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Poverty among the Rural Elderly (1906)

Although the state guaranteed a modicum of social security for its citizens, local communities were often responsible for the care of the poor, destitute and mendicant. Here, we see a conflict among local officials, the state, and local citizens themselves over the entitlement of an impoverished family to communal support.

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The parish poor man Specht in Kunzendorf near Marienburg, who lives with his wife and daughter in the poor house and collects 10.55 marks a month disability pension, has repeatedly appeared to ask for aid, though unfortunately without success. The party comrades from Elbingen eventually looked after the poor family and lodged a complaint against the local poor association [Ortsarmenverband] with the district committee and, through the latter, finally with the district president [Regierungspräsident] in Danzig. The following decision was received from the Regierungspräsident:

The Regierungspräsident
Submission No. A. 3873.

Danzig, August 19, 1906

According to our investigation, you are not as infirm as you make yourself out to be. Last summer you went on a trip to Westphalia to visit your children, and you endured the strains of that trip well. Your wife is also still quite robust and able to earn an average income of 50 pfennig a day.

You could earn the same yourself, if you so desired, since fully disabled residents of the poor house are currently still earning 70 pfennig a day.

With a pension of 10.55 marks, the earnings from working, and the support of the community through free housing and fire wood, as well as a little gardening plot, you and your wife could most certainly get by, especially since you can easily find suitable work, given the worker shortage in the countryside.

Living with you, and with your consent, however, is your work-shy, adult daughter Christine, who, according to the attestation of seven doctors, is healthy – merely faking –and who lives in the poor house without justification and is supported by you. Should she fail to engage in some kind of work, I will take steps to have her placed in a workhouse.

Moreover, you are not 68, as you indicate in your complaint, but only 63, and your wife is not 65, but 63. For all the above reasons, I therefore reject your complaint against the Landrat [district president], the Amtsvorsteher [chief district official], and the Gemeindevorsteher [parish magistrate] as without merit.

v. Krtozky

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