Chaim Rumkowski

Mordechai Chaim Rumkokski ( 27 of February of 1877 – 28 of August of 1944 ) was a businessman Jew who served as chairman of the Judenrat , or Jewish Council governing Ghetto Lodz ( Poland ) during the time of the Nazi Holocaust .

Chaim Rumkowski was, before the German invasion of Poland, a businessman without too much success, militant Zionist and director of an orphanage . The 1 of October of 1939 was named by the German occupation authorities chairman of the Lodz Ghetto , one of the largest Jewish ghettos in Poland. In this position he was the leader and head of the Nazis of the Judenrat or council of government of the ghetto, which was responsible for the internal organization of the same: food distribution, hygiene, housing, public order and operations necessary to ensure efficiency From the deportations of ghetto inhabitants to the extermination camps .

Rumkowski seemed to take his position as if it were a head of state: he minted coins ( rumkie ) and postage stamps with his effigy, celebrated marriages instead of the rabbis and moved in a shabby carriage surrounded by Jewish police , motive By which he was known as King Chaim I. Like other members of the Jewish Councils established by the Nazis, he probably believed that a diligent collaboration with the extermination work of the European Jews would serve to avoid their own elimination. However, it was not so: he died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz like most of his subjects .

The role of Rumkowski in the Holocaust

Rumkowski established an iron government that made the Lodz ghetto a model for Nazi expectations, whose instructions in order to exterminate its inhabitants fulfilled punctually. His figure has therefore been the subject of several studies and debates. Generally he is usually described as traitor and collaborator . Other times he is treated as an “ambitious old man,” “megalomaniac,” or “sick.” The truth is that it took advantage of its position of power in the ghetto to commit numerous violations on Jewish women, many of them minors.

Some investigators and witnesses say that it was moved by the idea that by helping the Nazis to murder some of the ghetto’s inhabitants, a mass killing would be avoided and time would be gained until the regime fell or the regime decided to end the extermination, Some Jews would have the opportunity to survive.

When in 1941 Rumkowski was ordered to organize the first massive deportations to the Chelmno extermination camp , he tried to negotiate with the Nazis a reduction in the number of people destined for slaughter. It failed and in the first five months of the year 55,000 people were deported, chosen by the Rumkowski administration. In 1942 he was ordered to prepare the deportation of all children and elders; Rumkowski gave a famous speech, Give Me Your Children , with which he tried to convince the inhabitants of the ghetto to collaborate in the task since, according to him, the orderly delivery to the Nazis of all children under ten years old, the elderly And the sick would save useful people . 20,000 people were deported on that occasion. Then began a period without deportations in which Rumkowski saw confirmation of the correctness of his approach.

However, in the summer of 1944 , when the Red Army advanced on Poland, the Germans decided to close down the ghetto, that is, to definitively murder its inhabitants. Between June 23 and July 14, 7,000 Jews were shipped to Chelmno, in an operation also coordinated by Rumkowski. Finally, in August the Judenrat was suspended, the workshops of the ghetto were closed and its last inhabitants were sent to die to Auschwitz , among them Rumkowski himself and his family, who died in the gas chambers of Birkenau 28 of August of 1944 .