Jewish police forces were made responsible for maintaining public order in the ghettos of occupied Europe. They operated under the authority of German-appointed Jewish Councils.1 When German authorities ordered roundups of Jews for deportation to labor camps, these Jewish police helped enforce the deportations. As the morale of Jewish police deteriorated, its members often 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. 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. Jewish police officers helped bring the ghetto's inhabitants to collection points, from which most were sent to be murdered by gas at Treblinka. Diaries and testimonies describe the ruthless tactics of the policemen—they used sticks and axes to ensure delivery of their required quota of "heads." Many officers ignored exemption papers and took bribes. Those who exceeded their quotas often "sold" their captives to less successful comrades.
Efforts to pursue justice against these figures began soon after the deportations and continued into the postwar period. An underground resistance group in the Warsaw ghetto, the Jewish Fighting Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa [ŻOB]), almost immediately began issuing death sentences for those accused of assisting in deportations, including Jewish policemen. With leaflets like the one featured here, the ŻOB denounced both the Jewish Councils and the Jewish police. They declared membership in these groups was collaboration with Nazi Germany, and both policemen and council members became targets. The featured leaflet served as a warning to other Jews who were cooperating with German authorities and helping to implement their policies.
Documents describing the efforts to seek vengeance against Jews accused of collaboration are relatively rare. Some Jewish survivors remembered how they reacted to news of executions like Lejkin's. 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