Members of the Jewish police were not the only ones who served the Germans; some Jews acted



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As mentioned earlier, mixed gangs of szmalcowniks which counted Jews among their members were already visible in the fall of 1939. Under the date November 4, 1939, Chaim Kaplan recorded the following entry:
The conqueror has surrounded himself with spies, traitors, and talebearers, some of whom are found even among our Jewish brethren. The Jews fill a triple role here. First, they are “informers” pointing out the way for the thieves. Visits are made to one place and then another, and each visit ends in a loss of money and life. Valuables are brazenly stolen, accompanied by threats and most often by blows and injuries. …

The second role filled by the Jews is to serve as sacrificial victims. As a result of our sacrifices, they take nothing from the Christians except in unusual cases. A third role is, to our shame, filled by those Jews who buy the stolen goods from the robbers.1110


The topic of szmalcowniks is dealt with extensively in a recent study by historian Jan Grabowski which is based on court records from Warsaw relating to trials of persons charged by the German authorities with extorting Jews. It is now beyond dispute that this phenomenon was not an exclusively Polish undertaking, but one in which persons of other nationalities, including Jews, played a prominent role. Of the more than 240 persons charged in 1940–1943, Poles accounted for about two thirds (159 in total), 45 were Germans (almost 20 percent), and more than 30 were Jews (there were also a few others including Ukrainians). Organized gangs targeted well-off Jews, usually included Jews among their members (some of these Jews were Gestapo agents), worked hand in hand with German officials, and often had connections with corrupt members of the Polish “Blue” police. Jewish scum were indispensable for extortion operations within the ghetto itself.1111 Maria Radziewicz, a doctor’s wife, recalled that she and others who had relocated from Łódź to Warsaw ended up seeking safety in the Warsaw ghetto because of the activities of Olek Kon from Łódź, who had joined up with a gang who blackmailed and denounced Jews.1112

Jan Grabowski’s study is also important for another reason: The Polish underground is often taken to task for delaying, until mid–1942, to take measures against szmalcowniks. However, since the Germans were actively prosecuting szmalcowniks until that time, there was no need to engage the complicated procedures of the underground state: it was far easier for someone, even the Jewish victims themselves, to simply report the szmalcowniks to the German authorities.1113 Until 1942, Jews could also obtain justice through Polish criminal courts which continued to operate to deal with ordinary transgressions, such as theft, robbery and assault, not involving Germans. Another recent study by Jan Grabowski of the court records from the environs of Warsaw yielded the following conclusions regarding the fairness of the criminal proceedings involving Jews as victims (witnesses) and as accused:


Once in the Polish court, proceedings involving Jews advanced along the lines prescribed by the Polish pre-war criminal code. Although the criminal law remained in force, the social context changed dramatically, and the magistrates seem to have been aware of the new reality and were ready to make certain allowances. In some cases … the judges quite clearly commiserated with the Jews and, while weighing their decisions, took into consideration the particularly dramatic plight of the “non-Aryan population.”

When Mendel Don and Izaak Butliński, both severely beaten by a group of hooligans, abruptly changed their testimony, the court “aware of the important discrepancies between the earlier testimonies of the victims and those given more recently,” decided to pay heed to the original statements. “The last testimony,” declared the judge, “must have been given under pressure, which could have been easily applied (especially in the case of the Jews) by Kaliński [one of the accused] who works in the mayor’s office.” [The accused, local peasants who assaulted and wounded a Jewish artisan, were sentenced (on appeal) to eight months in prison.] In another case, the court in Siedlce sentenced Chaim Lewin to three months in jail for charging black-market prices. The sentence was successfully appealed. The Warsaw Court of Appeals stated in its April 1941 decision that, “the accused Lewin is a poor artisan, and a sole provider for a family of six. In the present, tough times, he faces extreme financial hardship, and this speaks in his favour. In this context, the arguments of the prosecution are irrelevant.”

The Polish judges were also aware of the problems facing Jewish victims and witnesses summoned to court. In most cases, in order to appear before the bench, the Jews had to apply to police authorities for special travel permits. Such permissions were usually denied, and the witnesses’ absence could have been used to cut the proceedings short. The judges would have none of it, and refused to dismiss cases based on testimonies of absent Jewish witnesses or victims. The trials went ahead, and some Poles were even sentenced, although the Jewish victims had already been sent away to the death camps. [Several examples are cited of Poles being fined and sentenced to jail terms for stealing from or assaulting Jews.]

In all criminal cases heard by the Siedlce District Court, which involved Jewish victims and Polish accused, the trials went ahead even when the former were unable to testify. What may seem more surprising, in most cases the defense went along with the prosecutors’ requests to have testimonies of absent Jews admitted in court. [Examples are provided.] In all sentences that were appealed in the Warsaw Court of Appeals, the higher court upheld the decisions of the Siedlce court. The fact that the victims were Jewish, and the witnesses were unable to attend the hearings, seemed to have played no role in the judges’ deliberations.

The phenomenon of relative judicial impartiality as demonstrated in the Siedlce District Court and in the Warsaw Court of Appeals is corroborated by evidence from the Municipal Court in Otwock. There, the sentences imposed on Jewish defendants differed little from those imposed on Polish culprits. A comparison of fifty-four cases involving Jews with an equal sample of “Polish” cases reveals that the ethnic origin of the accused played no visible role in the court decisions. The cases heard by the court during the 1940–1942 period dealt mostly with theft and assault, and the judges were more preoccupied with the pre-war record of the accused than with their racial features. Repeat offenders were given harsh treatment regardless of their origins. Overall, the judges strayed on the side of leniency, often explaining in their decisions that the times were difficult and prison conditions were appalling. …

Although ultimately unsuccessful, the accused and their lawyers often appealed to the “racial solidarity” of the judges. …

A lawyer tried to link the Jews to “smugglers, thieves and Bolsheviks” who threatened the villagers east of Warsaw. Another accused peasant justified the assault on one Szwarcberg, “because the Jew pretended to be a Pole.” … these exhortations seem to have carried little or no weight with the judges …

… The records of Municipal and District Courts in the Warsaw area testify to the fact that the sentencing of Jewish defendants was carried out, for the most part, without a visible bias.1114


Survivor and rescuer accounts confirm that Jews were frequently involved in blackmailing fellow Jews. Maximilian T., a Jew from Lwów passing in Warsaw, describes how Jews from his native Lwów worked hand in glove with a gang of Polish blackmailers in Warsaw by compiling detailed lists of Jews in hiding. After his arrival in Warsaw, Maximilian T. gave his address to a Jewish friend he recognized from his home town of Lwów, also living in Warsaw under an assumed identity. Soon after, he was visited by blackmailers who demanded a payoff, but with whom, curiously, he developed amicable relations. They even urged him to change his address.
When I asked him who had given them my name, he said that I was not the only one on their list of Jews living in Warsaw under Polish names. … I was beside myself when I saw the list. It contained quite a number of Jews, among them about ten from my hometown, all registered by their assumed Polish names, their addresses in Warsaw, their real names, and also their means, the size of their families, their profession before the war, and finally, the place where they were working in Warsaw, if one held a job. Although I had my suspicions about who the author of the list was, I still was not sure and asked my friend to tell me who he was. My friend, the ‘szmalcownik’, gave me a few names of Jews who belonged to their gang. I was stunned to learn that, among others, there were the two colleagues of mine whom I mentioned earlier. They both came from so-called good Jewish families, and who would have believed that they could have been the source of information given to the blackmailers, by which they betrayed a fellow Jew, their former class-mate?1115
Maximilian T. acknowledges the wartime complexity as follows: “And to this question I would only add, and what about the Jews? Have we all been saints? Have there not been any rotten apples in our barrel? Based on my experiences during the Holocaust, I have come to the conclusion that a generalization in this matter [i.e., about the behaviour of Poles] would be unfair.”1116 Ozjasz Landau, who left Lwów and took up residence in Warsaw, reported that shortly after his Jewish friend’s cousin took him to an apartment where a family of Jews was living, the apartment was visited by Kuba Perlmutter and two Polish “bandits” who took 16,000 złoty from the Jewish family.1117 Henryk Reiss, who also took refuge in Warsaw, was warned by his aunt, a native of Lwów, of Jews in the service of the Gestapo: “Refugees from Lwów were exposed by others from Lwów, usually members of the so-called golden youth. She mentioned the name of the son of a known pharmacist E.”1118 Another Jew from Lwów who found refuge in Warsaw, where he personally encountered Jewish blackmailers, was Marion Andre (Marian Andrzej Tenenbaum aka Czerniecki), who later became a theatre director in Toronto.1119

Joseph Rosenberg from Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, who was passing as a Christian in Warsaw, described his family’s misfortunes (a robbery) at the hands of group of szmalcowniks with whom Józef Goncho, a Jewish acquaintance from Wolbrom, worked.1120 A Jew named Włodek S. got entangled with a Warsaw policeman and his wife, a prostitute; the Jews on whom he informed were then blackmailed by szmalcowniks.1121 A Jewish woman who was offered an opportunity to work together with szmalcowniks on Warsaw’s “Aryan” side after being unable to pay a ransom was Luba Gawisar.1122

A Jewish woman named Stefania K. recalled how a young Jew living in a tenement house in Warsaw she moved to, lured those he suspected of being Jewish to other premises on the pretext that they would be safe there from denouncers. In fact, it turned out this person worked together with the Gestapo, and the “safe” premises were soon visited by Germans to extort money from the Jews who fell into the trap and relocated.1123 Zosia Goldberg, who escaped from the Warsaw ghetto with her mother, described how her “friend” Franka, in whom she had confided, betrayed the fact that she had jewelry to a Volksdeutch plainclothes policeman, who then staged a robbery in her home, forcing her and her mother to relocate.1124

Another account tells of a Jewish woman confiding in a Jewish friend about family members passing as Poles in Warsaw: “And at parting, she even gave them our address and telephone number.” Soon the blackmailers came and, when the author’s father refused to give anything, he was arrested by the police. Fortunately, the Pole who interrogated his father had pity on him and released him. However, the father’s mother was suspicicious of the policeman’s motives so, in a bizarre twist, she turned her son in to the police for trading in dollars. Although his fellow prisoners learned he was Jewish, a certain criminal protected him and he was eventually released in exchange for a large bribe. The aunt who had triggered this series of events had an affair with an informer, and when his wife learned of this she denounced the author’s mother, who she mistakenly believed was having the affair.1125

A Jewish family passing as Christians in Warsaw faced extortion by a mixed gang of szmalcowniks, possibly with police connections, after a young Jewish woman from their native Białystok sought their assistance to pay a bribe to the Kripo. Within days a gang of three men, including two Germans, who knew all about their circumstances, descended on their residence. The Jewish woman had obviously been used as a decoy. The Jews spotted one of the szmalcowniks on the street a few weeks later and he offered to return the bracelet he had taken from them in exchange for cooperating with the group by finding other victims.1126

Gary Keins describes several encounters in Warsaw with a Jewish woman, a Mrs. Salc, whom he had met in Zamość, where she first revealed his cover. Originally from Lwów, Mrs. Salc eventually moved to Warsaw where she worked together with a gang of szmalcowniks, tailing Jews passing as Poles. But that wasn’t the author’s only worry: “If Mrs. Salc only speculated about my origin, there was at least one other person who could finger me—a young man and former member of the Ghetto police who suddenly showed up on the Polish side.”1127 The author recalls that the Nazis had their agents, including Jewish ones, all over Warsaw and “used Jewish cowards to track down their co-religionists hiding on the Polish side. We heard that they made dozens of denunciations every day to the Gestapo. The numbers were so numerous that the Nazis fell behind in their frenzied Jew-killing, so much so that betrayals from December, 1942, were not yet disposed of in March of 1943, according to the information of the underground.” He had heard that “about one hundred fifty Ghetto dwellers had pledged themselves as agents to the Gestapo. … about one hundred and fifty Jewish escapees were caught every day with the help of those betrayers and various other headhunters.”1128

Rescuer Kazimiera Żuławska recalls a number of raids on her Warsaw apartment whose purpose was to extort large sums of money. The Gestapo was accompanied by spies or denouncers who were Jews, Volksdeutsche or Poles.1129 Another rescuer recalls an extortion by a Polish policeman. The Jewish woman in question was denounced by a Jew, and the extortion money had to be shared with the Germans.1130

Jewish Gestapo agents and informers on Warsaw’s Ayran side were involved in blackmailing as an important sideline, in addition to their assigned tasks of ferreting out Jews in hiding, searching for Jewish goods hidden with Poles, gathering intelligence about the rescue network and infiltrating underground organizations.1131 Henryk Grabowski, a legendary Home Army liaison between the Polish and Jewish underground, who smuggled scores of Jews out of the Warsaw ghetto, recalled that there were Jewish, as well as Polish szmalcowniks he had to watch out for.1132 Ludwik Hirszfeld, a Jew who converted to Christianity and also had to hide to survive, confirms, albeit with some exaggeration, the same state of affairs: “In the city [of Warsaw] there moved about thousands [sic] of spies—Volksdeutsche, Poles and Jews …”1133

Irena Tarłowska (Szenberg), who survived passing as a Christian in Warsaw, after recounting her experiences with Polish blackmailers, concludes: “What is so surprising about this? Robbing Jews was such an easy way to make a profit. In every nation one can find rogues. There were after all Jewish blackmailers too.”1134 Miriam Peleg-Mariańska, a Jew who worked closely with Żegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, writes: “In spite of the fact that the streets of Warsaw were swarming with many informers, collaborators and stool-pigeons, both Polish and Jewish ones, the city always awakened in me feelings of admiration with regard to its general attitude to the occupiers.”1135

Israel Shahak, a Jew from Warsaw, has stated:


Of course there were Polish policemen who rounded up Jews and Poles, who blackmailed Jews whom they recognized as such. … But who of the Jewish survivors does not know … that there were also Jewish blackmailers, some of them even quite famous by name, outside the Ghetto, who were neither better nor worse than the Polish ones, and also Jewish policemen in the Ghetto whose duty in the first weeks of the extermination of summer 1942 was to deliver, each of them a specified number, of Jewish victims to ‘be sent’ to extermination. Now, I hold that both kinds of murderers or accessories to murder are fully equal and that the abhorrence in which one should hold them does not depend on nationality, but my memories (and memories of all the survivors who are honestly ‘talking among themselves’) tell me that at the time we Jews hated the Jewish policemen, or the Jewish spies for the Nazis in the Ghetto, much more than we hated anybody else.1136
Of this tragic and complex phenomenon Władysław Bartoszewski, an active member of Żegota, writes:
The struggle against the blackmailers was exceedingly difficult. It was nevertheless carried out systematically as far as possible by the Polish underground organizations during 1943 and 1944. If, however—as events would show in several cases—the memory of the wrongs and the personal tragedies suffered as a consequence of denunciation was stronger and more lasting in those who were rescued than the memory of the incomparably more numerous cases of proffered assistance, this has to be regarded as a characteristic, but also understandable, trait of human nature. In general, tragic and negative experiences leave a deeper and more lasting impression on the human psyche than do good and positive ones. Aside from the German police and the informers and extortionists, who were recruited from the dregs of the Christian Polish and Ukrainian population, it was the Jewish confidence men who represented the greatest threat to Jews living in hiding. Seduced by false hopes and promises, they frequently helped the Germans to track down fellow Jews who were hiding in the ‘Aryan’ sector.1137
Elsewhere Bartoszewski wrote that confidants, renegades and betrayers constituted a greater plague, and were much more visible, inside the ghettos than the parallel phenomenon on the Polish side.1138 It is also worth noting that the Germans employed many non-Polish agents and informers not only in Warsaw, but throughout occupied Poland,1139 even in areas where those ethnic minorities did not live. According to historian Jan Pietrzykowski, the city of Częstochowa was plagued by both Ukrainian and Lithuanian Gestapo agents.1140 Other Polish historians note that Ukrainians, Belorussians and Russians were employed not only in Warsaw, but also in a small town like Augustów.1141 Jewish memoirs also confirm that Ukrainian Gestapo agents and informers were plentiful in Warsaw.1142 However, despite the existence of such copious evidence, historian Gunnar Paulsson, who has recently published an important study about Jews in wartime Warsaw, insists that the supposition that blackmailers included substantial numbers of Jewish turncoats is “quite mistaken.”1143 Moreover, he maintains that he has not encountered in his research a single “concrete example” of a Jew betraying his Polish benefactor,1144 even though such cases were already reported during the war and confirmed afterwards.1145

Conditions were much the same outside Warsaw. Historians Józef Bratko and Witold Mędykowski deal extensively with the activities of Gestapo agents of various nationalities in Kraków, where a group of about thirty Jews worked under Maurycy Diamand (Diamant) and Julian Appel and another smaller group under Aleksander Förster.1146 There was a special division for Jewish affairs—Department No. 3—at the Gestapo headquarters on 2 Pomorska Street in Kraków, which consisted of a large network of agents, drawn mainly from the Jewish ghetto police, and informers. One of the most active German Gestapo agents in Kraków was Rudolf Körner, originallly from the Sudentenland, who was responsible for the capture of hundreds of Jews on the Aryan side.1147 A postwar investigation revealed that Gestapo confidants Julian Appel and Grun (likely Marcel Gruner) apprehended Michał Kaczor, a Jew living in Kraków on Aryan papers, and brought him to a police station.1148 Roman Sperber, a member of the Jewish underground in Kraków, was also denounced by Julian Appel, whereas Henryk Sperber, Roman’s older brother, was denounced by a female Jewish agent and apprehended by Jewish police. Both brothers were murdered by the Gestapo.1149 Fearing being blamed for aiding resisters inside the ghetto, Jewish policemen, among them Julian Appel, Wilek Giemski and Weiss, with the assistance of the informer Stefania (Stefa) Brandstätter (née Rottenberger), tracked down members of the Jewish underground on the “Aryan” side.1150 Erna H.’s chances of hiding among the Poles were higher than average: she had false documents, spoke flawless Polish, and because she happened to attend Catholic school, knew religious rituals and prayers. Furthermore, the priest in the school she attended was the secretary of the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Adam Sapieha, and had the connections and the willingness to hide Erna in a convent. The only thing that stood between Erna and successful evasion of the Nazi persecution was Stefania Brandstätter, who combed the convents searching for hidden Jews. Eventually, Erna H. had to abandon the idea.1151 Stefania Brandstätter also betrayed two Polish colleagues, Anna Maria Heydel and Izabela Czecz, who were deported to concentration camps.1152

The Jewish underground had little success in eliminating Jewish Gestapo agents (some were eventually executed by the Polish underground, others like Diamand, who had personal Jewish bodyguards protecting him, avoided his death sentence). According to members of the Jewish underground, these Gestapo agents succeeded in destroying almost completely the Jewish underground in the ghetto and its members, liaison officers, supply depots and printing shops on the Aryan side. When the ghetto was liquidated on March 13, 1943, most of the remaining underground members perished when a Jewish informer betrayed their bunker.1153 Not only did the Germans employ groups of Jewish Gestapo agents to ferret out Jews in hiding, but also to spread propaganda, particularly for the benefit of the West, by creating Jewish organizations dedicated to the “welfare” of fellow Jews.1154

Aleksander Biberstein, the chronicler of Kraków Jewry, describes at great length the activities of numerous members of the Jewish police—the Ordnungsdienst (OD or Order Service), and various other Jewish agents active both inside and outside the ghetto.


During the entire period of the occupation the Odnungsdienst was a tool in the hands of the Gestapo. On its instructions the OD-men carried out without reservation the basest activities, frequently surpassing the Germans in their ruthlessness. They were the ones who pulled Jews out of homes to their deportation, pressing them on with screams and often with beatings. They were the ones who filled up the jail cells on the basis of lists of names drawn up with their help and the help of other denouncers. They convoyed the transports of deportees and, on their own initiative, carried out searches of homes to look for those who were staying there “illegally.” …

The OD had three sections: political, currency, and criminal. The Zivilabteilung was a special section that reported directly to the Gestapo and received its instructions from them. That unit struck terror [in the ghetto]…

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