|(There is more about Zimmet or Zimet later on.) This Jew also recalled another Jew, an Austrian exile named Distler (Diestler), who “fully and brutally” cooperated with the Gestapo in Tarnów. Occasionally, private “justice” was exacted. Miriam Jaszuńska, a Jewish partisan who took up residence in Wilno after the city’s liberation, stated that Jews looked for surviving policemen from the ghetto in order to settle scores. Jewish partisans shot a sergeant by the name of Bernstein and handed over a certain Ferdman to the Soviet authorities, who tried and sentenced him.1302
Dr. Lopold Lustig from Drohobycz identifies several Jewish collaborators who fled to the West and were never brought to justice because of inaction on the part of the Jewish community:
At a party [in New York] to honor Helmrich, I saw Wilek Ornstein [a ghetto policeman from Drohobycz]. I wanted to inform on him. I spoke to Mrs. Laufer. She said she didn’t remember. I also spoke to Kuba Gold and Stella Wolfgang about Bross when we testified at the trial. “S’past nisht far dee goyim,”—it’s unseemly in front of the goyim. They didn’t want to. Ornstein was the main stoker of the crematorium in Mauthausen and Bercio Gutenplan was his helper. …
Attorney Holzman, who delivered my aunt Yetka to her death, lived in Düsseldorf and sat on the supervisory board of the synagogue. No one wanted to touch his case. … Baumgarten and Giza Bachman [confidants and extortionists] were deported to Siberia, sent there by Izio Weisberr who returned with the Soviet Army. They came back later as victims of Stalinism. [Izio Weisberr or Weissber served in the security police after returning to Poland] … In New York, I saw Mićko R.’s brother. He said Mićko [Maciek Ruhrberg, an extortionist] got married again, lived in Toronto and was doing well. Nobody wanted to remember. Nobody wanted to tell on a Jew.
“Not one of them was ever tried?”
“Only one, Bronek Dauerman, in Poland. Someone fingered him, but he had money from his robberies, so he hired good lawyers who got him out on bail and he made a getaway to Germany.”1303
Jacob Tannenbaum, a former kapo, faced deportation from the United States fin 1987 for his brutal treatment of prisoners. He was accused by fellow Jewish concentration camp survivors of ordering 300 Jews to their deaths in 1945, for raping women, and torturing and killing male prisoners, including a rabbi. “He was a nasty, nasty guy,” said a former head of the Office of Special Investigations, Martin Mendelsohn, “There were a lot of witnesses who remembered him and his bestiality.” The Jewish Week (February 12, 1988) reported, however, that “most [Jews] agreed, in the words of Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, that ‘the kapos were victims. They were chosen by their enemies. It is true that some were very, very cruel, but even those were acting as instruments of the enemy.’” Tannenbaum was eventually stripped of his U.S. citizenship, but not deported. “This is the best solution for all concerned,” said Tannenbaum’s lawyer, Elihu Massel. “It will also avoid a truly ghastly trial in which Jews would have had to testify against Jews, none of whom really want to remember.”
The role of the Jewish police in assisting the Germans to carry out round-ups of Jews came to the fore when Hirsch Barenblat, the local commander of the Jewish militia in Będzin, was tried for collaboration, both in Poland immediately after the war and again in Israel in the early 1960s. Barenblat became the assistant conductor of the Israeli National Opera and was identified by a Będzin survivor at a concert in June 1960. He was investigated and eventually arrested in 1961. In 1963 the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Barenblat of collaboration and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. The following year, however, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the decision and Barenblat was acquitted in February 1964.1304
Exceptionally, there were incidents of revenge killings, especially in camps in Germany proper. But those incidents occurred during the occupation or at the time of liberation, when Jewish informers posed a threat or were still in the midst of their victims. For example, Jewish testimonies mention that several members of the “elite” from the hard labour camp of Starachowice, such as Jeremiah Wilczek, head of the camp council, his younger son, and Rubenstein, head of the camp kitchen, were murdered in the train during the evacuation of prisoners to Auschwitz, which was ironic in that the Jews on this transport were not gassed.1305 A Jewish inmate of Budzyń recalled: “I remember a cruel lynching—ordered by Sztokman—of a Budzyń prisoner who had previously been a Jewish policeman and extorted huge bribes from Jews in exchange for not taking them to [Warsaw’s] Umschlagplatz.”1306 Another Jewish survivor mentions the killing of Jewish policeman Josef Krzepicki active in the Skarżysko-Kamienna labour camp.1307 Godel Wroby (Wroblewski) states that he joined a group of prisoners who decided to beat to death ten Jews deemed to have abused their positions of power and betrayed their people.1308 Baruch Shub describes the killing of kapos in Jewish DP camps in Metra and Bari, Italy.1309
According to Michel Mielnicki, an inmate of Birkenau, “We killed those of our ilk who sold out others among us to the SS or their flunkies for an extra half-litre of soup.”1310 Another memoir refers to the efforts of resistance members in liquidating kapos during the final weeks of the war, especially those judged to be overly brutal toward fellow prisoners or too servile to the camp authorities: “the hated kapo would be killed, his clothes taken off him and exchanged for another set, which had the camp number of a sick prisoner sewn on. The death of the sick prisoner was marked in the file, thereby enabling the other to live.”1311 One memoir describes how a young German Jew named Rudy, who had served as a kapo in several camps, was lynched and hanged by fellow Jewish prisoners after their liberation. According to his victims, “He had whipped, beaten, and even killed thousands of Lithuanian, Estonian, and Latvian Jews.”1312
In Bergen-Belsen, the only concentration camp in Germany proper where Jews constititued a majority of the prisoners, kapos endured a bloodbath as the British and Canadians liberated the camp. Reportedly, some 150 of them were thrown out of the second-floor windows under the eyes of British soldiers.1313 Russian POWs dangled them by their ankles from the top floor of the tallest building in the camp, shouting to the crowd below: “Was he good or bad?” When the crowd roared “Bad!” the kapo was dropped. “Even before he hit the ground, the spectators closest to him were flailing at him with bats, stones—anything they could grab or hold in their emaciated hands. The Kapo was unrecognizable when the crowd was through.” A mass grave was dug to bury those who were put to death: “… camp inmates passing by made a point of bringing garbage and dumping it there, or failing that, spitting and urinating on it.”1314 However, two Jews allowed a notorious kapo named Walter Steuer to escape punishment, because he had performed a personal favour for them.1315
According to Israel Mittelberg, the following prisoners received “their just sentences” from fellow Jews in Buchenwald: a German Jewish policeman named Korn, Abram and a policeman Alek from workshop three, Dr. Zaks, a Jewish policeman named Tepperman, a camp leader in the munitions factory in Skarżysko named Kinneman, Shepicki [Krzepicki], and others.1316 Other testimonies also speak of retaliation in Buchenwald.1317 Jack Werber, a member of the camp’s underground, recalls:
Acceptance into the Underground was certainly a factor in my survival. Their people were in key positions and, in many ways, really ran the camp, even though it was the Nazis who supervised them. … They sent collaborators to the quarry or to slave on the railway lines.
The members of the Underground carried out a wide range of activities. Kapos who were too eager to beat prisoners for no reason, mysteriously disappeared after interrogations by Underground leaders. …
From 1942 on, the prisoners had their own police force that enforced discipline …
In the summer of 1944, Carlebach told us about a transport of several thousand Jews that was coming in from Skarzysko [Skarżysko], a town not too far from Radom. … Gustav spoke with them about collaborators, saying: “If there are among you people who collaborated with the Germans, report them to us now and we will take care of them.” …
Many witnesses testified against him [Leibel, a red-haired fellow from Kozienice] and he was found guilty of a number of charges: that he had betrayed Jews to the Germans, and that he constantly cursed, hit, and kicked women in Skarzysko. And so he was found guilty and executed by those who came into the camp with him. Justice was visited upon him by those who suffered at his hands. …
In another case, a former collaborator ran up to the camp gate and said to the Nazis: “I was a kapo in Skarzysko and I am ready to work for you here.” The conversation was overheard by a member of the Underground who reported it to the blockaltester in Block 7, which was a barrack for the insane. He, in turn, sent two nurses to the gate who said that the man had escaped from their block. He was taken awau and never seen again. The Underground usually won in such matters. They had an excellent network and were highly efficient.
Very few collaborators came out alive from Buchenwald. One who did was a doctor who showed up with his two young sons. He was accused by the people who came with him to Buchenwald of being a collaborator, and they related a terrible story. Five hundred Jews had been taken in his town and quarantined in the synagogue for a month for fear of typhus. The SS called this doctor in and asked him if they were in good health and if they could be sent out to work. He replied: “They’re all shit!” Consequently, all of the Jews were pulled out of the synagogue and shot. The doctor was implicated in other killings too; aktions where ten, five, or three Jews were murdered. In one case it was alleged that he turned in sixteen Jews who were hiding in a Jewish hospital. To our dismay, the stories were confirmed.
… We intentionally postponed his case until we were liberated [because of his children]. Suddenly, amidst the chaos, the doctor was forgotten about. 1318
Charles Kotkowsky describes a “hit squad” in Buchenwald that took revenge against Jews who had mistreated their fellow Jews:
Once, after the SS Commandant had finished checking and had left, some pushing began. As I approached the scene, I noticed a few men were kicking someone lying on the ground in the snow. It was dark and I could not see very well.
The next morning, the same group of men came into our barracks and beat up the big “Bulldog” from Czestochowa [Częstochowa]. Later, when I saw him lying there on his bunk, which was situated close to the door, his face looked even larger than in Czestochowa. It was badly swollen and all bloody and his eyes were puffy and closed, and he was breathing heavily. He could not get up anymore for the evening roll call and was counted sick. This job was done by a special “hit-squad” under the leadership of an inmate called Gustaw, allegedly from Lemberg [Lwów]. He was the Block leader of No. 66. The hit-squad watched every new transport of prisoners that arrived in Buchenwald and inquired as to who had been the “bad apples” in former camps. They then sentenced the culprits.
When Gustaw was informed of a traitorous Jewish foreman named Heinrich of Berlin, he told the foreman to hang himself. The cowardly foreman did not heed Gustaw’s advice, so two days later Gustaw returned with his aides and completed the job for him.
Although I saw [Nachum] Wengliszewski once with Gustaw and his “hit-squad”, he did not keep his promise to visit me. That was the last time I saw him. (Later Kudish told me that he was killed by the same “hit-squad” he had served.) Allegedly he had defrauded another inmate.1319
Later, when Kotkowsky was transferred to Flößberg, a labour camp near Leipzig, he witnessed similar brutality and brutal retaliations:
The next day when we left for work, he [i.e., a block leader] summoned the Jewish German Kapo who hated the Polish Jews with a vengeance and always cursed us as unworthy citizens of the world. “You Polish Jews are not even worthy to go to hell,” he used to say.
Otto [i.e., another block leader] beat him so badly, that we never saw him again. (We learned later that Otto hanged him).1320
When Kotkowsky left Flossberg and put on a train destined for another camp, he again encountered collaborators from his hometown of Piotrków Trybunalski who had haunted him at various junctures:
I closed my eyes and half-dozed off when the door opened and Arie and Shlome Yukel Pinkusewicz came in loaded with lots of bread. They were Kapos in Flossberg [Flößberg], and when the train stopped, they had gone in the dark to “organize” bread. Everyone looked at them in silence with big hungry eyes as nobody dared jump at them. I approached them and asked for a few crumbs for my brother because I knew them well. The younger of the two brothers, Szlome Yukel, got curious and crossed over to my brother to check as to why he needed bread crumbs. As he saw him lying on the floor, talking deliriously from fever, he got angry with me and shouted, “Why don’t you let him die?” and he hit me over the head with his thick, strong hand. I did not have the strength or stamina to hit him back. I told him that if I survived, I would not forget this. He did not like that and struck me again on the forehead even harder, so that I thought I received the blow in the back of my head. I fell down from shock near my brother and lay there helpless.
Lying next to my sick brother, I was thinking, “Is this really a Piotrkover? Yes, this is a Piotrkover who stems from the Chapuszes (catchers), the underworld, the scum of the Staro Warszawska [Starowarszawska] Street. What could I expect of him?”1321
The brothers Pinkusewicz both survived the war. One lived in Israel, the other in the United States.
When Harry Haft returned to him hometown of Bełchatów after the war, he ran into a Jewish kapo named Mischa, who had beaten Harry repeatedly in a slave labour camp in Jaworzno. Harry gave Mischa a good thrashing and almost shot him, but his gun did not fire.
Harry grabbed him and threw him into two garbage cans lined against a wall in the alley. ... He picked up a garbage can and started to beat him with it. …
Harry started beating him again with the lid of the can. … Mischa layed there bleeding. …
Harry pulled out his revolver and said, “Mischa, now it is your turn to die.”
Harry enjoyed watching Mischa beg and plead for his life, but he pulled the trigger anyway.
The gun did not fire. Harry cursed and pulled the trigger again.
Again, it only clicked.
“Maybe it is not your time to die. Next time, you may not be so lucky.”1322
Sonia Guss-Hornstein, who lived with her family in Łódź after the liberation, witnessed a group of men ambush and beat to death a Jew whom her father later told her was a kapo.1323 A similar, perhaps the same event was witnessed by Yankel (Jack) Pomerantz in May 1945:
As we were arriving in the city, I watched a group of Jews converge on one man. He had been a collaborator with the Nazis in a concentration camp. He had overseen the killing of children, one man joining the group told us. Now in Lodz [Łódź], Jewish survivors from the camp had recognized him. They set upon him and beat him right in the street. They delivered blow upon blow until he died.1324
Szaja Langleben, the most hated Jewish polieman in the slave-labour camp in Starachowice, returned to Poland and was killed in a restaurant in Radom, an apparent target of revenge killing.1325 There is no indication that the authorities took any action against the assailants.
A Jew by the name of Blat, who arrived at a Polish refugee camp in Mohács, Hungary, toward the end of the German occupation, posing as a Pole, was recognized as an informer for the Germans and killed by a group of Jews assigned to this task.1326 Another Jewish confidant, Lezer Landau, who had been active in Bochnia and resurfaced in Budapest, was put on trial before a secret Jewish court but a verdict was never delivered in his case.1327 No such leniency was shown to non-Jewish collaborators. A Jewish family who set off from Marseilles to Australia on the SS Derna in August 1948 with 600 hundred other refugees recalled: “One of the Ukrainians on board boasted that he’d killed Jews during the war. One moonless night, he vanished and was never seen again.”1328 The fate of several Jewish policemen accused of torturing Jews and turning them over to the Germans who were recognized by Jewish passengers aboard the Marine Perch is not clear. Apparently, an investigation was conducted on board to prevent a lynching, and the case was supposedly turned over for further investigation after the ship docked.1329 Not all base and reprehensible conduct, however, was necessarily considered to be worthy of sanctions. A booming business developed in Sachsenhausen where Jews working in the crematorium commando removed gold teeth from corpses with pliers and then sold them to guards and a criminal mafia organized by German prisoners, the so-called Beruf Verbrechers, who were known to eliminate prisoners who stood in their way.1330 No investigation of these activities is known to have taken place.
The famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal addressed the “cover-up” by the Canadian authorities and leaders of the Canadian Jewish community in prosecuting David Zimet (Zimmet), an ex-Gestapo agent who had attacked Wiesenthal with a knife in a DP camp near Linz. Wiesenthal’s perceptive remarks on the entire topic are well worth repeating.
Zimet had been a ghetto policeman in the southern Polish city of Tarnów and, says Wiesenthal, ‘the right hand of a very known Gestapo sadist with the name of Grunov. Later, Zimet was sent to Mauthausen to work in the crematory. His family stayed in Tarnów. When the Russians came near Tarnów …, the Germans started more deportations of the few hundred Jews that were left … Since there were no more trains, they sent them in trucks. In one truck of Jewish women was the wife and the daughter of Zimet. And the hatred against him was so great that the Jewish women in that truck taking them all to die killed his wife and his daughter then and there.’
By 1946, Zimet was a DP in Austria and was recognized by several survivors from Tarnów. Wiesenthal was still collecting testimony about him in the DP camp when Zimet learned that Simon was, as he puts it, ‘occupied with his case, so at seven o’clock in the morning he is coming to my office there with a knife. He was a big, strapping healthy man back in ’46 while we were all still so thin. He had lived good in the ghetto and, in the crematorium at Mauthausen, they were all given double food … I pick up the inkwell from my desk and throw it at his face to protect myself and I shout so loud that people come running to help me and his is arrested. Zimet was four weeks in jail for this. But then, because he had worked in the crematory, they need him for the Mauthausen trial and bring him to Germany as a witness. From Germany, he emigrates to Canada.’
Years later, Wiesenthal was looking over a confidential list of cases being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, when he read:
ZIMET, David. A policeman in ghetto in Tarnów. Witnesses have attested to his brutality.
‘Zimet!’ Wiesenthal exclaimed. ‘This is my old case!’ He informed the Canadian authorities of his evidence against Zimet, but they proved unwilling to prosecute a Jew for Nazi crimes. The Canadian Jewish Committee intervened and Zimet agreed to submit to a council of arbitration established by the committee.
‘Nothing ever came of it,’ says Wisesenthal, ‘because the Jewish community was reluctant to publicize the case since Zimet was himself Jewish.’ This is so terrible! Through this false attitude that we must ignore Jewish helpers of the Nazis, we are losing credibility when we say we are acting against all people that commit crimes. If everybody could see that we are not looking only for Germans and Ukrainians, but even for our own Jewish criminals, then we would have much less opposition.’
‘I first saw Jewish collaborators in the ghetto of Lwów,’ Simon Wiesenthal says in his memoirs, ‘and later I saw them in various concentration camps. There were some shocking cases, and when I talked about the problem after the war, many Jews were perturbed. Perhaps they had expected the Jews to be immune from corruption. Like all races, we have had our saints and our sinners, our cowards and our heroes.’
Reinhard Heydrich, who engineered the Final Solution, believed that the secret of manipulation lay in involvement and collaboration. With the appointment of Jewish councils of elders, even rabbis, to enforce Gestapo edicts, Heydrich’s hatchet-man Adolf Eichmann could compel each Jewish community to co-operate in its own destruction. …
‘After the war, I not only arrested Jews who were Nazi collaborators, but, from the committees running the Displaced Persons camps and the former concentration camps, I expelled people who could not bring evidence about their activities during the Nazi time. I made a rule that was approved by the American military government authorities and became know in the camps as Lxz Wiesenthal: Latin for Wiesenthal’s Law. It was very simple: Whoever had a function of authority in the Nazi period could not have a function in postwar Jewish life. I wasn’t saying such a man was a criminal. I wasn’t even looking into whether he was good or bad. But I needed to protect our Jewish society from more bad surprises.’
‘Don’t push it, Simon,’ a friend he describes as an ‘official Jew’ pleaded with him. ‘What you are doing will only diminish the guilt of the Nazis.’
‘No,’ said Simon, ‘this is an extension of the guilt of the Nazis. When they brought pressure on Jews to work against other Jews, when they were guilty of corrupting hundreds of Jews as well as murdering millions of us.’
Wiesenthal noted that ‘in many cases, such people after the war found jobs with Jewish organizations. …’1331
Israeli scholars Orna Ben-Naftali and Yogev Tuval have argued that small number of Kapo trials, which took place in Israel between 1951 and 1964 and then brought to an abrupt hault, have been expunged from Israel's collective memory, and that this matter has been the subject of deliberate collective forgetting.1332 As Jan Peczkis points out in his penetrating review:
Israel’s Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law 1950, best known for its application in the trial of Adolf Eichmann, was originally enacted to punish Jews who had collaborated with the Nazis against other Jews. (pp. 128–129). The law stemmed from the following: There were 200,000 Holocaust survivors in the young State of Israel, and they angrily wanted the collaborators to be brought to justice. (p. 144).
Some 30–40 trials of Jewish collaborators took place between 1951 and 1964 (pp. 128–129), but very little is publicly known about them. Court judgments, in Israel, are normally available. With some exceptions, the trials of Jewish kapos are not. They have been sealed, as recently as the 1990’s (when interest in them increased), for many decades. (pp. 150–151). Is the privacy of those involved the only consideration?
Ben-Naftali and Tuval point out that the trials have been expunged from Israel’s collective memory, and this matter has been the subject of deliberate collective forgetting. (p. 128). They are not part of the curriculum of the Israeli educational system. (p. 129). Ironic to accusations that Poles do not want to face up to “dark chapters” in their history, is it possible that it is the Jews who do not want to face up to “dark chapters” in their history?
The authors complain that the Nazi Collaborators law legally equated the Jewish traitors with the perpetrators without distinction—although this consideration met with legal dissension. (p. 137, 147, 153). However, the sentences imposed by the judges were relatively lenient, and the authors suggest that this stemmed from judges actualizing the distinction between Jew and Nazi perpetrator. (p. 168).
The authors suggest that the Nazi Collaborators law functioned the way it did because the Holocaust had been so recent that its implications had not yet been fully appreciated. Could it be, instead, that there was a growth of Jewish identity politics relative to the Holocaust, and that this new identity made it possible to see Jews only as victims but never as victimizers?
It very much appears that the authors, in this article, are trying hard to re-define terms such as Nazi collaboration, and perhaps to make Jews special, in order that Jews who collaborated with the Nazis not be seen as such. I examine their contentions below.
THE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Ben-Naftali and Tuval argue that the Holocaust may as well have happened on another planet (p. 140), because the customary human norms did not apply. For this reason, the Jewish kapos should not be reckoned as collaborators.
To be consistent, much the same considerations should apply to other genocides. Consider, for example, the brutal German occupation of Poland. Is it surprising that some Poles denounced Jews, were “greedy” over the acquisition of Jewish property, became szmalcowniki (blackmailers of fugitive Jews for their belongings), etc.? Should they, too, be excused in some way?
CAN VICTIMS OF NAZIS BE COLLABORATORS?
The authors argue that the Jewish kapos were not collaborators because they were themselves members of a victim group (Jews), because they never adhered to Nazi ideology, because they were never seen by the Germans as fellow Nazis, because they lived under the same inhumane conditions as their victims, and because they were nothing more than order-fulfillers. (p. 157, 167-168). This, too, is problematic.
The Poles were a despised victim group (Untermenschen) situated only one rung above the Jews in German thinking. Polish collaborators, as well as other Poles, lived under very inhumane conditions. Virtually no ethnic Polish collaborators (as opposed to Volksdeutsche—Polish-speaking Germans) adhered to Nazi ideology. The Germans, most certainly, never saw Polish collaborators as fellow Nazis! Members of the Polish Blue Police (policja granatowa) who participated in the Judenjagd [i.e., German-ordered “hunts” for fugitive Jews] were also direct or indirect order-fulfillers. Should Polish collaborators, therefore, be exonerated?
MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES: FEAR OF DEATH, AND MINIMIZING DEATHS
Let us consider an auxiliary matter. Ben-Naftali and Tuval (p. 138) note that, in a criminal proceeding involving charges of collaboration, saving oneself from the threat of immediate death, or to avert worse consequences, can serve as mitigating circumstances. However, they do not specify when these mitigating circumstances would be valid.
Let us focus on facing death for non-compliance. Consider, for example, the following three situations: 1). The Jewish ghetto policeman, at a ghetto in German-occupied Poland, is in the first half of 1942 or so. He believes the German claim that the Jews he is daily loading upon the trains are being resettled for labor. Both he and the Jewish community are confident that the vast majority of Jews will survive the war, just as Jews had survived past wars and persecutions. He is hardly thinking of death. 2). The Jewish ghetto policeman, now in the second half of 1942 or later. He strongly suspects that the Jews he is boarding on trains are being put to death, and the Jewish community suspects that, unless the war ends very soon, nearly all the Jews will be exterminated. However, at this point, there is no direct or imminent threat to his own life. 3). The same situation as (2), but now the Germans have promised to shoot the policeman, his family, and additional hostages, if he does not fulfill his train-loading tasks. Do the exculpations mentioned by the authors apply only to situation (3), or also (2) and even (1)?
How would fear of death inform the conduct of Poles at Jedwabne … ? Could it be said that Poles were under immediate fear of death because armed Germans were standing away not far from them? Alternatively, would the Poles actually have to be looking down the barrels of German guns before they would be recognized as being in a death-threatening situation?
Now consider the commission of untoward acts in order to forestall worse ones. Consider, for example, the controversial Chaim Rumkowski (Rumkovsky), the head of the Lodz [Łódź] Ghetto. There is no consensus among Holocaust survivors as to whether it was all right for Judenrat leaders to obey Germans in sending some Jews to their deaths in hope that other Jews would be spared.
This quandary can be extended to peoples under relatively mild German occupation, such as Norway. Vidkun Quisling, whose very name has become synonymous with collaboration, argued that his acts were noble ones, in that they actually reduced the German-made harm that befell the Norwegians. Should Quisling have been exonerated?
In conclusion, the issues raised by Ben-Naftali and Tuval require further analysis. If applied to reduce or eliminate the guilt of Jewish kapos that served the Nazis, they, if applied fairly and consistently, would also reduce or eliminate the guilt of non-Jewish Nazi collaborators.1333
Historian Piotr Wróbel has raised the following pointed questions in this regard: “But how are historians supposed to judge when such important events of the past are not resolved? How can non-Jewish bystanders be condemned for their passivity when Jewish Kapos, policemen, and former Judenräte leaders were rehabilitated? Many similar questions appear when we study the Holocaust and most of them have no satisfactory answer yet. This aspect of the Holocaust is still far from settled.”1334
Finally, mention should be made of the well-hidden fact that some Jews, whose instinctive reactions to placate the enemy overtook their appreciation of events, greeted and even assisted the German invaders of Poland in September 1939. Jews built triumphal arches for the German invaders in several towns in central Poland, and a few Jews openly collaborated with them.1335 A Jewish delegation in Radom, headed by a rabbi and other community leaders, marched down the flower-strewn Mikołaj Rej Street on September 8, 1939 to welcome the German army.1336 In Janów Lubelski, as one eyewitness recalls,
All of a sudden a group of men appeared from behind a brick house. There were about six men in the group. They wore long black topcoats and black hats. One of them carried a loaf of bread on a tray and another a dish of salt, symbols of hospitality. They were representatives of the Jewish community in the city who waited to welcome the first soldiers of the Nazi army entering the city. When they heard our footsteps on the street, they thought that we were the German soldiers. After discovering their mistake, they were embarrassed and returned behind the building to wait for the Germans.1337
In the Volhynian town of Luboml, where the Germans entered first and then retreated a few days later in deference to their then Soviet ally, Jews came forward to collaborate with the Germans (and later with the Soviets) in rounding up Polish soldiers—the only Allied army actually engaged in fighting at the time.1338 In Kobryń, in Polesia, the Germans armed local Jewish Communists who then carried out diversionary assaults against the Polish army.1339 The last Jewish delegation to welcome the German army was probably the one sent by the Jewish community in Międzyrzec Podlaski, on October 10, 1939, after the departure of the Red Army; its representatives symbolically carried a loaf of bread on a silver tray which they handed over to the dismissive Germans.1340 Israeli historian Tom Segev brought to light the fact that as late as 1941, the Zionist group LEHI, one of whose leaders was Yitzhak Shamir, approached the Nazis, using the name of its parent organization, the Irgun (NMO), with the proposal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine bound by a treaty with the Third Reich, as a base for strengthening German power in the Near East. The NMO in Palestine offered to take an active part in the war on the side of Germany. The Nazis rejected this proposal, it is reported, because they considered LEHI’s military power “negligible.”1341 Curiously, the members of the Jewish Councils in occupied Poland were for the most part Zionists as well.1342
Recently, American historian Bryan Mark Rigg has chronicled the hitherto silenced story of some 150,000 Germans of Jewish origin (60,000 of them half-Jewish, 90,000 one-quarter-Jewish, and 5–6,000 entirely Jewish) who served dutifully in the German war machine.1343 Nazi racial laws were bent to allow this widespread phenomenon to occur, and these German Jews espoused completely German war aims which called for the annihilation of Poland.1344 Approximately 300 Jews served in the Finnish army, which was fighting the Soviet army alongside the German Wehrmacht. Thus the number of Jews fighting on the side of the Germans was probably greater than the number of Jews in anti-Nazi underground movements in all of Europe. Characteristically, with the notable exception of the Poles, far more numbers of the native population in nearly every German-occupied country, including Denmark, volunteered to serve in German-sponsored formations than in the anti-Nazi underground.1345
No nation had a monopoly on informers or collaborators during the war, although some historians try to convince us that it was otherwise. While denying that (some) Jews collaborated with the Soviets in Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland 1939–1941, Jan T. Gross proffers a blanket condemnation of non-Jews during the German occupation: “it is manifest that the local non-Jewish population … broadly engaged in collaboration with the Germans, up to and including participation in the exterminatory war against the Jews.”1346 Eschewing such a strident and nationalistic vision of history, a compelling starting point for serious discussion of the topic of wartime collaboration are the valuable insights of British historian Norman Davies, who wrote prophetically:
The Holocaust will be seen to have been perpetrated not by the one single, supreme evil force of European History, but by one of the two great evils whose titanic contest generated a much richer range of criminals and victims of all degrees. …
… it will become impossible to use ethnic criteria to decide who in the maelstrom of war were the murderers, who were the bystanders and collaborators, and who were the victims and survivors. …
Similarly, if one looks at the total experience of each of the ethnic groups, one finds that each of them provides candidates for inclusion in all compartments of the rogues and heroes galleries. …
At all events, ethnicity offers no suitable guide to wartime conduct or misconduct. Nowhere is this truer than in the vexed question of wartime Polish-Jewish relations.1347