa, Prussia. He was rabbi (1912-42) in Berlin, and when the Nazis came to power became the political leader of German Jewry, and spent 1942-45 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. After the war he lectured in Britain. His chief publications were 'The Essence of Judaism' (1936) and 'The Pharisees and Other Essays' (1947). In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe.
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