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 How We Worked 


Year Unknown


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.

Ożarów 13



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