Jewish Defendants in German and Polish Courts in the Warsaw District, 1939-1942
This article sheds light on the plight of the Jewish defendants facing various tribunals in occupied Poland, focusing on the example of the Warsaw District. During the 1939-1942 period the German courts tried and sentenced thousands of Jews for a wide range of offenses, such as unauthorized leaving of the ghetto, smuggling, and petty theft and other “normal” criminal acts. Throughout this period German judges, prosecutors, and lawyers worked hand in hand with police and ghetto overseers in order to provide legal justification for increasingly brutal treatment of the Jewish population of the Generalgouvernement. Polish courts, less active in criminal cases, were more preoccupied with the civil side of the “Jewish question” and played an important role in the German-inspired massive expropriation of the Jews of the District. The Polish courts oversaw the cancellation of debts held by the disenfranchised Jewish creditors and nominated candidates for the Treuhänders (trustees of the seized Jewish property).