This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen FB page #belarus #yizkorbooks


Bruce Drake
 

JewishGen researchers are well familiar with the Russian “revision lists” which were used to levy poll taxes because they can be a gold mine of information about their ancestors. “The Revisor,” from the Yizkor book of Kamenets (Belarus) puts a human face on the dreaded auditors who came to town every year. What makes this chapter so much fun is its descriptions of how people in Kamenets (and probably elsewhere) figured out ruses to avoid levies that could amount to hundreds of rubles. This was no small matter since the levies could amount to 600 rubles (the equivalent of $14,500 in 2019 U.S. dollars) and a typical worker around 1900 might earn 180 rubles yearly. And 600 rubles was the assessment that potentially hung over the head of the author’s father.
“So when lovely summer came around, you could count on it—that one day the assessor, or the auditor, would suddenly come by, and would inventory all our household possessions: the bedding, the inherited copper pans, the brass candlesticks, the mortar-and-pestle, and all the other items… everyone was seized with fear.”
So, with no further adieu, I’ll make way for this wonderful account of the stratagems people of the town used to lead the revisors “down the garden path” and hold on to their hard-earned money.



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Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, MD

Researching: DRACH, EBERT, KIMMEL, ZLOTNICK
Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel