| On November 4,  Szymon Warszawski, our Judenrat chairman ordered all “illegals” to come out of their hiding places to be registered. He promised to obtain for them legal status in the small ghetto. Most of them came out of their bunkers, because they were hunted by the informers. After a few days, all the new “legalized” people were picked up by the Jewish police and taken to the synagogue and jailed. Later they were taken out and added to out-of-town transports for extermination.
There was another bloody execution at the cemetery on April 21, 1943. Some Jews obtained “Aryan” documents in order to escape from the small ghetto, but they were denounced by our informers.773
When a few Pabianice Jews tried to escape from forced labour camps in surrounding towns, most were caught with the assistance of the Jewish police from the Łódź ghetto. Two of the escapees who were caught were hanged in public in the Łódź ghetto.774 It is not surprising therefore that many Jews recall times in the ghetto when they feared Jewish police and informers more than the Germans. Fanny Solomian-Loc states that that was the case in Pińsk, especially during the round-up of Jews. There, as in other towns, the Judenrat held drunken orgies with young girls.775 Chaim Rumkowski, the leader of the Judenrat in Łódź, was known to put people on the deportation list because he himself wanted to get rid of them and to sexually exploit girls and young women.776 (The members of the Łódź Jewish council and their families benefitted from special shops and rations—enough to live quite comfortably.777) A Jew who witnessed the abuses of the Jewish police in the ghetto in Stołpce also stated that a stronger aversion had grown toward them and the Judenrat than the Germans.778 Mojżesz Bahn of Kielce recalled that the Jewish police were feared more than the Germans, since the latter were more likely to accept a bribe and allow one to escape.779 In Chęciny, despite the fact that there was no permanent German outpost, the 30-member Jewish police were known for their brutality which surpassed that of the Germans.780 Henryk Gotlib, who commanded the 14-man Jewish police force, reportedly abused fellow Jews with frequency.781 In Koluszki, near Łódź, Riwen Berliner, who commended a five-man unit of the Jewish police, “always beat his fellow Jews during his daily rounds of the ghetto.”782 In Maniewicze, in Volhynia, the Germans “were assisted by the Jewish police who at times were no less cruel than their ‘colleagues,’ the Ukrainians.”783 A Jew from Włodawa stated that the Jewish police behaved worse than the Germans.784 A survivor from Jędrzejów wrote that there were “very few” in the Jewish police force, whose strength reached 20 men, “who had any humanity in them. Most of them behaved like beasts of prey, some even worse than the Germans.” The excelled in rounding up Jews for various tasks and deportation.785 A survivor of the Warsaw ghetto had nothing favourable to say about the corrupt and servile Jewish police: “I hated them. Everybody hated them. … Had I possessed a gun, I would have murdered Jewish policemen and even tortured them! My hatred toward them was simply eating me up.”786
The loathing that most Jews had toward the ghetto police is noted in many early memorial books, as the following selection illustrates:
The ghetto police were generally an affliction in all ghettos. This point is attested to by all of the books of the Holocaust period that were written about the ghetto police in other ghettos. Shneor Vaserman writes the following about Chelm [Chełm]: “For the murderers (the Nazis), it wasn’t enough that they alone murdered. For their sadistic pleasure, they instituted that Jewish extermination was also carried out by Jewish hands. That, incidentally, was the devilish tactic in all of Poland, and everywhere their bloody paws reached. The Jewish police were recruited from the dregs of society.” (“Yizkor Bukh [Memorial Book], Chelm,” Johannesburg, 1954, pages 90–91).
Melech Neishtadt declares: “Between the broad Jewish masses and the ghetto policemen, a thick wall was set up. The entire population of the Jewish quarter had an attitude of deep hatred to the servants of the Germans.” (Khurbn un Vidershtand fun di Yidn in Varshe [Destruction and Resistance of the Jews in Warsaw], New York, 1948, page 84). …
Dr. Mark Dvorzshetzki writes: “The ghetto population in Vilna [Wilno] related to the Jewish ghetto police with distrust and hatred. Many policemen were people without scruples, without shame, and without ethics. During Actions, they more than once opened hiding places and betrayed hidden Jews.” (“Yerushalayim D’Lite in Kamf un Umkum [The Jerusalem of Lithuania in Battle and Holocaust],” Paris, 1948, page 302).
In Pinkas Mlave [The Record Book of Mlave (Mława)], we read: “As commandant of the Jewish police, the authorities nominated Shalom Gutman who became the terror of the ghetto. With body and soul, he collaborated with the Germans and created great miseries for Jews. He informed on all that was taking place in the ghetto. He murdered and beat. He carried out the German decrees with pleasure.” (“Pinkas Mlave” under the editorship of Dr. Yakov Shatzki, New York, 1950, page 406).787
Even in a very small town like Komarówka Podlaska near Międzyrzec Podlaski, the Germans relied heavily on the Jewish police to carry out the Final Solution. As Marian Finkielman recalled,
Toward evening I arrived in this town, in which a deportation was to take place the next morning. A Jewish policeman stopped me and led me to a shed with several people already inside. More arrived throughout the night. The policemen made sure that the German order to deport people for extermination was carried out precisely.788
Jews were also conscripted to dig grave pits and to transport fellow Jews to the sites of their massacre. In Rabka, the Germans organized a Jewish grave kommando who worked under the watchful eye of Jewish kapos.789 When the Germans took the first half of the Jewish community to their place of execution in Brona Góra forest near Bereza Kartuska, 25 wagons driven by Jews transported the victims.790 When thousands of Jews were massacred in Załuż near Sanok, Jewish policemen loaded the guns for the Gestapo executioners who shot the Jews as they fell into a large pit.791 In one case, a Jew by the name of Chaim Siegal took on the identity of a Ukrainian (Kyryl Syholenko or Sygolenko) and became the commander of the Ukrainian police in Dąbrowica, Volhynia, where he took part in the annihilation of the Jewish population.792 Zygmunt Prinz, a Jewish policeman in Kołomyja, teamed up with the Ukrainian police to extort money from Jews, among them a rabbi.793 Two Jews from the village of Kluwińce near Tarnopol joined up with the pro-German Ukrainian Insurgent Army and took part in a murder expedition directed at local Poles.794 In one case, a Soviet prisoner of war who was half-Jewish became the orderly of the commandant of the hard labour camp in Treblinka.795
An eyewitness recalls the following scene he witnessed in Warsaw: “That same evening, sixteen skilled labourers marched in fours, led by a rabbi’s son in an S.S. uniform.”796 Gypsies apprehended in “Aryan” Warsaw were taken to the prison on Gęsia Street where they were guarded by functionaries of the Jewish police.797 Jewish policemen escorted Jewish prisoners from the Gęsia Street prison to the execution site where they ried them to posts before they were shot.798 A Jewish woman imprisoned in Lublin Castle recalled her Jewish interrogator: “one of the people there, a very nicely dressed Jew, came over and asked me the same question in Yiddish. When I told him again that my mother had a German lover, he began hitting me.”799
A similar situation prevailed in German prisons and camps where the immediate perils faced by Jewish inmates often stemmed from fellow Jews who acted as kapos (chiefs of work detachments) and informants. Stasia Ałapin, who was thrown in a cell full of Jews at the Gestapo premises in Warsaw, recalled that “one of the women had been put in the cell as an informer.”800 In Kraśnik, “Jewish supervisors, afraid for their lives, regularly handed over to the Gestapo Jews whom they thought were ‘thinking about escape.’ Like the Stein brothers.”801
A Jew who arrived in Majdanek recalled: “We got out of the [railroad] car. No Germans awaited us on the ramp, only Jews with horsewhips. They were brutal. They yelled ‘son of a bitch’ at everybody.”802 In the camp, “SS men with whips and dogs, aided by Ukrainians and former Jewish POWs (yentzes), were pushing, whipping, and kicking the Jews. … The SS, it seemed, were giving the orders. The Ukrainians and yentzes were carrying them out.”803 “The Czech and Slovak Jews in camp aren’t much better than the Germans. When it came to the Jews, every one of them was armed with a club and ready to beat up any victim.”804 Israel Mittelberg, another prisoner of Majdanek, recalled:
We were subjected to a horrible examination [on arrival]; even our anuses were checked. Nor did the Czech Jewish barbers return our valuables. Moreover, on one occasion, when I attempted to win one of them over, he yelled at me so much that a German guard came and gave me a violent beating. Those who had swallowed the gold coins later had to take the block-elders into their confidence, and that was fresh cause for torture and blackmail. …
In the yard, we met many inmates we knew. Many were working in the registration offices. They served loyally, sometimes a little too loyally, at the expense of their own brother Jews, in whose place they might easily have been. …
On that very first day in Majdanek, we began a search for those who had denounced the whereabouts of the bunkers [in the Warsaw ghetto], or those who had collaborated with the Germans. There were a few inmates in Majdanek—the block-elders of barracks six and seven—who executed retribution, bloodily settling accounts with the informers. The one in charge of my block was a character by the name of Heniek Kulik, the son-in-law of a reputable family in Warsaw, the tailor Nissan, who in turn was the Mendzickis’ son-in-law. That scoundrel addressed us in language fit for the gutter, cursed us with the crudest Russian expressions to prepare us for camp life. …
… the name Kulik was familiar to me. … We discussed his family whom I knew well … For the promise of a little soup, he found informers who would eavesdrop on conversations and denounce anyone who had any money. The barrack supervisor insisted that the money be given to him. When anyone refused he was given fifty lashes.
One of the Kapos, Bobi, was a particularly well-known looter of money and a blackguard. He was only fifteen but looked like a grown man. That scoundrel … had come to Majdanek with his parents and, in order to find favor with the Germans, personally hanged them at the Germans’ request. His methods of torturing could lead one to his death in just a few minutes. Bobi beat me, but I had no money. He then left me alone. He would always visit the camp elders, looking for people to persecute. …
And now, a new spate of ordeals was beginning for me. A new supervisor by the name of Osfiss, another of Kulik’s brother-in-laws, joined us, who even surpassed the other two in vulgarity and callousness. He dispatched any inmate without money to do the heaviest jobs and subjected them to agonizing hardships. He confiscated our bread rations and demanded cigarettes in exchange. He would serve us one-half liter instead of three quarters and sell the leftovers. We were completely at the mercy of these three brother-in-laws.
We reported the soup scoundrel to the kitchen. Osfiss was given a bloody flogging, and lived to take revenge on us. He organized night searches, embittered our already miserable lives. The three flogged us until their arms ached. …
… Jews in position of power saw to it that no one should go short of beatings, our daily bread.
… our own Jewish Hitlerite servants exhibited their skills: Kulik, Osfiss and Nissan. They woke us in the middle of the night and listed the crimes each one of us had committed. This one had relieved himself incorrectly, (pardon my vulgarity); that one had spat; that one had sewn on his number wrongly—and other crimes of this sort. For these wrongdoings each received ten, fifteen, and even twenty lashes. The Germans did not perform all the torture themselves; they also trained their servants.805
Another inmate of Majdanek recalled:
the elder of our block, Moshe, called Poer, who was known for his crudity and brutality. He had been a porter in Warsaw … He hit us in the morning and in the evening during roll calls using the excuse that we were not in a straight line. In reality, he wanted to become the pet of the kapos and the SS. I often saw Moshe Poer kicking Jewish prisoners in the face or stomach so hard until they were half-dead and some actually died later. Naftali Gaslen, known as the “killer”, was of the same caliber. He had been a thug in Warsaw. They knew each other well. These two brutal underworld types were especially at home in Maidanek.
One character who was unique even in Maidanek was a 15-year-old Jewish boy, called “Bubi”. He was small, fat, well-dressed, and moved among the kapos, the prominent prisoners and even close to the SS. … The 10,000 prisoners of Field 4 were under his command, sometimes for hours. They were forced to carry out all of his orders: “Attention! Caps on! Caps off! Right! Left! Keep in step! Double time, Line march! March!” With club in hand and his childish voice, he ridiculed and taunted us to the full satisfaction of the SS. We found out that this boy was a “pupil” (dependent and accommodating in every way) of the head kapo. He had earned his reputation with the SS by putting the nooses around the necks of his father and mother in Maidanek.806
There are many such accounts attesting to the cruelty of the Jewish kapos in Majdanek.807 According to Shiye Goldberg, “The Kapos beat the inmates just to find favor with their German masters.” A Jewish inmate recalls:
Who can forget the pump, with the water trough around it, in which a Jewish Kapo (I think a murderer from Lemberg [Lwów]) would on each night, grab a Jew by the beard, and turn him with his face down, and hold him in the water, until a Jew would expire. The longer the Jew flailed with his feet, the higher the Nazi murderers would carry on and laugh.808
As in other camps, “There was a black market in [Majdanek]. Those who bought from the Poles now sold the food to camp inmates at a good price.”809 Shamay Greier, the head of the Judenrat in Lublin, took part in the liquidation of Majdanek:
He was with the SS commandant when the latter ordered all the Jews to prostate themselves. He then poked each one after the other, saying “You go”, “You stay”, “You go”, “You stay”. Those ordered to go were taken to their death, and this game went on until the camp was vacant.810
On arrival in Majdanek, Poles also became the victims of Jewish block or barrack leaders:
We arrived there morning 26th [of March, 1943]. We marched two km from the station to the camp, escorted in every 2–3 meters by Ukrainians with machine guns. We entered the camp, which gave us depressing impression. It was scenery itself and people there as skeletons. Only Jews were there holding through not so bad. The Jews were at that time assigned to block leaders – robbing us, by leaving to us only one third or one fourth of our food rations.811
The Jewish kapos in the labour camp in Chełm treated fellow Jews with cruelty, and partied hard. According to Kalmen Wewryk,
There was a kapo there named Scherer, who used to live on my street in Chełm. … He had been our friend, and yet this tall kapo used to beat me mercilessly in the camp. … I saw a man I knew, Tishler, a carpenter. He had had a wife and 4 children all shipped to their deaths. And yet Tishler was dancing and singing and partying with the other kitchen kapos. He looked well because he ate well.”
Wewryk witnessed even more atrocious behaviour in the Sobibór death camp where Jewish kapos led Jews to the gas chambers, where well-fed train commando Jews insulted their starving co-religionists and refused to share their food with them, where Jews betrayed other Jews to the Germans, and where kapos would party with attractive Jewish women prisoners and rape pretty young girls in front of their mothers. In his memoir we read:
Some of the women … [to] please “their” kapo, would change clothes 3 or 4 times a day. Sobibor had no shortage of clothes, all taken from the incoming transports.
… the ordinary Jewish prisoners were terrified of the kapos. If a Jew didn’t obey a kapo, that Jew was reported to the Germans who took him away to his death. … most [kapos] had become brutalized. … I was afraid of my kapo as he was of the SS. He carried a big whip, was well-dressed, had his own room and a private life.” “The train kommando prisoners … were terrific squealers. There was one Oberkapo from Berlin (we called him ‘Berliner’) who spoke an excellent, refined German. … When Oberst Franzl went on a furlough, this kapo thought that his chance had come—he would show Franzl how devoted he was, how efficient! If he saw a straw in the wrong place, he beat the nearest Jew mercilessly. He caused many Jews to be sent to the gas chambers. He was so bad and so sadistic that … the other kapos got together and jumped him … he was beaten to death.” “There was a one-eyed kapo from Warsaw—Porzycki … He was a brutal kapo with murderous instincts. … I remember Bunyem, a short, stocky kapo. He used to beat people terribly.812
Other survivors of Sobibór write:
We were informed of this by the Jewish “Kommandant” who … was worse than a German. He was later killed too.
Another time again, a tunnel leading out beyond the wires was discovered. … Right at the last minute, the Jewish “Kommandant,” yimakh shemoy, found out about it and gave the all away. As soon as the Germans were informed, they massacred another 200 people in the third camp, so that everything we tried was betrayed, every attempt failed. …
Our most active member was Yosif Pelts … he succeeded in escaping … The next day, Moyshe “Kommandant” ran to tell the Germans that two were missing from the first barrack. We were fortunate, because the Oberschaarführer wasn’t there, only the Unterschaarführer, who was less sadistic and selected ted men, instead of hundreds, to be shot. …
Now this Moyshe “Kommandant” … decided then to escape with us—about twenty people. … He saw that this group was now too large, so he put it off for another day. A German Jew learned of all this and informed the Unterschaarführer that Moyshe “Kommandant” was behind it. The German immediately summoned Moyshe “Kommandant” along with three others … and shot them all.813
… a group of six Jewish capos from Poland agreed to organize an escape. … They were already supposed to carry it out one night, but that time it did not work out, either, because there was a provocateur, a Jew from Germany, Berliner, who said that the Germans had promised they would kill off everyone, but would leave him. He went to the Germans, told them about the plan and the next day the Germans hanged all six of them on the second square in front of everyone.814
In the middle of spring, in the first days of May , a rebellion which was promptly put out burst on the camp. The intended escape never did take place and I had not known anything about it, just like it had happened with the first one.
Everything was done very fast. I never knew what had actually happened and how the plan had been found out. My companions did not know anything either. On the following day, the henchmen appointed a new Commander to replace Moses. He was a German Jew from Berlin, which was soon to be called Kapo Berliner by us. To the position formerly held by Krajcewicer, they appointed another Jew, also German. It soon became obvious that the Nazis intended to place German Jews in the main trustworthy positions.
They did that on purpose, since the Jews who had come from Germany were not only more obedient but also more subservient. Even suffering the horrors of Nazism, they still believed in the Fuhrer and his gang. Their faith was such that they even thought they would be spared. My companions and I did not trust them any longer. They were already known as inveterate stool pigeons, such terror did the Germans instil in them. Any insurrection would never be able to count on their participation.
Soon after the aborted escape and considering the circumstances under which it had been stifled, we came to the clear undisputable conclusion that the denouncer had been Kapo Berliner. From that day on we never believed anything the German Jews ever told us and we lost the least bit of trust we still had in them.
Oberkapo Berliner came to be considered a dangerous, infamous individual, absolutely deprived of any scruples. As a matter of fact, it was his habit to abuse his subordinates only to please his masters, the Nazi scoundrels. It has already been said that this story is intended to be the faithful report of the whole truth, which took place at those sadly remembered times.
Unfortunately, the immense majority of Jews who had come from other regions of Europe did not inspire confidence in the Polish Jews. Our distrust was notably worse when we dealt with the German Jews. Numberless times we had heard them say that they did not believe Hitler would destroy them and that the Germans were not as bad as they seemed. They thought we magnified the facts and that we would all survive in the end, meaning specially the Germans in Sobibor [Sobibór]. So they tried as the best they could to collaborate with the monsters. …
A few days later, something strange happened. it came about in the afternoon, at the time of the evening roll call, after work. Since he had taken over the command of Camp 1, the Nazi Frenzel had become the man in charge of receiving the results of the counting.
Once this had been done, he told Mundek, the chief tailor, to step out of the group and gave him twenty-five whiplashes. Next, he told me to do the same and the same punishment was applied on me. Everyone was surprised and no one could understand the reasons which had led the hangman to do that. Even now I cannot guess the reasons for that unexpected punishment, since I had not done anything to deserve it. However, our suspicions pointed to the Oberkapo Berliner, who would be the only person who would denounce us at the least transgression. Maybe he had learned that Mundek and I had both given some pieces of bread to half-dead Jews in the transport from Majdanek and he had decided to denounce us to Karl Frenzel.
Our hate for Berliner grew everyday, because he was just like the Germans. As he was a Jew, we craved for killing him even more than we wanted to kill the Nazi scoundrels. The autumn of 1943 was nearing and the days were becoming shorter. As evening fell earlier than before, the schedules were changed and the roll call was taken sooner. Although we were sent inside the sheds earlier, our work went on as usual. We were already used to life in the camp and we were in control of our emotions. We could even think of ourselves as cold, unfeeling men, deprived of fear or feeling. We really tried to reason out, with no fantasy, any possible way of escaping from that hell. …