Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Michael Neiberg

Committee Chair Department

History

Committee Member 2

Jeff Bowersox

Committee Member 2 Department

History

Committee Member 3

Brian LaPierre

Committee Member 3 Department

History

Abstract

During the Holocaust, the Nazis appointed a select group of Jewish leaders to carry out their demands and orders throughout the ghettos of Eastern Europe. These influential men made up the Judenrate. From the beginning of the ghettos until their tragic demise, these Jewish leaders were responsible for executing difficult, and at times immoral, orders from the Nazis. With little time, money, and resources, somehow these Jews were to establish a system of government within the small boundaries of their quarantine. Put in an unfathomable position, these specially chosen men received power and influence during a time that removed both from their people. Their decisions and actions during the course of their leadership have elicited various degrees of controversy. Some see them as collaborators who cooperated with the Nazis in order to secure their own safety. Others view them as martyrs, who used their power to better the lives of the Jews, even at the cost of their own safety. While there may not be a consensus regarding the role of these men during the Holocaust, one cannot overlook the extreme complexity of the position they were in. Although the Judenrat leaders in various ghettos endured similar environments and circumstances, their fate, as well as the fates of their residents, varied tremendously.

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