Judenrats --- friend or foe? #holocaust


Bruce Drake
 

My knowledge on the topic comes primarily from the Yizkor book chapters I curate for the JewishGen Facebook page each Friday. There are accounts containing great bitterness towards the Judenrat as well as accounts where the Judenrat was doing what it could to ameliorate life under the Germans. Like all things human, there are good people and bad, weak and strong, evil and just, and  the range of people in the Judenrats was no exception. It also varied in terms of how tightly the screws the Germans put on in the places they occupied. You can find a few Yizkor book accounts if you search this archive, (using ctrl-F if you are on a PC):  https://bit.ly/3aCH1ak

Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, MD


Sniderlh
 

Hi Susan,

You are so right about not judging others when one hasn't been in their situation, and not knowing the "complete picture" of such events.  That's part of our undertaking with genealogy, I feel, being able to accept/deal with whatever one might uncover.  Records, or not, I don't think it's appropriate to judge past events by today's standards (which seem pretty fuzzy anyway).  Hindsight is quite clear compared to living something in the moment.  I am often wondering and asking myself how I might have dealt with living through many past events.

Thanks for your input.
--
Leah Heilpern Snider
Silverdale, Washington/ USA


sjgwed@...
 

When I was researching Skalat - one of my ancestral towns - I read about "Moni Lempert" in the Skalat Yizkor book of testimony. My great-grandparents were Lemperts, as were their children, who all emigrated from Skalat in the late 1890's. But what about others in their extended family? I do not know.

In August, 1942, soon after the Judenrat had filled the Nazis' recent quota of Jewish victims, "It is reported that council-member M. Lempert received a cash prize from the Judenrat for being the first to bring in all the people on his list: 100% complete!.... Liquor and food was distributed lavishly among the 'rejoicing' members, who naively believed that 'they had rescued the town.'"

According to Abraham Weissbrod, Judenrat members including "Zimmer, Lempert, Schoenberg, Dr. Brif, etc gained infamy by their evil acts. They took charge of the work details and... lorded over everyone."

Ever since the 1948 publication of the Skalat Yizkor book, written in the intense heat of immediacy and grief, it's been cites in scholarly works, history books, and articles about Skalat as the source for validation. The book is an everlasting tribute to survivors' determination to write down every last story and recollection.

Moni and his family escaped death during the "Sobbing Graves Action" in Skalat in April, 1943.  After that, his name vanishes from the records. But... relative of mine or not, I find it difficult to judge Moni because I have never been in his excruciating situation.

Susan Gordon
New York
BIALAZURKER - Zbaraz
LEMPERT - Lvov, Skalat
SCHONHAUT - Skalat


David Lewin
 

At 03:41 27/09/2021, lsragovicz@... wrote:
I am certainly no expert, but if my family history helps, here it is.
On my mother's side, a great great uncle, was part of the Judenrat in the town of Zelechow.  Thanks to David Lukowiecki who has been translating the yizkor book, I have been able to obtain pictures of him, and learn about his story.   He wasn't a very nice man, in fact, according to the stories recorded,  he was one of the most hated men in town.  It seems he was part of the judenrat and tried to get personal benefit. He did everything as he was told and thought he was better than the rest.  The last story says that the SS called him for a very special mission, and asked him to dig a mass grave.... and of course it turned out It was for him; they shot him.  Just as an added comment, his father, was one of the most generous and loved man in town....
--

Lia Sragovicz


How painful!!!!!
I am reminded of an old English saying burnt into a piece of wood, which hung on the wall of a landlady of mine so many years ago:

There is so much good in the worst of us
and so much bad in the best of us
that it ill behoves any of us
to talk about the rest of us

How can anyone who did not him/her self live through the times of Nazi rule voice an opinion about someone who did?

I grew up in Haifa.  In our class at school a few children survivors were placed upon arrival in Palestine after the Holocaust.   Apropos of nothing at whatsoever Margalit would burst out in uncontrolable tears from time to time. That was when the rest of us in that classroom learned never, ever, to criticize someone whose circumstances we had not ourselves experienced.

David Lewin
London


lsragovicz@...
 

I am certainly no expert, but if my family history helps, here it is.
On my mother's side, a great great uncle, was part of the Judenrat in the town of Zelechow.  Thanks to David Lukowiecki who has been translating the yizkor book, I have been able to obtain pictures of him, and learn about his story.   He wasn't a very nice man, in fact, according to the stories recorded,  he was one of the most hated men in town.  It seems he was part of the judenrat and tried to get personal benefit. He did everything as he was told and thought he was better than the rest.  The last story says that the SS called him for a very special mission, and asked him to dig a mass grave.... and of course it turned out It was for him; they shot him.  Just as an added comment, his father, was one of the most generous and loved man in town....
--
Lia Sragovicz


Laurence Broun
 

One of the recently translated chapters the Yizkor Book of Mizoch is titled The Judenrat in Mizoch
Had a High Moral Standard, But… 
 https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Mizoch/miz090.html  

In the words of the author:

The role of the Judenrat was not at all easy because on the one hand, they had to fulfill all of the Germans' wishes, and on the other hand, they did not want to harm the Jews. And this could not be done ... When the time came to fulfill the Germans' demands for various items, the Jews of course did not want to part from their property. It was necessary to create a Jewish police force in order to prevent the activation of the Ukrainian police, and that is how the Judenrat turned into the lowest kind of hell. The members of the Jewish police believed, like their masters the Judenrat, that for their faithful service to the Germans, they would be saved from extermination. I must again note that we did not blame the Judenrat for taking advantage of their positions for their own self-interests, and I could testify that everything that was done at their hands was done out of the necessity of the bitter reality and was inevitable. I blame them only for one thing -- for their criminally naive trust in the Germans. Seeing how they wiped out community after community, without leaving a trace behind, still believing the Germans that promised them that Mizoch would stay standing if German orders were fulfilled to the letter ...

The complete essay by survivor Yehuda Broinshtein can be read at the link above.

(Sincere thanks to Corey Feuer and Yonatan Altman-Shafer, Hebrew language students at George Washington University who translated this chapter under the guidance of their professor Orian Zakai.)
--
Larry (Itzik Leib) Broun
Washington, DC | USA
Project Coordinator
Yizkor Book of Mizoch
e-mail: Laurencebroun@...


Sniderlh
 

Like many topics, this one is sure to be a "hot" one, but the more I read and study about the Judenrat, the more perplexed I am.  While I know there is no definitive answer, as things were different everywhere, I would like to know what others thoughts are, now, today.  First of all, how did the Nazis 'choose/select' people to form these groups in each community, especially those in less visible positions (such as secretaries)?  How long was a person likely to serve on one of these boards - a  set term, or until death)?  For those who did survive the war, how were they later treated by others who might have known they were part of a Judenrat?  Would they have kept such knowledge quiet? (And yes, I know many people never ever spoke about their war experiences.) 

It seems there are many new books being published, bringing new details and information about various situations &  wartime events, to light.  While some only make brief mention of the Judenrat, some outright castigate them all, and present them as the worst of the worst Jews.  I am sure people who served in these groups :  a. didn't have any choice in the matter,  b. some likely thought they could save family members in doing so,  c. and as with other situations, some relished the power they perceived having. Is there any real consensus about this, or is that even possible? Were some areas better/worse than others in how the Judenrat dealt with their given communities?  Of course, those who had family members directly affected in some way by the Judenrat, or who had been part of a group, probably have very different feelings (good and/or bad) than others who don't. There are many more knowledgeable people out there, and I would appreciate hearing what some of the many opinions on this matter. 

Thank you.
--
Leah Heilpern Snider
Silverdale, Washington/ USA