|Throughout Eastern Galicia, as in Lwów, the Germans employed both the Ukrainian and Jewish police to liquidate the ghettos and to search for Jews who tried to hide or escape the round-ups for deportation to death camps: Bóbrka, Bolechów, Borysław, Brody, Buczacz, Bukaczowce, Czortków, Drohobycz, Gródek Jagielloński, Jaworów, Kołomyja, Kopyczyńce, Przemyślany, Rawa Ruska, Rohatyn, Sambor, Skałat, Sokal, Stryj, Tarnopol, Tłumacz, Trembowla, Złoczów, and Żurawno.696 Episodes of corruption on the part of the Jewish councils (Judenrats) and Jewish police abound. Despite this overwhelming evidence, Israeli historian Yitzhak Arad claims: “Cases in which the Jewish police openly aided the Germans were few, and such conduct was not characteristic of the Jewish police in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union.”697
most survivors condemned the Judenrat and the Jewish Police for corruption. When supplying the Germans with workers for forced labor camps, the Jewish Police, initially commanded by Josef (Józef) Rabinowicz, would “seize … only the poorest Jews … who could not ransom themselves.” … The last head, Baruch Kramer, came in for the harshest condemnation. This “handsome Jew … was still a follower of Hasidism and wore side locks” before the war. But “under the Germans he shaved and became their servant.” As head, “he ran around with a hatchet during the roundups and betrayed the hiding places of the Jews. … He celebrated with the Germans and forced young Jewish women to come to these feasts.” He was thus deemed “more of a collaborator than a Jew,” in charge of a Judenrat that “became a tool of the Gestapo.” Similar bitterness was expressed about “the shameful actions of the Jewish Police, which, at the height of its degeneration, was headed by Mojżesz Albrecht.” Moshe Wizinger, who later fought with the Polish Resistance, wrote scathingly: “The Jewish Police are robbing, killing, worse than the Germans; Albrecht walks down the streets in an Ordnungsdienst uniform. Like the Germans, he is holding a whip in his hand and woe to whoever will stand in his way.”698
In the town of Bolechów, south of Stryj, conditions are described as follows:
After Dr. Reifeisen’s suicide, Dr. Schindler was appointed as the head of Judenrat. Jewish police (or militia) were, as well, organized under the command of the lawyer Dr. Pressler. Initially their role was quite modest and restricted, as for instance, the safeguard of order in the public kitchen of the Judenrat. Later on their importance increased. They got a special cap with a yellow band and an armband they wore on their lower forearm that read, “JUEDISCHER ORDUNGSDIENST” in red embroidered letters. A kind of cooperation developed between them and the Ukrainian police. Jewish policemen helped in the forced mobilization of Ukrainian labor for compulsory work in Germany. For some time the Ordungsdienst was much feared by the Gentiles in the neighborhood. …
Since the early autumn one could see dozens of men, women and children begging for food from door to door. Most were horribly swollen from hunger. They also picked nettle and other supposedly edible plants in order to prepare something to eat. These people came mostly from the poorer element as well as from the expelled. The Judenrat kitchens supplied hundreds of meals but, unfortunately, these only consisted of thin soup. Typhoid and hunger played havoc with scores. The mortality rate started with several deaths per day and gradually rose to more than 40 deaths a day in the winter of 1942. Then there was a decline. Almost daily, Jewish policemen had to break into dwellings and pull out dead bodies. The total number of victims was then estimated at between 600 and 800.
In contrast, some relatively well-to-do Jews still managed to lead more or less normal lives. Some even had Gentile housemaids and their children got private lessons. Some problems could still be solved by money. …
The Jewish police (Ordnungsdienst) then consisted of several tens and had ties with the Ukrainian police. …
People got used to beatings and humiliating insults, to “searches” serving as a pretext for looting or bad treatment. The fact that there were several informers and traitors ceased to be considered unusual. …
The “Great Action,” as the second action was called, differed from the first action in many ways: public executions (although not of hundreds or thousands), searches in Christian houses, apparently better and more methodical planning, participation of the Jewish police and groups of “Hitlerjugend” (Hitler’s youth organization) brought from outside. Paramilitary organs of “Railway Guards” (Bahnschutzpolizei) and “Forest Guards” also joined. Helmets were commonly worn, a kind of novelty at that time.
The worst murderers proved to be the Ukrainian policemen, Luhovyi, Demianyn and, above all, the depraved sadist Matowiecki. Another horrible assassin, equal only to Matowiecki was Strutynski, also a Ukrainian policeman. The German Piatke of Stryj Schupo (Schutzpolizei), chief of Bolechow’s [Bolechów’s] Ukrainian police, had dogs trained to literally tear their victims to pieces.
Some Jewish policemen showed extraordinary ability, enthusiasm and initiative when searching the hiding, often being praised by the Germans and Ukrainians.
When some 2,500 Jews returned from the woods, villages and hideouts they found a looted and deserted town. Dead bodies were still lying everywhere. … It seems the Germans decided to monopolize this “branch.” They sent great amounts of commodities and furniture to Lwow [Lwów] by lorries. It appears, however, they only took interest in goods of higher quality. …
On October 24, 1942, the Judenrat was ordered to extradite 400 Jews to the Gestapo. The task was carried out by the Jewish police. Only on the third, and last, day the Ukrainian police were approached to “give a hand.” … During this action, whoever had the means to bribe the Judenrat, the Ukrainian and the Jewish police, was released. To replace the freed, poorer people were arrested. In fact, they only recently turned poor since the bulk of the original paupers had already disappeared in the spring. This base practice, in addition to being a means for extorting money, also represented the policy of the Judenrat to get rid of the poor. They were considered an element lacking the ability to survive. Finally the 400 were packed into a freight train and transported to an unknown destination (We later learned it was Belzec [Bełżec]). …
Some weeks after the third action, from the 20th to 23rd of November, the fourth action took place. 300 Jews were caught by the Jewish police. This time it was without the help of the Ukrainian police. Again, they were put into a cargo train. In all aspects this action resembled the third action. But now, the employed were exempted. The equipment of he “policemen” consisted of axes, picks and so on used to break the “bunkers” (i.e.: kinds of hiding places). In order to prevent the arrested from escaping, they used various tricks such as taking away the men's trouser belts, thus making running impossible. They also tied the victims to the policemen with ropes. They held them on leashes like dogs. All this was mainly because they had no real weapons. …
All believed the hour of the final action had come. But after some time it became clear that the aim was only to capture the newcomers from Stryj. Jewish policemen arrived and took the unfortunates out, promising they would be sent to the Janowski camp in Lwow. This was an infamous labor camp in Lwow where thousands died. The group was escorted to the Magistrate. There they were held until the afternoon (pending the digging of the grave). Then they were led, until heavy guard, including the “Ordnungsdienst,” to the Jewish cemetery. There they were ordered to completely undress and had to wait an additional two hours as the grave was still incomplete. Some tried unsuccessfully to escape. All the others were shot. The Jewish policemen intended to leave the cemetery but suddenly the Germans and Ukrainians surrounded them. Prior to being executed, the Jewish policemen performed a kind of military parade with salutes, standing at attention, etc, literally to the verge of the grave. Finally they, too, had to undress. Apparently their commander, the lawyer Pressler, son-in-law of Dr. Schindler, had slapped the face of the Nazi superior officer. It should be mentioned that early in the morning several Jewish policemen fled, since they felt endangered. On the next day, Dr. Schindler committed suicide.699
Throughout occupied Poland, the Jewish police played a pivotal role in the round-ups of Jews for deportation to death camps and the killing fields. Since those who participated believed that their cooperation might save them from a similar fate, recruits were not hard to find. However, the abuses they committed on their fellow Jews, such as extortion, robberies, and even rapes, are inexcusable. The testimony of a group of Jews from Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski is probably one of the most damning reports about this phenomenon.700 The Jewish police played an important role in the deportations to the death camps in October 1942 and January 1943:
On the first night of the Aktion [of October 10, 1942], the Judenrat was eliminated, and all its remaining members were absorbed into the Jewish Police, which became responsible for life and death in the quarter. …
The Germans soon realized, however, that a large number of Jews had gone into hiding or fled the ghetto during the early phases of the Aktion. With the help of I. Rubinstein, the head of former heard of the Judenrat, and also members of the Jewish Police, hundreds of Jews were assembled in the market square, after they had been lured out of hiding, on the false pretense that they would be sent to work in the Starachowice factory camp. Most of this group was sent to Treblinka.
On January 10, 1943, a second deportation Aktion was carried out, this time against the small ghetto. … The Jewish Police assisted the Gestapo in finding those Jews who had gone into hiding. On that day some 300 Jews were shot by members of the SS and the Schupo.701
“Jumpers” left the ghetto in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski to bring back some of the belongings abandoned by Jews when they were forced to move into the ghetto, considering that they were entitled to inherit ownerless Jewish property. Rubin Katz boasts of the advantage that Jewish looters had over Polish ones; the latter “didn’t know where to dig for valuables. It was only fair that we should benefit from what the Poles called ‘Jewish booty’ rather than them, or the Germans.”702
Josef Zelkowicz condemns the Jewish ghetto police in Łódź. He provides details on their motives,703 which did not include imminent fear of death or family members held as Nazi hostages. After all, Zelkowicz made the statements in September 1942,704 at which time the Jewish population of the Łódź ghetto was overwhelmingly still intact, and was to remain so for nearly another two years. Interestingly, Zelkowicz makes it clear that the German rewards to the Jewish police were strikingly similar to that given to Poles in order to get them to denounce fugitive Jews. Zelkowicz writes,
They bought the Jewish police—got them drunk, and drugged them by exempting their children from the decree ... and by giving them a kilogram and a half of bread per day—plenty of bread, plus sausage and sugar—in return for the bloodstained job. … Who should do it but the Jewish police, who in one stroke have been bought off, intoxicated, and ideationally persuaded.705
Another resident of the Łódź ghetto recalled:
Once, before one of the most dramatic shpera (curfew) in the Lodz [Łódź] ghetto, the Jewish police needed more helpers for their horrible task of selecting all the children for deportation to the death camps. They also tried to mobilize the ghetto firefighters … Everyone who agreed to participate in this criminal action would receive a big loaf of bread … Some firefighters accepted the bread and participated.706
After bribing their way out of the prison where they were being held for deportation, Seva Scheer and her brother made their way back to the Łódź ghetto. “But then a Jewish policeman showed the Germans where we were hiding, in an attic. One German had a whip and he hit my brother! … When my brother could hardly walk they took us both.” They were deported to Auschwitz.707
Dr. Leopold Lustig points out that those who joined the Order Police in Drohobycz tended to come from well-off families, rarely from the social margins, and often were prominent members if the Jewsh community.
After work, I stopped by to see Salek Welzer … His mother says, “Salek has hidden because they’re looking for him to unload potatoes.” In comes Wilek Ornstein, an ordner, former hockey-player for “Betar.” … Where’s Salek?” “I don’t know,” says Mrs. Welzer, and he hits her in the face, and raises his fist again, but I grabbed his arm from behind and twisted it. People came running so he went off. The next morning, Schönbach comes to the appellplatz. … Wilek points at me. Schönbach hits me with that signet ring and crushes my nose. That amused him. He ordered a lauspromenade, louse road, to be shaved down the middle of my scalp, so that they could keep an eye on me …
Fredzio W. went to secondary school with me. His mother died before the war. His father, a pipe-fitter by trade, muscular as a bull and incapable of speaking in a human way in any language, became one of the most dreaded ordners. When the Germans had taken away most of the Jews and didn’t need so many ordners, they led them in a formation to the cemetery and said, “We swore to you that, in recognition of your good services, you wouldn’t be taken away, so we are going to kill you on the spot.” Later the ordners’ new commandant brought Fredzio his father’s cap. “If you want to, you can put it on.” And Fredzio put it on and became an ordner. Alek Madfes, also from my gymnasium, talented, from a well-to-do family, his father was in the oil business, became an ordner after they had taken his parents away. And Mićko R.—the best soccer player in “Betar”—they took his wife, he turned his own relatives in. And Leonek Felsen, the goal-keeper … All strong, fit, in athletic condition.
There were specialists among them. Bross and Baustein knew how to find children who had been hidden and blackmail their parents. Bross had a furniture store before the war; Baustein had been a sergeant in the Austrian army in the previous war. Handsome Bronek Dauerman, black hair and blue eyes, a butcher who knew his trade, hit where it hurt the most. Poliwka, a snitch with watery eyes, watched where someone was hiding and informed Mensinger, brought in from Lwów by Hildebrand. Meszko Weiss, a pre-war street urchin, headed the Raubkommando and searched wealthy homes. They killed Imek Grunfeld’s parents and he went around bloated with hunger, so he joined Weiss.
And the intelligentsia. Yoel Holzman, an attorney, he took our Yetka to Sammelstelle. Nemlich, a refugee from the west, who taught us geography in the Soviet school. A first-rate young violinist, Galotti, who father was an Italian Jew and mother a Polish Gentile, became the first commandant of the ghetto police. … Maciek Ruhrberg, a young lawyer, unsuccessful before the war because there were too many lawyers in Drohobycz. His father-in-law, Doctor Rosenblatt, became chairman of the Judenrat and Maciek handled extortions. Educated, speaking good Polish and German, they had better access and took more. After he had robbed enough, Maciek bought himself Aryan papers and fled to Warsaw. He sported a beard and paraded there, elegant as an English lord. But the Gestapo, who had their snitches from Drohobycz in Warsaw, brought him back, beat him until he returned everything, and shot him by the fence.
Nobody else, though, enriched himself as much as Engineer Weintraub. He prepared the lists for Hildebrand—who was indispensable and who wasn’t—and he was the lord over life and death. He had his experts who knew who had dollars and valuables, because he wasn’t from Drohobycz himself, he had drifted to us. Small piggy eyes, fat face, he ate and drank with Hildebrand and Mensinger. …
Baumgarten, Weintraub’s main confidant and supplier, drank with him and the SS men. He supplied them with gold and the best boots from the artisan bootmaker, Freilich. Baumgarten had a lover, Giza Bachman, former secretary to an attorney. She knew how to blackmail people, and his son specialized in servicing beautiful married women. They believed that the world belonged to sons-of-bitches, and, indeed, it did. One of the Wiesenthal brothers—they owned a perfumery on Mickiewicz Street—was with us on Borysławska with his wife and little son. They had money. During a selection in the court, Minkus pulled their boy out. “Herr Scharführer, we need this Jew, could you make an exception?” Minkus, with his red, drunkard’s face, foamed at the mouth and put the barrel of the gun to Baumgarten’s temple, “Saujude du sollst nicht frech warden!” And afterwards they drank together again.708
The ghetto police in Wilno were a privileged class dominated by right-wing Zionists. They participated zealously in rounding up Jews during various German operations such as the mass deportations in autumn 1941, where they also acted as guards on the trains and assisted in unloading the passengers on arrival in the killing fields of Ponary, and the deportations to Estonia in the fall of 1943.709 They robbed evacuated apartments and delivered to the Lithuanian police hundreds of Jews whom they had found in hiding places.710 An eyewitness described some of the scenes she witnessed:
In the morning we heard heartrending cries from the courtyard next door. Passageways had been carved out there as was done in other courtyards between buildings. I saw Jewish policemen dragging eight women, children, and old people out of the basement on the far side of the courtyard of the building. The young men and girls resisted, would not give in to the police, and wormed their way out of it. …
One of the carriers ran in with a new communiqué: the police had sent for all doctors and nurses to assemble in the hospital courtyard. About a hundred people in white gowns were lowered down; the police surrounded them and led them to the entrance and evidently from there to the camps as well.711
Mendel Balberyszski, a ghetto resident accuses the Jewish council, in conjunction with the Jewish police, of luring Jews to their deaths.
A few days after the small ghetto was liquidated and stood empty, the Judenrat of the large ghetto announced that anyone who wanted to could move over to the liquidated ghetto and receive comfortable accommodation there. Those who rook up the offer would be permitted to take over the items left by the people who had been removed. Many Jews accepted the offer and went to the small ghetto. …
The Jewish police of the large ghetto wanted to get rid of what they termed “illegal Jews”—Jews who had no valid work permit. They were particularly interested in eliminating the older and sick people living in the provisional old-age home. The Jewish police of the large ghetto forced out old and lonely people who had no one to save them. … To drive back Jews to the small ghetto after its liquidation was one of the many cynical exercises of the Judenrat in the large ghetto. As soon as the population in the small ghetto was once more large enough for the Gestapo to become interested, they arrived and with whips and dogs dispatched the whole population to Ponary.712
Belberyszski dismisses the arguments advanced by those who justify their involvement with the police.
In time, the police force grew bigger. It established additional branches—a criminal branch and the gate police at the entrance to the ghetto—as well as a police command office, a cooperative, a public kitchen and a court.
The gate police were under the command of a young captain named Meir Levas from Kovno. He was a pathological sadist who trained his unit in his own sadistic spirit and the ghetto often suffered as a result.
The expansion of the police force reached its highest point during the summer of 1942, when the Judenrat was dissolved and the authority of the ghetto fell into the hands of [Jacob] Gens, who became the chief of police and the sole ghetto representative. At that time the police department employed more than two hundred people. Some had joined the force because they felt more secure there than anywhere else. The police also offered food and accommodation privileges. This influenced individuals to join the force as a way to survive the dark period. It should be said that many of the police did not cause any harm to the ghetto community on their own initiative. They “only fulfilled” their duty as police officers and one of their duties was to send other Jews to their death. According to their own moral understanding they were not guilty at all. They fulfilled their duties not by cooperating with the Gestapo but by order of the Jewish authorities. According to the police logic if there was any guilt in their work, the guilt was first of all of the Judenrat and at a later stage that of Gens. I heard this often in conversations with many policemen whom I had known earlier to be decent and morally honest men.
Haim Malczadski had a conscience that worried him a little. But there were many policemen who had no conscience at all. They were the ones whose power went to their heads as soon as they put on their police uniform. They used their position to live it up as much as they could, often holding drinking parties where food was served in overabundance. They used their position to become rich because they were sure that in the Jewish police uniform they would survive.
Other Jews became business people who dealt in the life and death market; still others acted as agents of the Judenrat, informers. It was known in the ghetto that Dessler had his informers while he was the contact man with the Gestapo. At a later stage these police became open traitors to the Jews of the ghetto. They used to go around and seek out the hideouts and hand the people hidden there over to the Gestapo. They were nothing less than the helpers of the Gestapo and the Lithuanians in destroying Jews.
Much Jewish blood lies on the conscience of many of the Jews who wore the police uniform in the large ghetto.713
During the liquidation of the Wilno ghetto in September 1943, a brigade of 100 fighters of the United Partisan Organization was surrounded and killed as a result of treachery by the Jewish police and a Jewish informant.714 One of the informers turned out to be a member of the Jewish underground.
The Germans left after [Jacob] Gens [the head of the Jewish council] promised that he and his policemen would bring the necessary number of workers to the gate. … the police and informers searched for Jews hiding in melinas [hideout] and brought them out by force, while the Jews hid in every conceivable corner. During those last days of the ghetto hatred for the informers and police and for those who betrayed other Jews reached its height and was later manifested in the forest: “I was running around in the ghetto and saw Lotek Zaltzwasser accompanied by police officers open a melina full of crying children and screaming others, and drag the men out,” recounted [Vitka] Kempner. … “He had once been my brother’s friend and even a member of the underground. And he betrayed and abandoned us and went over to Gens. After we went into the forest I returned, found him in hiding and brought him back with me so he might be executed, and I am proud of having done it.”715
After the liquidation of the ghetto in Wilno, in September 1943, Jews found hiding in the ruins of the ghetto were known to reveal the hiding places of other Jews in exchange for a “promise” that they (i.e., the informers) would be spared. Even after their arrival in the killing fields of Ponary, outside the city, Jews continued to reveal the hiding places of other Jews. Hundreds of Jews were betrayed and murdered.
… the Lithuanians have proven good psychologists of the Jews sentenced to death with their tactic of searching for Judases who, for the doubtful possibility of saving their own lives, have betrayed their brethren’s well-concealed hiding places.
Now the Lithuanians confirm the effectiveness of their tactic when they bring a [new] group. They separate 3–4 Jewish men and women and shoot the rest before their eyes. When it is the turn of these 3 or 4 they tell them “you will live,” but they must reveal hiding places. When one of them reveals one, he goes to the city, to the ghetto, but immediately returns and dies. At the same time a new “troika” of Judases is chosen, as in a cycle, with excellent results for the executioners and a fatal ending for the Judases.716
Jewish police from Wilno were dispatched to the labour camp in Rzesza to arrest Jews suspected of smuggling weapons into camp and brought them back to be interrogated and tortured.717 The Jewish police became so experienced in “resettlement” that the Germans would send them to adjacent ghettos to help in the “action.” The Jewish council in Wilno dispatched a squad of policemen, some 30 strong, to carry out the liquidation of ghettos in small, outlying towns.718 On October 23, 1942, the Jews of Oszmiana were driven to the assembly place by police from the Wilno ghetto accompanied by local policemen. They “selected” 200 sick and 392 elderly people; 410 were sent off to Zielonka, some 7 or 8 kilometres from Oszmiana, in previously prepared carts. They were put to death in the presence of several Wilno Jewish policemen. According to Meir Mark Dvorzhetsky, the Jewish policemen took part in the actual execution.719 A Jewish policeman from Wilno named Nika Drezin, who “betrayed melinas [hideouts] freely,” was put in charge of the ghetto in Oszmiana.720 Other Jewish policemen from Wilno who participated in the liquidation of the small ghettos in the Wilno area were Bernshtein, Natan Ring, Salek Dessler, and Meir Levas.721 At least three Gestapo agents were planted at the H.K.P. work camp in Wilno: Nika Drezin, Auberbach and Jona Bak.722
Squads of the Lwów ghetto police took part in the deportation of the inmates from ghettos in Jaworów and Złoczów in April 1943, and in a number of small ghettos in the vicinity of Lwów.723 As in many other towns, during the liquidation of the ghetto in Złoczów, a Jewish policeman by the name of Schapira led the Germans to Jewish hideouts to capture the remaining Jews.724 Jewish policemen were brought from the Kraków ghetto to assist in the deportation from the nearby town of Wieliczka.725 The Jewish police from Nowy Sącz participated in the deportation of Jews in Stary Sącz.726
The Jewish police played a pivotal role in the deportations in Eastern Upper Silesia. The round-ups in Modrzejów in March 1941 were conducted with the participation of the Judenrat and the Jewish police. As Jews came to expect further round-ups for labour camps and deportations, some created concealed hiding places in the ghetto. However, the German authorities and the Jewish police knew who was missing and searched for those in hiding, calling for them to come out.727 The Jewish police from the Sosnowiec and Będzin ghettos were dispatched to take part in “resettlements” in small ghettos in Eastern Upper Silesia such as Jaworzno in the fall of 1940, Kłobuck in June 1942, and Olkusz in June 1942.728 According to a Jewish witness, their treatment of the Jews was more brutal than the Gestapo’s. Afterwards the Jewish police ferreted out scores of Jews in well-concealed hideouts the Germans had failed to detect, and brought them to assembly points from whence they were deported to Auschwitz.729 Later on, the German employed the local Jewish police in the final clearance of the Będzin ghetto. Tusia Herzberg recalled:
In the night of 21–2 June 1943 the German police and m embers of the order police went into the Jewish homes and pulled the Jews out and brought them to a square in the ghetto. There a selection took place … The whole square was surrounded by Gestapo people …730
In addition to using local Jews, the Germans dispatched Jews from Sosnowiec to assist in the liquidation of the ghetto in Chrzanów:
The last member of the Judenrat in Chrzanow [Chrzanów], whom the Germans left behind to carry out the “technical” liquidation of the Judenrat after all the Jews of Chrzanow had been taken away to the gas chambers—this person, who watched his brothers and sisters being led away to the slaughter, followed the Germans’ command two days after the final “transfer” and demanded that the few Jews who were still hiding in attics and basements come out of their hiding places and report voluntarily to the police. He himself personally went through all the empty Jewish houses, shouting that the Jews should come out of their bunkers, that nothing would be done to them. And the few Jews who still believed him this time fell into the bestial hands of the Germans.
[Major] Lindner and his Jewish helper Moniek Merin understood this, and therefore recruited the Jewish militia to help carry out the last labor action. They didn’t even rely solely on the local Jewish militia from Chrzanow, instead bringing along some Jewish police from Sosnowiec for the purpose. In November 1941 a detachment from Sosnowiec arrived, and with true devotion to the German hangmen, they carried out their vile task. Although officially only those girls who had been assigned by the Judenrat to be taken to the labor camp were to be seized, the roundup by the Sosnowiec police turned into a general hunt for young women. The Sosnowiec militia, or “Merin’s Bodyguards” as they were called, were the equal of their German supervisors in many respects. Without second thoughts, with cynical cruelty, nearly all of them burst into Jewish homes, searching for terrified Jewish girls, dragging them out of their hiding places, and taking them to Sosnowiec and thence to the local transit camp. Afterward the young women, along with similar victims from other towns, were transported to various labor camps.731
Jewish policemen from the larger nearby towns of Sosnowiec and Olkusz were used to liquidate the ghetto in Kazimierz near Strzemieszyce. They called in the German police to assist them when things got out of control:
One night in April 1942, several “Ordners” came to our town [Kazimierz] from Sosnowiec and in the morning made a roundup for Arbeitseinsatz. However, no one was taken because the men had hidden in a nearby forest. The Ordners caught only one 10-year old boy whom they took to Sosnowiec.
In May 1942, at the same time as took place in Sosnowiec, there was a deportation. At 7 o’clock in the morning, five Jewish policemen came by vehicle from Olkusz together with a representative of the Olkusz Judenrat, a Mr. Czarnecki. The Ordners gave each Jewish family a list with specification of items which the families could take with them. The came by vehicle Ordners informed the populace that all Jews would be resettled to Strzemieszyce.
I was ordered to remain so as to guard the property of the Judenrat. Each person was allowed to take three changes of underwear, certain items of clothing as well as food. The total taken could not exceed 10 kg. Everyone had to appear by 10 in the morning near the Judenrat office for registration. Everyone reported for the registration. The person who registered us was a representative from Olkusz. After registration, the Ordners set all the people into columns and led the march by foot on the road to Strzemieszyce.
By 11 o’clock, the entire Jewish population had been removed. Only I remained there. When the column began to march, Jews began to escape across the fields. Men, women and children escaped. The Ordners couldn’t bring the situation under control. Mr. Czarnecki sent an Ordner to Kazimierz to take from there “Schupos” (German armed police).
Immediately, there arrived over a dozen “Schupos” with 4 dogs. The “Schupos” set their dogs upon the Jews and beat Jews. They shot as a deterrent and in this manner completed the column’s march.
The Ordners helped the “Schupos” in the hunting of Jews. The “Schupos” beat Jews bloodily and, with assistance of the Ordners, drove everyone to Strzemieszyce. About 50 persons escaped and weren’t caught. Among the escapees were my sister, her husband and children. Just after the column left, I packed my valise and went to railway station to go to Sosnowiec. After I had I arrived in Sosnowiec, just an hour later, an Ordner came to me and demanded I return immediately under threat of sending me together with others to Auschwitz.
The Centrale had been informed by Mr. Czarnecki of my escape. The following day I went to Strzemieszyce. In Strzemieszyce, a member of the Judenrat told me that, after assembling the Jewish people from Czarne Morze, they had all been held in a school building near the Judenrat. There, the Germans carried out a selection and left in Strzemieszyce only the young people who were working.
The remainder, together with a group of older persons and invalids from Strzemieszyce, were taken by the Schupos and assisted by Jewish Ordners, on the following Sunday morning at 10 o’clock to Dabrowa Gornicza [Dąbrowa Górnicza]. Handicapped people were taken on wagons. Some old people were afraid to sit on the wagons because they thought that they would be the first to go for extermination.
The Judenrat board ordered me to go to Dabrowa Gornicza because there a nurse was needed there. The transport of Jews from Strzemieszyce was put into the synagogue where a part of the Jewish population of Dabrowa Gornicza destined for deportation had already been gathered. Everyone assigned to deportation was held in the synagogue and an adjacent building of the Judenrat. The gathered persons were guarded by German police and Jewish Ordners. I acted there as a nurse. This transport waited three days for departure. During the entire time Jews couldn’t leave the closed two buildings (synagogue and the Judenrat building). Physiological needs were performed on the spot since it wasn’t permitted to leave the building. Jews brought buckets (of waste) out of the buildings under guard of Ordners.
The night before the transport left, several Gestapo persons, with assistance of Ordners, performed a roundup among the Jewish population so as to complete the transport’s assigned quota of victims. During the entire period the Judenrat supplied food for the guarded Jews (dinners, bread, coffee).
On Tuesday noon, the Gestapo and Ordners formed the assembled Jews into a column and marched them to the railway station. Sick persons numbering about 50 were brought in vehicles by order of the Gestapo. All the people were loaded by Germans onto railcars and taken to Oswiecim [Oświęcim] (Auschwitz). During the deportation in Dabrowa Gornicza, there were present representatives of the Centrale including Moniek Merin, Frania Czarna, Dr. Lieberman and others. I don't remember all the names.
There were also present representatives of the Strzemieszyce Judenrat such as president Flaschenberg, Laskier and others.732
In Dąbrowa Górnicza, the Jewish police assisted the Germans in deporting the Jews to Auschwitz:
On August 12, 1942, all the inhabitants of Dąbrowa were summoned to appear on Kreutzstrasse at 7:00 A.M., on the basis or orders issued by the Gestapo and the Sipo (State Police) from Katowice and Organisation Schmelt. The aim was to stamp their identity cards (the so-called Lichtbildausweise). There were between 2,500 and 3,500 Jews gathered in the yard. A witness to these events, Karol Herszkowicz, reported: “At about 100:00 A.M., Germans arrived with arms and the police with guns. There were eight of them; groups of three went to the roofs of the houses and were standing there with guns ready for use in a shooting position, while Jewish Police [Ordners] stood around the people with whips in hands.” A commission divided the people gathered there into three groups: one group was to remain in the town to work in the workshops, the second was to remain only temporarily in Dąbrowa, and the third group was to be transported to Auschwitz. As a result of the selection, about 1,500 people were deported. … an official of Organisation Schmelt based in Sosnowiec who was in charge of the Aktion, was assisted by Dreier, the military police, and the Jewish Police.733
During a round-up of Jews in Plissa near Dzisna, a policeman named Yakov helped the Germans by pointing out the places where some Jews were hiding in the ghetto.734 In Raków near Mołodeczno, Jewish policemen prepared a list of Jews and handed it over to the German police.735 In Brańsk, a Jewish policeman pointed out escaping Jews and the head of the Judenrat tracked down the hideouts of 70 Jews who had tried to avoid deportation. These Jews were then apprehended and executed by the Germans.736 According to Isaiah Trunk, the trial in Israel of David Neiman, a policeman from the Ostowiec ghetto, “gives an idea of the deplorable role the Jewish police played during the ‘resettlement’ in some of the ghettos and of the attitudes of the inmates towards them: the mere fact that a bunker became known to a Jewish policeman was enough to scare the hidden Jews and to compel them to scatter.”737
Non-police informers played a similar role in many localities:
In May 1942, there was a deportation from the nearby town of Markuszow [Markuszów]. Hundreds of Jews, tipped off by the Judenrat that they were going to be sent to death camps, fled into the forest at Wola Przybyslawsl [Przybysławska]. Many of them escaped to Kamionka. Twenty of them were recaptured when [Jewish] informers tipped off the Nazis, who ordered the local Judenrat to round them up. …
All the men and women who were rounded up that day were taken to the meadow … and shot.
One of those who escaped from Markuszow to Kamionka was Blinka Rubinstein, a beautiful, brown-haired, blue-eyed girl. When I met her later, she told me that, after being captured by the Judenrat police, she and the other Markuszow escapees had been handed over to the Polish police and the Germans. While they were standing in front of the police station, one of the Jewish informers who had tipped off the Germans walked up to her and said in Polish, “You are a Czech. Don’t say a word.” He pulled her out of the lineup and led her to a spot where she could slip away. I imagine that the informer, Moishe Klerer, did not have the heart to send such a beautiful young woman to what he knew would be certain death.738
A number of Jews, among them a painter named Brethmelt, helped the Gestapo to locate hiding places during the the deportation of Jews from the ghetto in Przemyśl.739 A bunker in which several hundred Jews took shelter was betrayed by a Jew who had been apprehended by the Germans; only two Jews managed to hide and avoid detection.740 According to another account from that city,
There was a bunker in the Ghetto that involved lifting the top of a stove and there was a staircase to go down. People were ingenious the way they built these bunkers in the Ghetto. When they discovered one, they [i.e., the Germans] would promise the people they would spare their lives if they would tell of others. They would spare their lives for a couple of hours, that was all.
So they gave away where my aunt and uncle were hidden with their children. The Germans were afraid to go down the stairs and the people would not come up. So they threw Molotov cocktails down the stairs and burned them alive.741
The Judenrat in Tłuste near Stanisławów was notorious for its thievery and misappropriated property collected for various purposes such relief for the poor and bribes for the Germans. When one of its few honest members protested, he was harassed and denounced to the Germans as an NKVD confidant.742 As Baruch Milch explains, the Jewish council worked hand in glove with the Jewish police and other collaborators:
I agreed to sit on the Judenrat before I knew what this would entail … At first I cooperated and delivered anything I could find, even wedding rings. However, after I observed some Judenrat officials cheating and pilfering, I quarreled with them and resigned. My act backfired; from that moment on they made my life was miserable. The head of the Judenrat was an acquaintance, a doctor, who retaliated at the professional level. …
My place on the Judenrat was taken by one Dr. Aberman, a quiet, polite man who showed his true colors later, during the Aktionen. Dr. Aberman aided the Jewish and the Ukrainian police in their Jew hunting, and was named the Judenälteste (chairman of the Judenrat), and exercised great cruelty. Disregarding medical ethics and his kinship with the persecuted Jewish community, he acted in ways that, he believed, would help him and his family to survive unscathed.
To command the Jewish police, the authorities appointed a vicious and mentally disturbed Jew who was an epileptic. He caused the community great suffering and with his own hands dragged his parents out of hiding at the climax of a sudden Aktion and delivered them to the killing ground in the cemetery.743
The Jewish police in Kołomyja was actively involved in policing the ghetto and rounding up Jews for deportation and execution:
Several weeks before the move into the ghetto, the Judenrat began to recruit the A.D. [Ordnungsdienst or Jewish police], and in order to be a member of the A.D., money or influence was needed. People believed that membership in the A.D. would give them a better chance of going out from the ghetto more easily and thus enable them to provide their families with all they needed in order to survive. And by then each Jew had already suffered great need and hunger. People had also heard from other cities where ghettos had been established earlier that the Jewish police had earned a lot of money. The members of the A.D., however, had abused their power. They were supposed to watch the ghetto gates. But they used to help the Ukrainian police search the Jews when the Jews came back from work in the evening. They searched to see if the Jews had hidden a little bit of food in their clothes for their families in the ghetto. And since each worker, out of great need, was forced to “smuggle,” the A.D. extorted from him a portion of the food or all of the food, or a cash payment. The A.D., also took away or, better said, robbed the Jews who were taken away of their remaining possessions; they could step out of the ghetto without being stopped and trade or sell the items. They also helped the Gestapo in the time of the “actions”.
In the ghetto there still remained several hundred people. (When the ghetto was established, there were over eighty thousand, including those from the surrounding areas.) Some held that there were still 700 people in the ghetto and others said there were 1200 people. No more searches were carried out. Whoever could do so lived in hiding. Mostly, these were old people and children.
Four days after the Hallerbach action, the Judenrat received the order to shoot 500 old people. This time the Gestapo did not come to the action. It was given over to the Jewish A.D. to carry out and the A.D. copied their masters very well. Without pity, every hiding place was torn down. And if they couldn’t find the hidden ones, they forced the sons and the daughters to give up their parents. And if the daughters refused to reveal the hiding place, took the mothers and their children to the slaughter. Shameful bargaining began. Sons bought back their mothers or fathers for several hundred dollars. They took the money and in place of an old one, they sent a young life, a child. For the required number of corpses had to be correct. There were also situations where someone took the ransom money, freed the old person, and soon told another A.D. about the hidden one, and the second one took the victim since there was no money left to buy back the person one more time. Every day they needed new victims. The childrens’ action came right after the action against the old people which had lasted several days. It was claimed that the homeless and orphaned children were not productive and were a burden upon the city. So they all have to be put to death.
The A.D. also took care of this work. They did not only search for homeless and orphaned children. That would be too much trouble for them. Wherever they saw a child, they put an end to him. In some cases, if the parents had money, they were able to buy back the child. They brought the children to the prison, just as they had done with the old people.744
The Jewish police in Tarnopol was indispensable in uncovering hideouts built by the Jews. According to one Jewish witness, “if not for the treacherous Jewish militia, it would have taken the Germans ten years to discover these hideouts.” The Jewish police “throughout the night … plundered [evacuated Jewish] homes” and was also “rewarded for its efficient service with monetary bonuses of 50 złotys … and those with stars received boots, pants, etc.” from the booty that had been gathered from the victims.745 A diary penned during the war as these events were occurring is particularly vivid and scathing. Aryeh Klonicki devotes his harshest criticism to the Judenrat and the Jewish ghetto police, and does so as an eyewitness. He faults them for beating Jews, for taking all the Jews’ valuables for themselves, for enriching themselves through the taking of bribes, and even of throwing Jewish children out of windows.746 Klonicki assigns, first the foremost, the role of “greedy” people helping themselves to the belonging of the Jews to the Jewish ghetto police. He comments,
But the main source of profit offered itself during the “actions” against the Jews, when the policemen would rummage amongst the clothes of the dead, extracting dollars and other valuables.
Here you have a new chapter in the history of our martyrdom: The descent of Jewish morals to their lowest depths. Do not think for a moment that distress has ennobled our souls. The very contrary is true.747
Clearly, this repulsive conduct was the result of severe wartime demoralization. Robbing the dead was not the characteristic of any specific nationality.
The Jewish police from Tarnopol gained notoriety in surrounding towns, where they were deployed in various operations. In Czortków, the Order Police from Tarnopol took part in the deportations to the death camps.748 A survivor from Rohatyn writes: “Jewish police from Tarnopol came to Rohatyn and behaved as badly as the Germans.”749 After the Germans decreed that Jews turn in their gold and silver, “several Jewish traitors” accompanied the Border Guard when they made their rounds in Skała Podolska, looting Jewish houses in search of gold and silver.750 Since the Judenrat was finding it increasingly difficult to collect the required number of labourers, the Jewish police, with the help of the Ukrainian police, began to forcibly remove people from their homes and assembled them for shipment to a labour camp. The Jewish police then patrolled the streets searching for more Jews to include in the contingent.751
An account from Skałat states that Jewish policemen from Tarnopol participated in helping the Germans search for Jews in hiding.
The town of Skalat [Skałat] was to have been declared Judenfrei following the mass murder during the “Sobbing Graves” ‘action’ in April 1943. However, since a sufficiently large number had managed to hide, an order came from Tarnopol permitting the surviving Jews to return to the ghetto. Again they were told that they would be permitted to live there peacefully. Most importantly, they were to maintain their strength and sanitation, as they would still be needed as laborers. To encourage them further to believe that they would not be killed, the Tarnopol Gestapo sent down ten Jewish policemen, led by one Aba Tennenbaum, assigned to maintain Law and Order and, at the same time, to serve as tools in the execution of the Germans’ plan.
The Jewish police from Tarnopol exerted themselves to instill calm and to persuade the people that as long as they were around there would be no new slaughters. This time, however, no one believed them. Every evening, an exodus would begin. As night came on, people sought out lodgings among the Gentiles or crept stealthily into barns and stables to spend the night. At dawn, learning that all was quiet in the town; they would return to the ghetto, only to roam again the next night. …
The ghetto was emptied of many people every night. … The police searched the empty houses during the nights, taking whatever they liked of the furnishings, and also taking the opportunity to note down suspected hiding places or bunkers.
Generally, the Jewish police from Tarnopol behaved abominably. In addition to maintaining close relations with the officials of the local camp and with the Germans, they engaged in drunken revelry, robbery and rape.752
A Jewish witness recalled conditions in the ghetto in Zbaraż near Tarnopol shortly before its liquidation:
The better nourished Jewish militia members suddenly acquired a maximum of 130 new recruits. This event reinforced our fear that mass executions would soon be implemented. Mr. Gruenfeld, the despicable collaborator, knew precisely what the Nazi masters expected him to achieve. The local Jews feared his presence as much as that of the SS overlords. … German SS soldiers, Ukrainian militiamen, and the Jewish auxiliary police made sure that we poor devils would not succeed in escaping our predetermined destiny. 753
A survivor from Mikulińce near Tarnopol recalled:
The Germans kept rounding up and sending us away to hard labor. … There was also a Jewish Militz [militia] which used to escort us to and from the labor sites, and also to our execution. Some Jewish militiamen were worse than the Germans. Not one of them survived.754
According to an account from Radzyń Podlaski,
The most inhuman order of all consisted of providing a number of Jewish people for extermination before a certain date. For Lichtenstein and Gruenblatt [who stood at the head of the Judenrat] in Radzyn [Radzyń]—and others in other cities—their punishment was the task of deciding who would die sooner, and who later. … Money, kinship, friendships and other relationships with these two men were the decisive factor for one’s resettlement. Some judgments were postponed, but more were annulled.
It is no wonder that these two men who had the absolute power of life and death over the Jews of Radzyn were feared and hated by everyone. …755
In the nearby town of Międzyrzec Podlaski, the Jewish police and informers struck fear into the hearts of those Jews who still survived the deportation. In May 1943, relying on Jewish informants to locate ghetto bunkers, members of Reserve Police Battalion 101, Ukrainian SS auxiliaries, and the Radzyń SS demolished walls to uncover hidden Jews.756
Miedzyrzec [Międzyrzec] was a collecting point for Jews for the whole area. … At this time there was no Judenrat, no administration, only a brutal Jewish police force which was known to cooperate with the Gestapo. …
Every few weeks people were deported from Miedzyrzec, usually to Treblinka. The first task for arriving Jews was, therefore, to build bunkers and underground hide-outs. …
The Jewish police, including its agents and informers, distinguished itself by its brutality. …
An Aktion against the Jews … It was like hunting wild animals. The police were the beaters and the SS the hunters. …
About 25 men, women and children were in our bunker. … We were in the bunker for two days and two nights when we heard a new wave of attacks on our house. …
Just when we thought that the search was over, the Nazis reappeared, this time at the toilet entrance to our bunker which we had considered absolutely safe. Later we learned that they had discovered a neighboring bunker and were given the location of our hide-out by a young man who knew something about it. Under the threat of smoking us out with grenades, they ordered us to leave the bunker immediately. …
We crept out of the bunker with raised hands. … In 1947, in Marburg and [sic] der Lahn, I recognized the man who had revealed our hiding place. I found no reason to reproach him at this time, but I did not want to talk to him either.757
After the Aktion, Lubicz, a longtime SS informant, was named the “ghetto commander.” He recruited a Jewish police force that turned over unregistered fugitives to the German gendarmerie. These Jews were shot.758 Lubicz persuaded the Germans to strip and search Jewish deportees to death camps in order to confiscate their valuables. Afterwards, he looted some of the valuables that had been seized from a storehouse. When the Germans found out, Lubicz pinned the deed on other Jews who were promptly executed. Lubicz demanded bribes to allow Jews to remain in secure positions, and personally captured Jewish fugitives. Lubicz’s wife, by the name of Tysz, used to organize orgies in the ghetto for the Germans. After some Jewish partisans issued a death sentence against him, Lubicz helped the German gendarmerie organize a raid in which four partisans were killed.759
Similarly, when some Jews who had escaped the deportations and other towns arrived in Łosice, tipped off, the Germans conducted searches throughout the ghetto and excuted all the escapees they found.760 On occasion, there were retaliations against informers and looters. In Łosice,
Soon after the deportation, the gendarmes announced that the large ghetto was off-limits. Anyone found there without permission would be shot. The Germans wanted to prevent looting, since they considered any abandoned belongings to be Reich property. However, the inhabitants of the small ghetto, who worked in teams to “clean” dwellings in the old ghetto, had been pilfering long before that. … several people were murdered [by the Germans] for attempting to steal confiscated property that had already been placed in storage.761
After one of the last deportations in the Białystok ghetto in February 1943, looting and denunciations abounded. The Judenrat published a list of 35 ghetto residents who were caught looting abandoned Jewish homes. They were detained for a few weeks and lost their work permits.762
The Germans, aware that they were having less success in rounding up the Jews with each successive day, tried a new tactic—encouraging people to inform by granting them immunity from deportation. Each informer would be issued with a document stating “Dieser Jüden verräter ist befreit von Transport” (This Jewish traitor is exempt from the transport). Dozens of people chose to save their lives by becoming turncoats: “Three soldiers go by led by an old woman—a mayserte [Yiddish for “informer”]. Five Germans are led by a young lad—a moyser [“informer”]. They make a beeline for places no one would have suspected of hiding people, and expose their wretched inhabitants.”
This tactic, which resulted in the exposure of hundreds of Jews, caused a moral degeneration in the ghetto. … The few dozen informers in the Białystok ghetto were responsible for hundreds of deaths, and the Germans were pleased with the results of this tactic.
Looting was another phenomenon that ate away at the moral fabric of the ghetto. People left their hiding places at night, entered abandoned apartments, and took food, property, and silver. Most of the looters were members of the underworld, but some were honest people driven to this extreme by poverty and hunger. The Judenrat put up a notice threatening heavy penalties for looting, but the temptation was too great, and few heeded the warning.763
On Saturday, February 13, 1943, a day after the end of the aktion, the Germans erected a gallows near the Judenrat building and hanged three Jews for looting empty apartments. On the same day, the ghetto Jews began hunting for informers. The hunt continued for about a month: “They are hunting down informers and beating them to death. One has only to point to an informer, for hundreds of people to set upon him. … They have already hanged three informers and lynched another three. They are thrown on to wagons while still breathing and taken to the cemetery. The police turn a blind eye to what’s going on.” The Judenrat also condemned the informers, and on February 19, it published a list of thirty-five ghetto residents “who in those dark days, looted empty or abandoned apartments. Most of them received two or eight weeks in jail, or open-ended prison sentences, and had their work permits permanently confiscated. Among those arrested were the Yudowsky brothers, who moved to Białystok after the aktion in Słonim. Rumor had it that even in Słonim they had been Gestapo agents. In Białystok, they were exempt from wearing the yellow patch and roamed freely through the city, terrorizing both the Jews and the Poles. During the aktion, the Yudowsky brothers denounced Jews to the Germans and took every opportunity to extort money from the Jews. … after the aktion, Yaakov Feyerman, of the underground shot one of the brothers, but only wounded him. This incident, which created a furor within the Gestapo, was exploited by the Judenrat to show up the Yudowsky brothers in their true colors. The Germans arrested them and their families, and later shot them.764
Another report on the 200-strong Jewish police force in the Białystok ghetto states:
Unlike the Judenrat clerks, the Police members were paid regular salaries. “The first wave of the people who joined the ghetto police were criminals. A group called ‘The Black Hand’ terrorized and blackmailed people. They were purged, however, and the second wave of joiners were the members of the intelligentsia, a lot of mama’s boys who believed it was safer than doing other work,” recalled Charles Zabuski (Zabuski and Brott 1996). Contrary to this view, Lipa A. described the Jewish police as “the best young people in the ghetto” (HVT-1842). Although seemingly contradictory, these two statements are not mutually exclusive. Among the first wave of recruits to the Jewish police were Pfenigstein, who served as the police superintendent, and Grisha Zelikowicz, a low ranking serviceman. Both actively engaged in extortion, blackmailing of rich Jews and informing on ghetto inhabitants to the Gestapo. Pfenigstein, who acted independently, was neutralized rather quickly and killed by his German masters who did not look favorably on his clandestine attempts to amass personal wealth (Bender 2008). Zelikowicz and his collaborators in the Jewish police turned out to be a more serious threat because they had an ambition to gain control over the Judenrat financial department and probably even to oust Barasz. However, Zelikowicz was also outsmarted by Barasz and his allies, and ended up in the Gestapo jail. Yet, even Zelikowicz, who was considered “the most negative personality in the ghetto,” even by people whom he assisted, was capable of compassion when it came to people he knew. The father and the sister of Lipa A. were among the deportees to Prużany. Lipa’s mother, who was friends with Zelikowicz’s sister tried to bribe him to obtain the family return to Białystok. Zelikowicz helped and refused payment for his efforts (HVT-1842).
The mosrim (literally “givers away” in Hebrew and Yiddish) became the plague of the Białystok ghetto during the February Aktion because they were extremely effective in discovering the hideouts. “Three soldiers are going with an old lady—an informer. Five Germans—a lad leads them—an informer,” wrote Mordechai Tenenbaum (Tenenbaum-Tamaroff 1984). As a compensation for their services, the Germans gave the informers a document stating that “this Jewish traitor is exempt from the transport” (Bender 2008). The fear of the mosrim was so high that when Jack R. and his friend went out of their hideout to search for food and accidentally discovered a bunker with hiding Jews, the people in this bunker wanted to kill them. Their lives were spared only because among the people in the bunker was a lady from Jack R.’s hometown, who knew his family (HVT-1516).
After the Aktion, a witch hunt started in the ghetto and informers or suspected informers were lynched by the outraged mobs. “It was a death penalty” if someone betrayed a hideout, recalled Avraham K. (HVT-3639). Some informers were identified by the members of the Jewish police, who could walk freely around the ghetto during the Aktion and therefore saw the mosrim at work (HVT-1842). However, it was “enough to walk on the street and someone would call you an informer from behind to be killed. No one asked, no one interrogated. Just kicked them to death” (HVT-3639). A friend of Avraham K. killed his girlfriend after discovering that she betrayed a hideout to the Germans. “He was from a family of butchers, so he just took out a knife and killed her” (HVT-3639). Zvi Yovin was a teenager at that time and he vividly remembered taking part in the lynchings (OHD-110(11)). The graves of the mosrim were desecrated (OHD-110(22)).765
The Jewish underground in Białystok was also infiltrated by agents working for the Jewish police, who then carried out raids on their premises. One of them, a certain Aleks, was later killed by Jews who left the ghetto for the forests.766
The ghetto lay behind a high, thick wire fence with a single gate, where a [German] gendarme stood with a Jewish policeman. Like mushrooms after rain, young men with truncheons appeared, recruited by the Judenrat. They had blue ribbons on their caps and armbands on their sleeves. With their sergeants, officers and police chiefs, they kept order with a firm hand. Initially considered “Purim police,” they slowly turned into the lackeys of the gendarmes and later, when the ghetto was liquidated, were traitors to the people and faithful servants of the Gestapo. The people could “smell” them and hated them, not because Jews did not like order, but because people sensed that they were synonymous with Hitler’s rule.
Like faithful dogs, they stood at the barrier, standing and taking money to turn a blind eye to every Jew smuggling in a pound of potatoes, grain, flour or other vital commodity. For them, the gate was a source of blackmail, bribes and a life of comfort. They wallowed in prosperity at the expense of their hungry brothers. …
Then rumors spread about the liquidation of Ghetto No. 1—that the deportations would begin and soon Grodno would be Judenrein. …
The ghetto police went from house to house in precise accordance with the lists, gathering the victims in the Great Synagogue. People went there, resigned, laden with rucksacks and baskets, holding their children by the hand or carrying them in their arms. Thousands of people were crammed into the narrow space, standing on their feet for hours on end, in their own urine, unable to move a limb …
The “redeemers” arrived early next morning in the form of Ukrainians and [German] gendarmes who, on their last march to the station, chased the masses along with wooden clubs. The [Jewish] police tried to seize me and my little family for deportation. The evening was restless. Station workers returned to the ghetto, and told us that 40 empty railway wagons stood ready on the siding. The workers who did night work were not allowed out of the ghetto. …
Then, of all places, my brother, Shlomo Reizer found a hiding-place in the synagogue attic. …
The Angel of Death enjoyed himself in the ghetto, and everyone felt his eerie breath. He filled the littele streets, the cellars and attics. The [Jewish] police were extraordinarily active, searching everywhere with electric lamps and tapping the walls with hammers to see of they were hollow. The Gestapo warned them that if a sufficient number of victims were not assembled by morning, they themselves would be packed up with their wives, brides and children.
People paid great sums of gold for an hour of life—especially when the Gestapo told the police that no harm would come to them, that they would let them live. The policemen worked like angels of destruction to save their own lives. They discovered one hideout after another, from which the stench of nitrogen poured forth. They discovered people with weak nerves who could not stand it, who went mad, dancing, jumping, clapping their hands and singing. (The police took those people to a place where the Gestapo finished them off at a stroke.) …
The following morning they “sniffed out” our hiding-place and we had to disappear. … There was a well-camouflaged little brick door 30 centimeters square in a brick enclosure, and it moved on iron hinges. Judenrat officials had prepared it for themselves. …
The Gestapo and the [Jewish] police were still rampaging in the strets and deported about 6,000 people.767
Survivor accounts from Bełchatów, a small town near Łódź, illustrate a number of factors at play in the destruction of the Jewish community such as denunciations and intrigues among the Jews themselves. The assault on the Jews was led by the local ethnic Germans (or Volksdeutschen) and the German military, with the Jewish council and Jewish police being coopted as needed, including for the final liquidation of the Jewish community.
While marching in, they [the German military] lit fire to a portion of the town, especially the Jewish part. … The German baker’s son … was giving signals to the German military. Immediately, as he was doing this, the Germans began to throw firebombs on the Jewish part of the town, and was later said that this was organized by the local Germans … The robbing of the Jewish homes was carried out by the local Germans … unashamedly in the open.
The local Germans took a great part in these sadistic actions. Especially prominent were the Belchatower Germans, Willer and Bretkreitz, and Dolke from Zelow [Zelów]. … The Germans considered it their patriotic duty to every day to find Jews whom they could “honor” with beatings. … And anyone who wanted to [could] beat the Jews; 10-11 year old little German boys, tugged at elderly Jews and beat them.
In the beginning, when the Germans first arrived in Belchatow, all the positions were filled with Folks-Germans, [Volks-Deutschen, ethnic Germans living outside of Germany] … They filled the positions in the city administration, in the police force, and as commissars over Jewish fortunes. In time, however, Reich-Germans [Reischs-Deutschen] took their places.
Smuggling and illegal dealings grew, because between Belchatow and Piotrkow [Piotrków Trybunalski] was the border between the German Reich and the General Gouvernement. Textiles were smuggled out of Belchatow, and leather and other articles were brought in. The persons engaged in this knew that their lives were in danger, but they had no other choice. Starvation forced them into it. The majority of their earning they had to give to the bribed gendarmes. They were dealing with all kinds of extortionists and blackmailers. They too had to be cut in. The Jewish police, Shmuel Jakubowicz’s gang, also had to be bribed. Then a battle started between the richer and the poorer smugglers. The wealthier smugglers, who had the greater wherewithal with which to bribe the gendarmes, helped to liquidate the poorer ones. The smuggling took place only at night after police hours. They took a sack or a backpack on their shoulders and, with careful steps, slipped through the fields and meadows to the border. Others would be waiting to get the merchandise from them, Jews or Christians from Piotrkow and surrounding areas. Also waiting for them were German border guards with bloodhounds.
The role that the Judenrat played in Belchatow during the German occupation was the same in all the cities of Poland: they obediently fulfilled all the German commands and even, in certain cases, collaborated. Often, they voluntarily told the German officials and the Gestapo what was going on among the Jews. The majority of those in the Judenrat and the Jewish police were people with no integrity, who sought a way to make a living by selling out the impoverished masses.
The Judenrat aided the German government in a series of actions against the Belchatower Jews. This was in the effort to deport Jews to the camps in Poznan [Poznań] in August 1941, as well as creating a list of very sick people, who were also deported.
The other members of the Judenrat, who remained until the end, assisted the Germans in the liquidation of the Jews of Belchatow.
The role of the Jewish police in Belchatow was absolutely no different than the role of the police in other occupied cities. The Jewish police obediently fulfilled all the German orders.
The Jewish Police in Belchatow was created and confirmed by the German government on the 15th of October 1940. A young criminal element found its way into the Jewish police, which blackmailed the smugglers, and squeezed sums of money out of the Jews by beatings, persecution, and the like. Also to be found in the Jewish police were young citizens, who had the money to bribe the individual members of the Jewish police. From [others’] misfortunes, they made an easy living for themselves and wangled their way out of forced labor camps. These were people with weak moral resistance and who, of course, did everything precisely as the German government told them to. Among the Jewish policemen, there were almost no proletarian elements, except for someone like Note Szpigelman, who, even before the war, had been thrown out of the proletarian ranks for embezzlement. The Jewish police in Belchatow consisted of 33 persons. These are their names: Yisroel Baum; Avraham Bogdanski; Hershl Bram; Yakov Galetski; Yechiel Fishl Dichtwald; Leybish Zuchowski; Szame Grinberg (who for a certain time was also on the Judenrat); Avraham Meyer Goldberg (khmal[?]); Moshe Goldblum; Shimon; Josef Goldberg; Hershel Jakubowicz; Moshe Klug (who was also a member in the Judenrat); Yankel Lipszyc; Moshe Mendel Lipman; Fishl Levi; Kive Lipmanowicz; Yakov-Mendel Lejb; Tuvia Machabanski; Yitzhak Miller; Wolf Przemyslawski; Lejb Rozencwajg; Itzik Sztrauch; Note Szpigelman; Moshe Wielniwicz; Itik Wishniewski; Henoch Zuchowski; Ber Markowicz; Melech Galster (also a member of the Judenrat); and Berish Grinberg. The latter was the wagon worker in the Poznan Camp and distinguished himself by beating the Jews and taking their food away from them. In addition there were: Jakob Sztern, Mendel Dzialowski, and Berish Piula. The latter, along with his brother, played a shameful part in the Poznan Camps. He was a camp “kapo” and beat [the Jews] black and blue. Many Jews became crippled because of him. He was responsible for the deaths of many people, who were sent to the crematoria because of him. The Belchatower police distinguished itself by assisting the Germans in the rounding up of Jews in the aktsion [action] of April, 1942. Together with the Germans, they went down into the cellars and up into the attics to search for hidden Jews. At that time, they succeeded in dragging another 400 Jews out of their hiding places. These Jews were sent out to be liquidated.
The Judenrat also helped in this evacuation.
In the beginning of 1942 the Germans arrested 16 Belchatow Jews, as so called “plotters”. Ten of them were hung … the Jewish police, in the accompaniment of the gendarmes, brought the 10 Jews who had been designated to be hung. They all were with bound hands.
At the beginning of June 1942, Jews were once again required to gather in the courtyard of Klug’s factory. Having learned from the previous “resettlements,” the Jews were not as quick to report. They hid in cellars, in attics, in the woods. The Germans wreaked havoc: they shot a woman named Gliksman; they shot Lewkowicz, Zerach Cymberknap, all to no avail. The Jews did not come out of hiding. If it hadn’t been for the Jewish police, who were assisting the gendarmerie [German police] in their search and pointing out the hiding places, the Germans would not have accomplished much on their own. At that time, the Germans succeeded in dragging 400 Belchatow Jews to the Poznan camps. It was seldom that anyone taken away ever returned home. In the rare case that someone did succeed in escaping and returning [home], Jewish informants collaborating with the Gestapo turned him in.
In fact this matter presented itself differently: the abovementioned Yecheskel Zwierszynski escaped from the Poznan Camps, returned home and hid in various places. On the evening that he was shot, he was actually at home. Someone let the Germans know, and they came right into his house. He was not shot in the German cemetery, but while he was trying to jump out of the window.
In the Poznan Camps, the Germans utilized a group of Belchatower criminal youths. They were installed as “kapos” [inmates in charge of work teams in a camp] and “stube-dienst” [“chamber-service”—inmates in charge of a chamber]. Because of their cruelty, these underworld people were absolutely no different than the German beasts. The Belchatower hairdresser, Szwarcberg, worked as a “feldsher” [an old-time barber-surgeon] in the Nekla Camp. He was the expert on all illnesses. He has hundreds of deaths on his conscience. He is guilty in the death of Fradl Wolfowicz’s youngest son, who died at work. He is also guilty in the death of old Szjtnicki and his son Moshe. He sent people to work with broken ribs, with bones broken in two by beatings. A second kapo, Berish Fila, beat people violently. He broke people’s hands and feet and then turned his victims over to the Germans to be sent to Auschwitz. He himself survived the war and wound up in Germany in the American Zone … [The following] distinguished themselves as murderers: Mayorek Nus, Melech Krawitski, Berish Grinberg, and Avraham Pila. They took everything that they owned away from the Jews of Belchatow, every package of produce that came from home. The unfortunate camp prisoners had to share every bite with them. They were the masters of the inmates’ lives and deaths. Whoever tried to oppose them was reported and recommended for transportation to Auschwitz as having sabotaged the work effort. These louts broke the bones of Avraham Lipsycz and Asher Jakubowicz, because they didn’t want to give away their food. Asher Jakubowicz died of these wounds while at work; Avraham Lipsycz was turned over for transportation to Auschwitz. The starvation in the camps was so impossible to endure that, ignoring the fact that people in the camps knew that stealing was punishable by shooting or hanging, they nevertheless tried to steal whatever they could and at least once be sated. For stealing a few potatoes in the Poznan-Wronczyn Camp, Yerachmil Szwarcberg, Welwel Walder, and two other Belchatower Jews, whose names are uncertain, were hanged. One of the four hanged succeeded in extricating himself from the noose on the gallows and was still alive, but the Germans shot him. Also hanged for trying to escape was Avraham Liszczanowski.
The liquidation of the rest of the Jews who remained in Belchatow began on the 11th of August 1942, at 6 o’clock in the morning. The whole town was locked in and surrounded by newly arrived killing squads and the local German gendarmes and police force. All of those who had tried the previous night to escape to Piotrkow were, for the most part, shot. The women, Zuchowski and Pilakowicz, were killed as they tried to escape into the woods. Hans Biebow, the hangman of the Lodz [Łódź] Ghetto, led the liquidation. He brought with him a division of the Lodz Jewish “Special Police” [SonderPolizei]. The local Jewish Belchatow police also helped. First thing in the morning, Itche Winter came into the tailor’s factory and removed the Jewish policemen, who guarded the factory, and gave them the job of gathering all the old and sick people together on Zelower Road. There cars with Gestapo were already waiting for them and took them immediately to the Chelmno [Chełmno] death camp. These were the first victims. Thus started the final liquidation of the Jews in Belchatow.
After work, there was a repeat of everything that occurred yesterday. Once again we had to undress naked while being beaten. The second night we were sent to sleep in Machel Piotrkowski’s house. On the first floor the brutes were sleeping, the Jewish Police from Lodz.
[In August 1942] … a group of police from the Lodz Ghetto, that Biebow had brought with him to liquidate the Jews of Belchatow. A lot of Jewish policemen also helped to rob for themselves. … The Germans required 25 benches to be brought and all 25 men had to lie down upon them. The Jewish police from the Lodz Ghetto lashed out upon them for so long, until the Germans told them to cease.768
Groups of rich smugglers established themselves, and they competed, fought, and informed on one another. The Jewish merchants and workers paid dearly to the German police, to the Jewish smugglers, and to extortionists. … A number of cases against groups of smugglers were adjudicated in the special court that was established in Lodz. In July 1941, based on the testimony of a Jewish detective, six Jews from Belchatow, who wanted to cross General Government border, were arrested in the fields of Dobrzelow [Dobrzelów]. The aforementioned court sentenced them to 1½ years of hard labor (read: death).
In August 1941 the deportations to labor camps commenced. Approximately 2000 men assembled in the yard. Jewish and German police guarded the fence and gate. … This time also, the wealthy Jews redeemed themselves with money.
The Belchatow Judenrat’s goings-on were tumultuous. The continuous interference of the German authorities with regards to the Judenrat’s composition, the number of members, caused the constant substitution of persons, imprisonment, and even the death of a number of the Judenrat chairmen. The source of this interference—as was the source also in other settlements, for example in Pabianice—was jealousy and conflict in the Jewish community, between groups and cliques, and, understandably, also informing to the German authorities as a result of these relationships. The opponents and the Judenrat members, that since they could not attain any standing in the pre-war Kehilla, now they were making careers. They also accused them of laziness, passivity, corruption, and gaining wealth at the expense of the community, by tattling to the Nazis and by cooperating with them to the detriment of the Jews.
A Jewish police force was established in Belchatow. … About 30 men served in the Jewish police … The pre-war Left argued that the police were underworld persons and licentious petty bourgeois that obtained their positions by bribing the Judenrat. There were members of the proletariat among the Jewish police. The public accused them of Jewish persecution, of accepting smugglers’ bribes, of taking ransom from persons that were freed from being sent to work, of aiding the Germans during the destruction of the settlement, of capturing hidden Jews and sending them off to their deaths. Some say that, in the Poznan [Poznań] camps, some of these Jewish police served as Kapos.
On Purim (March 18, 1942), a public hanging of ten Jews took place by the order of the Gestapo, with the official reason given: in order that the smugglers should see and fear. … All the Jews were brought to the courtyard near the synagogue, were lined-up in fives, and were brought to the hanging place. The German policemen, with readied machine guns at hand, surrounded the masses of people. … At ten o’clock German and Jewish police brought the condemned, handcuffed.
The final destruction of the Jewish settlement in Belchatow started on August 11, 1942. … By German orders, the entire Jewish police force was mobilized. They were ordered to gather to Zelow street all of the elderly, children, and sick, and from there they were transported by wagon to the Chelmno [Chełmno] death camp. … To these deportees were added also hidden Jews, who were uncovered in the interim. During these three days, those Jews that were chosen to clean up the quarter and to gather the Jewish possessions returned to the synagogue, and there they were strip-searched and their bags were searched. This work was done by the Jewish policemen that were sent from the Lodz [Łódź] ghetto. This work continued for a number of days, and thereafter these men were deported …769
As we can see from these accounts, Poles played no role in these events. The Germans utilized the Jewish leadership and police to carry out the “Final Solution” in Bełchatów. Some Jews were able to live relatively well during those times because of their lucrative black market activities, and others were able to survive at the expense of fellow Jews. Groups of smugglers took goods from Bełchatów, which was incorporated into the Reich, to the city of Piotrków, which was “across the border” in the Generalgouvernment, where they could be sold at a very high profit.
Despite ghettoization and a climate of dark despair, “the Hafts found themselves prospering as never before.” The “smuggling ring” of Harry’s older brother, Aria, supplied the family “with more money than they could ever spend. Their small house was filled with food … not just bread and potatoes, but meats and fruits and candies …” Harry’s girlfriend, Leah, was the daughter of another local family prominent in the black market. …
Harry was first transported by bus to Poznan [Poznań], where the Nazis immediately sought to recruit a group of Jews who would help them maintain discipline. “The local Jewish criminals and bullies,” Haft writes, “saw an opportunity to save their own skins.” Later, Harry noticed that he “knew most of the Jewish cops as petty thieves from Belchatow.” Ironically, Harry’s lot improved in Poznan where he regularly engaged in burglary “in exchange for food and some protection.”770
The same held true for other ghettos such as Piotrków Trybunalski, where the Germans relied on the Jews themselves to help run and then liquidate the ghetto:
The newly established Jewish Militia (“Order-Keeping Police,” or Ordnungsdienst, OD for short) was relentless in its attempts to implement the rules laid down by the German authorities. The militia’s duties included the task of supplying workers for the Nazi war machine, most of the time forcibly. Also, a new breed of informers laid the foundation for distrust and fear among families and the best of friends. … the informers delivered “violators” to the Seventh Bureau.
My grandfather’s second cousin on his mother’s side, Josele Lazar, was a man of considerable influence at the Gestapo headquarters. … Many Jews who were in the servitude of the Nazis adopted the latter’s mannerisms in their attempt to please their masters. Thus, most of the OD members made every effort to dress and carry themselves with the arrogance characteristic of their masters.
… we huddled behind curtained windows each night as we watched our neighbors and friends being driven away from their homes. The Gestapo officer’s voice could be heard throughout the neighborhood as he announced, “You are being resettled! Come out into the street immediately! …”
People filed out of their homes onto the street. … Neighbors were quickly rounded up and herded through the streets in orderly columns. The Jewish Militia was on its exemplary behavior as it aided the SS mercenaries in completing their task.
The remaining ghetto population of some six thousand, save those performing forced labor at the two glass factories, assembled on the streets of the ghetto. The Nazis planned the Aktion to the minutest detail. Aided by the surrogate Lithuanian and Ukrainian SS as well as by the Jewish OD, they combed all of the abandoned dwellings. Anyone found inside was summarily shot, their bodies dumped unceremoniously on the sidewalks.771
Meanwhile, the people who had remained hidden in their houses outside the Small Ghetto filtered back in. Those several hundred “illegals” were of concern to Warszawski [a Judenrat member] and his aides, who feared that the clandestine influx might provoke a further selection. Indeed, soon the Germans began intensive searches assisted by the Jewish police. The search uncovered several hundred Jews, including entire families. They were incarcerated in the Great Synagogue. Here, the murderers committed brutal atrocities with satanic pleasure. They carried infants out of the building, smashed their heads, and hurled their bodies into basin heaters over bonfires. The first group of people was sent by horse carriages to nearby Tomaszów Mazowiecki, where the deportations to Treblinka were still going on.772
Another witness from Piotrków recalled:
The ugliest part of our predicament was that we had some informers in our midst. There was Josek Szwartz from Litewska Street, who would denounce rich Jews to the Gestapo. They, in turn, usually liquidated the informers after their information was exhausted. The worst stool pigeon of them all was Joine Lewi. Before the war, he was a furrier and used to partake in amateur theatres. What was happening to some of our people? He associated himself with William of the Schutzpolizei. William was the “phantom” of the ghetto. He would come in with his big German shepherd dog and terrorize the ghetto population. Aside from robbing people at will, he would say to his dog: “Man, get that dog.” (meaning the Jew). His dog, trained to attack, would hunt Jewish man or child, bite the victims and tear their clothing. We had informers—beside our own—refugees from other towns. We had to be careful and watch out for them.
Soon the small ghetto began to get crowded.