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The Ghettos

Ghetto Councils

The Judenrats (Jewish municipal councils) where established to administer services within each Jewish ghetto. These services included housing, policing, sanitation, commerce, food supplies, schools and hospitals, but the sinister aspects of the Judenrat was to carry out the instructions of the SS and these instructions would also entail drafting lists of people earmarked for deportation and ensuring that quota's are met. The Council would be expected to send their people to their deaths and this fact played heavy on some members conscience and some would commit suicide due to the strain it caused. However, these councils were key in the Nazi plan of destruction and were seen with suspicion and contempt by their co-religionists. Sadly, most members of the councils resisted the call to prepare for armed resistance as they felt that this would entail the slaughter of the entire ghetto, and so played a policy of trying to delay the inevitable. It is because of their complicity in helping the Nazis to deport fellow Jews that accusations have been levelled against them, even long after their deaths. Like their Order Police, there was extreme examples of corruption and greed to be found within the councils itself. The worst of these came from the Chairman of the Łódź ghetto Chaim Mordechaj Rumkowski who used his position and power to sexually abuse young women. At one stage, he even begged the ghetto residents to hand over their children to the Nazis for slaughter, so that others could live.  

The Ghetto Police

The Ghetto Police (also known as the Order Service) was set up by the Judenrats (Jewish councils) in order to maintain order and discipline within the Jewish ghettos. They generally wore an armband and a hat and carried batons to distinguish them from the general ghetto population.  


These Order Police were treated with contempt and hatred by many of their fellow Jews who saw them as utterly corrupt and acting as auxiliaries for the Nazis.  


They would steal ghetto food supplies and sell it to those who could afford it, and some would seek sexual favours in exchange for food and protection. They were also known for turning a blind eye to illegal activities for payment.  


They would assist in the round-up of Jews earmarked for deportation to the death camps, and they regularly used violence to achieve their aims. However, these Order Police were not immune from deportation themselves as the ghettos emptied, their turn would come around and they too would find themselves in places such as Treblinka, Sobibor or Auschwitz. 


Emmanuel Ringelblum, a Polish Jew and historian witnessed first hand the collusion between the Ghetto police and the Nazis, and wrote: 'They said not a single word of protest against this revolting assignment to lead their own brothers to the slaughter'. (Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-49. (2017) David Cesarani p.605) 




Top Image: Scene from the Warsaw ghetto. Above: Jewish Order Police at work.