Before executing them, the Gestapo posed only one question to the victims: Where were Isaac Zuckerman and Lonka Kozibrodska? That the SS knew about Isaac was not surprising. His involvement with the Socialist Zionist youth movement was not a secret. But Lonka was a different story. Very few outsiders were aware of the clandestine role the beautiful blonde played in linking the Young Pioneers to the outside world.
This could only mean that the Nazis had Jewish informants, a suspicion that was borne out when the homes of almost all the Bund’s central committee members were also raided that evening. Sonya Nowogrodska, the only woman in the Bund underground leadership, narrowly cheated death, as did Bernard Goldstein by switching hiding places at the last minute. … the Bund lost nearly a dozen operatives that night. All were shot on the spot, their bodies left to bleed out where they fell. In total, fifty-two people were killed on April 17, which became known variously as Bloody Friday, Night of Blood, or the Sabbath Massacre.
Blood Friday revealed a shift in Nazi tactics. Until then, the Gestapo had focused its brutal counterinsurgency measures almost exclusively on Gentiles. (Indeed, earlier that very day, the Nazis had conducted a series of separate raids in the Christian quarters of Warsaw, deporting 461 suspected Resistance members to Auschwitz.) Prior to Bloody Friday, no evidence existed to suggest that the occupation authorities either knew or cared that Jews were forming conspiratorial cells. [Perhaps this was because these cells did not engage in any armed activities either then or for some time afterwards. M.P.] Occasionally, the Gestapo inquired about the likes of Bernard Goldstein, since he was a well-known agitator from before the war. But there had never been mass arrests or Gestapo dragnets in the Jewish Quarter on the scale that routinely decimated the Polish Resistance. The question was: Why now? What prompted the raids? Had the Germans, through their network of spies, gotten wind of the unification talks between Zionists and Bundists? Had they heard of the intensified efforts to acquire weapons? Did they know about the newly formed youth militias and their growing chorus of calls for self-defense?
The sad fact remained that the Bund, to date, had not managed to procure s single gun. The vaunted militias, in Boruch Spiegel’s opinion, “were not very serious.” Spiegel, after he recuperated, had demanded to join the defense unit, and he quickly became disillusioned by its lack of structure, discipline, adequate training, and, most of all, arms.1030
This atmosphere of gloom, demoralization and terror is reinforced by the memoirs of apolitical residents of the ghetto who just tried to get by. One common thread in these memoirs is that Poles did not play a role in the day-to-day oppression of the half million Jewish residents of the Warsaw ghetto.
Unfortunately, there were many traitors amongst the Jews who formed a secret police working with the Gestapo. None of them was from Warsaw, I’m happy to say. They were all from Lodz [Łódź], which the Germans called Litzmannstadt. They were all intelligentsia—doctors, engineers, police—none of them uneducated or from the lower classes. They were all professionals—and disgustingly mean. We were afraid of them like fire. Their headquarters were on the same street as Café Sztuka, but on the other side. The building was Number Thirteen Leszno Street. Because of that, they were called Number Thirteens.
This was the Jewish Gestapo against the Jews. They had green bands on their caps. The regular Jewish police had blue bands. The Jewish Gestapo would come into the café, but we did not like to serve them. They did a lot of dirty work. Let’s say some Jews had hidden in their apartments dollars or money or gold that they could sell to buy food. The Jewish Gestapo would give away all these secrets to the Germans. And the Germans would come shooting and killing. There was not mass killing yet. It was just bad treatment, very awful treatment, but not mass exterminations. …
Some German Jews were given jobs outside the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto. … One day these German Jews were marching off to work past the SS men on guard. These German Jews were all raising their hands, hollering, “Heil Hitler!” and the SS men did not even answer them, did not look at them, did not even spit at them. In Warsaw, we just laughed when these German Jews screamed, “Heil Hitler!”—as if Hitler would help them—this was the funniest part. …
Jews were starving, even though food was being smuggled in. We did not have food, but we could get smuggled-in strawberries on the street. I remember one day I bought myself all kinds of goodies. I was walking on the street and a man came and he grabbed all the food and ran away. …
The conditions in the ghetto were so terrible … People hated each other. You understand, they were starving. They could kill each other for food. We had a family from Lodz in our apartment. My mother cooked. The wife of this man came and ate up my mother’s soup, so my mother complained to me. The man did not like my mother complaining, so he pushed her around and beat her up. When I came home from work that day I hit him on the head with an iron pot. I got even for my mother. He got no pity from me. He never touched her anymore.
I did not see any resistance leaflets or newspapers in the ghetto. If I ever saw any resistance, any writing on the walls, it was in the Aryan section. There they would write on the walls things like “Only pigs go to the movies,” because going to the movies helped the Germans by making people forget about the war, forget about resisting. But in the ghetto we were only worried about food, the cold, the sickness and the lice. We were completely demoralized.
We were so demoralized that people became disrespectful of each other.1031
I did not ask anybody what to do. I was all on my own. Whenever I did something, I never asked anybody. … Besides you couldn’t talk to anybody. You did not know who was a traitor. I was too afraid.1032
The Jewish underground occasionally liquidated Jewish informers and Gestapo agents inside the ghetto. Jacob Celemenski, for example, relates how he was tracked down in his hiding place in the Warsaw ghetto by a young Jewish informer sent by Jewish Gestapo agents. The Jewish underground assigned a clandestine cell of five comrades to execute him, but were outdone by the informer’s own bosses, who shot him themselves.1033 Among those reportedly executed by the ŻZW [Zydowski Związek Walki—Jewish Military Union] were: two Gestapo agents shot dead near the entrance to Schultz’s restaurant on Karmelicka St. (spring 1942); Adolf Borensztein (known as the “13th man”), shot dead in Elektoralna St. (March 1942); a police lieutenant of the Leszno St. police station, shot near one of the ŻZW tunnel entrances (summer 1942); a nest of eleven Gestapo spies (eight men and three women), executed in the cellar of Kosieradzki’s house on Karmelicka St. after a “trial” (June 1942); two female Gestapo agents, one of them Haya Blumberg; Jacob Leikin, the deputy commander of the Jewish police, shot in Gęsia St. (October 29, 1942); Israel Firszt or Izrael First, the head of the Judenrat’s Economic Department (November 29, 1942); Leon (Lolek) Skosowski (who, seriously wounded, escaped to the Aryan side where he was later executed by the Polish Home Army), Paweł Bludarski, Arik Waintraub (had in his possession a detailed list of bunkers for the Gestapo), H. Mangiel, Lydia (Anya) Radziszewska, all shot in the brush-factory compound at 38 Świętojerska St. (February 21, 1943); Jerzy Firstenberg, a high-ranking officer in the Jewish ghetto police (February 1943); Moniek Prozanski and his son Anders, shot as they were about to escape to the Aryan side; Zinger, shot in a restaurant on Nowolipie St.; two porters called Pinya and Elia (“Małpa”) on Nowolipki St.; Nosek, shot dead in the brush-factory area (he too was in possession of a detailed list of bunkers).1034 According to Józef Grynblatt, a member of the Jewish Military Organization (ŻZW), after the failed ghetto revolt a large group of ŻZW fighters hid out in premises on Grzybowska Street. The hideout were betrayed to the Gestapo by Dawid Guzik, a Jewish agent who was involved in the Hotel Polski affair, and not by the radical Polish underground group “Miecz i Pług,” as claimed by Bernard Mark and Marek Edelman. The ŻZW fighters were all killed by the Gestapo in a firefight.1035
When the Great Deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto began in the summer of 1942, the families of Jewish Gestapo agents were ushered to safety on the “Aryan” side. Jonas Turkow mentions a large number of Jews who worked as Gestapo agents on the “Aryan” side, such as the dancer Franciszka Mann (née Manheimer, later Rozenberg), the lyricist Józef Lipski, the lyricist Andrzej Włast (Gustaw Baumritter), a German Jew named Sachsenhaus, who threw Adam Czerniaków, the head of the Judenrat, down the stairs, the Weintraub brothers, the boxer Anders, Manheimer, the brother of Franciszka Manówna, a German Jew named Fostel, Josef Włodawski, the boxer Fred Bobi, Milek the “redhead,” Edek Ast, Szeps, the inspector Erlich (Josl Kapote), “and others.” Franciszka Mann, who was exposed by double agents working for the Polish underground, frequented nightclubs in the company of German Gestapo officers. Turkow also mentions a Jew from Lublin by the name of Greier (Szama Grajer), who had assisted in the liquidation of the Jews in Lublin. Ignacy Lubowiecki and Dawid Gertler were other well-known Jewish Gestapo agents in Warsaw.1036 Baumritter is mentioned in Jewish sources as a Gestapo agent.1037 Polish underground sources record additional Jewish Gestapo agents such as Tadeusz and Waleria Rębowski (assumed identities) from Anin, Matia Goldman (the wife of Włodawski), Hermanowski and his wife Wanda Mostowicz (the wife of Jerzy Weisberg), Weintraub, Eryk Lipiński, Zuzanna Ginczanka (Sara Ginzburg), and many others.1038 A 1942 Polish underground report mentions Stefania Zauderer, the actor Adam Danielewicz, and Zdzisław Mirtenbaum-Koss.1039
Samuel Kenigswajn left a particularly poignant account of the fate of Jewish collaborators in the Warsaw ghetto:
The Jewish Fighting Organization countered the urgings [of the shop owners to report willingly for transfer to the Poniatowa labor camp] and took up arms against the betrayers and renegades … They carried out a death sentence on one of the directors of the Schultz shop by the name of Hirszl, a German Jew, who together with another renegade director by the name of Wajsberg urged workers to transfer and denounced the fighters. …
Seeing that the agitation of the directors was not working, the Hitlerites brought eight Jewish masters from Lublin together with the famed Gestapo agent, Szama Grajer, at their head. These lackeys of the enemy started to agitate on the streets of the ghetto in favour of transferring to the Poniatowa “paradise.” This was already in March 1943. The Fighting Organization reacted immediately by breaking the bones of the betrayers. They quickly absconded back to Lublin …
The operation of liquidating traitors continued throughout all of March. The fighters were particularly keen on [liquidating] a group of dangerous denouncers which included Bergazyn, the second director of the Hallman factory, his wife, her brothers by the name of Becher, and her brother-in-law, Kac. Kac had betrayed a hideout at 71 Nowolipki Street to the Germans. Many innocent victims were lost at that time.
The united fighters from the PPR [Polish Workers’ Party] and Hashomer Hatzair issued a death sentence against tthat group. They didn’t succeed in killing everyone. They burned out the eyes of the wretch Kac. … The Jewish Fighting Organization passed a death sentence on the betrayer Singer, a security guard at the Schultz factory. He was a Jew from Praga, a former boxer. Singer was eliminated. Another boxer by the name of Andres met the same fate. He was a denouncer and spy. Learning of the Organization’s sentence he tried to escape to the “Aryan” side but a fighter’s bullet hit him in time. There were other such armed operations in February and March 1943, but I so not remember them all.1040
Some Jews worked, at various times, for the Communists as well as the Gestapo, for example, Mieczysław Walczak and Jerzy Sawicki (Izydor Reisler).1041 Izydor Reisler, who under the assumed name of Jerzy Sawicki was an influential figure on the Lawyers’ Council in Soviet Lwów and persecuted its Polish members, turned agent for the Gestapo in the Lwów ghetto. This did not prevent him from rising to the position of prosecutor of the Supreme National Tribunal and Supreme Court in Stalinist Poland, where he was charged with prosecuting war criminals. Another example of a Jew who served many masters was described by Stanisław Taubenschlag, a scion of a prominent Jewish family from Kraków (his father was Professor Rafał Taubenschlag, dean of the Jagiellonian University). Stanisław Taubenschlag was pursued by Danek (Danko) Redlich, the son of a Jewish official from Kraków, who denounced him to the Gestapo while on a mission for the Polish underground in Warsaw. Taubenschlag managed to extricate himself and survived this trap, but his pursuer was now a wanted man.
The news of my tribulations in Warsaw quickly spread in the circles of young people. The hunt was now on for Danek Redlich who, it transpired, had been in the employ of the Bolsheviks in Lvov [Lwów] and had betrayed several people there. When Lvov was occupied by the Germans, this professional agent, entered the service of the Gestapo. After the war he worked in the security service (UB [Urząd Bezpieki]). In the 1950s he went to Venezuela where he met his death in a car accident in Caracas.1042
Another Jewish collaborator who changed sides was Teresa Bryk, the wife of a Polish airman who was killed in the Battle of Britain. During the German occupation she maintained liaisons with the Gestapo in Wyszków and Ostrów Mazowiecka. After the arrival of the Soviet army she began to work for the NKVD. She then made a career in the Communist political structures in the Pułtusk district.1043
On May 9, 1942, leaders of the leftist underground in the Warsaw ghetto were arrested after a denunciation, thereby paralyzing the so-called Anti-Fascist Bloc.1044 The use of Jewish confidants by the Gestapo was officially discontinued in September 1943.1045 However, well after the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, according to one report, the Gestapo continued to employ some 300 Jewish agents, remnants of the Żagiew organization and others, to ferret out Jews who were hiding among Christians in Warsaw. It was likely because of those agents that so many Jews passing as Poles and in hiding were captured. A Jew named Hening directed a 70-member team at the Gestapo premises on Szucha Avenue charged with the task of gathering information about Polish underground organizations, performing physical examinations on suspected Jews, and interrogating them about their knowledge of the Catholic faith. These agents not only combed Warsaw looking for Jews, but also were sent into the countryside where they were known to infiltrate partisan units and seek assistance from Polish villagers posing as Jews on the run.1046 After being stopped by German gendarmes in a routine check, Lidia Kott was taken to the Gestapo headquarters on Szucha Street. Luckily, she succeeded in concealing her Jewish identity.
Lidia was interrogated by two officers, tall blonds beautiful as archangels in their black uniforms. They told her to say her prayers, asked her to tell them the shape of the host, and tried to get her to say that it was square. Next day they sent her to the “anthropologist,” whom they addressed as “Herr Doktor.” He had the rank of a major. He examined her from all angles and came to the conclusion that the build of her body was Nordic and her type Euro-Asiatic. The investigations began all over again, now with the assistance of three experts: a Jew, a Ukrainian, and a Pole. … Lidia was taken out into the corridor and told to wait. Police informers were running around the corridors constantly, several times bringing in Jews. … After an hour or two, she was ordered to go home …
When they had let Lidia go, she had said to the Jewish informer, with her usual sangfroid, “Au revoir.” “Don’t say ‘Au revoir’ and never come back here. It’s a horrible place.”1047
After the failed uprising of August–October 1944, Jews refugees in the transit camp at Pruszków continued to be ferreted out by the “Heaven Brigade,” composed of Gestapo agents whose ethnic composition is not known, though likely there were Jews among them.1048 The high figures for Jewish Gestapo agents operating in Warsaw do not appear to be exaggerated given that, as mentiomned eaerlier, the Germans employed at least twenty Jewish Greifers, or “catchers,” to hunt down Jews in Berlin where far fewer Jews were hiding.
A similar situation prevailed in Lublin where the Germans were well-informed about the internal affairs of the ghetto thanks to their network of Jewish agents and informers, among them their ringleader Szama (Szaja) Grajer, Lejb (“Maska”), Abram Gemare, Sz. Mandelbojm, Szulim (“Babe”), and Matys Kurnik. When a second ghetto was established in Majdan Tatarski, Grajer enlisted another group of collaborators who carried out searches of Jewish homes and denounced those with forbidden property to the Gestapo. That group included Josl Szajner, Dinament, Szulim “Babe,”, Lejbl “Maske,”, “Para-Niepara,” Monkiel Ganew, Jankiel Szczygieł, and two brothers from Piaski. In December 1941, several months before the mass deportations to the death camps, the Germans set up an agency, known as the Office of Disinfection and Delousing, which was headed by Bolesław Tenenbaum, an experienced operative brought in from Warsaw where he had worked under the notorious Gancwajch. Tenenbaum and his colleagues Sztokfish, who was in charge of the sanitary section, and Dawid Kuperminc, who was in charge of the disinfection section, organized a team of 190 people in a military-like structure. These two groups (Grajer and Tenenbaum’s), together with the Judenrat, later played an important role in preparing for and executing the deportation of Lublin’s Jews and various other liquidation actions as part of Operation “Reinhard.” As elsewhere, the search for Jewish hiding places was carried out by the Jewish police and Jewish agents, who often took bribes from Jews before betraying them to the SS.1049 None of this is mentioned in Martin Dean’s entry for Lublin in the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945.1050
As Israeli Historian David Silberklang shows, at times, Jews who collaborated with the Nazis not only enriched themselves at the expense of other Jews, but actually formed close friendships with leading Nazi officials. The case of Szama (Shamai, Szaja) Grajer, of Lublin, is instructive. A barber and petty criminal before the war, Grajer was imprisoned by the Germans for hitting a Volksdeutsche who had been mistreating Jews. Silberklang continues,
While in prison he befriended many influential SS men and emerged from his incarceration as a proprietor of a café at 15 Lubartowska Street, which was frequented by some of the SS men. Grajer very quickly became a wealthy and influential figure, mistrusted and feared. He was able to acquire special privileges for those who paid him well, and he was correctly perceived by the ghetto community as a Gestapo informer. Nearly all survivors from Lublin remember him vividly.1051
Szama Grajer rose to great heights before his sudden, tragic end, as described by Silberklang,
Shamai Grajer decided that he wanted to marry his pregnant mistress, the seventeen-year-old, blond, blue-eyed Stettin refugee, Mira Fishman. Grajer forced the well-known Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Talmud to grant him a divorce from his wife Bella (against her will) and to perform the wedding. Grajer threw a big wedding party at his café and invited his SS friends, including Worthoff and Sturm, to attend. Sturm even sent a large bouquet of white roses. A day or two later the “illegals” were shot in the Krepiec [Krępiec] woods, and on November 9, Sturm shot Grajer, his wife, and his baby.1052
Jews from Lublin were enlisted in large numbers by the Germans to carry out confiscations in the countryside:
Unlike the typhus epidemic, confiscation of various materials was a German-initiated idea designed to benefit the Germans and weaken the Jews all at the same time. In mid-1941, the civilian labor office created a large team of more than 500 Jewish “sammler” (gatherers) all across the district. Their job was to comb the Jewish communities and other areas in search of metals, glass, paper, cloth, and other materials for industrial use. These people continued to work as sammler until the spring of 1942. For those chosen for this job, it was a boon; it gave them relative freedom of movement and widespread contacts with other Jews and with Poles. In some cases it also could serve as a basis for underground activity. However, for the Jews forced to relinquish materials, this was yet another blow to their wellbeing.1053
Jewish prisoners of war from the Lipowa Street camp in Lublin were employed in the liquidation of the ghetto in Lubartów.1054 When the need arose, Jewish Gestapo agents from Lublin were brought to Warsaw to help out with the Great Deportation of the summer of 1942:
Later, in August , when the truth [about the destination of the deportees, namely Treblinka] became widely known, there was the psychological difficulty of accepting it. … Moreover, the Nazis saw to it that their victims should still be able to reject the truth by providing them with false hope. Hoefle [SS Major Hermann Höfle] had brought with him from Lublin a gang of Jewish Gestapo agents who were ready to do anything to stay alive a little longer. They were installed in number 101, Żelazna Street, next to number 103 where Hoefle had his own headquarters, and there, assisted by Jewish Gestapo agents from the Warsaw ghetto, they fabricated letters, which were supposedly written by the ‘resettled’ from labour camps in Russia and elsewhere.1055
Jewish Gestapo agents and informers operating outside the ghetto were a significant peril for Jews who passed as Poles or who tried to hide. Indeed, Aleksander Biberstein, the eminent chronicler of the Kraków ghetto, whose testimony is cited later, considered them to have been a greater source of danger for Jews than Polish denouncers. This was a factor of their familiarity with the Jewish community and the “professional” pressures stemming from their duties: if they did not turn in fellow Jews in considerable numbers, their usefulness to the Germans was spent and their very existence in jeopardy. Most Jewish historians, however, are reluctant to admit to the existence of the numerous Jewish collaborators agents operating on the “Aryan” side, preferring instead to leave the impression that the enemy the Jews feared were not so much the Germans as the Poles, whose favourite pastime was allegedly to hunt down Jews. 1056
Antoni Marianowicz, who hid in and near Warsaw, concurs with that assessment: “Danger lurked not only from the Germans and Polish scoundrels—there were also Jewish scoundrels. I feared them no less, and maybe even more than the former. The conditions encouraged human baseness, regardless of race.”1057 In his published memoirs, in addition to a Jew by the name of Włodek S. working with a ring of szmalcowniks, a phenomenon that will be discussed in more detail, Marianowicz mentions a Jewish woman by the name of Zarembska, who denounced him to the director of the foundry in Wołomin where he worked, and another Jewish co-worker, who fled to Israel after the war in order to escape punishment for his role in helping the Germans plunder Polish property.1058