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Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation

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During World War II, more than five million Jews lived under Nazi rule in Eastern Europe. In occupied Poland, the Baltic countries, Byelorussia, and Ukraine, they were stripped of property and “resettled” in ghettos. The German authorities established in each ghetto a Jewish Council, or Judenrat, to maintain minimal living standards. The Judenrat was required to carry out During World War II, more than five million Jews lived under Nazi rule in Eastern Europe. In occupied Poland, the Baltic countries, Byelorussia, and Ukraine, they were stripped of property and “resettled” in ghettos. The German authorities established in each ghetto a Jewish Council, or Judenrat, to maintain minimal living standards. The Judenrat was required to carry out Nazi directives against other Jews, to supply forced labor, and eventually to cooperate in the Final Solution. Did the Jewish leaders of the ghettos, who were also victims, assist their murderers? If cooperation with the Nazi oppressors was morally defensible during the first stage in organizing the ghettos, what about later, when deportations to death camps began? Trunk analyzes situations where the Councils and ghetto police were forced to send their own communities to death. Some Council members chose suicide rather than supply lists to the Nazis; others used delaying tactics. Some handed over the lists. Some joined their families in the gas chamber. In assessing guilt and innocence, Trunk never allows the reader to forget that the impossible choices facing the Jewish leaders were created by the Nazis.


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During World War II, more than five million Jews lived under Nazi rule in Eastern Europe. In occupied Poland, the Baltic countries, Byelorussia, and Ukraine, they were stripped of property and “resettled” in ghettos. The German authorities established in each ghetto a Jewish Council, or Judenrat, to maintain minimal living standards. The Judenrat was required to carry out During World War II, more than five million Jews lived under Nazi rule in Eastern Europe. In occupied Poland, the Baltic countries, Byelorussia, and Ukraine, they were stripped of property and “resettled” in ghettos. The German authorities established in each ghetto a Jewish Council, or Judenrat, to maintain minimal living standards. The Judenrat was required to carry out Nazi directives against other Jews, to supply forced labor, and eventually to cooperate in the Final Solution. Did the Jewish leaders of the ghettos, who were also victims, assist their murderers? If cooperation with the Nazi oppressors was morally defensible during the first stage in organizing the ghettos, what about later, when deportations to death camps began? Trunk analyzes situations where the Councils and ghetto police were forced to send their own communities to death. Some Council members chose suicide rather than supply lists to the Nazis; others used delaying tactics. Some handed over the lists. Some joined their families in the gas chamber. In assessing guilt and innocence, Trunk never allows the reader to forget that the impossible choices facing the Jewish leaders were created by the Nazis.

50 review for Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Edward Janes

    Book review for JUDENRAT, The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe Under Nazi Occupation. By Isaiah Trunk; 663 pages (1972). Profound and comprehensive magnum opus examining an aspect of the Shoah often misunderstood, some would say understudied. This brutal invention of oppressive torture was the Nazi capstone of their destruction of the Jewish people. Isolation; Seizure of Jewish property; Starvation; Slavery; Humiliation; Aktions; Ultimately “Resettlement”…and to be managed / set in motion by the Book review for JUDENRAT, The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe Under Nazi Occupation. By Isaiah Trunk; 663 pages (1972). Profound and comprehensive magnum opus examining an aspect of the Shoah often misunderstood, some would say understudied. This brutal invention of oppressive torture was the Nazi capstone of their destruction of the Jewish people. Isolation; Seizure of Jewish property; Starvation; Slavery; Humiliation; Aktions; Ultimately “Resettlement”…and to be managed / set in motion by the Jews themselves. Trunk is excruciatingly and painfully detailed in this exhaustive account of the Nazi established Judenrats. He deconstructs an intricately complex subject, examines the roles of the engineers and executioners as well as the compunctious decisions forced upon a doomed, deserted and impotent leadership structure; established throughout Eastern Europe "to serve only one purpose -- execute Nazi orders regarding the Jewish population." Trunk is professional, scholarly and near encyclopedic in his approach, leaving the reader with a superabundance of continued research options. A key theme throughout this work is the reiteration that the Nazi’s were always in control, offering an exculpatory blanket to some previously branded collaborators. A very important study for those interested in a deep understanding of the structure behind the Holocaust Ghettos. Written by Edward M. Janes, 2016

  2. 4 out of 5

    FiveBooks

    After the war there was tremendous debate about the role of the Jewish councils in the ghettos, about how they acted, about the morality of some of them. So this subject is at the very centre of the study of the Holocaust. Isaiah Trunk, who is a survivor, undertook a study of the various Jewish councils that ran the ghettos and investigated the question of collaboration and of cowardice, of heroism, of support for resistance or lack of support. The bottom line of Trunk’s evaluation is that their After the war there was tremendous debate about the role of the Jewish councils in the ghettos, about how they acted, about the morality of some of them. So this subject is at the very centre of the study of the Holocaust. Isaiah Trunk, who is a survivor, undertook a study of the various Jewish councils that ran the ghettos and investigated the question of collaboration and of cowardice, of heroism, of support for resistance or lack of support. The bottom line of Trunk’s evaluation is that their behaviour really made no difference. Read the full interview at http://thebrowser.com/books/interview...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meirav Rath

    An extremely thorough book, despite the fact that it only focuses on ghettoes in the german side of Poland (pre-1941,that is), its absolute and thorough research, its endless yet untidious details are a marvel and the book itself is highly educational and historically valueble. I can't imagine a holocaust researcher who can continue keeping their title without reading this book. Highly recommended. An extremely thorough book, despite the fact that it only focuses on ghettoes in the german side of Poland (pre-1941,that is), its absolute and thorough research, its endless yet untidious details are a marvel and the book itself is highly educational and historically valueble. I can't imagine a holocaust researcher who can continue keeping their title without reading this book. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leland LeCuyer

  5. 5 out of 5

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  6. 5 out of 5

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  7. 5 out of 5

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  13. 4 out of 5

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  14. 4 out of 5

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