JTA: Poland’s prime minister said some Jews collaborated with Nazis. Scholars say he distorted history. By Cnaan Liphshiz, February 20, 2018
“Complicity in the Holocaust”: No Double Standard on Polish and Jewish Collaboration
February 21, 2018
There are many exculpatory misconceptions, about Jews who collaborated with the Nazis, that are floating around. Here are some of them:
I. MYTH: Jewish Misconduct Under the Nazis Cannot Be Compared With Its Polish Counterpart
FACT: It Not Only Can; It Has
Eyewitness and Holocaust-Survivor Zelkowicz thus wrote of the German-made Lodz Ghetto:
“Major felonies were committed in the ghetto…Furthermore, we know, things are no different among the Jews than among the Gentiles.” (p. 132).
With reference to the German-made Warsaw Ghetto, eyewitness Jewish historian Emmanuel Ringelblum wrote:
(May 25, 1942): “As a result, a smuggler has to buy off four parties: Polish, Jewish, and German policemen, and now civilian agents as well.” (p. 278).
II. MYTH: Because “All Jews Were Victims”, There is No Such Thing as a Jewish Nazi Collaborator
FACT: This “Spin” is as Dubious as It Is Recent
For the first 20 years after WWII, Jewish collaborators were freely recognized–and punished–as such. In fact, the judgement of Jewish collaborators was explicitly modeled after the judgement done to Polish and French collaborators. [Gabriel N. Finder (p. 84) and Shimon Perego (p. 140) in Jockusch].
III. MYTH: Jewish Nazi Collaboration Was of No Significance
FACT: It Had a Large Impact on the Fate of the Jews
Eyewitness Yitzhak Zuckerman thus wrote of the dispatching of 400,000 Warsaw Jews to Their Deaths at Treblinka:
“When there were hundreds of thousands of Jews in Warsaw, the Germans couldn’t have taken the transports to Treblinka without the help of the Jews themselves. It was the Jewish policemen who caught and took out the masses of Jews. Our blame is that we could have delayed the sentence, we could have made it hard for the Germans, we could have forced them to bring 10,000 Germans to do the work done by 2,000 to 3,000 Jewish police.” [pp. 208-209; Emphasis in original.]
As another example, Stella Goldschlag, a Jewish Gestapo agent, single-handedly betrayed as many as 2,300 fugitive Jews in Berlin (Wyden 1993).
IV. MYTH. Jewish Nazi Collaboration Developed Out of the Desperation of the Jewish People Facing Annihilation
FACT: Jews Collaborated With the Nazis Long Before the Nazi Genocidal Intentions Became Known to the Jews
Eyewitness Jewish historian Emmanuel Ringelblum wrote:
“(September 22, 1942): “The Jewish police had a very bad name even BEFORE the resettlement. The Polish police didn’t take part in the forced-work press gangs, but the Jewish police engaged in that ugly business. Jewish policemen also distinguished themselves with their fearful corruption and immorality. But they reached the height of viciousness during the resettlement…And now people are wracking their brains to understand how Jews, most of them men of culture, former lawyers (most of the police officers were lawyers before the war) could have done away with their brothers with their own hands…Very often, the cruelty of the Jewish police exceeded that of the Germans, Ukrainians, and Letts…For the most part, the Jewish police showed an incomprehensible brutality.” (pp. 329-331; Emphasis Added).
V. MYTH. Because of Their (Supposedly Unique) Circumstances, Jews Serving the Nazis Cannot Be Responsible For Their Actions
FACT: Yes They Can. Not Every Jewish Act on Behalf of the Nazis Partook of Either Powerlessness or “Choiceless Choices”
A Jewish Kapo who savagely beat a fellow Jew, in the absence of German orders and especially in the absence of German supervision, was hardly lacking in freedom to act. Nor were Jews forced to become Kapos in the first place. (Gutterman, p. 61, 138; Zertal, pp. 72-73).
- Gutterman, B. A Narrow Bridge to Life, 2008.
- Jockusch, L. Jewish Honor Courts, 2015.
- Ringleblum, E. Notes From the Warsaw Ghetto, 2006.
- Wyden, P. Stella: One Woman’s True Tale…, 1993.
- Zertal, Idith. Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, 2005.
- Zuckerman, Y. A Surplus of Memory, 1981.
- Zelkovitsch, Y., and J. Zelkowicz. In Those Terrible Days, 2003.
Published with the author’s permission.
The title image: Jews being loaded onto trains to Treblinka at the Warsaw Ghetto’s Umschlagplatz, 1942. Source: Wikipedia, the picture is in public domain. / Selected by wg.pco