Edi Weinstein, an escapee from Treblinka, recalls his experiences in a work camp in Siedlce:
I was to report to Moshe Huberman, a Jew from Lodz [Łódź] who had recently reappeared in the camp. Huberman was on friendly terms with the camp commander … and commanded the Jewish police in the camp. Known as an informer and an extortionist, he harassed anyone from whom he thought he could squeeze a little money. … Huberman said he heard we had been in Treblinka and possessed a great deal of money. He demanded 200 zlotys [złoty] from each of us for what he called the “general fund.”1224
Later, in Łosice, Weinstein recalled:
A new elite took shape, composed mainly of former policemen, most of whom were young men from well-to-do families. They were the first to move into the best apartments. They still had their parents’ money, retrieved from the family strongboxes. Living for the moment, they often got together to drink and gamble at cards. Most of those who returned to the ghetto lacked the means to live that way … Anonymous informers frequently denounced persons with concealed funds … Sometimes the hoarders got off with a beating; in other cases they were locked up until they paid a ransom.1225
Inmates of the Płaszów concentration camp in the outskirts of Kraków recall:
Lackeys from among the Jewish prisoners helped [Goeth, the camp commander] plunder all the camps [around Cracow]. … In our camp, Plaszow, his faithful servants were the camp eldest, [Wilek or Wilhelm] Chilowicz, and his wife [Maria], as well as several other souls who had sold themselves to the devil. …
Once, as we were being made to do one of these additional tasks, the Jewish overseer imagined that I was doing my job negligently. He attacked me viciously, beating my left hand with his whip, and my hand swelled up and turned blue. … That lackey of the murderers caused trouble for many of the prisoners, but he got his due after the war, when he returned to Cracow and was hanged.1226
One day, I had worked night shift and was allowed to sleep during the day. Suddenly, out of my sleep, I heard someone yell, “Down from the bunk! Down, fast!” It was the policeman everyone feared, tall, fat, brutal, aggressive. He yelled insults: unrepeatable, unmentionable words. I didn’t get a chance to explain that I had worked all night. He hit me with a lash three times on my back. Great red welts suddenly appeared. My skin was scarred for weeks. It hut, naturally, but no more than the pain of my humiliation. There wasn’t a single German in sight! There was nothing to justify his action but his own base nature.
Once the same policeman came into the barracks and saw a woman sitting on the edge of a table, talking to another woman. He lifted the lash and hit her so hard that she lost one eye as a result. She was a poet; her name was Ester Sztub.1227
Anyone who faltered or did not work quickly was whipped by the Ordnungsdienst (Jewish police) appointed by the murderous [Kommandant] Mueller. Ordnungsdienst Chilowicz and his wife—a petite archetype of evil—and the brutish Finkelstein were the cruelest.Always dressed in uniforms, these Kapos beat, pushed, and mercilessly whipped their fellow inmates. I remember one woman was forced to lug large rocks up the hill, but was not fast enough for Finkelstein, so in a rage, he whipped her. … After the war, this animal received the long jail term he deserved. …
One day Father told me that Ordnungsdienst Zanger had insulted and beaten him. He had tears in his eyes when he told me the story of how Zanger caught him in talis and tefillin at the moment he called an Appell [roll-call]. Father was not able to put away his talis and tefillin fast enough for Zanger, so the Kapo cursed, shove, and hit him. …
Mundek Reich, the inveterate bully, was the Ordnungsdienst assigned to the barrack containing the tinsmithing and roofing workshop. When I commented to fellow prisoner Shloime Lefkovich that Jewish Kapos were terrible, he tried to curry favor by repeating my opinions to Mundek, who punched me in the face several times. Reich had been a professional boxer, and my face was swollen for days. After the war, Reich was tried in Poland for committing atrocities, and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary, a lenient sentence in my opinion.1228
But the ordners and Kapos beat people with truncheons. Mrs. Hilewicz [Chilowicz] from Kraków, in a shapely suit and knee boots, goaded the women on with a riding whip: “Hurry on, you Venetian cunts, you’re not in Drohobycz!” “Hurry on, pricks!” shouted Mr. Hilewicz, the boss of the men’s camp. The jackals approached us before we entered the showers: “Give me what you have, I’ll give you half of it back. If not, they’ll take all of it.” The people gave, and naturally didn’t get anything back. And anyway everything went into the pockets of the Hilewiczes and Finkelstein, the main Kapo. … Kleinman, a young son-of-a-bitch, would position us by the barracks next to the ditch filled with shit. I stood in the first line of fives and shielded Father who could barely stand on his legs. Kleinman walked up and pushed him. “Straighten up, old geezer!” I pushed him off and he fell into the ditch with shit. Everybody was delighted, but Finkelstein came and dislocated my jaw with a single blow.1229
The head of the Jewish police in Płaszów had been a suspected informer, but said he’d only been a milkman, in Cracow. His name was Chilewicz. He knew I was going by a false birth certificate, that I was still a child. His wife was the head inmate of the women’s camp. Soon, during an Appel, Chilewicz’s wife took me out of line and sent me to the children’s home where all the other children were being gathered for deportation. She said I was also a child and belonged there. [The author managed to escape and hide.] …
Finally, the head of the women’s camp—Chilewicz’s wife—found out about us and informed the camp commandant, Goeth. This German said to her that if we four children had the guts to jump into the waste to save ourselves, then we should be spared and not deported like the other children. This is how we were able to remain in camp legally.1230
Another memoir identifies Dr. Leon Gross as “the basest collaborator” in Płaszów. (Dr. Gross was another of the very few Jewish collaborators brought to justice after the war in a Polish court, and was sentenced to death for his crimes.) That same author acknowledges: “From the beginning of the war when we lived in Cracow and later in Rzeszów, we were aware of many dangerous Jewish informers working for the Gestapo and other German authorities.” He also takes credit for detecting Moszkac Selinger, one of Kraków’s most notorious Gestapo agents, in Bratislava after the war and ensuring that he was brought to trial.1231
A Jew from Piotrków Trybunalski who was forced to work in the Hasag factory (labour camp) in Częstochowa recalled:
The worst part was going to work and coming back. In the yard, there were always Kapos (Katzet-Polizei or Head foremen) or just “hitters”, who walked around beating up everybody in sight. The worst offender of them was a tall giant whom we called “Bulldog”. His real name was Szie Biodra from Chmielnik. He would walk around with a whip, without feeling or conscience, like a robot, and hit everyone in sight.1232
There are numerous other accounts that attest to similar occurrences throughout German-occupied Poland,1233 as well as in camps in Germany proper:
In Augsburg Soviet prisoners of war stole and robbed. They’d throw a blanket on your head and take away shoes, bread, whatever you had, even bowls and spoons. They had intimate relationships with German criminals for whom they served as whores. And the Gypsies sold themselves too. They worked as barbers and shaved our genitals, so as not to leave a single hair, and they cut us on purpose—“Ah, entschuldigen Jude.” And we had our own sons-of-bitches as well. The Friedman brothers from the Mielec transport sliced our bread more thinly and stole like ravens. Felczer, a Kapo from Sosnowiec, dished out nothing but water from the top of the cauldron, and whoever protested got hit on the head with a ladle. The Greek Jews hated us for “Canada,” the kommando which in Auschwitz sorted out the baggage of those sent to the gas, and gorged themselves, keeping others away. A camp was hatred. They couldn’t do anything to the Germans, so they hated one another.1234
Abraham Landau, for example, encountered Jewish kapos at several camps, as well as Gypsy kapos.
Without delay we were assigned to a kapo, or foreman, in charge of our block. The kapos at Gutenbrunn were mostly German Jews, so I thought they would go east on us, but this was not so. … Kapos made a pact with the devil: To survive they had to please their masters, which meant oppressing their countrymen. … In exchange for their obedience, kapos received additional freedoms and privileges. You kapo was your master; some of them were angels—friendly while others were the very devil—vicious. …
Evil kapos were not hard to find. The one who earned the distinction of being the worst was the Polish Jew who guarded us at work. He was chosen, no doubt, because he was a big, tall guy and strong as an ox. He was also merciless and stupid. …
Our kapo carried his long, rubber truncheon and beat us along the way. … Many of the boys were not strong enough to put in a full day’s work and fell or fainted. This meant more beatings by the kapo. He didn’t care. He would kill them right away there by the wayside, and they would be taken away and not seen again. …
And there were always kapos who were crueler than others. As we marched back from work, one kapo made us crawl on our hands and knees—fast, then faster—and sing German songs or make animal noises, like a cow or a pig. He did this as we passed through the village in order to humiliate us all the more.1235
[Buna subcamp of Auschwitz:] On one very cold evening in late December , … I swapped the knife [a friend had given me] with another boy for a piece of bread. Unfortunately, the kapo in charge, a German Jew named Paul, was watching and saw the transaction.
Some of the German Jews, I’m ashamed to say, were as brutal as the SS. They got their orders from the SS, which they had to follow, but they could have done things to help us not to suffer so badly. Instead, they did everything they were told, and sometimes more. For their barbarity they got better rations, better clothes, more privileges. …
Suddenly he [Paul] went wild and grabbed me with both hands. He was very strong and I weighed about a hundred pounds, so I couldn’t fight back. In the middle of the barracks was a freestanding stove, and it was very hot. … Paul put me on the stove and held me there for about a minute, burning my whole behind from below my waist all the way down my butt. He then threw me on the floor and left.
I staggered back to the barrack, lay down on my bunk and wept. … As darkness fell, I couldn’t sleep from the pain; blisters erupted all across my buttocks.1236
[Dora-Mittelbau near Nordhausen:] … some Gypsies arrived—the Germans had assigned them as kapos to watch this particular barrack, and they were a murderous group. They went after us right away, for no reason, with rubber truncheons, sticks, and whips, beating us over our heads, feet and bellies.1237
As shown in the examples cited earlier, German Jews, who were known for their contempt of Ostjuden,1238 acquired a particularly servile and hostile reputation among Polish Jews. An Austrian Jew who was imprisoned in a labour camp near Landsberg recalled:
The first day in Lager Eins passed with exercises. The Kapo was a Jew from Germany who made us march up and down the camp with intervals of ‘caps down—caps up’. He especially had it in for the Jews from Poland, who, in his words, were Muselmaenner [Muselmänn was a nickname for an emaciated prisoner] anyway, and every bit of food was wasted on them.1239
Despite their own persecution by the Germans, German Jews often remained ardent German nationalists and retained loyalty to members of their families who were committed Nazis. According to one Polish Jew,
The Polish Jews considered their German coreligionists equal to the Goyim (Gentiles) and dreaded having one of their families settled in their homes. The German Jews, likewise, bore a strong dislike for the eastern Jew, the Hasid. Some blamed the Hasidim for the dismal fate they had suffered, having been rejected as rightful citizens of their beloved Germany. “Had it not been for your peculiar deportment and unmistakably Jewish appearance, the Führer might have been kinder to all of us,” some remarked.1240
Another Polish Jew recalled a Jewish inmate in Bergen-Belsen who had married a German and converted to Christianity. Her husband became a member of the SS, while her two sons joined the Hitler Youth.
However, as far as the Nazi authorities were concerned, she was still Jewish, and, together with the other Jews of Polish nationality, she was deported to Poland, imprisoned in the ghettos, and later sent to various camps. She maintained that the Jews alone were responsible for all the disasters that had befallen her, regarding herself as the victim of a tragic misunderstanding. She would boast about the things her husband and sons had done, declaring that they would soon get her out. In the camp she cultivated the friendship of SS men …
She was rapidly appointed supervisor of the block and would torment us as if she were a real German.1241
A young Jewish man from Germany, who had been deported to Poland because of his parents’ Polish nationality, displayed a similar attitude:
His mother had been a Jewess from the Warsaw area and her surname had been Mekhlovitz, while his father had been a pure German. He had been given his mother’s name because he had been born out of wedlock. He talked about his mother with open hatred, condemning her for having placed him in a Jewish orphanage when he was a child, thus making him a Jew.
“If it hadn’t been for that Jewish w…e [whore], I wouldn’t be considered a Polish Jew.”
He spoke about his father, on the other hand, with obvious admiration. He was an important figure in the Nazi party, and his legitimate sons were members of the Hitler youth organization.1242
This man too became a German lackey when he was eventually imprisoned in Płaszów.
German Jewish intellectuals retianed their strong affinity for German culture, even in its most nationalistic and xonphobic manifestations. Prominent German-Jewish historian Hans Rothfels promoted Nazi positions of ethnic expansion in the East despite experiencing progressively greater discrimination from the Nazis owing to his Jewishness. He failed to secure the status of “honorary Aryan” from Joachim von Ribbentrop, and finally had to emigrate from Nazi Germany just before WWII. Even if Rothfels’ views fell short of the fullness of Nazi racial ideology relative to the Slavs, they nevertheless, at very least, promoted the elimination of Slavic nation states in favor of German rule and the relegation of Slavs to vassal status. No sooner had Rothfels returned to Germany after WWII than he became the first German historian to attack the new Oder-Neisse (Odra-Nysa) boundary.1243
Even among Austrian Jews transported to the Łódź ghetto, such vestiges of pro-German sentiments remained as late as 1942, as Israel U. recalls.
When we asked them why they were sent to the ghetto, they said that the Germans wanted to protect them from the bombs, because where they were [from] there were severe bombings, and here there were no bombings. You know the German Jews! 1244
Curiously, Polish Jews who left Wrocław (formerly Breslau) after the war in transports for returning German citizens were betrayed by German Jews to the British occupation authorities on arrival in Germany. The British wanted to detain the Polish Jews and send them back to Poland.1245
In almost every European country, but not among ethnic Poles in Poland, collaborators easily outnumbered the ranks of the anti-Nazi resistance. Hundreds of thousands of non-Germans—many of them from Western Europe—willingly joined the German war effort. Virtually every European national group, except for Poles, volunteered to serve in the ranks of the elite SS, which included the following nationalities: Dutch—50,000, Belgians—40,000, Hungarians—40,000, Croatians—40,000, Ukrainians—30,000 (of the 80,000 who had volunteered), Cossacks—30,000, Latvians—30,000, French—20,000, Albanians—19,000, Russians—18,000, Estonians—15,000, Belorussians—10,000, Italians—10,000, Tatars—10,000, Norwegians—8,000, Danes—6,000, Slovaks—6,000, Czechs—5,000, Romanians—5,000, Finns—4,000, Serbs—4,000, Bulgarians—3,000, Armenians—3,000, Georgians—3,000, Uzbeks—2,000, Greeks—1,000, Swiss—1,000, Swedes—300, English—100.1246 Many more fought in other military formations. For example, Ukrainians fought in at least 70 of more than 150 so-called Eastern Battalions, including at least 35,000 in 58 Guard Battalions or Schutzmannschaftsbataillons. In total, there were nearly 250,000 Ukrainians in the units of the Eastern Troops and German auxiliary units. According to General Ernst Köstring, the Eastern Troops commander, in October 1944, over 800,000 Eastern volunteers (including Ukrainians) served in the German army and an additional 100,000 served in the Luftwaffe and navy.1247
The phenomenon of civilian collaboration was by no means unique to Poland or endemic to Poles, although some historians have attempted to elevate it to some exceptional level. Lucy Dawidowicz, fo example, contends: “In no other country in Europe did such police informing and unsolicited cooperation with the SS assume the massive proportions they took on in Poland.”1248 However, Dawidowicz ignores Jewish conduct in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland, which constituted de facto collaboration with an ally of Nazi Germany,1249 nor is there any evidence that Dawidowicz carried out any serious comparative research before reaching her sweeping conclusions. Historian Philip Friedman has pointed out that a special branch of the Jewish Defence Committee in Belgium daily employed 300 persons, Jews and non-Jews, to assist post-office workers to intercept denunciations of Jews mailed to the German authorities.1250 In fact, thousands of letters denouncing Jews were sent to the occupying authorities—an enormous number given the size of that country’s Jewish community (90,000 or about one percent of that country’s population).1251 French Jews were also confronted with the problem of collaboration and denunciation on a daily basis.1252 The French wrote between three and five million signed and unsigned letters of denunciation, often sent directly to the Gestapo. An estimated 20,000 of these denunciations pertained to Jews.1253
In Norway, nearly half of the minuscule Jewish population of 1,600 (0.05 percent of the total population) was killed during the war and none would have died without Norwegian collaboration. Norway had only a few convinced Nazis but enough anti-Semites and law-abiding policemen and bureaucrats to make the Final Solution a near-success. During the war, many Norwegians who would otherwise not have helped the Germans, took part in registering, arresting, and handing over Jews to the German authorities. As for the powerful Norwegian resistance movement, it resembled all the other European resistance movements in caring little about what happened to the Jews. Those Norwegian Jews who did survive the war were not sheltered in Norway for long years but smuggled into Sweden where they were out of reach of the Germans. Only a handful of Jews survived in hiding in Norway.1254
According to Raul Hilberg, “In the Netherlands the Jews were destroyed with a thoroughness comparable to the relentless uprooting process in the Reich itself.” Although Holland had no puppet regime, the local bureaucracy and police played a pivotal role in the Final Solution. The various Dutch police forces—the Security Police, the Order Police, the Dutch police from Amsterdam and the Hague, the Dutch auxiliary police (not to mention the Jewish Order Police from Westerbork)—were crucial to the success of German designs. Ninety percent of the Amsterdam police reportedly cooperated with the round-ups, and a German occupation official proclaimed after the war that without the Dutch police “it would have been practically impossible to seize even ten percent of Dutch Jewry.” In the small towns and villages “both the local mayors and the police were complicit in the round-ups.” Westerbork, the transit camp where Dutch Jews were loaded onto trains for the gassing centres, was guarded by the illustrious Royal Marechaussee, comparable to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Equally accommodating and essential to the Germans were the personnel of the Dutch transport system who hauled the Jews from the localities to Westerbork and thence east, i.e., to the border where German railroad personnel took over. However, inside Westerbork, the Germans set up an elaborate Jewish camp directorate, Jewish clerks made up weekly lists of Jews for deportation, and the Jewish order police supervised the loading of Jews onto trains.1255 The situation was much the same in most other countries.1256
Reprisals against collaborators reached massive proportions in Western Europe. The number of persons lynched or murdered during the last months of the war, or at the moment of liberation, ran into the tens of thousand. Beatings of suspected collaborators by unorganized mobs were commonplace. In France, “military operations during the Liberation were often accompanied by acts of revenge perpetrated either by individual score-settlers or by members of the resistance. The number of deaths, which is sometimes put as high as 40,000, certainly exceeded those caused by occupying German forces in 1940–44. … Special courts of justice condoned 10,800 executions, but the spontaneous épuration or purging of collaborators claimed many more victims …”1257 (These figures are all the more suprising in light of recent French scholarship indicating that German terror in France was not nearly as extensive as once believed. In fact, the Germans executed only some 4,500 persons, more than 70% of them Communists, after being condemned to death by military tribunals or as hostages, and not the previously claimed 80,000.1258 In addition, at least 1,000 persons were executed in mass reprisals in places such as Oradour, Maillé, Saint-Genis-Laval, Bron, Tulle, and Asq.) It is estimated that some 20–25,000 French women were subjected to ritualized shearing (head shaving) and other humiliations following liberation.1259 An eyewitness described the atmosphere that accompanied a procession of “sexual collaborators” in Paris:
Near to the metro stop Danube (19th arrondissement of Paris), a crowd was following a woman who was entirely naked. Her head had been completely shaved, and on her breast two swastikas tattooed in Indian ink. … On her back she also had tattooed a portrait of Hitler. The crowd which was out of control were throwing stones at her, pushing her and insulting her.
And yet the vast majority of police officers suspended after the liberation of Paris in 1944 for extreme forms of collaboration, including assistance to the Parti populaire français and similar groups) were later reintegrated into the police forces.
The epurazzione was particularly brutal in Italy, where somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 Italians lost their lives. Some 9,000 Fascists or their sympathizers were killed in April and May 1945 alone.1260 On July 6, 1945, local Communist partisans broke into the prison at Schio in the province of Vicenza, and butchered 54 prisoners, thirteen of them women, accused of various Fascist crimes.1261 Lynchngs of alleged collaborators took place in Belgium and the Netherlands as well.1262 In Norway, a country with a population of less than three million, Norwegian authorities arrested some 90,000 of their compatriots on suspicion of collaboration with the Germans. Some 46,000 people were found guilty of some degree of helping the enemy, 17,000 were sentenced to prison with 600 to terms of eight years or longer, and 25 were sentenced to death.1263 In Denmark, 22,000 people were arrested for collaboration, 14,000 were sentenced to prison terms, and 46 sentenced to death (of whom 23 were executed).1264 In the Netherlands,