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10. The Ghetto in the Times of Koeppen, Miller, and the Vienna Protective Police (Schutz Polizei)

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The financial regulation of the various offices of the ghetto institutions was arranged according to a municipal system designed to suit the ghetto conditions. All moneys received by the Elder Council treasury through the various offices—for example, the Food Distribution Office, Housekeeping Office, Housing Office, and so on—were dispensed through the Elder Council for payment to the various offices and institutions and to cover various obligations. The payments were always very large, and balancing the budget always entailed certain difficulties. Basically, however, an established financial system was in place and existing arrangements worked well.

The famous new decree of August 25 [1942] completely transformed the internal economic life of the ghetto and marked a new period of ghetto life—an economy without money.

Decree No. 1 stated: As of today, food products (rations) in the ghetto will be disbursed to the population at no cost. Bringing in supplies from the city, or in any other way obtaining food products beyond the rations, is strictly forbidden.

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1. Introduction

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THE HISTORY OF THE Jewish ghetto police is, at the same time, also the history of the entire Kovno ghetto. All the shocks and grim experiences, the persecutions and bloody murders—the entire chapter of blood, pain, and tears—form the horrible background of the evolution of the Jewish ghetto police, from its first moment of creation to this day.

It is impossible at this time to sum up, to achieve what might amount to a comprehensive description of life in the Kovno ghetto, or to provide a summary of the activities of the ghetto institutions. First, to this day, we are still, regrettably, in the midst of “activity,” in the storm of events. The history of the Kovno ghetto is not yet complete; new pages are added daily, drenched in tears and blood. The future fate of the few Lithuanian Jews in general, and of the surviving remnants in Kovno in particular, is not yet known. There cannot as yet be any talk of summarizing. Second, too many events are still too close, too fresh, to allow for objective reporting of the behavior of this or that person, of this or that institution. We are too deeply immersed in the ghetto to rise high above it, as would be necessary to be able to objectively judge people and events.

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3. The Gruesome Period from the Beginning of the Ghetto to the Great Action

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The fast pace of the evacuation, and the approach of the deadline when ghetto life would begin, required the rapid development and expansion of committee activities. To bring order to the life of the Kovno Jewish community, which had been suddenly uprooted and transplanted into the cramped, fenced-in area of the Slobodka ghetto, required the speedy establishment of various municipal offices.

From the very beginning of the ghetto, the first and most urgent task was to create and maintain order in the ghetto. The Jewish ghetto police started its work on the first day.

As early as July 9, while the committee was still in Rotushke, besieged by thousands of people in connection with the forthcoming evacuation, the pressing need to create an entity for maintaining order in the offices of the committee had become clear. The reserve officer M. Bramson was assigned to organize a group of young men for this purpose. The same group maintained order in the committee on Daukshios Street, in the Housing Office and in the refuge.1

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4. Ghetto Situation after the Great Action (The survivor must live . . .)

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Ghetto Situation after the Great Action (The survivor must live . . .)

On the day after the action, October 29, 1941, all institutions in the entire ghetto were closed. The situation and mood in the ghetto were as if after a great earthquake. One did not know what was happening, where one was in the world, what one should say or think. We were completely paralyzed and dejected. People were running around from one to the other like wounded animals, asking what would be, what kind of affliction had befallen us, and what was going to happen next. It was completely impossible to take stock of the horror we had experienced. Had they really murdered the 10,000 who had been taken away? How could that be, what would happen to us? Were we better than they? Did the Germans value us more, were we privileged, when would they take us away? Was living and doing anything at all worthwhile when, in any event, we would soon be taken to the fort? Holding our throbbing heads in our hands, confused by the sad thoughts that were chasing each other, we asked the same questions for the hundredth time, unable to give an answer.

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6. Development of the Administrative Apparatus and of the Police after the Action

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AS NOTED, WE SLOWLY entered a new period after the action, a time when everything began slowly to stabilize and calm down. At that time, it was not possible to observe the transition, the evolution period, but now, as we look back upon those days, we readily see that it was the beginning of a new time period.

New offices were being created, and existing ones were reorganized and stabilized.

The first office to be established immediately after the Great Action was the commission for the liquidation of the property of those taken away. By order of the Elder Council, all the houses of residents who had been taken away were sealed and transferred to the jurisdiction of the commission. By means of public announcements, the Elder Council made it known that it was forbidden to take any belongings of those taken away without permission from the commission, even belongings of parents, brothers, or sisters. The commission returned some of the property in the sealed houses to very close relatives, and the rest was transferred to specially arranged rooms in the clothing warehouses. The purpose of the Elder Council in arranging these warehouses was to distribute the belongings to those in need.

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