Above: Warsaw Ghetto Jewish Police, 1941

In every ghetto, the Nazis required the Jews to keep order themselves. The Jewish Council (Judenrat) organized a police force to maintain order in the ghetto. Members of the ghetto police (Ordnungsdienst) were Jewish, but were hated and feared by the ghetto population because they were responsible for enforcing Nazi orders.

These Jewish policemen and women faced terrible moral dilemmas. Often becoming a member of the ghetto police meant better housing, clothing and food, as well as the possibility of protecting family and friends from deportation. But in return, these Jews were required to prevent escapes, enforce curfews and quarantines, and to assemble other Jews for deportations to extermination camps.

One of the largest police units was to be found in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Judendienstordnung numbered about 2,500. The Łódź Ghetto had about 1,200, and the Lviv Ghetto 500.

Members of the Ordnungsdienst could, at least temporarily, improve their own chances of survival. This proved an irresistible lure, despite the terrible tasks they were required to perform for their Nazi masters. As one Warsaw Ghetto policeman said as he tore a child from his mother’s arms: “I have a wife and three children. If I don’t deliver my five heads by five o’clock, they’ll take my own children.  Don’t you see?”