Under the ground, Jews inhabited caverns and bunkers, like moles, eking out a wait which stretched into three and a half months. A few hundred Jews were daring to defy the fury of the Germans. …
But when we finished and went in to the next room attached to the basement it all became worthwhile. The place had belonged to a jeweller. We found a safe with the key in the lock. Inside it was a small box containing gold coins, a gold-covered cigar box, ladies’ watches with wristbands and on chains, and a considerable number of smaller pieces of jewellery. In ordinary times such a safe would have made one very comfortable.
… we had five women and thirteen other men on our hands … The contents of the safe were later divided more or less equally between us, but we soon discovered we had a thief among us.673
A Jewish woman who hid in cellar with a group of more than thirty Jews stated:
On another night, Sukharevitch came upon someone else again, this time a woman with a five-year-old child, who were lying in the ruins not far from our bunker. It turned out the woman had been wandering around through the ruins for weeks and found nowhere to hide. We took them in with us. They stayed down here even though the second group, which had come in later, objected.
And still another time, we ran into a very religious Jew and a mishimed staying together. They’d also been wandering over the ruins. They found a bunker, but the Germans uncovered it and they only got away at the last minute. We took the in with us, but this time, a violent argument broke out. The violent people refused to keep them. They even talked about taking them outside to be shot. After a long quarrel, they finally agreed to let them stay with us.
Not far from where we were, there was a second Jewish bunker and when they discovered ours, they attacked us and it almost came to bloodshed. To this day, I have no idea what made them do it, but in the end, they realized their mistake and we united. …
For a month, a silence hung over everything as if we were in a cemetery. … Finally, for several nights without stop, we heard heavy artillery barrages. This gave us hope. … We couldn’t stop arguing among ourselves in the bunker. Our “enforcers” even thought of ways to keep all the valuables we’d gotten for themselves. But most of us only thought of surviving these last few days.674
The situation was much the same in most ghettos in occupied Poland. When the remnants of the ghetto population were being mopped up, the Jewish councils and police played a key role in detecting Jews who tried to escape or hide. The ghetto authorities actively participated in uncovering Jews who hid in bunkers and other hiding places. The combination of Jewish police and informers was particularly lethal. Familiar with the topography of the ghetto, the layout of the apartments, and the nooks where people might try to hide, the ghetto police were given the task of sniffing out Jews in hiding. Many well-camouflaged places would not have been discovered otherwise. Numerous examples have already been described earlier. The same was true in Warsaw, Kraków, Wilno, Kołomyja, Buczacz, Skałat, and many other ghettos.675
Similarly, in Łańcut, a number of Jews who had hidden after the liquidation of the ghetto were betrayed by Jews.676 In Szczebrzeszyn, “The German police and the Jewish police, with the assistance of the Judenrat, ran about and dragged the Jews out of bunkers in order to have them sent to Belzec [Bełżec].”677 To capture those who had hidden, the Germans relied on Jewish youths who were adept at locating hideouts.678 In Radomsko,
After the liquidation of Radomsker Jewry, there were a number of Jews in hiding places and in bunkers in addition to the remaining Jews in the small ghetto on Limanowski Street. A number of those in the bunker in the knife factory ‘Unitas’ (Limanowski Street 46) were discovered on the first day and all forty of them were taken to Piotrkow [Piotrków] Trybunalski, where an aktsia was then taking place. At Limanowski 42, two Jews Aitsze Fiszman and Zilberszatz were discovered by the Folks[Volks]-Deutsch Kunitsky. They were given to the German regime and they were shot at the Jewish cemetery on the same day.
Every day, new bunkers and hiding places were uncovered and new victims fell. It was suspected that this was the work of a member of the Judenrat and of the commandant of the Jewish police, who knew exactly where the Jews were hiding. Hundreds of Jews from the bunkers were shot on the spot or sent away to Czenstochow [Częstochowa] and from there by transport to Treblinka.679
In Kosów Lacki,
The liquidation of the Jewish community in Kosów Lacki began on September 22, 1942. … SS officers ordered the Judenrat and Jewish Police to gather all the Jews in the marketplace but separated off the families of the labor camp craftsmen in the building where the Judenrat met. SS and Ukrainian auxiliaries accompanied the Jewish Police on a house-to-house search for those in hiding, shooting those they found. … About 150 ghetto residents were killed trying to flee and were buried in a mass grave at the Jewish cemetery. The next day, the SS searched Polish houses throughout the town and in the surrounding countryside, killing Jews they discovered there.680
Conditions in Lwów, which is representative of the fate of many ghettos, have been described in numerous accounts such as the following:
The Jewish police force was patterned on the Nazi police: Schutzpolizei, Sonderdienst, and Kriminalpolizei (Kripo). It grew to a force of approximately 500 officers.
In the beginning the police were well-regulated, acknowledging the authority of the Judenrat. … However, most joined for personal reasons, having in mind the privileges which went along with the job, such as larger food rations and exemption from forced labor and resettlement, as promised by the Gestapo. Some, driven by the instinct of self-preservation, lost their ability to differentiate right from wrong, and any human feelings. In time they acquired the mentality of the SS and fully cooperated with these murderers.
The worst were the members of the Sonderdienst … Golligier-Schapiro, Krumholz, Ruppert, Scherz, Vogelfaenger, and others fell into this category. The Sonderdienst assisted the Germans and actively participated in the so-called resettlement of Jews. They helped search for hiding places. Living in the ghetto they knew where to look for a bunker. They carried Jews from their hiding places and handed them over to the SS slaughterers. During an Aktion each was given a quota of Jews to be delivered to the SS. Anyone whose operation showed a shortage had to join the detainees himself.
Once one of these “catchers,” who previously had deliberately overlooked a bunker where his sister-in-law was hiding, failed to fulfill his quota. He then rushed back to the bunker, pulled out his sister-in-law, as well as the other Jews who were with her, and delivered them to the SS for deportation.
Morally corrupt, they accumulated large sums of cash and valuables by accepting bribes, blackmailing people, and extorting ransom money for excluding from deportation those who could pay.
They assisted the Germans in confiscating Jewish possessions. Although they were supposed to combat smuggling, they worked hand in glove with corrupt German officers, sharing the spoils with them. They participated with their German principals in drinking and sexual orgies, and in their stupor no longer differed from the SS hangmen. Some Jewish policemen once accompanied the SS to Jaworze and Złoczów to assist their masters in an Aktion.
The authority of the Sonderdienst increased with each Aktion. From August 1942 on, they slowly gained the upper hand over the Judenrat. In 1943 they achieved total superiority, functioning exclusively as agents of the SS, and became the paramount authority over the remnants of the ghetto, replacing the Judenrat entirely. The Gestapo had complete confidence in them. This went so far as to hand over any Jew caught outside the ghetto to the Jewish Sonderdienst. The Sonderdienst kept these Jews in the jail at Weyssenhof [Weyssenhoff] Street. At the earliest opportunity they were delivered on time to join the others on their way to the gas chambers. They did their jobs well.681
Historian Eliyahu Yones fully supports this account of the Jewish “Order Service” (Jüdische Ordnungsdienst), as it was officially known.
Functionally, the Jewish police were divided into four main units:
Ordnungsdienst (Order Service)—the largest unit in terms of number of members.
Kripo (an abbreviation for the German word Kriminalpolizei), the Jewish criminal police.
Sonderdienst or Spezialabteilung, the special service. This unit dealt with problems defined as “political,” including manhunts for Jews who were suspected of belonging to leftist circles and sympathizing with the Soviet Union.
The Jewish gendarmerie.
The three last-mentioned units reported directly to the Gestapo, not to the Judenrat, and attracted members of the underworld. The difference among them was not clear-cut and self-evident. …
The Jewish criminal police was headed by Max Guliger-Szapira of Lvov [Lwów], the scion of a family of grain merchants and members of the Jewish sports association Hashomonea before the war. Guliger-Szapira excelled in exposing Jews’ hideouts and handing many Jews over to the Germans. In 1943, the Germans deposed him and replaced him with Rupert. His deputy was a refugee from Kraków named Krumholtz. The two of them competed for primacy with abusive and obscene behavior. The gendarmerie was commanded by Janek Scherz … Other “officers” in the Jewish police force were Barch Roisen, Dr. Abraham Rosenmann, Narcisfeld, and Dr. Tunis. The de fact commander of the Jewish police was Guliger-Szapira. These men inflicted severe damage on the Jewish community of Lvov. …
As the Germans’ policy toward Jews in the Generalgouvernment became tougher, the duties of the Jewish police changed in ways that affected their relations with the Judenrat and caused the Jewish population to view them differently. These matters led to changes in the human makeup of the force. When the function of the police as an instrument of persecution against the Jews became strongly emphasized, men of public sensitivity resigned from the force and were succeeded by riffraff, thugs, brutes, and seekers of illicit lucre—all of whom were willing to obey the Germans’ orders dispassionately, unflinchingly, and mercilessly.
… When compulsory forced labor was introduced, and forced-labor camps were established, the Jewish police was instructed to deal with recalcitrants and to flush out and turn over people in order to meet the labor quota that the Germans had given the Judenrat. Policemen accompanied officials of the Supply Department to expropriate belongings from Jewish homes in accordance with “orders” placed by Germans. This action usually entailed the use of force. In the later summer of 1941. When the Germans established the first slave-labor camps in the Galicia District and ordered the Jewish community to meet the quota of Jewish workers that it required, the Jewish police abducted those marked for labor and turned them over to the Germans. …
Dr. Adolf Rotfeld collaborated with the Germans from the start; during his tenure as chairman of the Judenrat, the Jewish police performed every mission they were assigned. In the autumn of 1941, the Germans began to establish slave-labor camps across Eastern Galicia and presented the Judenrat with new demands for workers who would toil there. Armed with lists from the Judenrat, the Jewish police fanned out in the ghetto. Since most of the targeted persons evaded the dragnet, the Jewish police met the Germans’ quota by circulating in the streets and arresting every Jew they encountered. Their eagerness to carry out the mission, their ambition, and the necessity of filling the quota were stronger than any permit. Thus, they often disregarded labor permits that those abducted possessed …
Jews who could afford to bribe the kidnappers did so and were released on the spot. Indigent and refugee Jews fell prey to the policemen and were taken away, first to the Jewish labor bureau and thence to slave labor camps.
In November 1941, as SS and Ukrainian police perpetrated the “Aktion under the trestle,” the Jewish police—who continued to abduct Jews in the city streets—also took possession of the battered Jews who had been taken to the labor bureau. There, members of the Ordnungsdienst handed them over to the SS, who then sent them to the camps. …
At this time , the Jewish police were given additional duties and their numbers grew to 750. … The expanded units were the criminal police (the Kripo) and the special service (the Sonderdienst), which were tasked with monitoring Jews who belonged to left-wing circles, keeping track of suspected collaborators with the Soviet regime in 1939–41, and dealing with Jews who traded on the black market. Ordinarily, there was no need for evidence to demonstrate someone’s guilt. A denunciation was all it took to have someone arrested, and the detained person would then come under extortionist pressure. These units of the Jewish police had their own prison where they “interrogated” these miserables, whom they handed over to the Germans only after they had squeezed them dry.
A week after the March 1942 Aktion, the Gestapo ordered the Jewish policemen to report to the front of the Judenrat building. Hauptsturmführer Erich Engels, head of the Jewish Affairs Department of the Gestapo in Lvov, came to this location, escorted by a company of SS men, and informed the commander of the Jewish police that since the ghetto population had contracted by 30,000, there was no longer a need for so many policemen. Accordingly, their population would be trimmed by 200, starting with those who had failed to meet their quota during the Aktion. They were ordered to step out of line and turn in their caps, armbands, and billy clubs; a short time later, they were loaded aboard trucks. Thus the men who several days earlier had helped dispatch Jews to extermination were now banished to labor camps. In several cases, the destination was Janowska. The Germans promised the Judenrat that the deportation of the wayward policemen would be followed by a resumption of calm. As time passed, the ranks of the Jewish police swelled again—to 500 or, according to another source, to 750. Again, the newcomers were coarser that their predecessors …
The Jewish police had various duties in 1943: maintaining hygiene, taking morning roll-call, and escorting workers their jobs. They also hunted for “illegals” who were hiding in the camp and helped the Germans perform selections, in the aftermath of which many Jews were deported for extermination. The Jewish police in Lvov were also sent to nearby towns to take part in Aktionen, because Jewish policemen in those localities usually preferred to escape than to participate in the reviled task of turning over their brethren to the Germans. …
The misdeeds of the Jewish police left such a deep impression in the memories of the survivors of the Lvov ghetto that all testimonies mention them. The worst of all, according to the witnesses, were the Sonderdienst men, who believed that their total obeisance to the SS would save their lives. Members of this group, such as Guliger-Szapira, Krumholtz, Rupert, Scherc and Vogelwanger, aided the Germans by participating actively in deportations and in searches for hideouts. As inhabitants of the ghetto, they knew where to search. They dragged people out of their hiding places and unhesitatingly handed them over to the SS hangmen. They were corrupt; they amassed fortunes from bribes that they charged people to spare them from deportation. They also shamelessly participated in the Germans’ drinking parties and merrymaking.682
With the approach of Passover, the Germans launched an Aktion against “asocial” elements. It began on March 19, 1942. To carry it out, the Jewish police were mobilized. The first group consigned to deportation was the poorest, located on the basis of a list of welfare recipients. Several days later, all Jews who lacked labor permits were gathered in the school on Sobieski Street. When the Germans found the roundup too small, they decided to complete the job themselves with the help of Ukrainian police. … On Passover eve, as the Jews seated themselves at the Seder table, policemen raided their homes, tore them away, and brutally led them to trains. They day after the festival, it transpired that the previous day’s eve had been the last and bleakest day of the “March Aktion,” in which 15,000 Jews were removed from their homes and murdered. …
Before long, the Gestapo embarked on a purge among Jews who had collaborated with it. One by one, various agents and liaisons vanished and were murdered. The Germans began to eliminate anyone who seemed unnecessary to them or who knew too much. Thus, Reiss, the former soap-factory owner who had brokered between Engels and the Judenrat disappeared. So did the Kripo agent Oskar Halperin.683
On December 5, 1942 … A new Aktion had begun. … The ghetto was totally surrounded.
The Germans and Ukrainians—aided by members of the Jewish police—tossed grenades into the cellars and set afire the wretched wooden dwellings that lined Kleparów Square on all sides. The blaze spread quickly to adjacent buildings. Where Jews were suspected of hiding, the hovels were doused with large quantities of gasoline and then torched. … The dense smoke drove the Jews out of their hideouts. The Germans chased them down and murdered them. Infants were vivisected with bayonets, thrown into the fire, or smashed against the walls. …
After the Aktion, the Jewish police abducted Jews to bury the many corpses that remained in the streets. The “gravedigger unit,” as this group was called, interred the bodies in the trenches across from Pilichowska Street.684
The 30 gravediggers were well situated materially, since they took valuable things from the corpses.685
In the middle of 1943, SS officer Warzog, having finished his assignment with the liquidation of the Złoczów camp, replaced Willhaus as the commander of Janowska. The new commander … brought several Jews with him; they mingled among the prisoners, gathered information, and kept him abreast of the prisoners’ doings. By means of deception and dissimulation, Warzog tried to create the impression that the regimen had become more humane. His purpose was to mislead the prisoners in order to obviate the possibility of an uprising.686
Jakub Lang recalled a Jewish policeman by the name of Stark who excelled in locating hideouts of Jews in the Lwów ghetto, thereby exceeding his quota.687 Ada Kessler-Pawlak also recorded what she witnessed in the Lwów ghetto:
Maks Goligier was in the Jewish police. He walked around the ghetto with his head raised and hit Jews with his rubber truncheon. He had friends among the Gestapo men … He was the right-hand man of the cannibals … He drank with them. His office was in a separate room in the Gestapo building on Pełczyńska Street, which Jews and Poles avoided from a distance. He pointed out former friends, and he knew everyone who wanted to pass as Aryans and did not wear their armbands.688
Goliger was also employed at the train station where he fingered Jews to the Germans.
Other Jewish survivors from Lwów confirm this picture and acknowledge that the ghetto was “full of informers,” thus paralyzing any underground activities. The Sonderdienst was also known to ferret out people with pro-Soviet sympathies and those who belonged to leftist organizations.689 Ukrainians and Poles working in the Kripo (criminal police) were known to pay Jewish informers to tell them which Jews in the ghetto were wealthy. According to this extortion “game,” these wealthy Jews were arrested, and, upon paying a bribe, were released.690 Blackmailers were drawn not only from marginal elements of society, but also included some upright members. According to Samuel Drix,
I would like to add that in the almost eleven months of my stay at Janowska camp and OT camp, I observed how people behaved at such a time of distress and struggle for life, often in a manner quite hard to predict from their education and social status. They showed themselves as they really were, beneath this veneer. There were some from good homes and privileged backgrounds who behaved like animals, not just stealing to survive but blackmailing and profiting through others’ miseries so they could have a more comfortable life. Fortunately, such people were few, but they were influential. On the other hand, there were people from very simple backgrounds, poor and uneducated, who did all they could to help others at great personal sacrifice and risk.691
Drix describes what happened when four Jewish policemen tried to hide among the other Jews of the work camp:
News about it spread like lightening and soon a crowd gathered, hostile to those four. Jewish policemen from the ghetto, in the period 1942 to 1943, had a very bad reputation. They had actively helped the Gestapo in all the actions, and were very eager, even too eager and brutal. They had filled their pockets with money and valuable objects from their victims or from those whom they had blackmailed. It was therefore understandable that this crowd of inmates granted no mercy to them and offered them no refuge. … These traitors and Judases had earned their punishment at the hands of their own brothers, and their masters’ prize for their faithful service.692
Helene Kaplan, who was imprisoned in the Janowska camp in Lwów, reported:
The Jewish policemen were also known for their lack of compassion towards their fellow Jews. If the lives of their own wives, husbands or children were in danger, all the others would be sacrificed. That was how they operated and how they earned their awful reputation. …
Of course, some of the Jews were rank opportunists, people without scruples and with no soul. One of these was a cook in Janowska. He was killed by the inmates after they learned that he was selling food for money and diamonds while the rest were starving. Unfortunately there were quite a few like him.693
William Ungar, who lived in the ghetto in Lwów, also recalled the Jewish ghetto policemen as being “cruel and unscrupulous”:
But many acted more like devoted servants in the hope of ingratiating themselves with the Gestapo. Others were just callous, brutal people, untouched by any of the nobler sentiments when it came to hunting down their fellows.
While at the Janowska labour camp, Ungar was denounced to the Gestapo by oberjude Tenenbaum, the German appointed chief of the Jewish workers.694
A handful Jews from the Lwów ghetto managed to escape and join work crews in Kiev where they posed as Christians. The Jewish intermediaries made a small fortune transporting those desperate to save their lives.
Marek was fascinated with the Lvov-Kiev escape path that we uncovered. He felt that a lot of Jews could be shipped through it out of Lvov. He was getting friendly with Romek and was trying to get involved in the transports. Was he motivated by the desire to help our compatriots? This was undoubtedly important to him, but what really fascinated Marek was the business opportunity. A safe escape from the Ghetto was worth a lot of money. Marek felt that if he made contact with the Ghetto, he could get a thousand gold dollars per escapee. In a few trips he could make a fortune.695