Chaim Rumkowski is one of the most controversial figures in the history of Israel. He was the leader and chairman of the Judenrat in the Lodz ghetto in Poland, during the Holocaust.
Rumkowski was appointed to this position on October 13, 1939, shortly after the German invasion of Poland on September 1st, the day which marked the commencement of World War ll.
The chairman of the Judenrät, which means“Jewish Council”, held power like the prime minister of the ghetto; he was a bridge between the Nazis and residents of the ghetto. Rumkowski had to choose whether or not to take care of everyone in the ghetto, or to show favoritism (Hebrew: אַפְלָיָה) to his family and friends.
Let’s learn a little bit about his life before the war. Rumkowski was born in 1877 in Russia. He came to the city of Lodz at a time when many immigrants came to work in the textile industry there. As a widower without children, he worked in an orphanage. Some historians have accused him of getting this job for the pure ease of it.
Throughout his time in Lodz he became popular in the Jewish community, but he wasn’t yet a leader.
In our next article we will learn how he became the leader of the Ghetto.