The Jewish ghetto Police

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Officially called the Jewish Organization for the Maintenance of Public Order (Ger., Jüdischer Ordungsdienst; Pol., Żydowska Służba Porządkowa), Jewish police units were established under Nazi occupation in most East European ghettos. The establishment of a police force usually was connected with the creation of the ghettos, which excluded the Jewish population from general police jurisdiction and thus created a need for an alternative system of ensuring that the Jewish population complied with German occupiers’ orders. The absence of a general German order regarding the establishment of the Jewish police indicates that in all probability, it was the various local occupying forces—and not the Central Reich Government—that took the initiative to set up this force. Indeed, the composition of the Jewish police in different ghettos, their jurisdictional powers, and their status within the Jewish community varied from ghetto to ghetto, according to local conditions. A small ghetto could muster only a handful of individuals to join its police force, whereas the Warsaw ghetto

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Ghetto police forces were officially branches of Judenräte (sg., Judenrat) but were also commanded directly by local non-Jewish police authorities and the SS. Therefore, police units in some ghettos became independent of the Judenräte. However, in other places the Judenrat and the ghetto police were indistinguishable. Initially, the primary task of the Jewish police was to maintain public order and to enforce German orders transmitted by the Judenräte to the Jewish population. Municipal authorities retained jurisdiction over criminal matters and disputes between Jews and non-Jews. At this phase, there were Jews who viewed the establishment of the Jewish police positively; some intellectual circles even openly supported it. Jews joined it for social motives and out of a desire to help maintain order in the ghettos and assist Jewish autonomy.

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German authorities insisted that Jewish police officers be young, fit, and army-trained, with at least a high school diploma—but those principles were not always followed. Many police were refugees from other Jewish communities and few had been involved in organized Jewish affairs before the war.

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Gradually the Germans expanded the workload of the Jewish police, calling upon them to fight epidemics, quell demonstrations, and fight fires. Other times the police were charged with overseeing distribution of foodstuffs and controlling prices as well as collecting taxes. They were part of the battle against those who disobeyed German orders, although the scope of their jurisdiction varied from place to place. Prisons were erected in the larger ghettos and detention rooms in the smaller ones; rarely were inmates transferred to the Germans. In most cases, ghetto police themselves carried out the punishment that ghetto courts imposed on the accused. Sometimes they even assisted in executing German-ordered death sentences.

Josef Szerynski, Chief of the Jewish ghetto police, overseeing the actions of police in the Warsaw ghetto.

 

Police were supposed to be paid by the Judenräte, but often their salary was insufficient and irregular. Thus they were open to bribes, a situation that adversely affected moral standards. Understanding that the Jewish police served to enforce German policy, many left it; their places were taken mainly by people with no obligation to the Jewish population and by other doubtful elements. As standards declined, so did the relationship between the police and the Jewish public, especially after Jewish police began taking part in sending Jews to

e829f9950f46de05ffdd220dfdd39fc5. Ghetto police personnel were generally exempt from labor service and were even empowered to release others from their labor obligations (in exchange for bribes). Guarding the ghetto walls also corrupted the police and placed them in confrontations with the public. Often Jewish policemen worked with local police and even with German soldiers to control smuggling. Their close ties with the German and local authorities and the opportunity for kickbacks led many Jewish communities to identify them with the occupying forces. Over time, corruption became part of the Jewish police identity, and many of them lived lives of luxury amid the remainder of the poor Jewish population. Thus, the original esteem in which the Jewish police were held was replaced with hatred and contempt.

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Nonetheless, some police officers tried to improve the lot of the Jewish community, despite harsh German supervision. Several tried to fight corruption and were active in bolstering public supervision over the police force. Other officers intervened with German authorities on behalf of Jews, at times paying with their lives.

The onset of deportations to killing centers in 1942 led to a new phase in the history of the Jewish police. The Germans generally ordered ghetto police forces to assist in deporting Jews and sometimes even on selection. In return, the Nazis assured them that they and their families would not be deported. Police officers who refused to obey the orders joined the deportees or were killed on the spot. In most instances, the police complied with German demands.

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During this period, the status of the ghetto police hit an all-time low in Jewish eyes. Even then, however, there were instances when police gave advance warning of expulsions and cautioned Jews to hide. In some ghettos, police actively opposed deportation orders and even made up the core of the armed resistance movement. Most of these ghettos were in the Soviet Union or in the eastern part of Poland occupied by the Soviets from 1939 to 1941. In the Generalgouvernement, by contrast, relations between Jewish police and underground organizations were more often hostile. In both regions, however, there was considerable variation.

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The number of police units was greatly reduced in the wake of deportations, and families of former police officers, who until then had been safeguarded, were usually murdered. At the same time, some Jewish underground organizations tried to take revenge on the Jewish police.

At the end of the war, the role of Jewish police and their actions became a highly controversial issue among Holocaust survivors. Dozens of police officers were tried in Jewish honor courts for improper conduct. Some were expelled from the Jewish community while others were merely barred from holding public office. The names of other former officers were cleared. It took years for the courts to decide not to put Jewish police on formal trial.

Some researchers have claimed that in small communities, relations between the Jewish police and the Jewish public were better than those in larger ones. Others have argued that corruption was more widespread in the General government ghettos, whereas police in areas under Soviet control until 1941 generally played a more positive role in ghetto life. The latest studies have shown conclusively, however, that there is no consistent correlation between either the size of the Jewish community or the location of the ghetto and police behavior. A proper evaluation of the Jewish police must be based on the study of each individual ghetto.

Members of the Jewish ghetto police force in the Lodz ghetto

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The Stroop Report- souvenir turned evidence.

A report by SS Brigadefuhrer Jurgen Stroop dealing with the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. Stroop was sent to Warsaw to remove the 56.000 surviving Jews from the ghetto, and he recorded his deeds – daily killings with cold-blooded brutality – in a boastful seventy-five-page report bound together in black pebble leather and including copies of all daily communiqués sent to his superior officer as well af photos with captions in Gothic script.Originally titled The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is No More! (Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk in Warschau mehr!),

The Report was commissioned by Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger, high SS and police leader in Kraków and was intended as a souvenir album for Heinrich Himmler.

It was prepared in three distinct leather-bound copies for Heinrich Himmler, Friedrich Krueger and Jürgen Stroop, with one unbound file copy of the report (das Konzept) remained in Warsaw, in the care of Chief of Staff Max Jesuiter.

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According to statement given in 1945 by Stroop’s adjutant Karl Kaleshke, to US authorities in Wiesbaden, he ordered Stroops copy of the report burnt with other secret documents in Burg Kranzberg.

The Report was a 125-page typed document, bound in black pebble leather, with 53 photographs . It consisted of the following sections:

It consisted of three parts:
a) an introduction and summary of SS operations
b) a collection of all daily communiqués sent to SS Police Leader East Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger
c) a series of approximately 52 photographs.

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The Stroop Report alludes repeatedly to the participation of the Polish Resistance in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Jürgen Stroop referred to Polish underground fighters as “Polnische Banditen” – “Polish Bandits”, he noted:

“When we invaded the Ghetto for the first time, the Jews and the Polish bandits succeeded in repelling the participating units, including tanks and armored cars, by a well-prepared concentration of fire. … The main Jewish battle group, mixed with Polish bandits, had already retired during the first and second day to the so-called Muranowski Square. There, it was reinforced by a considerable number of Polish bandits. Its plan was to hold the Ghetto by every means in order to prevent us from invading it. … Time and again Polish bandits found refuge in the Ghetto and remained there undisturbed, since we had no forces at our disposal to comb out this maze. … One such battle group succeeded in mounting a truck by ascending from a sewer in the so-called Prosta [Street], and in escaping with it (about 30 to 35 bandits). … The bandits and Jews – there were Polish bandits among these gangs armed with carbines, small arms, and in one case a light machine gun – mounted the truck and drove away in an unknown direction.”

— Jürgen Stroop, 1943

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“Our setting the block on fire achieved the result in the course of the night that those Jews whom we had not been able to find despite all our search operations left their hideouts under the roofs, in the cellars, and elsewhere, and appeared on the outside of the buildings, trying to escape the flames. Masses of them – entire families – were already aflame and jumped from the windows or endeavored to let themselves down by means of sheets tied together or the like. Steps had been taken so that these Jews as well as the remaining ones were liquidated at once”

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“When the blocks of buildings mentioned above were destroyed, 120 Jews were caught and numerous Jews were destroyed when they jumped from the attics to the inner courtyards, trying to escape the flames. Many more Jews perished in the flames or were destroyed when the dugouts a sewer entrances were blown up.”

“Of the total of 56,065 caught about 7,000 were destroyed in the former Ghetto during large scale operation. 6,929 Jews were destroyed by transporting them to T.II (Treblinka Camp No. 2). The sum total of Jews destroyed is therefore 13,929. Beyond the number of 56.065 an estimated number of 5 to 6,000 Jews were destroyed by being blown up or by perishing in the flames”

After the war only two of the four copies were discovered, those belonging to Himmler and Jesuiter. Himmler’s copy went to Seventh Army Intelligence Center (SAIC) and Jesuiter’s to Military Intelligence Research Section (MIRS) in London.Several sources stated that German Bundesarchiv also had a copy in Koblenz.However, in reply to inquiries by Richard Raskin, Bundesarchiv stated that third copy of report was never in their possession.Both copies were introduced as evidence at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, sharing the document number 1061-PS, and used in the trial as “US Exhibit 275”.It was first displayed by the chief U.S. prosecutor Robert H. Jackson for the judges during his opening address.

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The Zoo that saved Jews-The story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński.

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It’s at times of great inhumanity that you can find the greatest examples of humanity, if you look closely enough.

Jan Żabiński (8 April 1897 – 26 July 1974, Warsaw) and Antonina Żabińska  (1908–1971) were a married couple from Warsaw,recognized by the State of Israel as the Polish Righteous Among the Nations for their heroic rescue of Jews during the Holocaust in occupied Poland. Jan Żabiński was a zoologist and zootechnician by profession, a scientist, and organizer and director of the renowned Warsaw Zoo before and during World War II.

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He became director of the Zoo before the outbreak of war but during the occupation of Poland also held a prestigious function of the Superintendent of the city’s public parks in 1939–1945

The zoo’s large collection of exotic animals and successful breeding program attracted visitors from all over the country. Especially when, in 1937, the zoo introduced the first Polish-born elephant – Tuzinka

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Jan and Antonina were great lovers of art as well as animals: Jan had studied drawing at the School of Fine Arts and worked as a researcher at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, at the Department of Zoology and Animal Physiology. Antonina was an archivist at the same department, which is where they met.

The zoo’s owners kept in close touch with the local creative community. They opened the zoo up to many artist and musicians, who would come there to work, get inspired, or give concerts in the open air.

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The colorful guests and the social activism of the Jan and Antonina, soon earned their residential villa the nickname “the house under a wacky star

The zoo was thriving right up until the Second World War, when the German army invaded Poland in 1939. The bombing of Warsaw on September 1 also hit the zoo, killing many animals and urging Jan Żabiński to kill off all the predatory animals that might escape and roam the streets in subsequent bombings.

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The remaining animals faced a sorry fate: the German army organized a spontaneous hunt at the zoo, shooting any animal they deemed “not valuable.” Those animals that were considered “valuable” were captured and transported to the Schorfheide reserve, close to Berlin, at the border with Poland.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/07/27/hitlers-prehistoric-zoo/

Tuzinka the elephant was taken to the zoo in Köningsberg.

The Germans appointed him superintendent of the city’s public parks as well. Availing himself of the opportunity to visit the Warsaw ghetto, ostensibly to inspect the state of the flora within the ghetto walls,

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Żabiński maintained contact with prewar Jewish colleagues and friends and helped them escape and find shelter on the “Aryan” side of the city.Żabiński maintained contact with prewar Jewish colleagues and friends and helped them escape and find shelter on the “Aryan” side of the city.

Many cages in the zoo had been emptied of animals during the September 1939 air assault on Warsaw, and Żabiński decided to utilize them as hiding places for fleeing Jews. Over the course of three years, hundreds of Jews found temporary shelter in these abandoned animal cells, located on the eastern bank of the Vistula River, until they were able to relocate to permanent places of refuge elsewhere. In addition, close to a dozen Jews were sheltered in Żabiński’s two-story private home on the zoo’s grounds.

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In this dangerous undertaking he was helped by his wife, Antonina, a recognized author, and their young son, Ryszard, who nourished and looked after the needs of the many distraught Jews in their care.

Those hiding inside the house could move around as they pleased. But when danger approached, they were alarmed by Antonina, who would play “Go, go to Crete!” from Offenbach’s La belle Hélène operetta on the grand piano.

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Some of the Żabińskis guests were strangers who had sought out their help, and others were long-time friends. Magdalena Gross, for example,  had been a good friend of the Żabińskis for many years.

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She was a sculptor who had been in a creative crisis until she visited the zoo and went from sculpting humans to sculpting animals.

At first, Żabiński paid from his own funds to subsidize the maintenance costs; then money was received through Żegota: Council to Aid Jews.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/06/01/zegota-wwii-heroes/

During the war, Jan Żabiński was active in the underground Armia Krajowa (Home Army) and took part in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. He was arrested and taken away to a German prison camp. During this time, Antonina continued her husband’s efforts and provided care for the Jews left in the city’s ruins. Fortunately, Jan survived and was able to witness the official reopening of the zoo in 1949.

On October 30, 1968 a tree planting ceremony was held at Yad Vashem honoring Righteous Among the Nations, including Jan and Antonina Żabińska.

In 2007, the U.S. writer Diane Ackerman published The Zookeeper’s Wife, a book about the Żabiński family’s wartime activities that draws upon Antonina Żabińska’s diary.

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A film about the couple based on the book by Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife (film) was filmed in 2015, and is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2017, with American actress Jessica Chastain portraying Antonina and Flemish actor Johan Heldenbergh portraying Jan

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