Birnboim, Moses Joseph

views updated


BIRNBOIM, MOSES JOSEPH (1789–1831), secret agent of the czarist police and blackmailer. He started to work for the Warsaw police in 1820, in charge of about 30 servants recruited to spy on their employers, mostly persons prominent in Polish political and economic life. Later sent to Germany, he mixed in Polish student circles purporting to be an opponent of czarist absolutism to gain the students' confidence. He subsequently returned to Warsaw, using his position to blackmail Jews, exploiting the czarist anti-ḥasidic legislation, and earning the hatred of both Jews and Poles, until he himself was denounced to the police. In an effort to save himself, he apostatized and adopted the name Mateusz Józef, but was arrested in 1824 and in 1830 sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. During the Polish uprising of 1831, Birnboim, along with many traitors and others hated by the Poles, was taken from prison by Jews, brought to Franciszkańska Street in Warsaw, where most of his Jewish victims lived, and hanged from a lantern.


Warszawski, in: yivo Historishe Shriftn, 2 (1937), 335–54; J. Shatzky, Geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe, 1 (1947), 327–8.