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The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police

Introduction by Samuel D. Kassow. Translated and edited by Samuel Schalkowsky. Anonymous members of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police

Publication Year: 2014

As a force that had to serve two masters, both the Jewish population of the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania and its German occupiers, the Kovno Jewish ghetto police walked a fine line between helping Jews survive and meeting Nazi orders. In 1942 and 1943 some of its members secretly composed this history and buried it in tin boxes. The book offers a rare glimpse into the complex situation faced by the ghetto leadership and the Jewish policemen, caught between carrying out the demands of the Germans and mollifying the anger and frustration of their own people. It details the creation and organization of the ghetto, the violent German attacks on the population in the summer of 1941, the periodic selections of Jews to be deported and killed, the labor required of the surviving Jewish population, and the efforts of the police to provide a semblance of stability. The secret history tells a dramatic and complicated story, defending the actions of the police force on one page and berating its leadership on the next. A substantial introduction by distinguished historian Samuel D. Kassow places this powerful work within the context of the history of the Kovno Jewish community and its experience and fate at the hands of the Nazis.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xxii

Geschichte fuhn der viliampoler yiddisher geto-politsei (History of the Viliampole1 [Kovno] Jewish Ghetto Police, referred to hereinafter as “the history”) is a 253-page document written in Yiddish by members of the Jewish police in the Kovno ghetto during 1942 and 1943. It covers events from the start...

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Inside the Kovno Ghetto

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pp. 1-62

On March 26, 1944, SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Wilhelm Goecke told the commanders of the Jewish police in the Kovno (Kaunas) ghetto to assemble the entire force the next morning for an air raid drill. Goecke wanted to see all the police clean-shaven, with boots shined and uniforms...

1. Introduction

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pp. 63-64

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2. The Prehistory of the Kovno Ghetto

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pp. 65-76

June 22, 1941, the day when the two giants—the National Socialist Germany and the Bolshevik Soviet Union—collided, is the turning point in the history of the world war, which will determine the fate of all the nations and of all the continents for centuries to come. June 22 is also a fateful day for...

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3. The Gruesome Period from the Beginning of the Ghetto to the Great Action

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pp. 77-151

The fast pace of the evacuation, and the approach of the deadline when ghetto life would begin, required the rapid development and expansion of committee activities. To bring order to the life of the Kovno Jewish community, which had been suddenly uprooted and transplanted into the cramped...

Images 1

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pp. 152-157

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4. Ghetto Situation after the Great Action(The survivor must live . . .)

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pp. 158-186

On the day after the action, October 29, 1941, all institutions in the entire ghetto were closed. The situation and mood in the ghetto were as if after a great earthquake. One did not know what was happening, where one was in the world, what one should say or think. We were completely paralyzed and dejected. People were running around from one to the other like wounded...

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5. The Elder Council, the Ghetto Institutions, the Police, and the Ghetto Population Mutual Interrelationships

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pp. 187-207

As noted, the police and the Labor Office were set up and organized during the very first days. According to the established order for such institutions, the largest organizations—in size and influence—were subordinated to the Elder Council. These were the organizations that, within the limits of their capability, had a say over the entire inner life of the ghetto...

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6. Development of the Administrative Apparatus and of the Police after the Action

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pp. 208-245

As noted, we slowly entered a new period after the action, a time when everything began slowly to stabilize and calm down. At that time, it was not possible to observe the transition, the evolution period, but now, as we look back upon those days, we readily see that it was the beginning of a new time period...

Images 2

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pp. 246-252

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7. The Ghetto Guard and the Jewish Police

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pp. 253-283

As previously mentioned, until now there had existed a ghetto guard near the ghetto fence but outside its borders. The sentries guarded the fence but did not enter the ghetto itself; it was an external patrol carried out by the German police unit—the 3rd Company of the 11th Police Reserve Battalion...

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8. The Ghetto during the Time of the NSKK, Wiedmann, and Hermann(Spring and Summer 1942)

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pp. 284-301

Half the winter had passed and, in general, it was quiet and calm in the ghetto, everyone doing his work, settled in, adjusted, and getting on. At the end of January 1942, the ghetto experienced a shock associated with an action...

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9. The Police in the Spring and Summer of 1942 (the Caspi Period)

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pp. 302-318

The recent change in life inside the ghetto was characterized by the fact that, following the departure of Jordan, we had commissars and commandants over us who—some more and some less—were approachable and could be talked to. Higher-up functionaries of the ghetto institutions, the general-secretary of the Elder Council, A. Golub, and others, would frequently...

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10. The Ghetto in the Times of Koeppen, Miller, and the Vienna Protection Police (Schutz Polizei)

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pp. 319-334

The financial regulation of the various offices of the ghetto institutions was arranged according to a municipal system designed to suit the ghetto conditions. All moneys received by the Elder Council treasury through the various offices—for example, the Food Distribution Office, Housekeeping Office, Housing Office, and so on—were dispensed through the Elder...

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11. The Police in the Last Quarter of 1942

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pp. 335-362

After Caspi left us, the police revived somewhat, breathed a little more freely. Before, whatever one wanted to do, it was first necessary to ask what Caspi would say about it. If everyone said day, he said night—it was difficult to deal with him. Now, after his departure, one became somewhat revitalized, one could get something done independently, without regard to his...


Samuel Schalkowsky

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pp. 363-374


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pp. 375-378


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pp. 379-390

About the Authors

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253012975
E-ISBN-10: 025301297X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253012838

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 23 b&w illus., 3 maps
Publication Year: 2014