|My brother had connections with the German infantry, and for a sum of money he arranged with a sergeant to bring a covered truck to Lwow [Lwów]. In this manner, the rabbi [Cwerski] and his family returned to Krosno.911
I remember occasions when we even socialized with a German police officer. At the time there were Jewish refugees from Łódź who had been resettled to Krosno. … There was one family that consisted of a father, mother, and two beautiful daughters. A German officer liked these girls and protected them. We used to go to their home and have parties when this German officer, who allowed us to have a good time, was present. We would sing, tell jokes and stories, and read books together. There was also another very pretty girl from Łódź who had a number of German admirers. She spent many nights in the homes of German officers, who lavished her with gifts, even though it was a capital offense for Jews and Germans to have sexual relations with each other. Yet the Germans disobeyed their own laws. It always amazed me how they could be fond of some of our Jewish girls and yet want to abuse or kill the rest of us.912
In Radom, the Jewish Council maintained extensive connections with the Gestapo and there was no shortage of confidants among the Jewish police.913 At the request of the Gestapo, members of the Jewish Council prepared lists of Poles to be arrested or transported to the Reich as forced labour. The members of the Jewish Council, the Jewish police, and their families had a reputation for corruption, as they were known to enjoy a better standard of living than most other Jews.914 While poor Jews were ragged and hungry, rich Jews had no problem securing lodging and food, and turned away orphaned children knocking on their doors.915 Despite the increasing poverty in the ghetto, the Judenrat and Jewish police partied, drank and kept a harem of prostitutes.916 As one resident recalls, the ghetto policemen were
generally well respected in the community, or at least they had been before the war began. They were men in their prime, able-bodied and agile, and most of them had achieved their matura [i.e., secondary school] diploma at least. The Germans used them to carry out their policies in the ghetto and the factory. The policemen would designate people for forced-work details, guard the perimeter of the ghetto, and oversee the distribution of our meager food rations. Though they didn’t carry guns, they were given certain privileges for their services to the Germans. They could go into and out of the ghetto, for example, without explicit permission, and in the factory, some had separate rooms of their own—they didn’t live as the rest of us did, in crowded barracks. Not all of them, certainly, but most of the Jewish police felt that they had special protection as well as privileges with the Germans, and given the circumstances, the police tended to look upon themselves as better than everyone else.
Nojich Tannenbaum, for example, was this way. He was an informer as well as a policeman, and he would boast to us that his family—his wife, their young twin girls, their Jewish maid, all of them—would survive on an island of safety while everything else around them burned. He patrolled the factory grounds, supervising—spying, really—looking for anything he could report to the Germans. Maybe someone was hiding extra food; maybe someone was not where he or she was supposed to be. No one ever wanted to see Tannenbaum or be seen by him; certainly no one trusted him. He was a Jew, but he was working for the Germans, seemingly with the wholeness of his heart. …
Tannenbaum didn’t know it then—when we were in the factory, none of us did—but the Germans would save no special treatment for their informers and police. … Tannenbaum was killed by Jews at Auschwitz, exacting their own kind of justice against someone who had caused so much death.
There was Chiel Friedman, too … [Before the war, he was a member of a socialist Zionist youth organization—M.P.] During the war, though, Friedman became a member of the Jewish police, and he became proud, arrogant, cruel. …
“Chiel,” he said, “I need your help.” My uncle was calling on a man who had been a friend …
Friedman came over to my uncle, looked him in the eye, and slapped him hard across the face.
“I am not Chiel Friedman anymore,” he said. “I am Commrade Friedman. That is what you must call me.” And he turned on his boot and walked away. …
… Another Jewish policeman, Duvid Norembursky, was one of those who escaped; he was responsible for my Heniek’s death.
It was Chiel Friedman, the Jewish policeman in charge of the KL [Kozentrationslager, or concentration camp in Radom]. … He had come to the barracks knowing I must be there …
“Come out from your hiding! You know I will find you!” …
He was marching now, up and down the aisles of the barracks. He started to scream, furious that he hadn’t found me. “You whore! I know you are in this barracks! I’m going to find you, Heniek’s little whore!” …
Friedman looked for me everywhere, but somehow he didn’t think to look where I was. Somehow he didn’t look under the floorboards, where a young girl lay trembling in fear and fury under a coat of rats.
… It seemed not to matter to the Germans that I had escaped the oblava [round-up]. After that one day, they didn’t send anyone to come looking for me.
But it mattered to Chiel Friedman. He resented it, resented that I had managed to elude him. I think he wanted to show the Germans how good he was at his policing job, to show them that he could ferret out the young girl who tried to avoid capture.917
The Jewish police played a crucial role in the deportations of Jews to the death camps:
On the evening of August 17, 1942, the Germans commenced the liquidation of the large ghetto in Radom, in which about 25,000 Jews were then residing. … The ghetto liquidation Aktion was carried out as on the first occasion: exactly at midnight, after the floodlights were switched on, the German police, Ukrainian collaborators, and members of the Jewish Police began to chase the Jews out of their houses. The Jews were gathered at preselected locations. The roundup lasted until early the next morning, and approximately 10,000 people were herded to a train waiting on a siding. During the Aktion, many Jews were killed …
On August 18, 1942, the ghetto was quiet. Its remaining residents were waiting for the second phase of the Aktion. In the afternoon, the Jewish Police announced the second phase would start at midnight. … It was known that the Jewish Police ordered their family members to go to the collection point voluntarily, to increase their chances or remaining in Radom. As a result of these efforts, most of the Jews gathered at the Stare Miasto Square by 11:00 p.m.918
Jewish black-marketeers and “entrepreneurs who entered into all kinds of shady deals to earn money” thrived and formed a very visible nouveau riche class.919 A resident of Radom, who was taken to a labour camp near Cieszanów, recalled:
Some of our fellow prisoners were enterprising, too. They succeeded in digging tunnels out of the camp and, under cover of night, proceeded to the closest village, where they bought provisions. They would then return to camp and sell the food—at very fancy prices—to other inmates.920
In Bełchatów, local trade remained entrenched in the hands of the Jews, among them smugglers of foreign currency, gold and jewels, who worked closely with the German police, and even partied with them, and denounced Poles.921 (Polish accounts are thus consistent with Jewish accounts cited earlier.) Elsewhere,
A commandant came to Kielce who began drawing the Jews to him and giving them economic positions. Thus he gave Jechezkel Lemberg the export of eggs. He and his assistants were given the task of buying eggs in the Kielce region and turning them over to the economic committee for export to Germany. Jakob Kohen of Checiny [Chęciny] was given such a role for the export of leather, and others were given similar positions with regard to grain, feathers etc. For a while these Jews were busy with their tasks, and they didn’t just profit themselves, but found jobs for other Jews. The word went out that the Jews of Kielce had found relief and reached even the Jews who had fled eastwards and many of those began to return to their place of origin.922
In Chrzanów, where there were no Polish police during the war,
Contacts between the Judenrat and the local German officials were carried out on more than the official level. The Judenrat had close relations with some of the German officials, thanks to various gifts and bribes. However, the Judenrat’s closest contacts were with the police, headed by Oberleutenant [Oberleutnant] Schindler. …
The liaison between the police and the Judenrat during the entire [early] period was Fasek Weber. After Weber was sent to Auschwitz, the job was taken over by Zelig Grajower. Fasek Weber exploited his situation in base and brutal ways, growing rich on Jewish trouble and pain.
It is not surprising, therefore, that local Jews reputedly played a sinister role in the arrest 41 Poles in Chrzanów in the early morning hours of April 23, 1940, in the so-called Aktion AB directed at the Polish intelligentsia. When family members converged on the headquarters of the German police that morning to inquire into the fate of their loved ones, they found the premises full of Jewish policemen dressed in black uniforms. One of the Jewish policemen, a man in his early twenties, came out and ordered the Poles to disperse. It is believed that the Jewish authorities helped the Germans draw up the list of Poles who were arrested for deportation to concentration camps.923 Tellingly, according to Szapse (Shepsl) Rotholc, a member of the ghetto police in Warsaw, “Quite a few [German] gendarmes said that the battle with the Jews is only politics but they hate the Poles from the heart.”924
Jewish Gestapo agents and informers, whose activities have been mentioned in passing, were a significant source of danger. Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer has acknowledged that they caused “tremendous damage.”925 What he does not mention is that these Jewish collaborators were active throughout German-occupied Poland, both inside and outside the ghettos, and endangered Poles as well as Jews. Emanuel Ringelblum noted the case of Josek Erlich (code name “Josele Kapota”), a Jewish Gestapo agent who betrayed a Pole by the name of Witold Benedyktowicz, a tireless benefactor of the Jews, who endured nine months in the Pawiak prison.926 Another Jewish Gestapo informer in Warsaw who actively denounced members of the Communist and Polish underground was Józef or Josek Mitzenmacher (Mützenmacher). Formerly a Communist who turned government informer, he went by many names and was already on the German payroll before the war. After the Polish underground passed a death sentence against Mitzenmacher in Warsaw, he resurfaced in Białystok where he became the editor a Nazi gutter newspaper and wrote anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic articles. After the war he was able to resume his Communist allegiance under an assumed identity.927 Fritz Seifter, a Jewish journalist from Bielsko, started his collaboration with the Nazi authorities in the 1930s and continued them during the occupation of Poland.928 Zygmunt Messing-Neumann was a longstanding collaborator of the German secret services. One of the best Gestapo agents in the Łódź ghetto, he organized his own network of agents who mostly counteracted smuggling (Messing became wealthy by uncovering property hidden by Jews as well as Poles), but who were also quite successful at carrying out surveillance of the resistance movement (Messing also gathered information about the Polish underground for the German authorities). After the war he fled to West Germany where, despite interventions by the Polish authorities, he was successfully able to avoid prosecution with the protection of some Jews.929 Józef Staszauer, a Jewish Gestapo agent, managed to infiltrate an important office in the Chief Commmand of the Home Army and betrayed many of its members until his execution in Warsaw in October 1943.930 Another Jewish Gestapo agent who penetrated Home Army intelligence operations, where he caused considerable damage, was Józef Hammer-Baczewski. He too was executed by the Home Army in November 1942.931 The Polish underground eliminated other Gestapo agents of Jewish origin in Warsaw such as Haman932 and Wanda Kronenberg, the scion of a prominent assimilated family.933 A Jew by the name of Mazur living in the Mokotów district who betrayed many Jews to the Gestapo escaped execution by the Home Army because the Warsaw Uprising broke out.934 Diana Topiel, who was sheltered in Warsaw by a Polish family whose son she married during the war, was not betrayed by any of the many Polish acquaintances she had but by Jewish Gestapo confidant from Łódź. After her arrest she was sent to several prisons, here she was tortured, and then to Majdanek concentration camp.935 Zila Rennert identified a Jewish Gestapo agent by the name of Ludwik, who was active in Warsaw, but did not describe his misdeeds.936
On February 19, 1944, a Home Army cell consisting of more than a dozen people was discovered by the Gestapo on Bracka Street in Warsaw after being betrayed by two Jewish women who had infiltrated the unit posing as escapees from the Warsaw ghetto. In actual fact, the women were Gestapo agents working with a 40-member group of Jewish agents headed by Leon (or Lolek) Skosowski937 of the notorious “Thirteen” (about which there is more later on). Some of the Poles who were apprehended, among them Zdzisław Chrzanowski from the All-Poland Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska) organization, were executed in the Pawiak prison. These two Jewish agents were tracked down and liquidated by Polish counterintelligence.938 Reports prepared by the Polish Government Delegate’s office and the Communist underground mention the following Jewish agents operating in Warsaw: Stekier (pseudonym “Wilson”), who was active in the Żoliborz district; Stanisława Lepianka, a 19-year-old woman who believed to have contacts with the Communist underground; Władysław Fijałkowski, a fictitious name, employed in Gestapo headquarters, room no. 386; Rajchman, originally from Łódź, who was transferred from the Gestapo headquarters to become a streetcar controller, where he used the name Romanowski.939 Józef Garliński, a prominent member of the underground (he was head of the security department of the Home Army headquarters in Warsaw), was arrested by Gestapo agents after being betrayed by his former schoolmate, a Jew in their service.940
A Jewish confidant of the German gendarmes established himself in Skierniewice before the ghetto was built.941 Szaje Fastak, a Jewish Gestapo agent in Chmielnik, became notorious for betraying Poles who helped Jews as well as Jews in hiding. He shot a Polish woman named Domagała. Fastak was eventually executed by the Polish underground.942 Another Jewish confidant lurking in the vicinity of Chmielnik who met a similar fate was Dawid Dołz.943 Jerzy Ripper, who served as chief of the Sicherheitsdienst intelligence service in Lida, was responsible for the arrest of many members of the Home Army.944 A Jew from Łódź by the name of Jan Rogacki, a Gestapo agent who posed as a doctor, organized an underground group in Jarosław composed primarily of Polish students; they were soon apprehended by the Gestapo and shipped to Auschwitz.945 In Gorlice, a Jewish Gestapo agent by the name of Keller, who was also the commander of the Jewish police, was employed to spy on the Polish underground and created a cell composed of Jews for this purpose. This led to the arrest of Paweł Bielakiewicz (nom de guerre “Ernest”), the leader of the Home Army outpost in Łużna, who was deported to Auschwitz.946 Jan Woźniak, a military man who joined the Polish underground, was shot by a Jewish Gestapo agent in Przysucha near Radom in 1942.947 A Jewish doctor named Spiegel, a Gestapo confidant in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, was responsible for nearly all the arrests of Poles for more than a year prior to his detection and execution by the Home Army in the spring of 1941.948 A Jewish woman from Czechoslovakia, a Gestapo agent, was sent to infiltrate an autonomous “partisan” group composed of Poles, Jews and Ukrainians under the command of Stanisław Babij operating near Dolina in Stanisławów voivodship (southeastern Poland); her treachery resulted in the execution of 48 local Poles and Ukrainians who assisted the group and the murder of more than 20 Jewish partisans.949 In July 1943, the Gestapo and German gendarmes in Kraśnik released a group of Jews to gather information about the Polish underground organizations operating in the area. Another Jew sheltered by Poles in the nearby village of Borów was also suspected of spying for the Germans.950 Stanisław Strzałkowski, a member of the Home Army who was imprisoned in Auschwitz, recalls that a Jew he met in the main camp (this Jew had served under his command in the prewar Polish army) warned him, shortly after his arrival there in September 1943, about a Jewish inmate who was a spy for the Gestapo.951 There are other such cases on record.952
Poles were also at risk from Jewish Gestapo agents operating outside Poland. A Polish underground organization in Bulgaria was infiltrated by Jan Złotkowski, representative of the Polish airlines LOT in Sofia. Złotkowski, of Jewish origin, turned out to be a Gestapo agent who received sums of money for every Pole he betrayed. Most of the members of the organization were arrested and many of them were sent to Auschwitz where they perished. The Bulgarians tried and convicted Złotkowski after the war, but when he was released shortly after his return to Poland in 1948.953 But far more often, it was Jews who felt the detrimental activities of fellow Jews who had ties with the Gestapo and other German agencies. Sometimes connections backfired or were designed to lure unsuspecting Jews into traps, as was the case in Krosno:
Simon Fres was a Jew who had connections with the Krosno Gestapo. He had made arrangements with the Gestapo to get trucks to transport some of the wealthiest Jews of the town to safety. He was well paid by them in advance when these trucks were loaded and driven away. The people in them were taken to a woods nearby the town of Dukla, where a huge trench had been dug. They were lined up beside it and machinegunned, realizing only at the last moment that the arrangement had been a trap.954
Another Jew from Krosno, Shlomo Berger, recalled a misadventure that nearly cost him his life:
I went to the city of Tarnów to buy American dollars from a dollar dealer. There on the street I met a friend whom I knew from an Irgun training camp. He asked me what I was doing in Tarnów, and I told him I was buying dollars. He asked when I was leaving to go home and said he would like to see me off at the railway station. I told him that I was going back on the afternoon train. When I arrived at the station, he was there to greet me. After we said good-bye to each other, he left, and a plainclothes Gestapo officer walked over and arrested me. I suspected that this so-called friend was an informer and that he had pointed me out to the Gestapo, for there was no other reason for them to stop me.
I was searched for American dollars, but I had been careful not to carry any with me. The dealer had sent his twelve-year-old daughter with me, and she was carrying the money.955
Jewish informers and Gestapo agents were particularly effective in eliminating fledgling Jewish underground organizations inside the ghettos. Often this was spearheaded by the Jewish Council. Contrary to what is often claimed in Holocaust literature, there is no evidence that a planned revolt failed to materialize in any ghetto because of a lack of Polish aid. In fact, many ghettos that did acquire arms nonetheless did not stage a revolt. Chava Kwinta describes the situation in Sosnowiec:
Under the leadership of Zvi Dunsky, Lippa Mintz, Heller Schnitzer, and Joseph Kosak, the Sosnowiec [underground] group aimed at a genuine resistance, maintaining communications with Warsaw. They printed circulars … and posted on walls, manifestos against the regime and the Judenrat. They even plotted to kill [its president] Moshe Merin. Merin was busy too. He set up a network of spies, who infiltrated the organization and reported back to him. As soon as he had enough names, he made his move. He rounded up all the resistance people and had them transferred to camps in Germany. Thus our first attempt to organize an uprising locally was shattered in its inception. Now the Jews were too numb to care.956
According to another Jewish source,
At the end of 1942 a sharp dispute broke out between the “Judenrat” and 10 underground activists of “Hashomer Hatzair” and their 21 year old leader Cwi Dunski. People in the underground were subject to shadowing by the Jewish police and one of them, Romek Szlezinger, even passed on information to the police about the underground organization. … In January 1943 the Jewish police arrested Dunski and Lipek Minc, who was also from “Hashomer Hatzair”. They were released after an interrogation of several weeks.
Meryn [Moshe Merin], who saw the existence of the underground as a danger to all the Jews, wanted to return and arrests its members, but they hid out and hence he placed pressure on family members so that they would turn themselves in. … Members of “Hashomer Hatzair” decided to smuggle Dunski out of the city and hide him in a nearby village, but a night before he was to leave the Jewish police arrested all the members of “Hashomer Hatzair” including Lipek Minc, Ina Gelbard and Fela Katz. Chaim Meryn [Moshe’s brother] and Police Commander Goldminc himself, interrogated Chana Wirnik but she did not reveal the hideout. However, the police managed to track down Dunski and brought him to the police headquarters dripping blood and chained up as a criminal. Dunski and Minc were interned in the detention center in the orphanage in Bedzin [Będzin]. Later they were turned over to the Germans, interned in a jail in Myslowice [Mysłowice] and in the spring of 1943 they were sent to Auschwitz and murdered there by hanging. Meryn turned in a further underground group to the Germans that was suspected of communist activities, and 8 of its members were executed in April 1943.957
As Jewish accounts show, the various phases of the liquidation of the large ghetto in Sosnowiec, which held up to 40,000 Jews, were carried out by the Jewish council and the Jewish police, without any Polish participation. There was no Polish police force in this area (Zagłębie Dąbrowskie), which was incorporated directly into the Reich. According to Konrad Charmatz,
The Nazis could not have succeeded without the cooperation of some Jews, and some Jews did indeed allow themselves to get drawn into the net. The Nazis established the Judenrat and a Jewish militia, both of which would help them carry out their plans for the liquidation.
First, they demanded that contingents of young people be turned over to them for the slave labor camps. … Later the Nazis ordered the older people to give themselves up, and to bring with them the children and the sick. … Still later, the Nazis liquidated everyone else. Throughout all this, they were aided by the Judenrat and the Jewish militia. …