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Head of the Jewish Council of Elders

In the horse carriage, seated on the right: Leon Szykier and Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski; on the left: Szmul Rozensztajn and Mosze Karo

The German occupation authorities decided to designate a representative of the Jewish community in the occupied city. On October 13, 1939, Mordechaj Chaim Rumkowski was appointed as the Head of the Jewish Council of Elders. Before the outbreak of the Second World War Rumkowski was a community activist known among Jews. He held positions in a number of organisations and associations. In particular, he was remembered as the principal of the Jewish orphanage in Helenówek, where he had implemented a programme of youth activation in a Zionist spirit. His other field of activity was the local political scene of Łódź. From 1921, he was a member of the Jewish Community Board as a representative of the Zionist party.

After the German troops entered the city, Rumkowski stayed in Łódź as the only member of the pre-war Community Board, which was probably why he was appointed the Head of the Jewish Council of Elders. From then on, he was personally responsible for carrying out all orders of the German authorities. This gave him superior power over the Jewish population living in the occupied city. He seized power over the property of the Community and the remaining Jewish organisations and associations operating in the city. He was also granted the right to establish his own administrative structures necessary to implement German directives. Rumkowski was ordered to set up an advisory body in the form of the Council of Elders (Ältestenrat). In reality, its role was marginalised and the Head of the Jewish Council of Elders wielded power single-handedly, disregarding the advisory body. 

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