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New book dredges up Warsaw Ghetto ‘police’ who sent fellow Jews to their deaths

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Already suffering from disease and hunger, Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto started to be rounded up for deportation to the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942. The German authorities directed the operations, but they also relied upon Jewish policemen in the ghetto — a group formally called the Jewish Order Service — to round up the Jews.

A painful chapter of Holocaust history, the narrative of the Jewish police in the occupied Polish capital is the subject of a new book, “Warsaw Ghetto Police: The Jewish Order Service During the Nazi Occupation,” by historian Katarzyna Person. Advertisement

“It’s a topic of great emotion, even more so after the war,” said Person, who currently works at the Warsaw-based Jewish Historical Institute. She told The Times of Israel in a Zoom interview, “It’s a topic that linked, after the war, collaborators with their actions against their community during the war.”

“I felt it’s something we should talk about,” she said. “Nobody has really carried out a proper look into it.”

First published in Polish, the book has been translated into English by Zygmunt Nowak-Solinski and released by Cornell University Press in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The book is based on primary sources such as diaries and journals. Some were written by members of the Jewish underground who saw their families devastated by policemen’s actions. Others were written by the Jewish policemen themselves — including Stanislaw Adler, who went on to hold political leadership positions in postwar Poland but died by suicide in 1946, following the Kielce pogrom.

Over 1,000 individuals served in the Jewish Order Service in the Warsaw Ghetto, as other such groups were founded in Nazi ghettos elsewhere in occupied Europe. In Warsaw, Jewish policemen answered to the ultimate authority of the Germans, but were under the more direct supervision of the Polish Blue Police. Meanwhile, their official role was to work with the council of Jews, or Judenrat, which held nominal oversight over the ghetto.

“In every ghetto, their responsibilities were a little bit different,” Person said. “The way in which they answered and worked with the Blue Police and the German authorities was different.”

She noted that “the vast majority didn’t train to be a policeman.”

Other scholars have praised her book, including Brandeis University emeritus professor Antony Polonsky.

“This is a major study of the difficult question of Jewish collaboration and it deals with the complex moral questions which this raises in a clear and dispassionate manner,” Polonsky wrote in an email to The Times of Israel. “It........

© The Times of Israel

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