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Itzig Behrend, Chronicle of a Jewish Family in Hesse-Kassel, c. 1800-1815 (Retrospective Account)

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In the month of Elul [August/September] most of the French left the Hannover Principality and passed through Hesse to Bavaria. The ones who remained stocked up provisions for a year in Hameln.

At that time, I, my brother Feibisch, and the merchant Scher bought from the French a lot of new and used iron, such as wheels, winches, chains, and blacksmith’s gear – one batch for 3,000 talers – all of which the French had taken from the armory in Hannover. A good part of this was sold by us for 1,400 talers, and a part for me and Feibisch for 400 talers, and in February 1806 part was sold here at an auction for 600 talers. At that time there were still goods on hand with a net worth of about 400 talers, of which some 110 talers counted toward expenses.

From December to February there were many Prussians, Russians, English, and Swedes in the territory of Hannover, but they all went home without having achieved anything. [ . . . ]

At Rosch Haschana 1805 I turned 39 years old in good health, and never in my life had the grain prices been higher than in that year: barley cost 1 taler and 6 groschen, rye 1 taler 24 groschen, oats 24 groschen, beans 1 taler 15 groschen. [ . . . ]

In January 1808 the Emperor Bonaparte installed his brother Hieronymus [Jerome] as king of Westphalia, on condition that he [Napoleon] would keep half of the principalities in the kingdom. It [the kingdom of Westphalia] includes the principality of Minden, Ravensberg, Osnabrück, Paderborn, Hildesheim, Kassel, Göttingen, the Harz, Eichsfeld, Goslar, Halberstadt, and Magdeburg, along with their estates. When the king assumed rule, a deputation of parnassim went to Kassel to pay lavish tribute to him, each according to his means. He issued all kinds of new decrees, some of which freed the Jews from their chains and declared them citizens equal to the gojim. Everyone can live and trade and practice a craft as he wishes.

On the 1st of March, the king was paid homage by all.

After January 27, 1808, by royal decree the Jews will cease paying greater fees than the Christians. We used to have to pay money for our protection, but now no more. Instead, each of us will take out a patent for whatever trade he wishes to ply.

A tavern costs 1 taler a year, timber trade 2 talers, a yard goods business 4 talers, a butcher shop 3 talers, a grain business 5 talers, a wholesale wine business 4 talers. In the past, we had to pay one heller more excise on a quarter (liquid measure) than the goj; we also had to give the tongue of a slaughtered animal to the rabbi; and for every slaughtered head of cattle we had to pay, besides the meat heller, 1 taler to the tax authorities. And there is no longer a poll tax. [ . . . ]

On August 6 [1808] the king of Westphalia came to Nenndorf with an entourage of various gentlemen and ladies, 60 persons and some 300 soldiers, both Foot Guards and Horse Guards. The soldiers were quartered in Gross-Nenndorf, Klein-Nenndorf, and Gross-Rodenberg. All of us local Jehudim [Jews], along with Feibisch Nenndorf, supplied them with meat, bread, straw, and fodder, as well as spices and poultry. The latter was ordered and certified by a supervisor named Messier and paid for by a quartermaster, nota bene with a nice deduction. The knowing person will catch on.

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