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Yad Vashem This Month in Holocaust History
July 1942 - A roll-call of six Jewish policemen in the Warsaw Ghetto, Poland

July 1942

A roll-call of six Jewish policemen in the Warsaw Ghetto, Poland

When the mass deportations of the Jews of Warsaw to the Treblinka Death Camp began on July 22, 1942, the Jewish police units were ordered to participate in rounding up the Jews for deportation.

The Jewish police had been organized simultaneously with the establishment of the ghetto itself, and was comprised of volunteers who were primarily well educated and upper class young men. Many lawyers, seeking the means for survival, joined the commanding ranks of the Jewish police. The Jewish police was first organized in order to direct traffic, supervise garbage collection, supervise sanitation in the buildings, prevent crime and preserve order within the ghetto. However, they were charged in 1941 with providing workers to the German authorities for forced labor, and in the summer of 1942, were made responsible for gathering Jews for deportation during the mass deportations from Warsaw to Treblinka.

Faced with a complex dilemma, they were promised immunity from the deportations for themselves and their families, and many believed that in fulfilling the orders, they were helping save Jewish lives. By participating in the roundups, they would help to limit their scope by preventing individuals exempt from deportation from being deported regardless of the papers in their possession. Additionally, they felt that if the German units themselves were to carry out the deportations, they would be much more brutal and merciless than the Jewish police. The participation of the Jewish police in the roundups led to their being the most hated group within the Jewish community of the ghetto. As the roundups continued and the police realized they were simply a tool in the hands of the Germans, that their own fates were insecure, many deserted the ranks of the Jewish police, trying to join the workshops in the ghetto or going into hiding. In response, strong measures were taken against the Jewish police, forcing them to either meet the daily quota of Jews to be rounded up or their relatives would be taken to fill the quota. On September 21, 1942, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the final day of the mass deportations from Warsaw, the vast majority of the Jewish police and their families were deported to Treblinka.

Yad Vashem Photo Archives 3168/7b; Courtesy of Dortmund Polizeiarchiv