King of the Ghetto - Mordecai Haim Rumkowski, the Elder of Lodz Ghetto
The activities of the Judenräte (Jewish councils) during the Holocaust are shrouded in controversy. Rumkowski, appointed soon after the German invasion of Poland by the mayor of Lodz as Elder of the Lodz ghetto, is a particularly contentious figure. He was a physically impressive man who combined good and bad traits in his personality. He was accorded unusual powers to carry out his mission under German supervision. Many considered him an evil figure, only interested in power, his honor, and the care of his family and cronies. His stated aims were to provide his Jews with work, bread, care for the ailing, protection for the children, and preservation of the peace within the ghetto. At first, he accomplished most of these aims, and conditions in the Lodz ghetto were far superior to those in the Warsaw ghetto. Most Jews were working, earning a small wage, and able to purchase small quantities of food. When the deportations to the death camps began, he collaborated with the Germans as regards the selections. At first he claimed that he did not know the deportees were marked for destruction. Later he asserted that this was the only way to save as many Jews as possible. In 1944 with the Russian army closing in on Lodz, he hoped to buy time and save the 80,000 Jews remaining in his ghetto. But the Red Army delayed the liberation of Warsaw until the Germans put down the Polish uprising. During this time many of the Lodz ghetto Jews, including Rumkowski, were murdered in the infernos of Auschwitz.