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Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski
Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski (1877 - 1944) was the Nazi-nominated head of the Judenrat, or Jewish authorities in the Lodz Ghetto. He is best known for his haunting and controversial speech, Give Me Your Children.
Before the German invasion of Poland, Rumkowski was an unsuccessful businessman and an orphanage director. On October 13, 1939 Rumkowski was appointed Judenrat Chairman in Lodz. In this position, he reported directly to the German ghetto administration headed by Hans Biebow and was directly responsible for providing heat, work, food, housing, and health and welfare services for the suffering ghetto population. He performed marriages when rabbis were forced to stop working, and his name was used in the nickname of the Ghetto's money, the Rumkie .
Rumkowski and his family was eventually deported and killed in Auschwitz.
Debate of his role in the Holocaust
Due to his active role in the deportations and his iron rule, Rumkowski's behavior remains as a topic of bitter debate.
Some historians and writers deem him to be a traitor and a Nazi collaborator. In all his activities, Rumkowski displayed great zeal and organizational ability, becoming increasingly dictatorial and ruling with an iron hand. Within the ghetto, Rumkowski overcame opposition with the aid of Nazi intervention and by introducing an evenhanded system of food distribution. His attempt to satisfy perfectly all German demands and create template ghetto, earned him "The demagoguery of a man sick with megalomania", "King Chaim", "an old man of 70, extraordinarily ambitious and pretty nutty."
Others say that Rumkowski believed that some ghetto Jews would survive the war if they worked for the Germans. They argue that Rumkowski believed that in order to save the majority of people in the ghetto, cooperation with the Nazis' deportation demands was necessary. When the extermination camp at Chelmno was instituted in 1941, the Nazis forced Rumkowski to organize the deportation of some of the ghetto population. Rumkowski claimed that he tried to convince the Germans to cut down the number of Jews being deported and failed. Nevertheless, estimated number of 5 000 to 10 000 Jews gave him a credit for their survival.
It is unclear if after the war Rumkowski would be thanked for saving the people he did, or jailed for allowing so many to go to their deaths.
Give Me Your Children
Rumkowski gave his "Give Me Your Children" speech, pleading with the Jews in the Ghetto to give up their children who were ten years of age and younger, as well as the old and the sick, so that others may survive. This speech is considered one of the most chilling examples of the nightmarish aspects of the Holocaust.
- Rumkowski's "Give Me Your Children" Speech
- Rumkowski, Mordechai Chaim from Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
- Rumkowski, Mordechai Chaim from The Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online
- Biography of Mordechai Rumkowski from Diapositive Information Service.
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