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The Ghetto Administration

Children in one of the ghetto schools

As early as in the autumn and winter of 1939, Rumkowski created the first sections of the administrative apparatus he was in charge of: Designation Office, Supplies Department, and Social Welfare. These offices turned out to be indispensable for carrying out the orders of the German authorities, such as recruiting workers for forced labour or aiding people deprived of a means of livelihood as a result of the war. Gradually, the administrative apparatus grew to cover other areas of life. During the first period of establishing the ghetto, the Housing Department was particularly important, as it dealt with accommodating people resettled from the city to the future closed quarter. After the ghetto was closed, a very complex network of offices, departments and bureaux was created, which in its peak period employed nearly 14,000 people. Thus the organisational framework for nearly all areas of the ghetto prisoners’ life was established.

The most important sections of the ghetto administration, often mentioned in Sierakowiak’s diary, included the Policing Service, responsible for maintaining order and fighting smuggling and illegal trade. This unit, headed by Leon Rozenblat, was also used by Rumkowski for breaking up strikes and demonstrations, confiscating property, and as an auxiliary force during deportation actions, which established its negative image. The Policing Service was in charge of the Central Prison operating in the ghetto in Czarnieckiego Street. Criminals, such as smugglers, thieves, and those proved guilty of accepting bribes, were sent there pursuant to sentences pronounced by the ghetto Court. The prison also played a significant role as a transit point during deportation actions. The Special Unit of the Jewish police, the so-called Sonderabteilung, headed by Dawid Gertler and Marek Kligier, had bad reputation. In reality, it served the function of political police, and its officers were often agents of the Gestapo or Kripo. At some point, its chiefs gained a position that allowed them to compete with Rumkowski for the power over the ghetto.

The closed quarter had a highly elaborate administrative apparatus that dealt with registering and analysing the activity of its inhabitants. The Population Records Department consisted of different sections, the tasks of which included maintaining books of registrations, registering births, deaths, and marriages, and preparing statistics on the economic, health, and demographic situation for the German authorities. The introduction of an internal currency and the purchase of valuable items belonging to the ghetto inhabitants were the responsibilities of the Bank established for this purpose. Financial settlements were made by the Financial Department. Also the health care system, welfare system, agricultural issues, culture, and education took organised forms. 

Soon, thanks to the determination of numerous officials, structures of the education system were recreated in the ghetto. During the peak period, nearly 15,000 students were enrolled in schools of all types: primary, lower secondary, and religious. The Schools Department organised special summer camps for students in the green district of the ghetto – Marysin. The Department was liquidated in the autumn of 1941, which was related to the deportation of nearly 20,000 Jews from the Reich and the Protectorate to the ghetto.

Thanks to the extensive administrative apparatus, a group of higher officials, heads of branches, and Rumkowski’s close co-workers soon formed a class of the ghetto’s ‘aristocracy’, called jachsents or ‘bigwigs’. The standard of living in this group clearly differed from the living standards of other ghetto inhabitants. The ghetto elite was more and more disliked, and its members were often detested by ‘ordinary’ ghetto inhabitants.

 

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