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"Report on the Activities of the Order Service Department of the Board of Representatives of the Jewish Population in Bendsburg"

Jewish Council, Będzin, report on Jewish police 1941
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
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tags: bureaucracy ghettos

type: Report

Będzin was a Polish town that was incorporated into the province of East Upper Silesia, which the Reich annexed after the 1939 invasion of Poland. The Germans created a ghetto in the summer of 1940, though there was no physical barrier separating it from the rest of the town. The Jewish Council (which was called Ältestenrat, "Council of Elders," though it functioned the same as other Judenräte) in Będzin was part of a network of Jewish Councils in East Upper Silesia, with a central office in Sosnowiec. In October 1940, this Central Office, led by Moshe Merin, the head of the Sosnowiec Judenrat, oversaw 34 Jewish communities in East Upper Silesia, with a total number of about 100,000 Jews. Over the next three years, the numbers decreased through murder and deportations. But as late as 1943, more than 30,000 Jews still lived in the region, and the ghettos in Będzin and Sosnowiec had been separated physically from the rest of the respective towns only in May of that year.1

The Jewish ghetto police force was one of the most controversial "institutions" of ghetto life. Beyond being privileged in terms of food, exemption from forced labor, and generally closer to the power (tenuous as it was) of the Judenrat, Jewish policemen became infamous after German policy turned to genocide, when the Nazis emptied most ghettos and deported the Jews to killing centers. There are multiple timelines for this process depending on the geographical location, the specifics of individual ghettos, and other factors, but mass deportations started roughly in the spring of 1942 and lasted for approximately one year. During this period, Jewish police units in ghettos achieved notoriety and near-universal loathing from the Jewish population because of their prominent role in rounding up the Jews and supporting the Germans and their collaborators in deporting them to their deaths. Passionate debates—including trials for collaboration—continued after the war.2

In the early summer of 1941, the "Order Service Department," the "official" name of the Będzin ghetto police, submitted a brief report to the Judenrat about its activities from May 21 through June 30. This report, however, was issued before the mass wave of deportations. It was written in Polish and so was intended specifically for the Jews in the ghetto, rather than their German overlords. It was the first report that the ghetto police issued under the leadership of Roman Goldminc, who, as the document implies, aimed to run the institution in a much more stringent way. Besides reorganizing policemen's routines, the new administration pledged to "maintain a journal of reports, a cashier's book, a registration book of staff, an inventory book, employment letters and an archive," an illustration of the Jewish leaders' turn to a bureaucratic approach to ghetto institutions.

For an overview of the region of East Upper Silesia in the context of the Holocaust, see Aleksandra Namysło and Martin Dean, "Eastern Upper Silesia Region (Ost-Oberschlesien)," in Martin Dean, ed., The USHMM Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 2: 132-37. For the controversial role of Moshe Merin, see Philip Friedman, "The Messianic Complex of a Nazi Collaborator in a Ghetto: Moses Merin of Sosnowiec," in Philip Friedman, Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust, ed. Ada Friedman (New York: Conference on Jewish Social Studies and the Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980), 353-64.

For an interesting contemporary account of the Jewish ghetto police in Kovno written by anonymous members of that police force to argue explicitly that Jewish policemen were not criminals, see Samuel Schalkowsky, ed. and trans., The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014). For the overview of the timeline of the German genocidal turn, see Christopher Browning and Jürgen Matthäus, The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004). For postwar trials in Jewish "honor" courts, see Laura Jockusch and Gabriel Finder, eds., Jewish Honor Courts: Revenge, Retribution, and Reconciliation in Europe and Israel after the Holocaust (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2015).

Bendsburg is the German name for Będzin.

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A Report on the Activities of the Order Service Department of the Board of Representatives of the Jewish Population in Bendsburg1

From May 21 to June 30, 1941

In connection with the new leadership in the Order Service of Mr. Roman Goldminc, a reorganization has taken place, which has implemented the following first:

a) the creation of an office, which in turn maintains a journal of reports, a cashier’s book, a registration book of staff, an inventory book, employment letters and an archive,

b) the establishment of a rational division of labor.

In the course of establishing the division of labor, a decades-old system with two-hour shifts was used, so that each policeman is stationed at a different post every 10 days. This system will enable a comprehensive training of the policemen and, at the same time, will allow for a cursory survey of the city by the policemen returning from their two-hour shifts. A policeman returning from his post submits a report of his two-hour shift, then takes a one-hour rest, with the remaining hour spent making himself available in the guardhouse for ongoing actions, thus supplementing a frequent shortage of people resulting from an excess of incoming assignments during the day.

A permanent night post was established at the guardhouse, where two policemen are always at the ready to intervene in emergency cases, such as medical help, establishing contact with the authorities, sending an alert, etc. In the case of an alert, all policemen are mobilized and practice has shown that the alerted policemen are at the guardhouse within 30 minutes.

The nightly roll call that has been put in place is aimed at [generating] a discussion of matters related to responsibilities, reading out of staff [scheduled] for the following day and giving potential praise or punishment, depending on the regulations.

During the span of the report, the following worked from June 1-12 of this year:

41 policemen, total workdays: 492
From June 13-30 of this year, 50 " " " 900
Total: 1,392

These consist of the following:

1. Streetcar posts - workdays - 467
2. Judenbann [?] " - " 288
3. Guardhouse " - " - 156
4. Disinfection " - " - 19
5. Main Office " - " - 53
6. Social Welfare " - " - 24
7. Clinic " - " - 32
8. Collection Office " - " - 12
9. Housing Department " - " - 63
10. Issuing blocks of bread " - " - 2
11. City Health Center " - " - 5
12. Daily Labor Task " - " - 18
13. German police " - " - 2
14. Potato rations " - " - 29
15. Economic Department " - " - 3
16. 5 District Police " - " - 19
17. Distribution of summons " - " - [torn page]
18. Registration of Sara/Izrael " - " - [torn page]
19. Post Office " - " - [torn page]
20. Digging of ditches " - " - [torn page]
21. I.K.A. [?] " - " - [torn page]
to be relocated [torn page]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
RG Number 15.060M
Date Created
June 30, 1941
Author / Creator
Order Service of Bendsburg
Language(s)
Polish
Location
Będzin, Poland
Document Type Report
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