Can Animals Commit a Murder? #germany #names #translation

Ralph Baer

Recently, someone asked what Hebrew name corresponds to Schia. I was going to post that a brother of my great-great-grandfather Moses GRÜNEBAUM had the name Scheier (pronounced very similarly to Schia) on his 1823 death record and the name Jesaias on the 1818 Musterliste (master list, census) for the town of Gambach in the present-day Wetteraukreis of Hessen, Germany. By the time I assembled the facts, essentially the same thing was posted by others, so I did not post it.
This, however, got me to think about Scheier GRÜNEBAUM’s death record which I had not done since a book about the former Gambach Jewish community of Gambach was published in 2014. The Mormon filming of the Darmstadt archives copy is available through Family Search at My transcription is:
Sterb Protocoll über einen Juden
Im Jahr Eintausand Achthundert Dreÿ und Zwanzig den 21. Maj sind vor mir dem Burgermeister der Gemeinde Gambach Landrathsbezirk Hungen, beide Juden Moses Sewald und David Mejer beide von hier erschienen welche mir erklärt haben, daß Jude Kaufmann Grünebaum Sohn Namens Scheier Grünebaum welcher zwölf Jahr alt, den 20ten Maj, des Nachmittags um fünf Uhr, durch ein Paar Ochsen, welche derselbe von hier nach Steinbach habe führen wollen, dem vermuthen und überzeugen nach, durch dieselbe ermordert und das zwar zwischen Gambach und Holzheim in der hiesigen Grenze geschehen ist, und haben der Erklärenten dem gegenwärtigen Act nach dem solcher ihnen vorgelesen worden mit mir unterschrieben sowie auch der Vater des unglükten. 
Language changes in 200 years. That coupled with my admittedly incomplete knowledge of German causes me to wonder exactly what happened to Scheier. That is my question. It is clear that the 12-year-old Scheier was leading a pair of oxen on May 20, 1823 from Gambach to nearby Steinbach, and at the Gambach-Holzheim border, he met his demise. (For what it is worth, he would have been a couple of years older based upon his recorded age in 1818.) The verb form “ermordert” is used which I assume would now be ermordet. Does the record say that he was murdered by the oxen? One would not say in English that oxen murdered someone; one would say killed. Or does the preposition “durch” imply that an unknown person killed Scheier and used the oxen as their weapon?
Ralph N. Baer        RalphNBaer@...       Washington, DC


On Sun, Mar 28, 2021 at 08:04 AM, Ralph Baer wrote:

My German not being what it once was, I quickly googled the words ermordert and ermordet. (The former could be a misspelling, btw.)  In addition to murder, other translations include slay and wasted. I suspect that the language has not changed so much in 200 years that these words could not be reasonably used rather than murdered.

Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC


Actually, there have been animals convicted of crimes historically.
Tema Frank
Edmonton, Canada

Ralph Baer

So far everyone who has replied has stated that "ermordert" (ermordet in current German) should be translated in this case as killed. That is, the oxen killed Scheier GRÜNEBAUM. Thanks again.

I did receive a reply stating that until the eighteenth century in Europe animals were sometimes tried in court. This was a bit later, 1823, but I doubt that the oxen were actually tried. A Wikipedia article was quoted, but not by name. 
Ralph N. Baer        RalphNBaer@...       Washington, DC

David Seldner

In German nowadays "ermordet" means murdered. This is not "killed" (killed would be "getötet"). But looking at the bible, 10 commandments, the Hebrew Original says "Thou shall not murder" (Lo tirtzach), English and German translate this to "Thou shall not kill" ("Du sollst nicht töten") which actually is not correct. Not being a specialist for languages I do think that "murdered" is meant - the main difference is whether it happened "by accident" or "on purpose". I doubt that nowasys in German one would say that an animal murdered a human being although killing one can happen.
David Seldner, Karlsruhe, Germany