|Born||27 Feb 1877|
|Died||28 Aug 1944|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseMordechai Chaim Rumkowski was a businessman and the director of an orphanage in Poland. On 13 Oct 1939, he was appointed by the German occupation government as the Judenälteste, or the Jewish Elder, of the Lódz ghetto; in this role, he was essentially the head of government of the ghetto. On 16 Oct, he appointed 31 people to fill the Judenrat, or the Jewish Council. On 11 Nov, 21 of the 31 appointees were arrested and murdered by the German authorities, and there were some who thought Rumkowski was indirectly involved in their arrests; whether this was true or not, it was the first of many signs of distrust that the ghetto residents had toward him for collaborating with the Germans. He appointed a new Judenrat a few weeks later, with members who were more obedient to his rule. By the spring of 1941, he had effectively silenced all that opposed him, making a virtual dictator second to the Nazi German occupation authorities. He maintained absolute control in the ghetto, sometimes resorting to violence to crush his opposition, including, on a few occasions, maintain his control with the help of German guards.
ww2dbaseRumkowski's plan for the Lódz ghetto focused on collaborating with the Germans so that the ghetto residents had a better chance of survival. As such, he planned to turn his people into an indispensable resource for labor for the German industrial machine. On 5 Apr 1940, he began to see some success in this plan as the Germans agreed to provide additional food to the Lódz ghetto in exchange for labor. "Labor Is Our Only Way" was a slogan commonly heard in his speeches.
ww2dbaseRumkowski's other achievements included the establishment of the ghetto's own currency to stabilize the economy and to discourage smuggling, and being able to enroll 63% of children in schools that his Judenrat had established. Some historians cited the fact that the Lódz ghetto was the last one to be liquidated and the fact that it was the only major ghetto not controlled directly by the SS as a direct result of his efforts to help his people; to this credit, about 7,000 Jews thought they survived the war because of Rumkowski's collaborative policy. However, many accused him of being a corrupt leader who abused his power for personal gains, while others called him a collaborator who had a role in the Holocaust.
ww2dbaseDespite his efforts to cooperate with the Germans, Rumkowski still fell victim to the Holocaust. He and his family were deported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp where they would perish in Aug 1944.
Last Major Revision: Mar 2010
Chaim Rumkowski Timeline
|27 Feb 1877||Chaim Rumkowski was born.|
|28 Aug 1944||Chaim Rumkowski passed away.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945