The Organizational Structure of the Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe
So-called Jewish “self-rule” in the occupied territories was a diabolical plan to have the Jewish councils (Judenräte) in the ghettoes carry out the Nazi preparation for the eventual extermination of the Jews under the pretext of permitting some autonomy. Already in the very first months of the war, Jewish aid committees sprang up spontaneously to assist destitute Jewish refugees. The German-appointed councils’ sole purpose was to efficiently execute Nazi orders. The tasks of the councils were i. those imposed by the German authorities, e.g., supply of forced laborers, deportees, etc.; ii. continuation of prewar community activities, e.g., social welfare, medical care, cultural activities, and allocation of living quarters; and iii. essential new tasks resulting from the complete isolation of the ghettos from normal municipal and government services, e.g., food supplies, tax collection, police and judicial services, and schools. Often this made for mushrooming administration and unwieldy departmentalization. In general the councils were run by one (strong) man or by a collective committee. Frictions between the council members were not uncommon. As increasing numbers of deportees were sent for extermination, the plethora of departments and council employees decreased.