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zieds1mazs.gif (257 bytes) The case of 13 Polangen Jews

2 Names: Feinstein, Zausmer (Cauzmers)

In this page an entry of an Arrest Book of 1832 is described. The book was kept by a Police official who recorded in it all arrested persons and kept the records of money incomes from and the spendings for the prisoners.

Unfortunately, the person who sold me the book did not know where the Police office was situated, and I could find in the text only some hints for a guess. The inscription on the cover of the book says only the following:

ArrestantenBuchBB.GIF (4721 bytes)

The inscription means that in the book the arrested persons of the Baltic provinces and of all Russia would be recorded, and that the book is kept for 1832. One can conclude from the places the arrested persons came from that the Police office was situated in the southwest part of Kurzeme [Kurland] rather close to the border with Prussia.

The premises for the arrested people were not overfilled. Totally about 60 persons were registered in the book for the time period from February till October i.e. 6-7 persons per month. The most busy was August 1832 when 13 Jews from Palanga [Polangen] were put in jail for 14 days. At that time Palanga belonged to Kurzeme [Kurland] province, now it is a resort place at the sea side of Lithuania.

I have planned to publish all the list of arrested people, but it will be a rather difficult and time consuming job, because the author of the inscriptions did not care much about my ability to read handwritten German texts in Gothic. The person names are always written in Antiqua letters, however. I think that the book says a lot about the situation in this area, where the border with Prussia was quite near, and relatively many Prussia citizens were arrested. Some of their names sound quite Latvian and it may happen that the book is a rare source of information about some Latvians, who lived at that time in the Memel region of Prussia and later lost contacts with Latvia.

At this moment I limited myself to the evening of August 30, 1832, when 13 Jews of Palanga were gathered and jailed. Their names in the Book were the following:


Ebraer13ListBB.GIF (11035 bytes)

Die Polangenscher Ebräer:

Benzian Elias Zausmer
Gerschen Abraham
Hirsch Salamon Feinstein
Moses Levin
Sussman Moses
Chaim Marcus
Michel Jankel
Jankel Elias
Chetzkell Judell
Levin Elias
Jankel Schmul
Israel Hosias
Scholm Meyer


I deciphered the last name as Meyer not as Meijer - I think that there the letter y with Umlaut (two dots) on it was written.

The most difficult problem that should be solved: what in fact was registered, which was the first name of a person and which was the family name, because in most cases the registration entries seem to be consisting of two first names. The exceptions are the names Zausmer and Feinstein, which are proper family names without much doubt.

Of course, given names could and did serve for the family names of Jews like of people of other ethnicities but in relatively rare cases, I think. Some of the first names mentioned here fit for family names better. I mean Levin, Sussmann or Marcus. But in general, one of the possibilities is that the first names written here were double given name of the Jews - one of models could be a Hebrew name as the first given name and a Yiddish name as the second one, but it is clear this was not the case, because the name Jankel occurs both in the first and in the second place. I believe that here the given name and the father's given name is registered. In any case it seems that 11 Jews had not got their family names yet, though according to the rules of the Empire (Law of 1804) they had to have.

By the way, I have found in the directory of registered Latvian businesses of 1936 the information about Osers Cauzmers born Feb.23, 1894 in Palanga - he registered a shop in Kuldiga [Goldingen] in 1935. The spelling Cauzmers reflects the plain Latvian pronunciation of the German spelling - Zausmer. I hope that O.Cauzmers was a great-grandson of Benzian Zausmer from the above list. A search in Kurland's Jewish database gives other two Palanga inhabitants Tsausmer Itsig and Tsausmer Bentsel. This is another variant of the name Zausmer but in this case in Russian/German spelling.

On the right-hand side of the above picture the information on the legal ground for the imprisonment is put down. It is said that the Jews were sentenced by Oberhauptmann's court on July 20. There were 5 courts of this kind in Kurzeme [Kurland] province. I guess that the decision was made by the court in Aizpute [Hasenpoth] which dealt with all cases in Aizpute and Grobiòa apriòíi. In this Arrest Book some persons were also registered, who were put in jail by decisions of Hauptmann's court in Grobiòa that was a lower level court.

Now let us consider the criminal deed the Jews were punished for. In the place that should contain the explanation of the grounds for the jail the following text was written:

Ebraer13text.JPG (151372 bytes)

Sämtliche 13 Ebräer, welche ein Complott zur Zerstörung der zusatzlich eingefürten Koropka, zur Tilgung der Kronsrückstände formirt hatten, sind dafür zu 14 tägigem Gefängniße auf eigen Kosten und dem Ersatze von 40 Rubeln Silber Münze, welche der Koropka abhänden gekommen, verurtheilt.

Da sie nicht alle beisammen waren, so konnte erst am 30t August der Urtheil in Erfüllung gesetzt werden.


My translation:

All of the 13 Jews, who had hatched a plot against additional Korobka tax that was introduced in order to discharge the Crown arrears, were sentenced to 14 day imprisonment on their own cost and to the payment of 40 Roubles in silver coins to cover the arrears of the Korobka.

As not all of them were present, it was possible to start the imprisonment only on August 30.


I think that the word spelled here as abhänden is an old variant of the modern word abhanden, but I could not find this old spelling in my dictionaries, neither could A.Skuja, who advised me to accept this deciphering. Additionally, I think that the author spelled the word Korobka wrongly as Koropka. The word Complott now is spelled Komplott.

Korobka tax, or as it was called, meat tax, or slaughter tax, or in Aramaic "gabela" was paid only by Jews for each animal slaughtered in accordance with the Kashrut rules and for each pound of the kosher meat sold etc. There will be some information published about the general rules of taxation, the Korobka tax and about the usage of the gathered financial resources in the special page about the taxes, that is being prepared now. In any case, it was not quite ordinary idea to introduce additional tax for collecting the arrears of other taxes, so no wonder the Jews in Palanga were not happy when it was done. The Korobka tax was paid practically by all members of a Jewish community, who could afford meat, the Crown arrears arose presumably because some Jews did not pay the personal tax (head-tax) in full amount. This tax was paid by all male persons in the Russia Empire. I suppose that the 13 Jews also understood that it was not good to transfer the debts of some persons to all the community, though this was the standard practice in the Empire.



© Comments. Bruno Martuzâns. 1995-2002