Entries from the diary of Yitskhok Rudashevski from October, 1942, in which he describes several encounters with Jewish police in the Vilna ghetto.
The first ghetto days speed by
Like many others I go hunting for firewood. We break doors, floors, and carry wood. One person tries to grab from the other, they quarrel over a piece of wood. the first effect of these conditions on the human being. People become petty, cruel to one another. Soon we notice the first Jewish policemen. They are supposed to keep order in the ghetto. In time, however, they become a caste that helps the oppressors in their work. With the help of the Jewish police, the Gestapo accomplished many things in the course of time. The Jewish police help to grasp their brothers by the throat, they help to trip up their brothers. [. . .]
Sunday the 18th [October 1942].
A historic day in the ghetto. People are moving to added “districts,” Oshmene Alley. People can walk freely in the new courtyards. [. . .] I go out to look over the new “districts.” [. . .] I have a pleasant feeling crawling over the few new courtyards, seeing new places, the large ghetto brick walls that have just been built, what a pleasure! A simple emotion of a prisoner, who had found another new corner in his cell. He examines it and is pleased for the moment: to discover something new lying in his cell. [. . . ] Now I see the free world: the church near the barracks on Lidske Street bombed out, black rain-soaked ruins in its place. Nevertheless, today I feel a little as though we had gone out of the ghetto. After all, people are walking, flocking together. I do not feel the joy but I feel the pleasure of taking a step behind the gate, as if in spite of the yellow wooden one with strong barbed wire.
I make the first round in the ghetto, a second, a third, and I soon feel the same prison, only a little larger as if someone were teasing us. The feeling aroused by the anticipated departure from the ghetto vanishes. On the contrary, I have a feeling of bitterness. [. . .] For a long time I walk around among our new places. The empty dwellings, ruins abandoned cellars, evoke an unpleasant feeling in me, and my mood becomes worse and worse in harmony with the weather, which becomes more dismal and more muddy. The rain disturbs me. It is cold. The wind wails over the ruins. It seems that the entire ghetto is swimming in dark mud.
Toward evening a new sensation. Suddenly one bright day Jewish policemen donned official hats. I walk across the street and here go some of them wearing leather jackets, boots, and green round hats with glossy peaks and Stars of David. [. . .] I hate them from the bottom of my heart, ghetto Jews in uniforms, and how arrogantly they stride in the boots they have plundered! The entire ghetto is stunned. Everyone feels the same way about them and they have somehow become such strangers to the ghetto. In me they arouse a feeling compounded of ridicule, disgust, and fear. [. . . ]
Monday the 19th [October 1942]
The news in the ghetto spreads like wind: today thirty Jewish policemen are leaving for the small towns for a certain kind of work by order of the Gestapo. A sorrowful mood prevails in the ghetto. Insult and misfortune have reached their climax. Jews will dip their hands in the dirtiest and bloodiest work. They wish simply to replace the Lithuanians. Our Jewish policemen are now leaving for Oshmene. They take along certificates. The Jews from the neighboring towns will be transported to Oshmene and there raids will probably occur, the same sad, bloody story as in Vilna, and our police will be the most active participants in all of this. [. . .] The Gestapo people will thus kill two birds with one stone: first, they will carry out another bloody piece of work, certificates, ghettos, packing one’s things. We who have suffered understand what that means. Second, they will demonstrate that Jews in uniform drive their own brothers to the ghetto, distribute certificates, and keep order with the knout. [. . .] How great is our misfortune, how great is our shame, our humiliation! Jews help the Germans in their organized, terrible work of extermination!1