The Jewish Order Police

Holocaust Ghettos

  

Members of the Jewish order police in the Lodz Ghetto

Jewish Order Service police units were established by the German authorities in certain locations under their brutal occupation. Almost immediately after their establishment the Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe were ordered to organise these units, usually as a forerunner to the creation of ghettos.

 

Whereas the Judenrat itself, although also created on German orders, often contained elements of pre-war voluntary association, the Jewish police came into being only after the German occupation. There was no precedent for the existence of a Jewish police force, and there was no indication that the Jews played any part in the establishment of a Jewish police force within the ghettos.  

The Germans set the guidelines for the Judenrat to recruit members which included physical fitness, military experience, and secondary or higher education. 

In practice these guidelines were not always closely followed. Formally the Jewish police constituted one of the departments of the Judenrat, but from the very beginning many Jewish Councils were apprehensive about the police force’s public character and the way it would function. 

They suspected that the Germans would have direct supervision of the police and use it for the implementation of their policies. Aware of this danger, many Jewish Councils sought to establish their own means of controlling the police and the standards of its behaviour, and tried to attract young Jews who would be trustworthy. 

In the initial period some of the recruits did indeed believe that by joining the ranks of the Jewish police gave them an opportunity to serve the community. But there were other reasons for joining. Belonging to a protected organisation, provided immunity from being seized for forced labour. Service in the Jewish police also offered greater freedom of movement and the possibilities of obtaining food and money. 

The size of the Jewish police force was not fixed but depended on the size of the Jewish community. Thus in Warsaw the Jewish police at first numbered 2,000, in Lvov 500, in Lodz 800, in Krakow 150 and in Kovno 200.

In the larger ghettos the Jewish police commanders held officer ranks and units were made up of sub-divisions and district stations. The policemen were identified by the different caps they wore and by the unit’s designation inscribed on their armband, the yellow badge that they, like all other Jews, had to wear.

In the smaller ghettos where the Jewish police consisted of a few men organisational differentiations were not required. 

The duties of the Jewish police can be divided into these categories: 

  • Directing traffic in the streets.  

  • Supervising garbage collection and clearing snow and dirt off the streets. 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009