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

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At the end of October the kingdom of Hannover was also restored to its earlier standing under von Bremer and von Decken. The Prince Elector of Hesse also returned to Kassel, and there was great joy and celebration. We Jews, too, said the Hanaussen Teschuo prayer, with music, after the weekly portion of Tauldaus in the synagogue. On the next day, Sunday, the Christians celebrated the day of his return. The National Guard marched with a band to the church. That evening, there was festive lighting and a ball. [ . . . ]

After the king of Westphalia, Hieronymus, who had reigned from 1807 to 1813, had been driven out by the allies and our Prince Elector had returned to his land, the former local collectors had many unpleasant quarrels with their communities over the war contributions, which, as the communities now charged, they had supposedly imposed too heavily and kept for themselves. Thank God, the accusation did not affect me. No one even said anything to me in this regard. Haudu laschem ki tauw (Thank the Eternal One, for He is good . . . ).

On December 16, 1813, a proclamation by the Prince Elector appeared in which he summoned his subjects to volunteer for army service, since he had to muster 24,000 men. Many did volunteer, since they thought that they could be forced to serve. It was also rumored that all those from 18 to 50 would be called up. From Rodenberg the following reported voluntarily to the Rifle Corps: my son Bernhard, the sons of Head Forester Kleinstöber, Pastor Kinder, Bailiff Deichmann, and several others. They were taken by Kilian to Rinteln, and the trip cost nothing. My son Bernhard received from me 30 talers in cash, a gun (13 talers), a game bag (5 talers), a wallet (1 taler), and in addition he got a cloth overcoat and trousers, 3 shirts, 3 pairs of stockings, and a silver pocket watch as a present from his Aunt Jette.

From Trier we received news, and again from the fortress of Cheonsville, which was besieged by the Hessians, saying that they had to battle stoutly against the French. [ . . . ]

On March 14, 1815, and by the Jewish calendar on the 2nd of Adar [scheni], my esteemed father, after a short illness, passed away peacefully in his 83rd year as a result of infirmity.

Present at his deathbed were my brothers Feibisch and Aron, the cantor Bornheim, and I, as well as all of the members of the local congregation. He had invited all of them for a leave-taking and had a Mischebeirach said for them. He begged all present for forgiveness, in the event that he had ever injured them, pledged 2½ talers to the poor fund and bequeathed whatever was left of his estate in cash to the poor. [ . . . ]

My dear departed father was a most honest and upright man. As a member of the congregation he bore the same burdens as the rich, far beyond his financial circumstances. He was, however, not rich in earthly goods, but rather he was rich because he was content with what had been granted him. When we, his children, often pointed out to him that his charitable deeds exceeded his monetary means, he soothed us, saying that it is good to surpass oneself in this respect. “You will get it all back. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. You will advance in the world and it will be your lot to dwell in honor in our congregation, which will increase.” – God fulfilled these words. [ . . . ]

Source of English translation: Monika Richarz, ed., Jewish Life in Germany, Memoirs from Three Centuries, translated by Stella P. Rosenfeld and Sidney Rosenfeld. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991, pp. 41-49.

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