(Jewish Ghetto Police, referred to by the jews as the "Jewish Police")
Jewish police units established by the Germans in certain places in the areas under their occupation.
The Establishment of the Jewish Ghetto Police Forces
A relatively short time after their establishment, the Judenraete (Jewish councils) in Eastern Europe were ordered to organize these units, usually in anticipation of the ghettoization of the Jews. Whereas the Judenrat itself, although also created on German orders, often contained elements of voluntary association, the Jewish police came into being only on German orders. There was no precedent in the life of the Jewish community for the existence of a Jewish police force, and no indication that independent initiative by Jews in any way played a part in the establishment of the ghetto police. The Germans set guidelines according to which the Judenrat was to recruit the police personnel - physical fitness, military experience, and secondary or higher education. In practice, these guidelines were not always observed. Formally, the Jewish police constituted one of the Judenrat departments, but from the very beginning, many Judenraete were apprehensive about the police department's public character and the way it would function. They suspected that the Germans would have direct supervision of the police and use it for the implementation of their policies. Aware of this danger, many Judenraete sought to establish their own means of controlling the police and the standards of its behavior, and tried to attract to the police young Jews who would be trustworthy.
Reasons for Joining the Police Force
At first, some of the recruits did indeed believe that joining the police gave them an opportunity to serve the community. But there were other reasons for joining. Belonging to a protected organization provided immunity from being seized for forced labor. Police service also offered greater freedom of movement and possibilities of obtaining food. A study of the records of over one hundred Jewish police officers in the Generalgouvernement reveals that the Judenraete did not succeed in their efforts to ensure that the police had public credibility. Seventy percent of the men who served in the police force had taken no part in political and community life before the war, and some 20 percent were refugees and strangers to the ghetto population; only 10 percent had participated in community affairs in the prewar period. The Germans themselves often made sure, when the police was set up, that it would be headed by men who would blindly follow their orders.
Opposition to the Jewish Police
Some circles in the ghetto population that were not associated with the Judenrat regarded the Jewish police from the outset as an alien body and a potential danger to the community. In many places, youth movements and Jewish political parties did not permit their members to enlist in the police.
Size and Structure of Various Police Forces
The size of the Jewish police force was not fixed, but depended on the size of the Jewish community. Thus, in Warsaw, the Jewish police at first numbered 2,000; in Lvov, 500; in Lodz, 800; in Krakow, 150; and in Kovno, 200. There was no uniform structure for the police units. In the large ghettos, the commanders held officer rank and the units were made up of subdivisions and district stations. The policemen were identified by the different caps they wore and by the unit's designation inscribed on their armband - the yellow badge that they, like all other Jews, had to wear. In the small ghettos where the police consisted of a few men only, no such organizational arrangements were made.
The duties carried out by the Jewish police can be divided into three categories: 1) Duties in response to specific German demands as conveyed to the police by the Germans, via the Judenrat. 2) Duties related to the Judenrat's activities among the Jews that were not directly related to Germand demands. 3) Duties related to the Jewish population's needs. The first two categories included collecting ransom payments, personal belongings, and valuables, as well as taxes; fetching people for forced labor; guarding the ghetto wall or fence and the ghetto gates; escorting labor gangs who worked outside the ghetto; and, as time went on, conducting random seizures of persons to be sent to labor camps and participating in the roundup of Jews for mass deportations. The exclusion of the Jewish population from public services and their isolation in ghettos created serious problems. In the early stage of its existence, the Jewish police attended to sanitary conditions and assisted in the distribution of food rations and aid to the needy. It also helped in the control of epidemics, and the settling of disputes - all this, of course, in addition to complying with German demands. The ghetto population appreciated the Jewish police for these public-welfare activities. However, already at this stage, there were instances of corruption and misconduct among the police. As time went on, the role of the Jewish police in alleviating living conditions in the ghetto was considerably reduced.
During the Mass Deportations
The mass deportations to extermination camps, beginning in 1942, affected the families of the men serving in the police, their friends, acquaintances, and fellow Jews, and they had to decide whether or not to stay at their posts. Many decided to quit the force, some in an overt manner, so as to express their identification with their families and with the Jewish population as a whole. Most of the Jewish policemen who made such a decision were subsequently included in the transports that left for the extermination camps. But there were also Jewish police who stayed on their jobs up to the final phases of the ghettos' existence, submitting to German pressure and obediently following orders. At this stage, the Jewish police took on a different complexion. Directly intervening in its administration, the Germans recruited new men into the force, both as officers and rank and file, who had no commitment at all to the Jewish population. Among the Jewish police personnel were many refugees with no ties to the surviving remnants of the local Jewish community, as well as men of dubious reputation. In numerous ghettos where the Judenrat was not prepared to submit blindly to German orders, it was the Jewish police that gained in strength, to the extent that it was able to control the Judenrat or simply take its place.
The Attitude of the Jewish Police toward the Ghetto Undergrounds
The attitude of the Jewish police toward the ghetto underground took on three different forms: The most common relationship was one of tension. In several ghettos - such as those of Bedzin, Sosnowiec, Krakow, and Warsaw - the Jewish police tried to do away with the underground (which is not to say that all members of the police in these places took part in such efforts). In Warsaw in August 1942, during the mass deportations, the Jewish police commander, Joseph Szerynski, was attacked by the underground and seriously wounded. His successor, Jacob Lejkin, was assassinated in October of that year, on orders of the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization; ZOB). There were instances when the Jewish police followed a policy of nonintervention in the activities of the underground that sometimes took on the form of "benign neglect."