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

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Poles fighting the Nazis outside of Poland were also put at risk because of and the irresponsible conduct of Jewish charges. A Polish underground guide, known by the code name of “Władysław,” who was part of a group based in Marseilles which secretly smuggled Jews out of France, was exposed on what was to be his final crossing into Switzerland. Accompanied by his pregnant wife, he had brought a group of fifteen Jews to within arm’s reach of the Swiss border where they awaited an opportune moment to cross over. Defying his instructions, three young Jews left the hiding place to look for food (grapes) and were spotted by gendarmes patrolling the area. The entire group was apprehended, never to be heard of again.334

It appears, however, that the ones most often victimized by acts of betrayal by Jews were fellow Jews.

The Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB) … was established [in the Warsaw ghetto] in July [1942] as the transports [of Jews to Treblinka] began. At first two key leaders of the ŻOB were Józef Kaplan and Szmuel Bresław of Ha-Shomer Ha-Za’ir. However, they were caught at the beginning of September [1942], apparently because of informants, after they had succeeded in acquiring a few weapons. The underground collapsed but began to reorganize in October [1942].335

In Warsaw, hundreds of Jews in hiding were suddenly at risk when one of the surviving liaison men of the Jewish Fighting Organization [ŻOB] was caught and tortured. Under torture, he broke; many of those in hiding were then rounded up and killed.336

After some Jews who tried to escape from the ghetto in Lwów were arrested, widespread arrests ensued in the ghetto.337 About 300 Jews managed to escape during an Aktion carried out by the Germans in Trojanówka, in Volhynia, and set up a camp in the nearby forests with the assistance of Polish partisans. About half of them were persuaded to return to Trojanówka by the rabbi, who headed that town’s Jewish council, on a promise of clemency. However, they were soon executed. The rabbi and one of the survivors then led the Germans to the partisan base which, fortunately, had been abandoned by that time.338 Thousands of Jews had fled from the ghetto Głębokie to the forest. When the Germans announced that they had the “right” to return to the ghetto, the Judenrat chairman Lederman was sent out to entice them back. Hundreds of unsuspecting Jews returned in response to this false promise.339

A Jew working as a Gestapo agent was apprehended by a Jewish partisan near the Poniatowa labour camp.

He admitted he was a Jew, and he began to tell me a story about how he was working for the Gestapo on a false name, as a Pole. His mission was to find Jews on false papers or hiding as Christians. When the Germans had shot the Jews in the camp of Poniatov [Poniatowa], a father and two daughters had escaped, he told me, but he had caught them and handed them over to the Gestapo, who immediately shot them. When I heard this I felt enormous contempt for him. … I suggested that he join the partisans, knowing that he would be handed over and interrogated for information. … I delivered them to my commander and they were taken to a barn. … The secret agent got the worst of it, I was told.340
The Jews who were on kitchen duty in Poniatowa plotted to poison the camp commandant, but were betrayed by a Jewish informer. The entire kitchen crew was executed.341

In the spring of 1943, Jewish partisans helped about 100 Jews to escape from a work camp in Adampol near Włodawa. One of the Jews, however, denounced the partisans’ plans for further escapes and, as a result, about 800 Jews were executed.342 A group of Jews in the Włodawa ghetto, identified as Moszko Lichtenberg, the son of Lejb from Małoryta, and Hersz Buchbinder, betrayed to the Gestapo the renowned Rabbi Zajzer of Radzyń and some escapees from Sobibór who had brought back news of the death camp and had sought the rabbi’s protection. All those betrayed were rounded up by the Jewish police and executed.343 Some Jews from Mielec who were deported to Parczew were held in a synagogue. “From there, with the help of local Jews, they were marched off to Wlodawa [Włodawa] … 3 miles from the extermination camp Sobibor [Sobibór] … They had to wait 7 months for their destruction …”344 Leon Gongoła (Lejba Goldsztajn) from Sierpc was betrayed by a fellow Jew and was eventually deported to Auschwitz.345 Examples can be multiplied.346

Polish Jews deported to Germany as Poles also faced risks there because of betrayals by fellow Jews. A young Jewish woman who volunteered for foreign labour in Germany recalled that another Jewish girl on the train who tried to pass as a Pole started to talk in Yiddish in her sleep, yet she was not betrayed by the passengers. Later, however, when that same girl was arrested by the Gestapo as a Jew inside Germany, she promptly betrayed her Jewish acquaintance.347 Bronka Nowakowska, a professional Jewish prostitute, posed a serious threat to Jewish women from Poland who worked in an ammunition factory in Germany posing as Christians: “Her identification as a Polish prostitute eliminated suspicions about her Jewish origin. Bronka knew which of the women was Jewish. She engaged in reckless behavior, returning very late from illegal escapades and then forcing the Jewish women to cover up for her, threatening to denounce them. Bronka argued that the authorities would believe her and not them.”348

Zosia Goldberg was caught by the Germans in a street dragnet in “Aryan” Warsaw and deported for hard labour to the Reich as a Pole. She recalled many friendly Poles with whom she worked in Germany:

The Polish, when they were nice, they were really nice. They pretended they did not know. They did not ask questions.349
One day I met a fellow from Warsaw, from the Old Town. So many of those Warsaw Gentiles were fantastic, helping Jews wherever they were. The smugglers also came from that same part of town. The workers in the towns, especially from Warsaw, were far from ignorant. … They did not have that hatred of the Jews and saw the Jews more as fellow citizens.350
She soon noticed the marked difference in attitude of Polish and Russian workers, who engaged in extensive sabotage at the plant, and that of the Ukrainian workers: “The Ukrainians, however, were traitors. They were working against the Russians, against the Poles, against everybody, denouncing all the time.”351 “The Russians had hateful eyes when they looked at the Germans. Ukrainians were always charmingly sweet and sang, ‘Heil Hitler!’”352 “You were not allowed to travel from one village to another. Only Ukrainians had this right because they were pro-German.”353 When Zosia Goldberg was arrested, a Pole who worked as an interpreter, who suspected she was Jewish, counseled her on her appearance and the “story” she should give to her German interrogators.354 She also encountered several Jews (and a Ukrainian interpreter) who would betray her, and several other Poles who helped her.
We were always brought back by truck for interrogation. … One time, those two German Jewish girls saw me in the truck on the way to the Gestapo.

The one that was not pretty told the policeman, “She is Jewish. She’s from Warsaw, I know. I recognize her. She is from Warsaw. She is Jewish!” …

The policeman was not paying much attention, but he reported it to the Gestapo anyway. Now they had a lead.

One day, I was sitting, waiting to be interrogated. They brought in a Jewish woman with a yellow star who was also being questioned. An older woman. She had been caught on the train. A German Jewess, she was married to a Gentile man. …

We each understood who the other was without asking. She spoke into my ear. “You know I have this star that I took off. I have to sew it back on. Do you have a needle and thread?”

I happened to have it and gave it to her. They saw. They had purposely put me with a Jewish woman to see how I would act toward her … They observed and saw that I gave her a needle and thread and that I ate the sandwich she gave me.

When they called me in for questioning, they asked, “Why did you eat food from that Jewish woman? Aren’t you disgusted?’ …

The next time they tried to trick me into admitting I was Jewish we were cleaning the offices. … there was some Jewish fellow who was working with us. I was sorry for him and gave him a bunch of shtumels [cigarette butts] for a smoke. I made contact without realizing that this Jew was a damn traitor. He was working for the Gestapo.

He came over to me. “What is your name?” he asked. “I am from Wilno. What is your father’s name?” He was talking so softly, and with a Jewish accent. …

I found out that he sewed suits for the Gestapo men. He was a tailor. He sewed their clothing, and he translated whenever they needed it. He was a denouncer.355

Jews could also be conscripted, often through coercion, to take part in German punitive measures directed at Poles. Rev. Roman Pawłowski, a 70-year-old priest from Chocz, was publicly shot in Kalisz in November 1939, in front of the local inhabitants who were driven to the public square to watch the spectacle. “Agents of the Gestapo forced local Jews to tie Fr. Pawlowski to the post, after which he was shot in front of the assembled multitude. The Jews were made to kiss the feet of the corpse, unbind it, put it on a cart, and take it to the Jewish cemetery and bury it according to the Jewish rite.”356 After being “fingered” by Polish Jews who served in the German militia, Jan Dudziński and two of his friends were picked up by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz where only Dudziński survived.357

Jews were utilized to carry out executions of Jews, and less often of Poles. In the fall of 1939 both Poles and Jews were imprisoned, tortured and murdered in Górka Klasztorna near Łobżenica by the Selbstschutz, a paramilitary formation composed of ethnic Germans who were prewar residents Poland. On November 23, a rope was tied to each of Anna Jaworska’s legs and two groups of Jews were ordered to pull the ropes in opposite directions until her body was ripped in half.358 Jewish policemen were ordered to publicly hang a group of Jews and Poles in Bełchatów on March 18, 1942.359 The Germans ordered a public hanging of ten people in Brzeziny on Purim in March 1942. They ordered the Judenrat to select the victims, build the gallows, and carry out the public execution.360 The Germans ordered Jews to hang a group of Polish prisoners in Mława on February 4, 1944. Afterwards, the Germans executed the Jewish executioners, who gained nothing by complying with the orders.361 A Jew from Zwoleń recalls:

Another night gendarmes came, selected several young men, and put them into a truck. We were sure they would be shot. It turned out altogether differently: 2 Germans had been shot not far from the village of Gura-Pulavska [Góra Puławska]. The Germans took Polish hostages and announced that if the guilty ones were not delivered within two days, the hostages would be shot. When the time had expired, the Germans ordered the 2 young Jews to hang the Polish prisoners, among whom was a priest. The Germans took photographs of the entire event. The young men were wearing their yellow arm bands. The next day the photographs appeared with captions in large letters: “JEWS HANG POLES.”362
On the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans rounded up Poles in Starachowice, among them women and at least one young girl, leaving church on Sunday morning. The hangmen, young Jews, stood the Poles on stools and placed ropes placed around their necks. The stools were then kicked away, and the bodies were left hanging.
The most memorable killing of the early period was not of Jews but rather the public hanging of 16 or 17 Polish hostages in the town square in June 1941, orchestrated by the chief of the Security Police branch office in Starachowice, Kriminalkommissar Walter Becker. This carefully planned “theatrical” event took place on a Sunday morning in the sealed-off main square, and Poles leaving the church were forced to watch. The bodies were left hanging for several days, and in a transparent attempt to stir up Polish hatred against the Jews, the Germans had forced the Jewish council to provide young Jewish men wearing masks to serve as hangmen.363
According to Peretz Cymerman, … this was not the first Jews had been forced into the role of hangmen on behalf of the Germans. Sometime earlier, Jewish police had come and fetch him, two brothers, and his brother-in-law. They were put in a horse-drawn wagon, along with a bag of ropes, and taken to [police commander Walther] Becker’s office. The “man with the pipe” (Labuhn) told them that, as they were butchers by profession, they knew how to strangle cows with rope. They were to return at 5 a.m. the next day. Jewish police were stationed outside their house to make sure they did not flee. The next morning, the young Jewish butchers were taken by truck, along with eight prisoners—five men and three women—to a small town a two-hour drive from Wierzbnik, where they saw many German troops positioned on the rooftops. Becker went up to them and told them to do a good job or they would be next. The victims were placed on chairs, and ropes were out around their necks by Cymerman’s brother, standing on a stepladder. The chairs were then kicked away. It was all over in about four minutes.364
Of course, no one was “forced” to do anything in the true sense of that word. No gun was held to anyone’s head. The Jewish council or police could have declined to carry out the orders. As in other towns, the Jews of Starachowice themselves directed Germans to Jewish homes, compiled lists of Jewish men fit for labour duty, dug pits and buried Jews executed by the Germans in the local cemetery, and took part in the round-up of Jews.365 A group of Jews who were planning to escape from the ghetto were worried about snitches among the Jews: “one of them even showed clear signs of his wavering loyalty and we needed to ‘remove’ him to be rid of the risk. This kind of action, planning the murder of a fellow Jew, was well and truly beyond us.” They also feared the Jewish officials: “Their fear of a brutal reprisal could also make them act against us before we did anything.”366

Sometimes the ghetto police were pressed into assisting in the execution of death sentences imposed on Jews by the German authorities. On German orders, the ghetto police participated in the public execution (usually by hanging) of Jews in Zduńska Wola, Brzeziny, Łęczyca, Bełchatów, Poddębice, Wieluń, Pionki, Ozorków, Warta (all between February and April 1942), Białystok (on December 31, 1943), and Łódź (where one execution was performed by a Jewish executioner and his assistants).367 An eyewitness relates how, during the liquidation of the forced labour camp in Dębica, the notorious Jewish policeman and camp elder Immerglick ordered the Jewish police to deliver 50 “illegal” Jews who had escaped and somehow made it back to the camp later on. They were detained in a room of the local Talmud Torah and killed the same night, with the help of the ghetto police: “the men of the Ordnungsdienst grabbed the hands of the victims and Gabler (apparently the Lagerkommandant) shot them.”368 Earlier, the Jewish police had assisted the Gestapo in searching the houses for any Jews in hiding during Aktions in the Dębica ghetto.369

Jewish policemen were ordered to dig two large pits in a forest on the outskirts of the town of Kołbiel near Otwock. After the Germans shot the Jews who had been ordered to undress and climb into the pits, the ghetto policemen then covered the dead and the wounded with the earth piled up beside the pits.370 Groups of prisoners—Jews and Poles—were taken by the Gestapo from Auschwitz. After being ordered to dig a pit, the Jewish prisoners were told to lay in it and the Polish prisoners to cover the Jews with earth. The Poles refused, so the Germans ordered the Jews out of the pit and reversed the roles, commanding the Jews to bury the Poles alive. The Jewish prisoners obliged and quickly started shovelling earth into the pit containing the Poles. However, the Germans soon tired of the whole charade and started to fire at both the Polish victims and the Jewish lackeys.371 Additional examples from Kraków are described later.

There are many accounts of Jews betraying Poles in other contexts. In the village of Jagiełła near Przeworsk, Polish army officers who hid with their families were betrayed by two Jewish women. The officers were arrested by the Gestapo and their families were executed on the spot.372 In Lwów, a Jew betrayed a Pole who was sought afterwards by the Germans.373 A betrayal by a Ukrainian and a Jewish woman in Złoczów led to the arrest and disappearance of two Poles.374 Siudek Meryl, a sergeant in the ghetto police in Rzeszów, informed on Poles who had helped Jews; he was executed after the “liberation” by a Polish underground organization.375 A Jew from Łuków by the name of Telman is believed to have denounced the gamekeeper Antoni Piećko.376 Jan Idec was denounced by a Jewish acquaintance who was a Gestapo agent in Kraków; he spent the duration of the war imprisoned in concentration camps.377

A gang of Jews was apprehended in Lida after robbing Jewish property left for safekeeping with a local Orthodox priest, a trusted friend of the Jews. The priest was badly wounded with brass knuckles administered to his head. When the Judenrat refused to intercede to obtain their release from prison, they informed the German authorities of the residence permits the Judenrat had procured for Jewish fugitives from Wilno by paying off Polish municipal clerks, thereby endangering the lives of all involved. Local Jews were then coopted to identify the refugees. As a result, 75 to 80 Jews were arrested and executed by the Germans together with the members of the Jewish council. Avidan, the head of the gang, was released by the Germans as a reward for his tale-bearing and returned to Wilno. Believed to have conveyed information to the German authorities on illegal activities in the ghetto, Avidan was liquidated by the Judenrat and ghetto police.378 In the nearby town of Zdzięcioł, a 12-year-old boy who tried to escape deportation by blending in with members of the Judenrat, was abruptly yelled at by a woman: “Don’t stay next to us. You don’t belong in this group.”379

Smuggling food and other items into ghettos proved to be a source of unexpected danger. Poles who, in defiance of German decrees, smuggled food into ghettos or traded with Jews also faced their share of problems. The Jewish police were under orders to arrest non-Jews who made purchases in stores exclusively designated for Jews, and Poles arrested for such transgressions were turned over to the Germans for execution.380 In the Warsaw ghetto there was an extensive network of Jewish szmalcowniks—made up of smugglers, porters and Jewish policemen—who staked out strategic points in the ghetto such as entrances in order to accost Poles who entered the ghetto illegally, usually to trade but sometimes to bring help. These Jews would demand bribes, failing which the Poles would be roughed up or even handed over to the Germans.381 Jewish children caught smuggling food into the Warsaw ghetto were frequently apprehended by Jewish policemen, who beat the children with their clubs and confiscated their food supplies.382 Jewish policemen demanded enormous bribes to faciliate the release of Jews during the Great Deportation from Warsaw in the summer of 1942.383 The greatest obstacle to smuggling food into the ghetto in Łódź was the large network of Jewish Kripo and Gestapo agents employed by the Germans, drawn from the Jewish population and the ghetto police. Their activities also resulted in the deaths of many Poles who engaged in smuggling.384 Meyer Shwartz, a resident of Łódź, recalled: “There were Jewish spies who said that his father was hiding furs, so he was badly beaten. The Germans also beat his aunt, breaking all her fingers.”385

Jan Konstański and his mother Władysława, both of whom were recognized as “Righteous Gentiles” by Yad Vashem, were involved in smuggling food. In 1941, Jan was arrested inside the Warsaw ghetto. For six days, he was interrogated and beaten. He was released thanks to a bribe paid by his mother.386 A similar fate met Jan Nowakowski, who smuggled underground publications, food, and even weapons into the ghetto at the behest of his father, a member of the Polish Workers’ Party. Nowakowski was apprehended by the Jewish police at the beginning of April 1943 and handed over to the Germans. Fortunately, the German gendarme into whose hands 14-year-old Jan Nowakowski was delivered had more compassion than his Jewish counterparts: after receiving a stern lecture and a kick, he was thrown out of the ghetto.387

Lech Hałko, a member of the Żegota organization who was charged with the task of smuggling a package of false identity documents into the Warsaw ghetto and bringing back fresh photographs of Jews to be smuggled out at a later date, ran afoul of Jewish policemen when he surreptitiously entered the ghetto with the Jewish work crew he had joined: they beat him mercilessly because he did not have a bribe in the form of smuggled food. “They preyed on people coming into the ghetto,” Hałko recalled. “They were brutal.” Had he not been rescued by a member of the Jewish underground, Hałko would have been pummelled to death. He spent three days in the ghetto recovering from his wounds.388

Occasionally, a Jewish policeman was prepared to turn a blind eye during the deportations from the Warsaw ghetto, but this usually required the payment of a hefty compensation to buy his silence.
We used to hide there during each Aktion. Once a Jewish policeman noticed us there, and when during an Aktion he came into our hiding place, we locked him in together with us, (he agreed to this for a considerable sum of money). After the raid, we let him out.389
Sometimes Poles who ventured inside the ghetto simply fell at the hands of ordinary criminals. That was the fate of a Polish policeman who was shot and killed by a Jewish thief in November 1939. The Pole’s colleague was wounded in that altercation.390 Even child smugglers were not out of reach as potential victims:
Sometimes the child was successful in his mission and in one way or another obtained a loaf of bread from a kindly Pole, only to be attacked by another hungry child or even adult upon his return into the Ghetto. Such fights were frequent in the Ghetto streets, and often nearly to death.391
A similar situation prevailed in Wilno when Jews who worked outside the ghetto had to face the Jewish police on their return to the ghetto. The policemen beat up fellow Jews at the gates to the ghetto, confiscated the food they were carrying, and mocked them.392
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