Jewish Councils, also known as Judenräte or the Community of Elders, were created by Nazis to serve as organized intermediaries between their regime and the Jews living in Poland. They were formed in Poland immediately after the German invasion and operated until the final liquidation of the Jewish ghettos.
The Jewish Council in Będzin, which was headed by Haim Molchadsky, joined the region’s umbrella organization of the Sosnowiec Central Office in November 1939, which was under Moshe Merin’s control. As head of the regional Judenrat, Moshe assigned specific responsibilities for Bedzin to his brother Chaim Merin. Moshe propagated a “Salvation through Work” philosophy, assuming that obedience to Nazi regulations was the only viable option for the community’s survival. Cooperation with Nazi orders, so his thinking went, was ultimately better for the Jewish community than the consequences of disobedience, which usually resulted in lethal reprisal actions.
Typically, a Judenrat’s compliance included: the ghettoization of the Jews, the systematic keeping of detailed records of the ghetto’s population, supplying workers for labor mandates, the collection and turnover of Jewish possessions and valuables to the Nazis, the eviction of Jews from their homes, and the delivery of Jews to Nazi officials for arrest, questioning, and deportations to concentration camps.
The Jewish ghetto police often enforced these tasks and orders. Jewish Councils oversaw the activities and living conditions of the ghetto but ultimately did not possess much power or authority. That authority remained solely with the Nazi administration. The German civilian in charge of the town and the ghetto of Będzin was Udo Klausa.
Ultimately, the cooperation of the Jewish Councils with the Nazi regime did not lead to the protection of the community from harm, but to their demise.
For more information on the Jewish Councils of Poland: