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Wassercug, Mosheh

(d. after 1819), Polish Jewish memoirist. Born in the mid-eighteenth century in Skoki, near Poznań, the son of a textile and clothing merchant, Mosheh Wassercug seems to have died in Płock. His parents saw to it that he received a broad Jewish education, and he remained traditionally observant all his life. After his father’s death, he tried to continue in his footsteps but was unsuccessful and lost his inheritance.

Wassercug studied instead to be a ritual slaughterer and looked for work in Prussian Jewish communities at the Frankfurt am Oder fair. Hired by the community of Koerlin (Karlin), he then moved to Greifenhagen (mod. Gryfino), where he was a ritual slaughterer, led synagogue services, and dealt with financial matters. It was at his initiative that a synagogue was built there.

Wassercug was also a mashgiaḥ (inspector of kashrut), discovering cases in which the laws concerning the ritual slaughter of cattle were not strictly observed. In addition, he worked as a moneylender but soon went bankrupt and had to return to his hometown. He was then employed for some time in Kórnik, where his functions were similar to those he had held in Prussia. He disagreed with the way in which the community was run, however, and had various disputes with its board. After 1795, Wassercug worked for the Płock community, which had been annexed to South Prussia in the Third Partition. The town therefore needed someone who knew German, a language Wassercug had mastered in addition to Polish. Toward the end of his life, he opened his own tavern and thrived.

When Prussian authorities required the adoption of family names, Mosheh took the name Wassercug, which means “pulled from the water,” in commemoration of the fact that as a child he had been saved from drowning in a river (it is also the meaning of the name Mosheh). Toward the end of his life, he wrote his memoirs, which he dedicated to the memory of his father. In them, he tells, among other things, how, together with a friend, he attended the theater in Płock. Wassercug is thus the first Polish Jew identifiable by name to have visited the Polish theater in the nineteenth century. His memoirs describe his studies as a youth, adventures during his travels in Prussia and Poland, and the social and economic relations within various Jewish communities.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Goldberg, “Wokół pamiętników Żydów polskich z XVIII wieku: Pamiętnik Mojżesza Wasercuga z Wielkopolski,” in Trudne stulecia: Studia z dziejów XVII i XVIII wieku, pp. 206–214 (Warsaw, 1994), the article also appears in English as “Eighteenth Century Memoirs of Polish Jews: Memoirs of Mojzesz Wasercug from Great Poland,” Acta poloniae historica 76 (1997): 19–29; Jacob Goldberg, ed., Die Memoiren des Moses Wasserzug (Leipzig, 2001); Henryk Loewe, ed., Memoiren eines polnischen Juden. Lebeserinnerungen von Mosche Wasserzug (Berlin, 1911).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti