The Jewish Police were responsible for maintaining public order in the Jewish ghettos of occupied Europe.1 German policies soon required the Order Police to conduct roundups of Jews for deportation to labor camps and punish those Jews accused of resistance to the occupation. As the force's morale deteriorated, its members grew increasingly brutal and corrupt. Police officials like Jakub Lejkin, who became Deputy Chief of the Order Service in the Warsaw Ghetto in May of 1942, earned a reputation for cruelty and indifference. But work in the Jewish Police also yielded privileges, and many who joined hoped that they—and their families—would be able to secure a living and avoid deportation.
In the summer of 1942, German authorities began an operation to deport hundreds of thousands of Warsaw's Jews to killing centers in occupied Poland. Divisions of the Order Service delivered the ghetto's inhabitants to collection points from which most were sent to be gassed in Treblinka. Diaries and testimonies recount the ruthless tactics of the policemen: the Order Service used sticks and axes to ensure delivery of their required quota of "heads." Many officers ignored exemption papers, preferring instead to pocket bribes. Those who exceeded their quotas often "sold" their captives to less successful comrades.
An underground resistance group in the Warsaw Ghetto, the Jewish Fighting Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa [ŻOB]), soon began issuing death sentences for those implicated in deportations, including Jewish policemen. With leaflets like the one featured here, the ŻOB denounced the authority of both the Jewish Councils and the Jewish Police. They declared membership in these groups as collaboration with the Nazis, and both policemen and council members became favored targets. Executions like Lejkin's served as a bloody warning to other Jews inclined to carry out Nazi policy.
There remain very few documents describing the efforts to seek vengeance against those Jews accused of collaboration, though some Jewish survivors remembered the reactions that news of executions like Lejkin's elicited among the ghetto's Jews. One commented after the war: "After each such occurence, I went out and, while passing a Jewish policeman in the street, I peered at him ominously. I straightened up and peered, convinced that now it was he who had to be terribly afraid."2