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Bylaw of the Audit Office

Gens, Jacob bylaw of audit office, Vilna 1942
Courtesy of the Lithuanian State Archives, Vilnius
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tags: bureaucracy ghettos

type: Legislation

In the Jewish ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe, ghetto institutions were staffed by "ordinary" people who worked amidst exceptional risks. The extreme circumstances of ghetto life were trying, and many members of Jewish councils (Judenraete)—organizations appointed by German authorities to manage the ghettos—faced difficult choices.

Judenrat members were not immune to temptation, fear, and cowardice. They were often inclined to privilege the well-being of their families over other Jews in the ghetto. Nevertheless, it was important to the councils to be seen as legitimate—both in the ghettos that underwent the trauma of mass deportations, and in those where the situation was "calm" for the time being. In some ghettos, the administration thus set up institutions to control the work of individual Judenrat members or ghetto institutions. In Białystok, for example, a committee was set up under the leadership of the Judenrat member Yaakov Lipshitz to probe the work of the various departments.1

A similar institution was created in the Vilna ghetto in the fall of 1942. Like other ghettos situated outside the Generalgouvernement (such as, for example, Łódź and Białystok), Vilna experienced its own sequence of anti-Jewish violence, but was spared the murderous sweep of Operation Reinhard throughout 1942. Despite periodic instances of murder, most of Vilna's Jewish population survived well into 1943. The chair of the Judenrat in Vilna and "representative of the ghetto population," sometimes referred to as Ghettovorsteher by the Germans, was Jacob Gens, a lawyer and economist. In October 1942, he appointed an agency tasked with auditing institutions and persons in the ghetto. The Audit Office, as the agency was known, was responsible directly to Gens.2

Drafted in October 1942, the bylaw of the Vilna ghetto's Audit Office is translated here. The institutions of the ghetto did not survive the final round of deportations from Vilna less than a year later in September 1943. The Germans murdered Gens on September 14.

For more on the history of the Białystok ghetto, see Sara Bender, The Jews of Białystok during World War II and the Holocaust, trans. Yaffa Murciano (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2008).

On everyday life of the Vilna ghetto and the Judenrat, see Herman Kruk, The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-44, ed. Benjamin Harshav, trans. Barbara Harshav (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002). 

This note indicates that this copy of the document was meant for Herman Kruk, who was compiling documentation for a ghetto chronicle, which, when it was published, became a ghetto history. See Kruk, The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania

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1. The Audit Office is an agency that is subordinated to the Ghettovorsteher [literally, the representative of the ghetto population, the title of Jacob Gens].

2. Subject to the scrutiny of the Audit Office are:

a) Ghetto institutions and activities,

b) Social institutions

c) Other legal and natural persons according to special instructions of the representative of the ghetto population.

3. Before the beginning of an audit in any ghetto institution, the financial controller, according to jurisdiction, informs the head of the ghetto administration, the police chief, or the go-between of this fact, asking them for their special instructions.

4. After completion of the audit, the controller presents a copy of the report to one of the persons mentioned in Item 3, according to jurisdiction, and a copy to the institution or organization that was subject to the audit.

The head of the administration, police chief, or go-between presents the representative of the ghetto population with the results of the audit, with his remarks and suggestions.

5. The audit includes:

a) financial and economic activity,

b) implementation of regulations issued by the representative of the ghetto population as well as other responsible agencies with regard to activity mentioned in a) above,

c) efficient structuring of work in the ghetto institutions and activities,

d) the monitoring action mentioned in c) above extends neither to the judicial bodies nor to the police.

6. The Audit Office is run by a controller named by the representative of the ghetto population. The employees of the Audit Office are appointed by the representative of the ghetto population following the suggestion of the controller.

7. In the exercise of his duty, the controller has the right to:

a) examine the ghetto residents,

b) determine the place of examination.

8. In the event of a refusal to follow the requirements of the Audit Office, the controller must request that the person concerned be punished by the representative of the ghetto population.

9. The ghetto institutions and the police are required to give the controller any assistance necessary in the performance of his work within the scope of this bylaw.



October 19, 1942 Signed /-/ J. Gens


To Mr. Kruk [handwritten in German]1

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Lithuanian State Archives, Vilnius
RG Number 26.015M
Date Created
October 19, 1942
Author / Creator
Gens, Jacob
Vilnius, Lithuania
Wilno, Poland (historical)
Document Type Legislation
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