Jewish businessmen and tradesmen were subjected to heavy
taxes, augmented by an annual license fee. If they didn't pay, they
invited the arrival of a "Sekwestrator", who as his name indicates, had
the power to place their goods under sequestration. Usually, he would
arrive on market day, with the certainty of finding the cash boxes of
the offenders well filled.
Of course, the solidarity of the Ozarowers would then
come into play.
As soon as he alighted from the bus, they spotted him
and spread the news quickly. Thus warned, the merchants could hide away
the few zlotys comprising their day's receipts. This great fear of the "Sekwestrator"
sometimes gave rise to mistakes.
Thus, one day there appeared an unknown functionary
getting off the bus from Ostrowiec. He was carrying a leather briefcase
..... and yet, it wasn't a market day! The rumour spread - "Without
question, a new Sekwestrator! He has changed the day of his visit as a
ruse to be better able to collect his tax!" We worried, we panicked ....
but all this was a tempest in a teapot! It turned out to be only a
harmless little health insurance inspector.
The agitation of the Ozarow merchants is easily
understood. Most of them, despite strenuous work, remained poor. In
these conditions, the burden of the license fee was a curse.
Furthermore, the attitude of the authorities toward the Polish merchants
was very different. They were far more understanding and tolerant of
them and only rarely inspected them.
Jewish tradesmen would also resort to all kinds of
subterfuges to escape investigations by the tax authorities. For
example, a business would be declared in the name of relatives who had
been dead for years. The administration would at times take a very long
time to discover this "error", thus giving a respite of several years.
And even if the "Sekwestrator" came looking, what could he seize from
the empty drawers of a family which had no property of any kind?
Sometimes a business would be registered in the name of
young children, little girls best of all, because their names changed
when they married. The authorities would get lost in a maze of
successive family names.
In this connection, Gitche Goldblum (who died in 1970)
told an anecdote about the license of her father
Shyale-Rochmes-Kleinmintz, who owned a little restaurant in Ozarow, and
also bought and sold wheat on the side. After several run-ins with the
tax authorities, he decided to put the license in the name of his
daughter Gitche to escape these meddlers. At the time, she was just a
very little girl. Several years later, she married Yechiel, who left for
France in order to prepare for their emigration there.
When Gitche applied for her passport, everything was
spoiled, since it was only then that the tax authorities were able to
trace her, and force her to pay up several years of arrears!
But how could she afford such a sum? Fortunately, her
grandfather, Moishe Shloch and Chenoch, his brother, managed to calm the
zeal of the officials and procure the passport which allowed her to join
her husband in France.