Hirshel (Hirschel), Meyer

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HIRSHEL (Hirschel), MEYER (Naphtali Hirz b. Judah Selke ; Joseph Naphtali Hirz Levita ; d. c. 1674), functionary of the Vienna community at the time of the expulsion of 1670, tax collector, and informer. A native of Langenlois, near Krems, and court agent of Emperor *Ferdinandiii, he is first mentioned in 1651 when he and other notables were arrested in connection with the murder of the Jewess Leonora, for which the community was held responsible. He was released (as were others later, on payment of large sums) when he undertook to collect the taxes of Austrian Jewry with the assistance of soldiers and without recourse to the lawcourts. He performed this task in an autocratic and corrupt fashion, substituting falsified tax records. Through collecting part of the taxes in textiles and uniforms in lieu of cash he became a forerunner of the Jewish textile industry. He was in a unique legal position: entitled to all amenities provided by the community, he was exempted from its jurisdiction and protected by the imperial court. In 1665, when another body of a murdered woman was found in the Jewish quarter, Hirshel denounced some Jews as connected with her death. However, in 1667 he himself was imprisoned and his possessions confiscated. Although he was sentenced to expulsion, the order was postponed because the judges considered that the authorities could not do without his services as an informer. The evidence collected by a special commission set up to inquire into his affairs contributed to the expulsion of the Jews in 1670. Hirshel settled in Nikolsburg (Mikulov), where he was a leader of the delegation which had secret meetings with the Viennese authorities to try to secure the readmission of rich Jews to Vienna. He arranged the authorization for Jews to attend fairs in Lower Austria.


D. Kaufmann, Die letzte Vertreibung der Juden aus Wien… (1889), 48–52, 97–103, 170; A.F. Pribram, Urkundenund Akten zur Geschichte der Juden in Wien, 1 (1918) index; L. Moses, Die Juden in Niederoesterreich (1935), index; M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), 108–12; idem, in: mgwj, 81 (1937), 439–43.

[Meir Lamed]