Judenrat - The Jewish Councils In The Ghettos And Their Dilemmas Essay
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Judenrat - The Jewish Councils in the Ghettos and their Dilemmas
The ghettos in wartime Poland, and the people who inhabited and ran them, are representative of a tragic and controversial chapter in Holocaust History. These ghettos where entirely controlled by the German authorities, but they then insisted on creating Jewish councils (Judenrat) to govern the rest of the Jews living there. The dilemmas they (The Judenrat) faced were that in order to follow the German order’s they would have to hurt Jews, but could not help the Jews without obeying the German orders. This essay will explore the perceptions and behaviours of the Judenrat using examples from the Warsaw and Lodz ghettos, and will argue that although many behaved tyrannically; made inhuman decisions and were dishonest, they were ultimately in the same predicament as all other Jews, and facing the same fate. The way they dealt with the dilemma of following the German orders and of keeping order within the ghetto, led them to be seen as collaborators to the Nazis, yet they were responding instinctively to prolong their lives as much as any other Jew.
There is a plethora of Holocaust writing and personal memoirs which give many different views on this debate but there are three areas that I feel are the most relevant, so this paper will look firstly at how the Jurderat were criticised for being power hungry and therefore willing collaborators; it then looks at the people who chose not to become part of the Judenrat, and their fate, to highlight why many agreed to being members; and finally looks at the psychological impact of the Judenrat position and how they really had no choice, especially moral choices in the decisions they made. The Nazis were indiscriminate in their hatred for the Jews, no matter what position they held in the ghetto, ultimately the trains were waiting to take them all.