Judenrat (pl. Judenräte ) is the name given in German , councils Jewish government of the ghettos established by the Nazis in various places, especially in the territory of the General Government of Poland , the part of Poland occupied but not annexed By Germany .

They had different names according to the Judenrat concrete in question. For their formation, the Nazis located some prominent Jew, usually a former elected official, a president of a Jewish association or a rabbi , and commissioned the formation of the council. This was formed by twelve members in the ghettos of less than 10,000 inhabitants and by twenty-four if they exceeded that amount. The presidents named after the Nazis called other former Jewish leaders to take part in the council, although in general they were careful to exclude people who might irritate the Germans: Orthodox rabbis, communists or socialists , among others. The Judenräte were in charge of the entire population of a ghetto, having to maintain order (through their own police forces, the Jewish Police ) and enforce and enforce the German guidelines. The Jewish councils thus censored the Jewish population, inventoried their possessions to facilitate their seizure by the Nazis, drew up lists of persons to be deported to the death camps , conducted them to the embarkation points, and They persecuted those who fled or hid. In general, they complied promptly and zealously with the instructions received, since the members of the Judenrat were personally responsible for any negligence or disobedience, and especially their president, named as has been directly said by the Germans, who was instructed by an officer of The SS in charge of the ghetto.

Jewish councils were an essential element in the mechanism of the Holocaust, so their work – on which there is abundant documentation – has aroused much controversy in later historiography. Current scholars agree on pointing out the ability of the Nazis to relinquish the bulk of the tasks that led the Jews to their extermination in the camps over the Jews themselves (in the camps, the Sonderkommandos were also in charge of The physical elimination of the prisoners and their incineration), and there is also a coincidence in concluding that without this forced collaboration, the extermination of the Jews of Europe would have been an infinitely more difficult task. The dark point of the question is how such a diligent collaboration came to be. The people who integrated the Judenräte enjoyed a temporary immunity to the deportation and in its procedure perhaps influenced the fact that the decisions that took to the Jews to the death were taken of gradual way, so that when forming the ghettos, in 1939 , no one, not even the Nazis themselves (except perhaps the highest leaders), could suppose that finally (in 1942 ) they would opt for total extermination. Initially it was thought that the ghettos were prior to resettlement of Jews outside the borders of the passage Reich (and indeed, resettlement was the word used in official documents even when it was already the transfer to the death camps ). When the extermination operations began, the Judenräte continued to cooperate with the Nazis, apparently according to the accounts of the few survivors, initially convinced that the killing could not last long and that sacrificing a part of the Jews could save the rest ; As the Final Solution lasted over time, however, they continued to collaborate in order to delay their own deportation and that of their relatives, although finally they did not even get the latter.

In some places, like the Ghetto of Minsk , the Judenrat collaborated with the clandestine Jewish resistance.

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski is perhaps the best known member of a Judenrat . He governed the ghetto of Lodz ( Poland ) as a dictator, was an active collaborator of the Nazis and surrounded himself with regal pomp, calling himself Chaim I. Expressions such as “my Jews”, “my ghetto”, “my Factories “. Another famous Jewish leader was Adam Czerniaków , president of the Warsaw ghetto . He committed suicide when he was ordered to prepare a deportation of several thousand people. He left a diary written.