Category:Jewish Nazi collaborators
Pages in category „Jewish Nazi collaborators”
The following 8 pages are in this category, out of 8 total. This list may not reflect recent changes (learn more).
Anna (Ans) van Dijk (Amsterdam, December 24, 1905 – Weesperkarspel, January 14, 1948) was a Dutch-Jewish collaborator who betrayed Jews to Nazi Germany during World War II. She was the only Dutch woman to be executed for her wartime activities.
She was the daughter of Jewish parents, Aron van Dijk and Kaatje Bin. She married Bram Querido in 1927, and they separated in 1935. After the marriage ended, she began a lesbian relationship with a woman named Miep Stodel, and opened a millinery shop called Maison Evany in Amsterdam. The shop was closed by the Nazis in 1941 as part of their seizure of Jewish property (Jews were forbidden to own businesses or work in retail shops). Stodel fled to Switzerland in 1942.
Van Dijk was arrested on Easter Sunday 1943 by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD; the Nazi intelligence service) detective Peter Schaap of the Office of Jewish Affairs of the Amsterdam police. After promising to work for the SD, van Dijk was released. Pretending to be a member of the resistance, she offered to help Jews find hiding places and obtain false papers. In this way, she trapped at least 145 people (including her own brother and his family). Some 85 of her victims later died in concentration camps. She may have been responsible for the deaths of as many as 700 people.
After the war, she moved to The Hague, where she was arrested at a friend’s home on June 20, 1945, and charged with 23 counts of treason. On February 24, 1947, she was brought to the Special Court in Amsterdam. She confessed on all counts, explaining that she only acted out of self-preservation, and was sentenced to death. She appealed the conviction, but in September 1947 the Special Court of Appeals confirmed her punishment. Her request for a royal pardon was also rejected.
On 14 January 1948 she was executed by firing squad at Fort Bijlmer in the then municipality Weesperkarspel (now the Bijlmermeer municipality of Amsterdam). The night before her execution she was baptized and joined the Roman Catholic Church.
- Nietsch, Hetty (20 August 1994). „Geexecuteerd: Een Verraadster, Joods En Lesbisch” (in Dutch). De Verdieping Trouw Amsterdam. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- Visser, Anneke (17 September 1994). „Een leven vol verraad” (in Dutch). NRC Boeken. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- Muller, Nick (14 January 2013). „De executie van de foute jodin” (in Dutch). HP / De Tijd. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
- „Het Amsterdam van Anne Frank: Verraadster Ans van Dijk ter dood veroordeeld”. Anne Frank Stichting (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Groen, Koos (1994). Als slachtoffers daders worden. De zaak van joodse verraadster Ans van Dijk (in Dutch). Baarn: AMBO. ISBN 90-263-1328-4.
- Kok, René; Somers, Erik (1991). „52”. Documentaire Nederland en de Tweede Wereldoorlog (in Dutch). Zwolle: Waanders Uitg. ISBN 90-6630-952-0.
Abraham Gancwajch (1902–1943) was a prominent Nazi collaborator in the Warsaw Ghetto during the occupation of Poland in World War II, and a Jewish „kingpin” of the ghetto underworld. Opinions about Gancwajch’s activities in the ghetto are controversial, although modern research concludes unanimously that he was an informer and collaborator motivated chiefly by personal interest.
Gancwajch was born in Częstochowa, Poland. As a youth, he apprenticed as a journalist and editor in Łódź,and eventually left Poland for Vienna, Austria, where he worked as reporter on the Jewish affairs for the Gerechtigkeit (Justice) periodical edited by Irena Harand. He was expelled from Vienna around 1936–1938 and returned to Poland, having gained his reputation as a teacher and a Zionist journalist with an oratorical skill.
He first became a Nazi collaborator as a leader of the Hashomer Hatzair, delivering weekly intelligence reports to the Germans. In December 1940 he founded the Group 13 network, a Jewish Nazicollaborationist organization in Warsaw Ghetto, described by Gutman and Ringelblum as the „Jewish Gestapo”.
Gancwajch believed that the Germans would win the war and called on the Jews of Warsaw to serve them as the basic means of survival. He preached collaboration with the German conquerors in a specially printed booklet which outraged the Ghetto residents. He was also a proponent of the Nazi Madagascar Plan of creating an autonomous place of settlement for all Jews under the protection of the Third Reich in one of the overseas countries.Adam Czerniaków, whom Gancwajch attempted to usurp as the head of the Judenrat mentioned him in his diary as „a despicable, ugly creature”.Janusz Korczak who ran an orphanage in the ghetto when asked why he was dealing with him replied „I will see the devil himself to save my children”.
In the ghetto he lived a lavish life, collecting hefty sums from others by various means. On the other hand, in order to support appearances he helped the poor and the artists; however all of his initiatives became corrupted — for example he set up a hospital with ambulances, but quickly the network became used primarily for smuggling by the Group 13, which also by the time became a racketeering network (officially it was supposed to combat the black market in the ghetto).
After most of the Group 13 was eliminated by the Germans in 1942, Gancwajch reemerged outside the ghetto on the Aryan side in Warsaw, where he and other members of his group, pretending to be Jewish underground fighters, were hunting for Poles hiding or otherwise supporting the Jews. He was also the leader of the infamous Żagiew, a Gestapo-sponsored Jewish organization. He is also known to have tried to sabotage attempts at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Jewish Combat Organization sentenced him to death but were never able to execute him. His further fate remains unknown to this day. According some records, he was killed in the Pawiak prison in Warsaw during April 1942 along with his wife and son after being arrested in the Aryan part of the city.
- Chaim Rumkowski
- Collaboration with the Axis Powers during World War II
- List of people who disappeared mysteriously
- Antwerp Immigration record. „Abraham Gancwajch 1916–1930”. Birth Year: 1902. Częstochowa, Poland. File Number: 171785. Antwerpen, Belgium – via FamilySearch 2014.
- Lawrence Baron (2005). Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 83. ISBN 0-7425-4333-1 – via Google Print.
- Itamar Levin, Walls Around: The Plunder of Warsaw Jewry During World War II and Its Aftermath, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 0-275-97649-1, Google Print, pp. 94–98.
- Warsaw Ghetto Database. at Warszawa.Getto.pl; Note 1, 3, 4, 11, 13. Gancwajch brother-in-law was Moshe Merin, see: Note 4 and Zimbio: The „13”; the Head of the Sosnowiec and Zaglebie Judenrats who also followed the same policy of „serving” the Germans. Merin was deported to Auschwitz.
- see for confirming report from Czestochowa
- W. D. Rubinstein, The Left, the Right, and the Jews, Universe Books, 1982, ISBN 0-87663-400-5, Google Print, p. 136.
- Richard L. Rubenstein, John K. Roth, Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy, Westminster John Knox Press, 2003, ISBN 0-664-22353-2, Google Print, p. 413.
- „All Are Equal.” Janusz Korczak biography at Korczak.com
- Yehuda Bauer, Jews for Sale?: Nazi-Jewish Negotiations, 1933–1945, Yale University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-300-06852-2, Google Print, p. 70.
- Hilberg, Raul (1999). The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom. Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-230-7.
- Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918–1947, McFarland 1998, ISBN 0-7864-0371-3, Google Print, p. 66.
- „The „13” www.HolocaustResearchProject.org”. http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
- Patterns of Cooperation, Collaboration and Betrayal: Jews, Germans and Poles in Occupied Poland during World War II
Stella Kübler-Isaacksohn (née Goldschlag, 10 July 1922 – 1994) was a German Jewish woman who collaborated with the Gestapo during World War II, exposing and denouncing Berlin’s underground Jews.
She was born Stella Goldschlag and raised in Berlin as the only child in a middle-class, assimilated Jewish family. After the 1933 seizure of power by the Nazis, she, like other Jewish children, was forbidden to go to a state school, so she attended the Goldschmidt School, set up by the local Jewish community. At school, she was known for her beauty and vivacity.
The family fell on hard times when Jews were purged from positions of influence and her father lost his job with the newsreel company Gaumont. Her parents attempted to leave Germany after Kristallnacht in 1938 to escape the Nazi regime, but were unable to gain visas for other countries. Stella completed her education in 1938, training as a fashion designer at the School of Applied Art in Nurnbergerstrasse.
Going underground and collaboration
In 1941, she married a Jewish musician, Manfred Kübler. They had met when both were working as Jewish forced-labourers in a war plant in Berlin. In about 1942, when the large deportation programme of Berlin Jews into extermination camps began, she disappeared underground, using forged papers to pass as a non-Jew — owing to her blonde-haired, blue-eyed ‚Aryan’ appearance.
In the spring of 1943, she and her parents were arrested by the Nazis. Stella Kübler was subjected to torture. In order to avoid deportation of herself and her parents, she agreed to become a „catcher” (German: Greiferin) for the Gestapo, hunting down Jews hiding as non-Jews (referred to as „U-Boats”). She was promised a salary of 300 Reichsmark for each Jew that she betrayed. She proceeded to comb Berlin for such Jews and, as she was familiar with a large number of Jewish people from her years at her segregated Jewish school, Kübler was very successful at locating her former schoolmates and handing their information over to the Gestapo, while posing as a U-Boat herself. Some of Kübler’s efforts to apprehend Jews in hiding included promising them food and accommodation, meanwhile turning them over to the Nazi authorities; she also followed clues provided to her by the Gestapo. The data concerning the number of her victims varies, depending on different sources of information, from between 600 and 3,000 Jews. Stella Kübler’s charisma and striking good looks were a great advantage in her pursuit of underground Jews. The Nazis called her „blonde poison”. She is mentioned in The Forger, Cioma Schonhaus‚ 2004 account of living as an underground Jew in Berlin, and also Berlin at War (Roger Moorhouse, 2010).
Despite her collaboration, the Nazis eventually broke their promise of sparing the lives of Stella Kübler’s parents. They were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where they were killed. Her husband, Manfred, was deported in 1943 to Auschwitz, along with his family. Nonetheless, she continued her work for the Gestapo until March 1945. During this time, she met and married her second husband, Rolf Isaaksohn, also a Jew and Nazi collaborator and fellow Greifer.
At the end of the war she went into hiding, but was found and arrested by the Soviets in October 1945 and sentenced to ten years’ camp detention. Afterwards she moved to West Berlin. There she was again tried and convicted, and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. However, she did not have to serve that sentence because of the time already served in the Soviet prison.
In 1992, Peter Wyden, a Berlin schoolmate whose family had been able to get visas for the US in 1937 and who later learned about Stella’s role as a Catcher while he was working for the U.S. Army, wrote a biography of Kübler.
Stella Kübler was married five times: Following the deportation of her first husband, Manfred Kübler, she married fellow Jewish collaborator and Greifer Rolf Isaaksohn on 29 October 1944. After the war, she was married to three non-Jews, starting with Friedheim Schellenberg. Her last husband died in 1984.
Kübler committed suicide in 1994 by throwing herself out the window of her apartment in Freiburg. Stella had one daughter, Yvonne, who was taken from her and who immigrated to Israel. (source: Peter Wyden’s 1992 biography of Stella which includes a photo of Yvonne.)
- „The Holocaust Chronicle article on Stella Kübler”. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- „Nicht Alle Waren Moerder”. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- Diana Tovar, Summary of Peter Wyden’s Stella University of California, Santa Barbara (Fall 2005). Retrieved July 29, 2011
- The Forger, Cioma Schonhaus, Granta Books, 2004, pp140-141
- Carsten Dams and Michael Stolle, The Gestapo: Power and Terror in the Third Reich (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 71.
- The Forger, Cioma Schonhaus, Granta Books, 2004
- Abrahamson, Irving (3 January 1993). „She Saved Herself In The Holocaust By Betraying Others”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- Dams, Carsten, and Michael Stolle. The Gestapo: Power and Terror in the Third Reich. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Gross, Leonard. The Last Jews in Berlin. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982. ISBN0-671-24727-1.
- Wyden, Peter. Stella: One Woman’s True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler’s Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Anchor Books, 1993. ISBN978-0385471794
Moshe (Mosheh) Merin (also Moniek Merin and Moszek or Mojżesz Israel Merin in Polish; 1905 – June 1943) was the head of the Jewish Community Council, or Judenrat, in the Sosnowiec Ghetto during the Nazi German occupation of Poland in World War II. It is believed that he perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. As with most Jewish Council leadership of the time, his actions or lack thereof during the Holocaust in occupied Poland are highly controversial.
Moniek Merin was born in Sosnowiec (Sosnovitz) in the Prussian Partition, at the border with Austria-Hungary. He was married twice and divorced. His teenage daughter from the marriage to Marysia (Mania) Gancwajch, Halinka Merin, survived the Holocaust according to USHMM records,saved by a Polish farmer, name unknown. Merin made his living by trading goods before the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland. He was described by others as an unstable and impulsive man.
World War II
After the German takeover of Sosnowiec on September 4, 1939, Merin presented himself to the Nazis as head of the Sosnowiec Community Council, when the former president (from before the invasion of Poland), Lejzerowicz, remained silent in a meeting with the German officers. Merin reported from behind the last row of community members subjected to a 24-hour detention in a public bath. It remains unclear whether or not he was on the pre-war council; his advance rested on the fact that he could speak the German language. Such was the beginning of his career as chairman of the Judenrat in the Sosnowiec Ghetto and the adjacent Będzin Ghetto forming a single administrative unit.
Consolidation of power
In January 1940, Merin was installed by the Nazis as leader of the Central Office of the Jewish Council of Elders in East Upper Silesia (German: Zentrale der Jüdische Ältestenräte Ostoberschlesien), responsible for some 45 Jewish communities of approximately 100,000 Polish Jews. Within a year, he controlled dozens of Judenräte. Merin is noted to have been very harsh in his dealings with the Jewish groups opposing occupation including Hanoar Hazioni, Hashomer Hatzair, Gordonia, Poalei Zion, and Hitachdut. Merin aided the Nazis in the hunt for the leaders of the aforementioned groups, going so far as to place a request for their arrest and signing their execution orders himself. He did this with full cooperation of the Jewish Police Force, whose leader fervently defended Merin’s every decision.
Merin’s approach was similar to that of Chaim Rumkowski‚s, Judenälteste of the Łódź Ghetto, in that he was convinced that by tying the Jews in his ghettos to forced labor, some would survive the war. However, Merin engaged in extortions going far beyond what other ghetto leaders would ever attempt. On one occasion, Merin requested 15,000 zloty of ransom for each of the 100 prisoners he promised to free from the deadly slave labour. The amount was three-hundred-times higher than the highest similar ransom collected in the Lublin Ghetto. None of the Jews were released, and the money was never refunded. Like Rumkowski, Merin attempted to make justifications for the 25,000 Jews he helped to deport by claiming that their sacrifice enabled the survival of those who remained as he stated: „If I have lost only 25 percent when I could have lost all, who can wish better results?” It is because of his insistence on fulfilling every German request that Merin has been depicted as a Nazi collaborator.
Merin reconfigured the leadership of his councils by expelling those who opposed his methods, and by appointing Jews loyal only to him, including his brother-in-law and a notorious criminal, Abraham Gancwajch, to carry out further Nazi orders in Sosnowiec and its surrounding area. In spite of his full cooperation with the Nazis, Merin was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in June 1943, one month before the last Holocaust transport left the Sosnowiec Ghetto.
- Yad Vashem, Moniek (Moshe) Merin, The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. Automatic translation from Hebrew. Item ID: 3968401. Submitted by Sara Khana Unger Kleiner.
- Avihu Ronen (2010). „Merin, Mosheh”. Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Translated by David Louvish. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
- JewishGen, Merin’s letter to Alfred Szwarcbaum in Switzerland, in which he asks not to contact people other than himself. Pinkas Bendin.
- USHMM (2003), Halinka Merin (daughter of Zaglebie Council chairman Moniek Merin), 1946. Jewish DPs in 1945. Bayreuth, Bavaria.
- USHMM (2015), Mania Ganzweich in Auschwitz. On January 18, 1945, Mania and her daughter Halina were sent on a forced march to Ravensbruck, Malchow, and Taucha. Both survived, and emigrated to the United States in 1947.
- Moshe Merin at Yad Vashem (in Hebrew) PDF.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat: the Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation. New York: Macmillan, p. 26. ISBN 080329428X.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 353; citing G.Z., No. 47 (Dec. 31, 1940); No. 1 (Jan. 3, 1941); Paweł Wiederman, op.cit., p. 208.
- Dawid Fischer. „The Ghetto of Sosnowiec (Srodula)”. Holocaust Testimonies. PolishJews.org. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 26; citing Ph. Friedman, op. cit., Bitzaron, No. 5, p. 30; Paweł Wiederman, op. cit., pp. 45-47.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 459; citing Pinkos Bendin, pp. 355-357 (facsimile of Merin’s letter to Bezdin Council); Fredke Mazia, Rayim besaar (Jerusalem, 1964), pp. 112-114.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 582-583.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 243.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 422-425; citing Wiederman, op. cit., p. 25 and passim; according to Wiederman, Merin tried to justify his strategy at a meeting with Rumkowski and Czernikow, held in Warsaw on an unknown date (ibid., pp. 89-90); there is no record left of the meeting.
- Hilberg, Raul (1999). The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom. Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-230-7.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat. Macmillan, 36; citing Sefer Khzhanev, pp. 255-256, 283-285.
- Yad Vashem. „Merin, Moshe (1906-1943), Chairman of the Judenratin Eastern Upper Silesia” (PDF). Shoah Resource Center. The International School for Holocaust Studies.
- Konrad Charmatz (2003), Nightmares: memoirs of the years of horror under Nazi rule in Europe, 1939-1945. Syracuse University Press; ISBN0-8156-0706-7, via Google Books.
- Israel Gutman (1990), Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan, ISBN0028960904
- Jarosław Sobaszek, Łukasz Podlejski (2005), Żydzi w Sosnowcu-historia niepełna., Wydawnictwo Adore, Dąbrowa Górnicza, OCLC76259287
- Natan E. Sternfinkiel (1946), Zagłada Żydów Sosnowca, Katowice, OCLC769381
Alfred Nossig was born in 1864 to a wealthy family in Lemberg (now called Lviv), which was then part of the Austrian Empire but is now in Ukraine. Nossig’s father exposed him to German culture and was an activist for Jewish rights in Galicia, serving as secretary of the Jewish community there.
In the early 1880s, Polish romanticism inspired Nossig to formulate ideas about liberating Jewish culture from the constraints of tradition, causing him to express these ideas in the periodical Ojczyzna (The Fatherland) and in an organization (which he himself founded) called Przymierze Braci (Union of Brothers). He was a pioneer in the field of Jewish demography during his time as a student at Lemberg University, winning a prize in 1884 from the university senate for his essay „O ludności” (On Population). During this time, Nossig also wrote theater reviews for Polish and Jewish newspapers, and in 1888, he published his first collection of poems, Poezje, which won a competition in Warsaw. In 1887, Nossig published the first Zionist work in the Polish language; it was titled „An Attempt to Solve the Jewish Problem” (Próba rozwiązania kwestji źydowskiej), and in it, he argued that there is no future for the Jews in the Diaspora and that thus, Jews must establish their own independent state in Palestine and adjacent countries. After his studies in Lemberg, Nossig pursued a doctorate in Zurich, Switzerland, concentrating on Spinoza.
Nossig was a participant in the first World Zionist Congresses but soon ran into conflict with Theodore Herzl due to Nossig’s individualistic character.Nevertheless, Nossig continued to advocate in favor of Zionism and Jewish emigration for the rest of his life. In 1920, he was invited by the Polish government to mediate and create trust between it and Polish Jewish leaders; however, Nossig was unsuccessful in this task.
Rather than focusing on Polish themes, Nossig focused on Jewish heroism and romantic myth in his carvings, including carvings of famous Jewish heroic figures such as King David and Judah Maccabee. Nossig’s most famous sculptures were called Wandering Jew, Judas Maccabaeus, Nordau, and King Solomon. His interest in art took him to the Academy of Art in Vienna in 1892, to Paris in 1894, and to Berlin in 1900, where he lived until 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany and expelled him to Poland.
After the Nazi German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Jews of Warsaw, including Nossig, were forced to move to the Warsaw Ghetto, where Nossig reportedly collaborated with the Abwehr and Gestapo, drawing up plans for Jewish emigration and submitting memoranda to the German authorities. Nossig was accused of providing regular reports to the Nazis during the deportation of Jewish residents to Nazi extermination camps, and an underground resistance group, the Jewish Combat Organization, sentenced him to death; he was executed on 22 February 1943. At the time, he was almost eighty years old.
- Bauer, Ela (2010). „Nossig, Alfred”. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
- Kressel, Getzel (2008). „Nossig, Alfred”. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
- Engelking, Barbara; Leociak, Jacek (2009). The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City. Yale University Press. p. 828.
- „Alfred Nossig”. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
- Ackerfeld, Lance (19 August 2006). „Alfred Nossig”. JewishGen. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
Calel (Calek) Perechodnik (Polish: [‚Tsaˈlɛl Pɛˈrɛxɔdnik]; 8 September 1916 – October 1944) was a Polish Jew who joined the Jewish Ghetto Police in the Otwock Ghetto during the Nazi Germanoccupation of Poland. His wartime diaries were published posthumously as Am I a Murderer? (Polish: Czy ja jestem mordercą?) in 1995 by the Karta Centre of Warsaw.
A secular Jew, Perechodnik was born in 1916 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Otwock, south east of Warsaw. He earned a degree in agronomy at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences and a master’s degree at a university in Toulouse, France. Perechodnik’s wife Anka (Chana) née Nusfeld was also from Otwock; she ran a cinema named Oasis with her two brothers. Calek and Anka’s only daughter Alinka (Athalie), was born on 19 August 1940, a year after the German invasion of Poland.
Jewish Ghetto Police
In 1940, Perechodnik and his family, along with the 8,000 other Jews of Otwock, were forced to relocate to the Otwock Ghetto. To provide for himself, his wife, and their daughter, in February 1941 Perechodnik joined the Jewish Ghetto Police organized by the Judenrat on German orders.
In early 1942, the German authorities began the Ghetto liquidation action. The Jewish police were ordered to assist in the rounding up of Jews who were taken to the station and loaded onto freight trains heading for the Treblinka extermination camp. Assured by the commandant of the Ghetto Police that his family would be protected, on 19 September 1942, Perechodnik brought his own wife and daughter to the ghetto’s main square. But he was betrayed: Anka and Alinka were among the 8,000 Otwock Jews sent to their deaths at Treblinka. Subsequently, he was sent to a labour camp. Perechodnik constantly blamed himself for the death of his wife and daughter. Prior to their shipping to Treblinka, Anka asked Calek on several occasions to obtain a false kennkarte for her, identifying her as an ethnic Pole since she did not have the typical Jewish looks. Calel later wrote that she could easily pass for a Pole if she dyed her hair. Perechodnik failed to obtain the kennkarte for his wife in time, partly due to his laziness and partly due to his „lack of trust in such things”.
On 20 August 1942, Calel Perechodnik escaped to Warsaw. His father, Aryan in appearance, remained at large to support the family until he was captured by the Gestapo and executed. Calel spent 105 days in hiding with his mother and other Jews in the apartment of a Polish woman risking her own life to save them. While in hiding, he spent the time writing. The last entry in his memoir concerns his last will and is dated 23 October 1943. He then joined the Polish Underground; it was during this time that he contracted typhus.
On 1 August 1944, the Warsaw Uprising began as part of a nationwide Operation Tempest. Perechodnik participated in the uprising as part of the Chrobry II Battalion. There are several theories as to how he died. One states that he committed suicide by swallowing cyanide after the Uprising failed. Another claims that he was killed by pillagers after the uprising. Another account (stated in the letter of Henryk Romanowski to his brother Pesach Perechodnik, following the memoirs in the book) claims he was burned alive in the bunker, unable to get out because of the typhus. He was aged 27.
Am I a Murderer?
Perechodnik wrote his memoir between 7 May and 19 August 1943 in Warsaw, during his stay at the home of his Polish rescuer. When describing the German occupation of Poland he attempts to explain his own actions which were inspired by fear, but also, blames the Jews for claiming to have been a chosen people, thus encouraging anti-Semitism among the gentile population. He expresses his outrage at the refusal by some Orthodox Jews to send their children to Polish orphanages which would have saved them from the Holocaust. Perechodnik expressed his anguish and astonishment at the savagery of war. It was, he wrote, ‚he greatest disillusionment that I have endured in my life.’
The Jewish Ghetto Police which he joined, was not a benevolent force by any means. Emanuel Ringelblum referred to it as ‚the direct instrument of extermination’. One of the first clandestine operations of the Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB) in Warsaw, was to assassinate its commanders. Perechodnik’s account therefore, needs to be seen in its proper perspective. His memoir describes such events as his and his father’s compliance with the Polish radio broadcast command to go eastward to fight in 1939, the formation of the Judenrat in Otwock, Himmler’s visit to Warsaw, the death of Czerniakow, the rounding up of Jews in the ghettos; life in, and escape from, a work camp; the experience of being hidden in Warsaw, the beginning of understanding of what was happening in the death camps, the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. His information is now considered by various researchers and experts on the Holocaust to be remarkably accurate, and according to these researchers, the notes show proof that the Jews at that time knew what was happening.
Shortly before Perechodnik died in 1944, he entrusted his manuscript to a Polish friend. After the war ended, the memoir was given to Perechodnik’s brother, Pesach Perechodnik, who had survived the war in the Soviet Union. The original copy of the memoir was presented to the Yad Vashem Archives, and a copy was given to the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, which today is the Jewish Historical Institute. This document was first published as a complete book in 1995 by the Karta Centre of Warsaw. It remained virtually unknown in English-speaking countries until Frank Fox’s translation in 1996. It was released in Polish and Hebrew prior to its translation into English in 1996. Since then, it has been translated into many languages.
Its original title was A History of a Jewish Family During German Occupation, but its title was later changed to Am I a Murderer?: Testament of a Jewish Ghetto Policeman. It was recently republished in Poland in an unabridged version, with comprehensive sidenotes and references, under the title Spowiedź (Confession).
In his final years, Perechodnik completely changed his attitude towards the Jews and the Jewish faith and traditions. In his memoir, he rejected belief in God and the religious traditions of his Orthodox Jewish family. He became very bitter toward the Jews and frequently criticised them, even blaming them for bringing these events on themselves because of their insistence on cultural and religious isolation. He was sarcastic about others, as well as self-deprecating about his own Jewishness.
- Sebastian Chosiński, „Przez siedem kręgów Piekła.” Review of Calel Perechodnik Czy ja jestem mordercą? Magazyn Esensja, nr 7 (XXXIX) September 2004 issue. (in Polish) Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Barbara Engelking, Dariusz Libionka, Żydzi w Powstanczej Warszawie (Jews in the Warsaw Uprising), Polish Center for Holocaust Research Association, 2009, pgs 184–190
- Emanuel Ringelblum, Joseph Kermish, Shmuel Krakowski, Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War. Page 62. Northwestern University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8101-0963-8. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Israel Gutman, Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Page 169. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998. ISBN 0-395-90130-8. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
- Calel Perechodnik, Czy ja jestem mordercą?. Ed. Paweł Szapiro. Żydowski Instytut Historyczny – Instytut Naukowo-Badawczy: KARTA, Warsaw, 1995.
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Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski (February 27, 1877 – August 28, 1944) was a Polish Jew and wartime businessman appointed by Nazi Germany as the head of the Council of Elders in the Łódź Ghetto during the occupation of Poland in World War II. He accrued exponentially more power by transforming the Ghetto into an industrial base manufacturing war supplies for the Wehrmacht army in the mistaken belief that productivity was the key to Jewish survival beyond the Holocaust. The Germans liquidated the ghetto in 1944. All remaining prisoners were sent to death camps in the wake of military defeats on the Eastern Front of World War II.
Rumkowski is remembered for his speech Give Me Your Children, delivered at a time when the Germans demanded his compliance with the deportation of 20,000 children to Chełmno extermination camp. In August 1944, Rumkowski and his family joined the last transport to Auschwitz, and were murdered there on August 28, 1944 by Jewish Sonderkommando inmates who beat him to death as revenge for his role in the Holocaust. This account of his final moments is confirmed by witness testimonies of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials.
Before the German invasion of Poland, Mordechaj (in Polish) Rumkowski was an insurance agent in Łódź; member of Qahal, and in 1925–1939 head of a Jewish orphanage at Krajowa 15 Street. It has been said that his work at the orphanage was self-serving rather than charitable; according to Dr. Edward Reicher, a Holocaust survivor from Łódź, he had an unhealthy interest in children. Łódź was annexed by the invading Germans into the Reich. It became part of the territory of new Reichsgaue separate from the Generalgouvernement in the rest of occupied Poland. Smaller Jewish communities were dissolved and forcibly relocated to metropolitan ghettos. The occupation authority ordered the creation of the new Jewish Councils known as the Judenräte which acted as bridges between the Nazis and the prisoner population of the ghettos. In addition to managing basic services such as communal kitchens, infirmaries, post offices and vocational schools, common tasks of the Judenräte included providing the Nazi regime with slave labor, and rounding up quotas of Jews for „resettlement in the East,” a euphemism for deportations to extermination camps in the deadliest phase of the Holocaust.
On October 13, 1939, the Nazi Amtsleiter in Łódź appointed Rumkowski the Judenälteste („Chief Elder of the Jews”), head of the Ältestenrat („Council of Elders”). In this position, Rumkowski reported directly to the Nazi ghetto administration, headed by Hans Biebow. When the rabbinate was dissolved, Rumkowski performed weddings. The ghetto’s money or scrip, the so-called Rumki (sometimes Chaimki), was derived from his name, as it had been his idea. His face was put on the ghetto postage stamps.
By industrializing the Łódź ghetto, he hoped to make the community indispensable to the Germans and save the people of Łódź. On April 5, 1940, Rumkowski petitioned the Germans for materials for the Jews to in exchange for desperately needed food and money. By the end of the month, the Germans had acquiesced in part, agreeing to provide food, but not money. Although Rumkowski and other „Jewish elders” of the Nazi era came to be regarded as collaborators and traitors, historians have reassessed this judgement since the late 20th century in light of the terrible conditions of the time. A survivor of the Łódź ghetto, Arnold Mostowicz, noted in his memoir that Rumkowski gave a percentage of his people a chance to survive two years longer than the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, destroyed in the Uprising. However, as noted by Lucjan Dobroszycki, the ultimate decision on the future was not his to make.
Ghetto history prior to the „Final Solution”
The ghettoization of Łódź was decided on September 8, 1939, by an order of SS-Oberführer Friedrich Uebelhoer. His top secret document stated that the ghetto was only a temporary solution to „the Jewish question” in the city of Łódź. Uebelhoer never implied the long-term survival. The ghetto was sealed on April 30, 1940, with 164,000 people inside. On October 16, 1939, Rumkowski selected 31 public figures to form the Council. However, less than three weeks later, on November 11, twenty of them were executed and the rest disappeared, because he denounced them to the German authorities „for refusing to rubber-stamp his policies.” Although a new Judenrat was officially appointed a few weeks later, the men were not as distinguished, and remained far less effective than its original leaders. This change conceded more power to Rumkowski, and left no one to contest or restrain his decisions. Rumkowski had the Jewish Ghetto Police under his control also.
The Germans authorized Rumkowski as the „sole figure authority in managing and organizing internal life in the ghetto„. Rumkowski gained power because of his domineering personality in as much as his words and actions. Biebow, at first, gave Rumkowski full power in organizing the ghetto, as long as it did not interfere with his main objectives: absolute order, confiscation of Jewish property and assets, coerced labor, and Biebow’s own personal gain. Their relationship seemed to work effectively. Rumkowski had leeway to organize the ghetto according to his wishes, while Biebow sat back and reaped the rewards.In trying to keep Biebow happy, Rumkowski obeyed every order with little inquiry, and provided him with gifts and personal favors. Of his willingness to cooperate with the German authorities, Rumkowski is said to have boasted in a speech, „My motto is always to be at least ten minutes ahead of every German demand.” He believed that by staying ahead of German thinking, he could keep them satisfied and preserve the Jews. Łódź was the last ghetto in Eastern Europe to be liquidated. However, only 877 inhabitants survived in the city until liberation by hiding with the Polish rescuers, and Rumkowski had nothing to do with it.
Chaim Rumkowski in the Łódź Ghetto tasting soup.
Because of the confiscation of cash and other belongings, Rumkowski proposed a currency to be used specifically in the ghetto – the ersatz. This new currency would be used as money, and by this alone, a person could buy food rations and other necessities. This proposal was considered arrogant and illustrated Rumkowski’s lust for power. The currency was, therefore, nicknamed by ghetto inhabitants as the „Rumkin”. It dissuaded smugglers from endangering their lives to get in and out of the ghetto with goods, as people could not pay for them with regular currency. Rumkowski believed that smuggling of food would „destabilize the ghetto with regard to the prices of basic commodities” and prevented it from taking place.
Rumkowski did not allow public protests expressing dissent. With the help of the Jewish police, he violently broke up demonstrations. On occasion, he would request the Nazis to come and break up the commotion, which usually resulted in protesters being killed. The leaders of these groups were punished by not being allowed to earn a living, which in effect meant that they and their families were doomed to starvation. Sometimes the strikers and demonstrators were arrested, imprisoned, or shipped off to labor camps. By the spring of 1941, almost all opposition to Rumkowski had dissipated. In the beginning, the Germans were unclear of their own plans for the ghetto, as arrangements for the „Final Solution” were still being developed. They realized that the original plan of liquidating the ghetto by October 1940 could not take place, so they began to take Rumkowski’s labor agenda seriously. Forced labor became a staple of ghetto life, with Rumkowski running the effort. „In another three years – he said – the ghetto will be working like a clock.” This sort of „optimism” however, was met with a damning assessment by Max Horn from Ostindustrie, who said that the ghetto was badly managed, not profitable, and had the wrong products.
By the end of January 1942 some 10,000 Jews were sent aboard Holocaust trains to Chełmno based on selections made by the Judenrat. Additional 34,000 victims were sent there by 2 April, with 11,000 more by 15 May 1942, and over 15,000 more by mid September, for the total of an estimated 55,000 people. The children and the elderly as well as anyone deemed „unfit for work” in the eyes of the Judenrat would follow them.
Rumkowski actively cooperated with the German demands hoping to save the majority of the ghetto inmates. Such behaviour set him at odds with the Orthodox observant Jews, because there could be no justification for delivering anyone to certain death. Following the creation of the extermination camp at Chełmno in 1941, the Nazis ordered Rumkowski to organize several waves of deportations. Rumkowski claimed that he tried to convince the Germans to reduce the number of Jews required for deportation and failed.
Give Me Your Children
On German orders Rumkowski delivered a speech on September 4, 1942 pleading with the Jews in the ghetto to give up children 10 years of age and younger, as well as the elderly over 65, so that others might survive. „Horrible, terrifying wailing among the assembled crowd” could be heard, reads the transcriber’s note to his parlance often referred to as: „Give Me Your Children”. Some commentators see this speech as exemplifying aspects of the Holocaust.
A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They [the Germans] are asking us to give up the best we possess – the children and the elderly. I was unworthy of having a child of my own, so I gave the best years of my life to children. I’ve lived and breathed with children. I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!— Chaim Rumkowski, September 4, 1942 
Rumkowski was ruthless, using his position as head of the Judenrat to confiscate property and businesses that were still being run by their rightful Jewish owners in the ghetto. He established numerous departments and institutions that dealt with all of the ghetto’s internal affairs, from housing tens of thousands of people, to distributing food rations. Welfare and health systems were also set up. For a time, his administration maintained seven hospitals, seven pharmacies, and five clinics employing hundreds of doctors and nurses. Despite their effort, many people could not be helped due to the shortage of medical supplies allowed in by the Germans.
Rumkowski helped maintain school facilities. Forty-seven schools remained in operation schooling 63% of school-age children. There was no education in any other ghetto as advanced as in Łódź. He helped set up a „Culture House” where cultural gatherings including plays, orchestra and other performances could take place. He was very involved in the particulars of these events, including hiring and firing performers and editing the content of the shows. He became integrated in religious life. This integration deeply bothered the religious public. For example, since the Germans disbanded the rabbinate in September 1942, Rumkowski began conducting wedding ceremonies, and altering the marriage contract (ketubah). „He treated the ghetto Jews like personal belongings. He spoke to them arrogantly and rudely and sometime beat them”.
Due to Rumkowski’s harsh treatment, and stern, arrogant personality, the Jews began to blame him for their predicament, and unleashed their frustration on him instead of the Germans, who were beyond their scope of blame. The most significant display of this frustration and resistance was a series of strikes and demonstrations between August 1940 and spring of 1941. Led by activists and leftist parties against Rumkowski, the workers abandoned their stations and went to the streets handing out fliers:
Brothers and sisters! Turn out en masse to wipe out at long last, with joint and unified force, the terrible poverty and the barbaric behaviour of the Kehilla representatives toward the wretched, exhausted, starved public… The slogan: bread for all!! Let’s join forces in war against the accursed Kehilla parasite… – Demonstration Leaflet
Death at the hands of the Sonderkommando
There are conflicting accounts regarding Rumkowski’s final moments. According to one contemporary source he was murdered upon his arrival at Auschwitz by the Jews of Łódź who preceded him there. This version of events however has been challenged by historians. Another report, submitted by the Sonderkommando member from Hungary, Dov Paisikovic (de), informs that the Jews of Łódź approached the Sonderkommando Jews in secrecy, and asked them to kill Rumkowski for the crimes he himself committed in the Łódź Ghetto; so they beat him to death at the gate of the Crematorium No. 2 and disposed of his corpse.
Debate over Rumkowski’s role in the Holocaust
In his memoirs, Yehuda Leib Gerst described Rumkowski as a complex person: „This man had sickly leanings that clashed. Toward his fellow Jews, he was an incomparable tyrant who behaved just like a Führer and cast deathly terror to anyone who dared to oppose his lowly ways. Toward the perpetrators, however, he was as tender as a lamb and there was no limit to his base submission to all their demands, even if their purpose was to wipe us out totally. Either way, he did not properly understand his situation and positing and their limits.”
Historian Michael Unger in his Reassessment of the Image of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski (2004) explored the materials leading to what is being said about him. Rumkowski is described „on the one hand, an aggressive, domineering person, thirsty for honor and power, raucous, vulgar and ignorant, impatient (and) intolerant, impulsive and lustful. On the other hand, he is portrayed as a man of exceptional organizational prowess, quick, very energetic, and true to tasks that he set for himself.” Research performed by Isaiah Trunk for the book Judenrat attempted to revise the prevailing view of Rumkowski as traitor and collaborationist.
Rumkowski took an active role in the deportations of Jews. Some historians and writers describe him as a traitor and as a Nazi collaborator. Rumkowski aimed at fulfilling the Nazi demands with the help of their own Orpo Security Police if necessary. His rule, unlike the leaders of other ghettos, was marked with abuse of his own people coupled with physical liquidation of political opponents. He and his council had a comfortable food ration, and their own special shops. He was known to get rid of those he personally disliked by sending them to the camps. Additionally, he sexually abused vulnerable girls under his charge. Failure to succumb to his abuse meant death to the girl. Holocaust survivor Lucille Eichengreen who claims to have been abused by him for months as a young woman working in his office wrote: „I felt disgusted and I felt angry, I ah, but if I would have run away he would have had me deported, I mean that was very clear.”
Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, in his book The Drowned and the Saved, gives considerable consideration to Rumkowski, concluding: „Had he survived his own tragedy…no tribunal would have absolved him, nor, certainly, can we absolve him on the moral plane. But there are extenuating circumstances: an infernal order such as National Socialism exercises a frightful power of corruption against which it is difficult to guard oneself. To resist it requires a truly solid moral armature, and the one available to Chaim Rumkowski…was fragile.” At best, Levi viewed Rumkowski as morally ambiguous and self deluded. Hannah Arendt, in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, placed Rumkowski’s egotism at the low end of the spectrum of wartime ghetto leadership examples.
- The Story of Chaim Rumkowski and the Jews of Lodz – a 1982 documentary
- Adam Czerniaków, head of Judenrat in the Warsaw Ghetto
- Carmello Lisciotto (H.E.A.R.T 2007), „Chaim Rumkowski”. Holocaust Research Project, 2007. Retrieved: 01.10.2011.
- Dombrowska, Danuta (2007). „Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski”. In Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred. Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. fee, via Fairfax County Public Library. Retrieved 2011-11-21.Gale Biography In Context
- Unger, Michael (2004). Reassessment of the Image of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Jerusalem: Keterpress Enterprises. 8, 57 (note 127). ISBN 3835302930. For the Dov Paisikovic testimony (de) on gas chambers see transcripts from the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of 1965.
- Helen Aronson (21 November 2011). Nazi Collaborators: Hitler’s Inside Man(Television production). Military Channel. Event occurs at 58:29. © MMX, World Media Rights Limited
- Dr. Edward Reicher (2013). Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland, 1939–1945. Translated by Magda Bogin. pp. 47–48. ISBN 1934137456 – via Amazon Kindle.
- S.J. (H.E.A.R.T 2007), „The Lodz Ghetto”. Holocaust Research Project, 2010. Retrieved: 01.10.2011.
- „Rumkowski, Mordechai Chaim”. Yad Vashem School for Holocaust Studies. Retrieved: 01.10.2011.
- „The Lodz Ghetto”. Jewish Virtual Library.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 11.
- Dobroszycki 1984, The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, page 61.
- Documents, p. 194
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 22.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 19.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 22.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 23.
- Hilma Wolitzer (September–October 2011). „The Final Fantasy”. Moment Magazine. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
- Trunk, Isaiah (1972). Judenrat: the Jewish councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi occupation. New York: Macmillan. p. 413. ISBN 9780803294288.
- Anna Poray (2007). „Saving Jews: Polish Righteous”. Those Who Risked Their Lives. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 27.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 28.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, pp. 34-35.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 36.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 38.
- Lucjan Dobroszycki (1984), The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, page lxi. Google Books.
- Shirley Rotbein Flaum (2007). „Lodz Ghetto Deportations and Statistics”. Timeline. JewishGen Home Page. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
Source:Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (1990), Baranowski, Dobroszycki, Wiesenthal, Yad Vashem Timeline of the Holocaust, others.
- „Transcript for „Give Me Your Children””. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., 6.01.2011. Retrieved: 1.10.2011.
- Simone Schweber, Debbie Findling (2007). Teaching the Holocaust(Google Book, preview). Ghettoization. Torah Aura Productions. p. 107. ISBN 1891662910. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 30.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, pp. 30-31.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, pp. 31-32.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 32.
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 33.
- Reassessment, p. 33
- Unger 2004, Reassessment, p. 34.
- Unger (2004), „Reassessment,” p. 13.
- Unger (2004), „Reassessment”, p. 9.
- Isaiah Trunk (2008), Łódź Ghetto: A History, page 52. ISBN 0253347556.
- Rees, Laurence,„Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‚Final Solution'”, especially the testimony of Lucille Eichengreen, pp. 105-131. BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-52296-6.
- Rees, Laurence.„Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi state”. BBC/KCET, 2005. Retrieved: 01.10.2011.
- Hannah Arendt. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. p. 119.
- Horwitz, Gordon J. Ghettostadt: Lodz and the Making of a Nazi City. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press, ISBN067402799X
- Lebovic, Matt. ‚King Chaim’, ruler of the Lodz Ghetto, exposed in Boston exhibit. The Times of Israel, March 28, 2017.
- Löw, Andrea Juden im Getto Litzmannstadt: Lebensbedingungen, Selbstwahrnehmung, Verhalten. Wallstein: Göttingen, 2006
- Trunk, Isaiah (2006). Łódź Ghetto: a history. Robert Moses Shapiro, transl & ed (alk. paper ed.). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press (in association with United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). ISBN 0-253-34755-6. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Unger, Michael (2004). Reassessment of the Image of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Jerusalem: Keterpress Enterprises. ISBN 3835302930. For the Dov Paisikovic testimony (de) on gas chambers see transcripts from the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of 1965.
- Unger, Michal Lodz – The Last Ghetto in Poland. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, (in Hebrew)
- Epstein, Leslie (novel) King of the Jews, New York: 1976
- Sem-Sandberg, Steve. (novel) De fattiga i Łódź. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, (novel, in Swedish); English title The Emperor of Lies, published in translation in 2011
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ghetto Litzmannstadt.|
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Online Exhibition: Give Me Your Children: Voices from the Lodz Ghetto, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Library Bibliography: Łódź Ghetto, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Rumkowski’s „Give Me Your Children” Speech, Jewish Virtual Library
- „Rumkowski, Mordechai Chaim”, Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority
- „Rumkowski, Mordechai Chaim”, Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online
Szeryński (left, standing with his back to the camera) receives a report from Jakub Lejkin, May 1941
Józef Andrzej Szeryński (born Josef Szynkman, 8 November 1893 or 1892 – 24 January 1943) was a Jewish police-colonel in interwar Poland, inspector for the Lublin district and later – during the Second World War – a commander of the Jewish Ghetto Police in Warsaw with recommendation from Adam Czerniaków. Szeryński was arrested by the Gestapo on May 1, 1942 for smuggling furs out of the Warsaw Ghetto for personal gain. He was released on the condition of leading the deportation action to Treblinka extermination camp in July 1942. The very next month Jewish underground attempted to assassinate him, unsuccessfully. He remained at the helm of the Ghetto Police until the end of the Grossaktion Warschau which claimed the lives of over 254,000 Ghetto inmates, men, women and children. He committed suicide right after the next wave of deportations in January 1943.
Józef Szynkman (often misspelled as Szenkman) was born to a Jewish family. He changed his name from Szynkman to Szeryński in the 1920s, joined the police reaching the rank of colonel, and soon developed an anti-Semiticself-hating attitude, labeling Jews as “animals” and „cows”. Following the invasion of Poland he was briefly arrested by the Germans. After his release Szynkman moved from Lublin to Warsaw with his family and settled in the Warsaw Ghetto. On 9 November 1940, Szeryński was entrusted by Adam Czerniaków with organizing the Jewish Ghetto Police force collaborating with the Germans. The Jewish Police under Szeryński’s command was responsible for beatings and persecution of ghetto inhabitants, participated in searches and arrests and gathering of deportees in the Umschlagplatz before they were sent to extermination camps. Under Szeryński’s orders the Jewish Police made sure that children and the sick were first to be deported as they were the weakest.
As the Jewish Police commander, Szeryński was a privileged inhabitant of the Ghetto and was even exempt from the requirement of wearing an armband with the Star of David. He was widely regarded as corrupt and engaging in black market activities. On 1 May 1942 the Germans arrested Szeryński accusing him of theft of fur coats confiscated from the ghetto population. His deputy Jakub Lejkin temporarily took his place as the Jewish Police commander. However, Szeryński was released on 26 July 1942 as the Germans realized that they needed his services to organize the massive deportations of ghetto Jews to Treblinka extermination camp which were carried out between 23 July and 21 September 1942.
On 21 August 1942, Szeryński survived being shot in an assassination attempt carried out by Izrael Kanal, a member of the Jewish police working on behalf of the underground Jewish Combat Organization.
On 18 January 1943, the German forces entered the Ghetto to carry out the second massive deportation operation and eventually sent all the remaining ghetto inhabitants to the extermination camps. A few days after the deportations resumed, Szeryński committed suicide by ingesting cyanide.
- CBZŻ (2011). „Józef Andrzej Szynkman-Szeryński”. Warsaw Ghetto database. Archival records, bibliography, and citations. Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów (Centre for Jewish Holocaust Studies). Retrieved 16 May 2015.
Dziennik getta warszawskiego” 1939-1942 by Adam Czerniaków; also in Stanisław Gombiński „Moje wspomnienia.
- Holocaust Encyclopedia (10 June 2013). „Treblinka: Chronology”. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original (Internet Archive) on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
- Hilberg, Raul (2003). The destruction of the European Jews (3rd ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 532. ISBN 9780300095579.
- Josef “Andzi” Szerynski. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
Judenrat (plural: Judenräte; German for „Jewish council”) was a widely used administrative agency imposed by Nazi Germany during World War II, predominantly within the ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe, and the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland. The Nazi German administration required Jews to form a Judenrat in every community across the occupied territories.
The Judenrat constituted a form of self-enforcing intermediary, used by the Nazi administration to control larger Jewish communities in occupied areas. The Germans also implemented the name Jewish Council of Elders (Jüdischen Ältestenrat or Ältestenrat der Juden) in some ghettos, as in the Łódź Ghetto, and in Theresienstadt or in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. While the history of the term Judenrat itself is unclear, Jewish communities themselves had established councils for self-government as far back as the Medieval Era. While the Hebrew term of Kahal (קהל) or Kehillah (קהילה) was used by the Jewish community, German authorities generally tended to use the term Judenräte.
Nazi considerations of Jewish legal status
The structure and missions of the Judenräte under the Nazi regime varied widely, often depending upon whether meant for a single ghetto, a city or a whole region. Jurisdiction over a whole country, as in Nazi Germany, was maintained by Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland (Reich’s Association of the Jews in Germany) established on 4 July 1939.
In the beginning of April 1933, shortly after the National Socialist government took power, a report by a German governmental commission was presented on fighting the Jews. This report recommended the creation of a recognized ‚Association of Jews in Germany’ (Verband der Juden in Deutschland), to which all Jews in Germany would be forced to associate. Appointed by the Reichskanzler, a German People’s Ward was then to assume responsibility of this group. As the leading Jewish organization, it was envisioned that this association would have a 25-member council called the Judenrat. However, the report was not officially acted upon.
The Israeli historian Dan Michman found it likely that the commission, which considered the legal status and interactions of Jews and non-Jews before their emancipation, reached back to the Medieval Era for the term Judenräte. This illuminates the apparent intent to make the Jewish emancipation and assimilation invalid, and so return Jews to the status they held during the Medieval Era.
The first actual Judenräte were established in occupied Poland by Reinhard Heydrich‚s orders on 21 September 1939, soon after the end of the German assault on Poland and later the occupied territories of the Soviet Union.
The Judenräte were to serve as a means to enforce the occupation force’s anti-Jewish regulations and laws in the western and central areas of Poland, and had no authority of their own. Ideally, a local Judenrat was to include Rabbis and other influential people of their local Jewish community. Thus, enforcement of laws could be better facilitated by the German authorities by using established Jewish authority figures and personages, while undermining external influences.
Further Judenräte were established on 18 November 1939, upon the orders of Hans Frank, head of the Generalgouvernment. These councils were to have 12 members for Jewish communities of 10,000 or fewer, and up to 24 members for larger Jewish communities. Jewish communities were to elect their own councils, and by the end of 1939 were to have selected an executive and assistant executive as well. Results were to be presented to the German city or county controlling officer for recognition. While theoretically democratic, in reality the councils were often determined by the occupiers. While the German occupiers only minimally involved themselves in the voting, those whom the Germans first chose often refused participation to avoid becoming exploited by the occupiers. As a rule, therefore, the traditional speaker of the community was named and elected, preserving the community continuity.
Missions and duties
The Nazis systematically sought to weaken the resistance potential and opportunities of the Jews of Eastern Europe. The early Judenräte were foremost to report numbers of their Jewish populations, clear residences and turn them over, present workers for forced labour, confiscate valuables, and collect tribute and turn these over. Failure to comply would incur the risk of collective punishments or other measures. Later tasks of the Judenräte included turning over community members for deportation.
Through these occupation measures, and the simultaneous prevention of government services, the Jewish communities suffered serious shortages. For this reason, early Judenräte attempted to establish replacement service institutions of their own. They tried to organize food distribution, aid stations, old age homes, orphanages and schools. At the same time, given their restricted circumstances and remaining options, they attempted to work against the occupier’s forced measures and to win time. One way was to delay transfer and implementation of orders and to try playing conflicting demands of competing German interests against each other. They presented their efforts as indispensable for the Germans in managing the Jewish community, in order to improve the resources of the Jews and to move the Germans to repeal collective punishments.
This had, however, very limited positive results. The generally difficult situations presented often led to perceived unfair actions, such as personality preferences, sycophancy, and protectionism of a few over the rest of the community. Thus, the members of the community quickly became highly critical of, or even outright opposed their Judenrat.
Judenräte were responsible for the internal administration of ghettos, standing between the Nazi occupiers and their Jewish communities. In general, the Judenräte represented the elite from their Jewish communities. Often, a Judenrat had a group for internal security and control, a Jewish Ghetto Police (German: Jüdische Ghetto-Polizei or Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst). They also attempted to manage the government services normally found in a city such as those named above. However, the requirements of the Nazis to deliver community members to forced labor, deportation or Nazi concentration camps placed them in the position of helping the occupiers. To resist such actions or orders was to risk summary execution or inclusion in the next concentration camp shipment, with a quick replacement.
The role of the Judenräte in the Holocaust
Hannah Arendt stated in her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem that without the assistance of the Judenräte, the registration of the Jews, their concentration in ghettos and, later, their active assistance in the Jews’ deportation to extermination camps, fewer Jews would have perished because the Germans would have encountered considerable difficulties in drawing up lists of Jews. In occupied Europe, the Nazis entrusted Jewish officials with the task of making such lists of Jews along with information about the property they owned. The Judenräte also directed the Jewish Ghetto Police to assist the Germans in catching Jews and loading them onto transport trains leaving for Nazi concentration camps.
In her book, Arendt wrote that:
„To a Jew, this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story. […] In the matter of cooperation, there was no distinction between the highly assimilated Jewish communities of Central and Western Europe and the Yiddish-speaking masses of the East. In Amsterdam as in Warsaw, in Berlin as in Budapest, Jewish officials could be trusted to compile the lists of persons and of their property…”
Arendt’s view has been challenged by other historians of the Holocaust, including Isaiah Trunk in his book Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe Under Nazi Occupation (1972). Summarising Trunk’s research, Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum has written: „In the final analysis, the Judenräte had no influence on the frightful outcome of the Holocaust; the Nazi extermination machine was alone responsible for the tragedy, and the Jews in the occupied territories, most especially Poland, were far too powerless to prevent it.”
- Ghetto uprisings by prisoners of newly established ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe
- Adam Czerniaków, head of the Warsaw GhettoJudenrat
- Dov Lopatyn, head of the Judenrat in Łachwa, Nazi-occupied Poland
- Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, head of the Council of Elders in the Łódź Ghetto
- Theresienstadt concentration camp, a fortress in Bohemia where a Nazi-appointed „cultural council” organized the life of the Jewish prisoners.
- Trunk, Isaiah Judenrat: the Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation with an introduction by Jacob Robinson. New York: Macmillan, 1972. ISBN 080329428X.
- „The Ghettos Theresienstadt”. Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- Hans-Dieter Arntz. „Jupp Weiss aus Flamersheim, der Judenälteste von Bergen-Belsen”. Arbeitskreis Shoa.de e.V., Berlin, Deutschland (in German). Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- Josef Israel Loewenherz (1 June 1942). „Yad Vashem Archives” (PDF). Head of the Jewish Community in Vienna informs about the intended evacuation of Jews to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
- Hannah Arendt (2006). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The Wannsee Conference, or Pontius Pilate. Penguin. pp. 117–118. ISBN 1101007168. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- Berenbaum, Michael. „Judenrat”. jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
- Documents about the Judenrat in the Ghetto Terezín (Theresienstadt) in the collection of the Jewish Museum Prague.
- (in German)An article in German
- Correspondence between JDC and representatives of Jewish community organizations located inside the Collection: Records of the American Joint Distribution Committee: Warsaw office, 1939–1941
- Isaiah Trunk:Judenrat. The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation, Stein & Day, 1977, ISBN0-8128-2170-X
- V. Wahlen:Select Bibliography on Judenraete under Nazi Rule, in: Yad Vashem Studies 10/1974, s. 277-294
- Aharon Weiss:Jewish Leadership in Occupied Poland. Postures and Attitudes, in Yad Vashem Studies 12/1977, s. 335-365
- Marian Fuks: Das Problemm der Judenraete und Adam Czerniaks Anstaendigkeit. inSt. Jersch-Wenzel: Deutsche – Polen – Juden Colloquium, Berlin, 1987 ISBN3-7678-0694-0, s. 229-239
- Dan Diner: Jenseits der Vorstellbaren- Der „Judenrat” als Situation. In: Hanno Loewy, Gerhard Schoenberner: „Unser Einziger Weg ist Arbeit.” Das Ghetto in Lodz 1940–1944.. Vienna 1990, ISBN3-85409-169-9
- Dan Diner: Gedaechtniszeiten. Ueber Juedische und Andere Geschichten. Beck 2003, ISBN3-406-50560-0
- Doron Rabinovici: Instanzen der Ohnmacht. Wien 1938–1945. Der Weg zum Judenrat. Juedischer Verlag bei Suhrkamp, 2000, ISBN3-633-54162-4
- Dan Michman: ‚Jewish „Headships” under Nazi Rule: The Evolution and Implementation of an Administrative Concept’, in: Dan Michman: Holocaust Historiography, a Jewish Perspective. Conceptualizations, Terminology, Approaches and Fundamental Issues, London/Portland, Or.: Vallentine Mitchell, 2003, pp. 159–175. ISBN0-85303-436-2
- Dan Michmann: ‚On the Historical Interpretation of the Judenräte Issue: Between Intentionalism, Functionalism and the Integrationist Approach of the 1990s’, in: Moshe Zimmermann (ed.), On Germans and Jews under the Nazi Regime. Essays by Three Generations of Historians. A Festschrift in Honor of Otto Dov Kulka (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2006), pp. 385–397.
Jewish policemen in Węgrów, Poland
‘Jewish Ghetto Police’ or Jewish Police Service (German: Jüdische Ghetto-Polizei or Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst), also called the Jewish Police by Jews, were auxiliary police units organized within the Jewish ghettos of German-occupied Poland by local Judenrat (Jewish council) collaborating with the German Nazis.
Jewish Ghetto Police in the Warsaw Ghetto, May 1941
Jewish policemen in the Łódź Ghetto 1940
Members of the Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst at first did not have official uniforms, often wearing just an identifying armband, a hat, and a badge, and were not allowed to carry firearms, although they did carry batons. They were used by the Germans primarily for securing the deportation of other Jews to the concentration camps, but their work encompassed all forms of public order in the ghetto.
The Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst were recruited from two separate groups, who could be relied upon to follow German orders. The first were Jewish lawyers, disbarred by the German occupiers, largely recruited by deputy commander Jakub Lejkin, himself later executed by the Jewish Resistance. The second, larger and more criminally active group, were recruited from among pre-War Jewish organised crime groups. The first commander of the Warsaw ghetto was Józef Szeryński, a Jewish lieutenant-colonel in the pre-War Polish Police. He changed his name from Szenkman and developed an anti-Semitic attitude. Szerynski survived an assassination attempt carried out by a member of the Jewish police, Yisrael Kanal, who was working on behalf of the underground Jewish Combat Organization. In ghettos where the Judenrat was resistant to German orders, the Jewish police were often used (as reportedly in Lutsk) to control or replace the council.
The criminal elements in the Ordnungsdienst soon came to dominate several areas of life in the ghetto, notably the transportation of people and goods. Additionally, there was a secret department, Section 13, known as the „Jewish Gestapo„. It specialised in tracking down Jewish people outside the Ghetto walls, as well as their Polish helpers, and often profited by extorting them.
The Polish-Jewish historian and the Warsaw Ghetto archivist Emanuel Ringelblum has described the cruelty of the ghetto police as „at times greater than that of the Germans, the Ukrainians and the Latvians.” The fate of the Jewish policemen was ultimately equal to all Jews. Upon the liquidation of the ghettos (1942-1943) they were either killed on site or sent to the extermination camps. However, some of the more active criminals, especially those associated with the Żagiew network, are known to have survived the war.
- „Judischer Ordnungsdienst”. Museum of Tolerance. Simon Wiesenthal Center. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
- Raul Hilberg: The Destruction of the European Jews, Quadrangle Books, Chicago 1961, p. 310.
- Collins, Jeanna R. „Am I a Murderer?: Testament of a Jewish Ghetto Policeman (review)”. Mandel Fellowship Book Reviews. Kellogg Community College. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- Anonymous (2014). The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-01283-8.
- A Jewish Policeman in Lwow An Early Account, 1941-1943 Ben Z. Redner Translator: Jerzy Michalowicz (2015) ISBN 978-965-308-504-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jewish Ghetto Police.|
- Judischer Ordnungsdienst at Yad Vashem
- The Relations between the Judenrat and the Jewish police at Yad Vashem
- Ghetto Police at the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe
Townhouse at 93 „Solidarność” Avenue (formerly 13 Leszno Street) in Warsaw, in 1940–1941 the seat of Trzynastka
The Group Thirteen network (Polish: Trzynastka, Yiddish: דאָס דרײַצענטל) was a Jewish collaborationist organisation in the Warsaw Ghetto during the occupation of Poland in World War II. The Thirteen took its informal name from the address of its main office at 13 Leszno Street in Warsaw. The group was founded in December 1940 and led by Abraham Gancwajch, the former head of Hashomer Hatzair in Łódź. Sanctioned by Sicherheitsdienst (SD), and also known as the Jewish Gestapo, the unit reported directly to the German Gestapo office.
The group vied for control of the ghetto with the Judenrat, and infiltrated the Jewish opposition within the ghetto.The group’s most important branch was the Office to Combat Usury and Profiteering in the Jewish Quarter of Warsaw. Supposed to fight the black market, it actually collected large sums via racketeering, blackmail and extortions. The group also ran its own prison. In total, the group numbered between three and four hundred uniformed Jewish officers, distinguished by caps with green bands. The admittance payment to become a member of the “13” was several thousand zlotys issued by the German-controlled Bank.
After the Office was closed, the active members of the Group 13 centered on Gancwajch, and concentrated their efforts on setting up their own infirmary and ambulance service (the so-called Emergency Service, or the First Aid Station, which was created in May 1941). However, the company’s resources soon became used predominantly for smuggling and contraband. They also ran other operations, for example a brothel at the Britannica hotel. They had near total control over the horse-drawn carriages and all transportation within the ghetto.
In mid-1941, shortly before the Office was closed, there was a split in the Group leadership, when Morris Kohn and Zelig Heller broke with Gancwajch and established their own organizations. Kohn and Heller eventually outlasted the Group. Their demise only came during the mass deportations from the ghetto to Treblinka extermination camp in the course of Grossaktion Warsaw. The rise and fall of the Group was likely related to the struggles for power between various factions in the German military staff and bureaucracy who supported various factions in the Ghetto for their own financial benefits.
In April 1942 many members of the Group 13 were executed by the Germans in Operation Reinhard. Gancwajch and surviving members of the group later re-emerged posing as Jewish underground fighters, though in reality they were hunting for Poles hiding or otherwise supporting the Jews. After closing the Jewish Gestapo, Gancwajch stayed in Warsaw outside the ghetto, where he continued working for the Nazis. He was rumored to have died around 1943; a hypothesis about his post-war collaboration with the NKVD was never confirmed.
- The record at Warsaw Ghetto database
- W. D. Rubinstein, The Left, the Right, and the Jews Universe Books, 1982, ISBN 0-87663-400-5, (Google Print), p. 136.
- Israel Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt Indiana University Press, 1982, ISBN 0-253-20511-5, (Google Print), p. 90–4.
- Itamar Levin, Walls Around: The Plunder of Warsaw Jewry During World War II and Its Aftermath Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 0-275-97649-1 (Google Print), pp. 94–98.
- Tadeusz Piotrowski (1998). Poland’s Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces. McFarland. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0786403713.
- Anna Heilman, Never Far Away: The Auschwitz Chronicles of Anna Heilman University of Calgary Press, 2001, ISBN 1-55238-040-8, (Google Print), p. 52.
- „The „13” www.HolocaustResearchProject.org”. http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
Żagiew („The Torch”), also known as Żydowska Gwardia Wolności (the „Jewish Freedom Guard”), was a Nazi-collaborationist Jewish agent provocateur group in Nazi German-occupied Poland, founded and sponsored by the Germans and led by Abraham Gancwajch. Many Żagiew members were related to the collaborationist Jewish organization Group 13, which was also led by Gancwajch. The organization operated primarily within the Warsaw Ghetto. Żagiew was established in late 1940 and existed until the time of the ghetto’s elimination during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
Its primary goal was to infiltrate the Jewish resistance network and reveal its connections with the Polish underground aiding and hiding Jews in the General Government. The organization was able to inflict considerable damage on both fronts. Żagiew agents were also instrumental in organizing the Hotel Polski affair in Warsaw, a German scheme to lure thousands of wealthy Jews under false promises of evacuation to South America into a trap and extort their money and valuables before killing most of them.
- Jerzy Ślaski, Jerzy Piesiewicz, Polska walcząca: 1939-1945, Published by Instytut Wydawniczy Pax, 1990; ISBN 83-211-1428-8.
- Piotrowski, Tadeusz (1997). Poland’s Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide…. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company. p. 74. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3.
- Henryk Piecuch, ‘’Syndrom tajnych służb: czas prania mózgów i łamania kości, Published by Agencja Wydawnicza CB, 1999; ISBN 83-86245-66-2.
Hotel Polski (Polish Hotel), opened in 1808, was a hotel in Warsaw, Poland, at 29 Długa street. In 1943, the Hotel was used by Germans as an internment place for Jews from Warsaw, where they could buy foreign affidavits and passports and, as foreign citizens, leave Warsaw. This case is known as „Hotel Polski Affair”. In 1944, the building was heavily damaged during the Warsaw Uprising and re-purposed afterward.
Hotel Polski affair
In 1942, the Germans, helped by Jewish collaborators from the Żagiew network, promised to allow Jews from Warsaw holding foreign passports of neutral countries to leave the General Government for South America. Seeing this as an opportunity to save the lives of Jews in the ghettos, Jewish organizations from Switzerland started sending documents to the Warsaw Ghetto. However, in many cases, the holders of these affidavits and passports were already dead. In May 1943, after the last deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto, a network of Jewish collaborators, some of them probably in direct agreement with local Gestapo authorities, started to sell these documents to Jews who were hiding on the „Aryan” side of Warsaw. The Gestapo used the Hotel Polski to house the Jewish families preparing for the journey. Around 2500 people came out of their hiding places and moved to the Hotel Polski. In July 1943 they were transferred to the Vittel and Bergen-Belsen camps. On 15 July 1943, the 300 Jews remaining in the Hotel without foreign passports were executed by the Germans at Pawiak prison. The South American governments refused to recognize most of the passports. Therefore, instead of being transferred to South America, the Jews were sent to Auschwitz in May 1943 and October 1943. About 350 Jews who held Palestinian affidavits survived.
Many historians[who?] see the „Hotel Polski affair” as a German trap to lure the richer Jews out of their hiding places in Warsaw under false pretenses and steal their possessions.
- Hotel Polski at yadvashem.org
- Shulman, Abraham (1982). The Case of Hotel Polski. An Account of One of the Most Enigmatic Episodes of World War II. New York: Schocken. ISBN 0896040348.
- Agnieszka Haska, Jestem Żydem, chcę wejść. Hotel Polski w Warszawie, 1943, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN, 2006, ISBN 83-7388-096-8. (in Polish)
- Światło na aferę „Hotel Polski”. In: Tadeusz Kur: Sprawiedliwość pobłażliwa. Proces kata Warszawy Ludwiga Hahna w Hamburgu. Warszawa: wydawnictwo MON, 1975, p. 399-430. OCLC 6648513. (in Polish)
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Kapo (concentration camp)
A kapo or prisoner functionary (German: Funktionshäftling, see § Etymology) was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who was assigned by the SS guards to supervise forced labor or carry out administrative tasks. Also called „prisoner self-administration”, the prisoner functionary system minimized costs by allowing camps to function with fewer SS personnel. The system was designed to turn victim against victim, as the prisoner functionaries were pitted against their fellow prisoners in order to maintain the favor of their SS overseers. If they were derelict, they would be returned to the status of ordinary prisoners and be subject to other kapos. Many prisoner functionaries were recruited from the ranks of violent criminal gangs rather than from the more numerous political, religious and racial prisoners; those were known for their brutality toward other prisoners. This brutality was tolerated by the SS and was an integral part of the camp system.
Prisoner functionaries were spared physical abuse and hard labor, provided they performed their duties to the satisfaction of the SS functionaries. They also had access to certain privileges, such as civilian clothes and a private room. While the Germans commonly called them kapos, the official government term for prisoner functionaries was Funktionshäftling.
The origin of „kapo” is unclear. The Jewish Virtual Library claims it is an abbreviated form of the word Kameradschaftpolizei (roughly, „comrade police force”) or perhaps Kameradschafts-Polizei. It could have also come from the Italian word for „head” and „boss”, capo. According to the Duden, it is derived from the French word for „Corporal” (fr:Caporal). Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robert D. McFadden believes that the word „kapo” is derived from the German word Lagercapo meaning camp captain.
System of thrift and manipulation
Concentration camps were controlled by the SS, but day-to-day organization was supplemented by the system of functionary prisoners, a second hierarchy that made it easier for the Nazis to control the camps. These prisoners made it possible for the camps to function with fewer SS personnel. The prisoner functionaries sometimes numbered as high as 10% of the inmates. The Nazis were able to keep the number of paid staff who had direct contact with the prisoners very low in comparison to normal prisons today. Without the functionary prisoners, the SS camp administrations would not have been able to keep the day-to-day operations of the camps running smoothly. The kapos often did this work for extra food, cigarettes, alcohol or other privileges.
At Buchenwald, these tasks were originally assigned to criminal prisoners, but after 1939, political prisoners began to displace the criminal prisoners, though criminals were preferred by the SS. At Mauthausen, on the other hand, functionary positions remained dominated by criminal prisoners until just before liberation. The system and hierarchy also inhibited solidarity among the prisoners. There were tensions between the various nationalities as well as between the various prisoner groups, who were distinguished by different Nazi concentration camp badges. Jews wore yellow stars, other prisoners wore colored triangles pointed downward.
Prisoner functionaries were often hated by other prisoners as Nazi henchmen and were spat upon. While some barrack leaders (Blockälteste) tried to assist the prisoners under their command by secretly helping them get extra food or easier jobs, others were more concerned with their own survival and to that end, did more to assist the SS.
Identified by green triangles, the befristeter Vorbeugungshäftling or „BV” („temporary preventive custody prisoner”) kapos, were called „professional criminals” by other prisoners and were known for their brutality and lack of scruples. Indeed, they were selected by the SS because of those qualities. According to former prisoners, the criminal functionaries were more apt to be helpful to the SS than political functionaries, who were more apt to be helpful to other prisoners.
From Oliver Lustig’s Dictionary of the Camp:
Vicenzo and Luigi Pappalettera wrote in their book The Brutes Have the Floor that, every time a new transport of detainees arrived at Mauthausen, Kapo August Adam picked out the professors, lawyers, priests and magistrates and cynically asked them: „Are you a lawyer? A professor? Good! Do you see this green triangle? This means I am a killer. I have five convictions on my record: one for manslaughter and four for robbery. Well, here I am in command. The world has turned upside down, did you get that? Do you need a Dolmetscher, an interpreter? Here it is!” And he was pointing to his bat, after which he struck. When he was satisfied, he formed a Scheisskompanie with those selected and sent them to clean the latrines.
Domination and terror
The SS used domination and terror to control the camps’ large populations with just a few SS functionaries. The system of prisoner guards was a „key instrument of domination”, and was commonly called „prisoner self-government” (Häftlings-Selbstverwaltung) in SS parlance.
The camp draconian rules, constant threat of beatings, humiliation, punishment, and the practice of punishing whole groups for the actions of one prisoner were psychological and physical torments on top of the starvation, and physical exhaustion from back-breaking labor. Prisoner guards were used to push other inmates to work harder, saving the need for paid SS supervision. Many kapos felt caught in the middle, being both victims and perpetrators. Though kapos generally had a bad reputation, many suffered guilt about their actions, both at the time and after the war, as revealed in a book about Jewish kapos.
Many prisoner functionaries, primarily from the ranks of the „greens” or criminal prisoners, could be quite ruthless in order to justify their privileges, especially when an SS man was around. They also played an active role in the beatings, even killing fellow prisoners. One non-criminal functionary was Josef Heiden, a notorious Austrian political prisoner. Feared and hated, he was known as a sadist and was responsible for several deaths. He was released from Dachau in 1942 and became a member of the Waffen SS. Some guards were personally involved in the mass murder of other prisoners. Beginning in October 1944, criminal functionaries from among the German Reichsdeutsche were sought out for transfer to the Dirlewanger Brigade.
The armband of an oberkapo
Ranks of functionary
The important functionary positions inside the camp were Lagerältester (camp leader or camp senior), Blockältester(block or barracks leader or senior) and Stubenältester (room leader).[note 1] The highest position that a prisoner could reach was Lagerältester. He was placed directly under the camp commandant, had to implement his orders, ensure that the camp’s normal daily routines ran smoothly and satisfy the superior regulations. The Lagerälteste had a key role in the selection of other prisoners as functionaries, making recommendations to the SS. Though dependent on the goodwill of the SS, through them, he had access to special privileges, such as access to civilian clothes or a private room.
The Blockältester (block or barracks leader) had to ensure that rules were followed in the individual barracks. He or she was also responsible for the prisoners in the barracks. The Stubenälteste (room leader) was responsible for the hygiene, such as delousing, and order of each room in a barracks. The Blockschreiber (registrar or barrack clerk) was a record-keeping job, such as keeping track at roll calls.
Work crews outside the camp were supervised by a Vorarbeiter (foreman), a Kapo, or Oberkapo (chief kapo). These functionaries pushed their fellow prisoners, hitting and beating them, even killing them.
Prisoner functionaries could often help other prisoners by getting them into better barracks or getting them assigned to lighter work. On occasion, the functionaries could effect other prisoners’ removal from transport lists or even secure new identities in order to protect them from persecution. This assistance was generally limited to the prisoners in the functionary’s own group (fellow citizens or political comrades). The prisoner functionaries were in a precarious hierarchy between their fellow inmates and the SS. This situation was intentionally created, as revealed in a speech by Heinrich Himmler.
The moment he becomes a Kapo, he no longer sleeps with them. He is held accountable for the performance of the work, that they are clean, that the beds are well-built. […] So, he must drive his men. The moment we become dissatisfied with him, he is no longer Kapo, he’s back to sleeping with his men. And he knows that he will be beaten to death by them the first night. — Heinrich Himmler, June 21, 1944
In National Socialism‚s racial ideology, some races were „superior” and others „inferior”. Similarly, the SS sometimes had racial criteria for the prisoner functionaries, sometimes one had to be racially „superior” to be a functionary. The group category was also sometimes a factor. A knowledge of foreign languages was also advantageous, particularly as the international population of the camps increased and they preferred a certain level of education.
An eager prisoner functionary could have a camp „career” as an SS favorite and be promoted from Kapo to Oberkapo and eventually to Lagerältester, but he could also just as easily run afoul of the SS and be sent to the gas chambers.
Prosecution of kapos
The Israeli Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law of 1950, most famously used to prosecute Adolf Eichmann in 1961 and Ivan Demjanjuk in 1986, was originally introduced with the principal purpose of prosecuting Jewish collaborators with the Nazis. Between 1951 and 1964, approximately 40 trials were held, mostly of people alleged to have been kapos. Fifteen are known to have resulted in convictions, but only rough details are available since the records were sealed in 1995 for a period of 70 years from the trial date. One person was convicted of crimes against humanity, which carried a mandatory death penalty, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment.
A small number of kapos were prosecuted in East and West Germany. In a well-publicised 1968 case, two Auschwitz kapos were put on trial in Frankfurt. They were indicted for 189 murders and multiple assaults, found guilty of several murders, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
During the Stutthof trials in Gdańsk, Poland, which took place in 1946 and 1947 for the prosecution of the Stutthof concentration camp personnel, five kapos were sentenced to death, with extreme brutality cited. Four of them were executed on 4 July 1946, and one on 10 October 1947. Another kapo was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and one acquitted and released on 29 November 1947.
German historian Karin Orth wrote that there was hardly a measure so perfidious as the SS attempt to delegate the implementation of terror and violence to the victims themselves. Eugen Kogon, an avowed opponent of Nazism from prewar Germany and Buchenwald concentration camp survivor, wrote after the war ended that the concentration camp system owed its stability in no small way to a cadre of kapos, who took over the daily operations of the camp, thus relieving the SS personnel. The absolute power was ubiquitous. The system of discipline and supervision would have promptly disintegrated, according to Kogon, without the delegation of power downwards. The rivalry over supervisory and warehouse functionary jobs was, for the SS, an opportunity to pit prisoners against each other. Thus, the regular prisoner was at the mercy of a dual authority, the SS, who often hardly seemed to be at the camp, and the prisoner kapos, who were always there.
- Belsen Trial, the Trial of Joseph Kramer and 44 others (former kapos, convicted in late 1945 for war crimes)
- Bitch Wars in the Soviet Gulag system
- Orli Wald, Lagerälteste at Auschwitz, called the „Angel of Auschwitz”
- Robert Siewert, kapo at Buchenwald
- Trusty system (prison)
- The Counterfeiters, a film which features several kapos, in various camps.
- Escape from Sobibor, a television movie which features a kapo helping prisoners escape from Sobibór extermination camp.
- Ältester is variously translated as „leader”, „elder”, „supervisor”, „commander” or „senior”.
- Karin Orth (2007) . Norbert Frei, ed. Gab es eine Lagergesellschaft? „Kriminelle” und politische Häftlinge im Konzentrationslager. Ausbeutung, Vernichtung, Öffentlichkeit: Neue Studien zur nationalsozialistischen Lagerpolitik. Munich: Institut für Zeitgeschichte, de Gruyter. pp. 110, 111, 127, 131. ISBN 3-598-24033-3 – via Google Books. (in German)
- Jozeph Michman (Melkman) (2008). „KAPO”. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Jewish Virtual Library. Archived from the original on 2012-08-01 – via Internet Archive.
- Miklos Nyiszli (2013), Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 1628720263.
- Yizhak Ahren, „Überlebt weil schuldig – schuldig weil überlebt” Review of book about Jewish kapos. Leo Baeck Bookshop, official website. Retrieved May 8, 2010 (in German)
- Kogon, Eugen (1980). The theory and practice of hell: the German concentration camps and the system behind them. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 0-425-16431-4. (Translated from: Kogon, Eugen (1946). Der SS-Staat: Das System der deutschen Konzentrationslager. München.)
- de Jong, L., (1978). Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, deel 8, gevangenen en gedeporteerden, eerste helft. ‚s-Gravenhage: Staatsuitgeverij. ISBN 90-12-00829-8. , p. 481
- Mcfadden, Robert D. (1988-02-05). „A Jew Who Beat Jews in a Nazi Camp Is Stripped of His Citizenship”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-20.
- Yizhak Ahren, „Überlebt weil schuldig – schuldig weil überlebt” Review of book about Jewish kapos. Leo Baeck Bookshop, official website. Retrieved May 8, 2010 (in German)
- Marc Schemmel, Funktionshäftlinge im KZ Neuengamme. Zwischen Kooperation und Widerstand. Saarbrücken (2007) p. 4. ISBN 978-3-8364-1718-1(in German)
- Stanislav Zámečník, Das war Dachau. (Published by Comité International de Dachau) Luxemburg (2002) pp. 151–159 (in German)
- Jerzy Pindera, edited by Lynn Taylor, Liebe Mutti: one man’s struggle to survive in KZ Sachsenhausen, 1939–1945 University Press of America (2004) pp. 113 ISBN 0-7618-2834-6 Retrieved May 5, 2010
- René Wolf (2007). „Judgement in the Grey Zone: the Third Auschwitz (Kapo) Trial in Frankfurt 1968”. Journal of Genocide Research. 9 (4): 617–663. doi:10.1080/14623520701644432.
- Bill Niven, The Buchenwald child: truth, fiction, and propaganda Camden House (2007) ISBN 978-1-57113-339-7. Retrieved April 15, 2010
- „Audio guide 05: Prisoner functionaries” Archived 2011-07-06 at the Wayback Machine. Mauthausen Memorial official website. May 6, 2010
- Holocaust Encyclopedia (2017). „Marking System”. Classification System in Nazi Concentration Camps. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- Jens-Christian Wagner, Häftlingseinsatz im KZ Dora-Mittelbau… article from Ausbeutung, Vernichtung, Öffentlichkeit. Norbert Frei (Ed.), pp. 26–27. Munich (2000) ISBN 3-598-24033-3 (in German)
- Shirli Gilbert, Music in the Holocaust: confronting life in the Nazi ghettos and camps Oxford University Press (2005) page 101. ISBN 0-19-927797-4 Retrieved May 5, 2010
- Guido Knopp (2013) . Die SS. Eine Warnung der Geschichte. Munich: Bertelsmann Verlag. page 209 (193, reprint). ISBN 3641108411.(in German)
- „Neuengamme / Bremen-Farge” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, official website. Retrieved May 6, 2010
- „Organized Resistance” Against the odds, official website. Documentary about prisoner resistance in Nazi concentration camps. Retrieved May 6, 2010
- The author or translator probably refers to the book: Pappalettera, Vincenzo y Luigi. ” La parola agli aguzzini: le SS e i Kapò di Mauthausen svelano le leggi del lager.”, Milano: Mondadori (1969), Mursia, (1979), also „Los SS tienen la palabra: las leyes del campo de Mauthausen reveladas por las Schutz-Staffeln”. Barcelona: Editorial Laia, (1969).
- Oliver Lustig, Dicţionar de lagăr, Bucharest, Hasefer, 2002, ISBN 973-630-011-0 (English translation at iSurvived.org.)
- Andrej Reisin (August 29, 2008). „Die Sozialstruktur des Lagers”. „Alltag” in den Konzentrationslagern. NDR.de.
- „Prisoner administration” Wollheim Memorial, official website. Retrieved May 7, 2010
- Ludwig Eiber; Robert Sigel, eds. (2007). Dachauer Prozesse: NS-Verbrechen vor amerikanischen Militärgerichten in Dachau 1945-1948. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen. p. 18. ISBN 978-3-8353-0167-2. (in German)
- „The prisoner functionaries system”. Gusen Memorial, official website. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved March 9, 2017 – via Internet Archive.
- Danuta Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle, 1939–1945, (1990) ISBN 0-8050-5238-0, Glossary.
- Stanislav Zámečník, Das war Dachau Comité International de Dachau, Luxemburg (2002) p. 154 (in German)
- „7. Juli – 19. Oktober 1940”[permanent dead link] Auschwitz survivor Heinrich Dronia’s official website. Retrieved May 7, 2010 (in German)
- Hanna Yablonka (2003). „The development of Holocaust consciousness in Israel: The Nuremberg, Kastner, and Eichmann trials”. Israel Studies. 8: 1–24. doi:10.2979/isr.2003.8.3.1.
- Orna Ben-Naftali; Yogev Tuval (2006). „Punishing international crimes committed by the persecuted : The Kapo Trials in Israel (1950s–1960s)”. Journal of International Criminal Justice. 4: 128–178. doi:10.1093/jicj/mqi022.
- Janina Grabowska (22 January 2009). „Odpowiedzialność za zbrodnie popełnione w Stutthofie. Procesy” [Responsibility for the Atrocities Committed at Stutthof. The trials.]. KL Stutthof, Monografia. Archived from the original(Internet Archive) on January 22, 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- Bogdan Chrzanowski, Andrzej Gąsiorowski (Zeszyty Muzeum, 5), Załoga obozu Stutthof (Staff of Stutthof concentration camp) (PDF file, direct download 9.14 MB) p. 189 (13/40 in PDF). Muzeum Stutthof w Sztutowie. Zaklad Narodowy Imienia Ossolinskich, Wrocław, Warszawa, Krakow 1984. PL ISSN 0137-5377.
- Revital Ludewig-Kedmi, Opfer und Täter zugleich? Moraldilemmata jüdischer Funktionshäftlinge in der Shoah. Psyche und Gesellschaft. Book expanded from a doctoral dissertation about the moral dilemma faced by Jewish kapos in the Holocaust. Psychosozial Verlag, Gießen (2001) ISBN 3-89806-104-3 (in German)
- Sebastian Dregger: Die Rolle der Funktionshäftlinge im Vernichtungslager Auschwitz – und das Beispiel Otto Küsels. (in German)
- Abschnitt aus dem Bericht der Auschwitzflüchtlinge Alfred Wetzler und Rudolf Vrba über F. (Late April 1944) (in German)