Histories of the Jewish 'Collaborator': Exile, Not Guilt
20 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 25, 2017
The subject of this Chapter is the Jewish ‘collaborator,’ specifically, Jewish detainees who helped run the Nazi concentration and labor camps, served as ghetto police, and emerged as community leaders. The Nazis compelled many of these individuals into administrative functions while others – believing in negotiation and compromise as tools of social navigation necessary for them and others simply to stay alive – came forward and were enlisted.
Collaboration constitutes a contested and tabooified element of Holocaust remembrance. This chapter examines the courtroom as incubator of two sorts of histories in cases of collaboration: the micro-history of what happened – who did what to whom and why? – and the macro-history of what to remember and celebrate (and collaterally what to banish and exile). This chapter takes up two judicial proceedings. First, the libel charges the State of Israel, on behalf of Rudolf Kastner, criminally brought in 1954-1955 against Malchiel Gruenwald, an independent journalist who had accused Kastner of collaborating. This libel trial de facto morphed into an assessment of Kastner’s ‘guilt’ or ‘innocence’. Second, the trial of Julius Siegel which was held in Israel in the 1953 under the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Act (legislation enacted by the Knesset to criminally charge suspected Jewish collaborators who had emigrated to the state of Israel following the Holocaust). In both cases, trials and judgments were awkward, ornery, staccato, and gnarly. When it comes to micro-histories, formal criminal proceedings – despite (or perhaps because of) their angularity, parsimony, and solemnity – narrated a story about collaboration that lacked the finesse and suppleness that inheres in other accounts (for example, literary accounts). On the other hand, these very same formal trials were rather effective in manufacturing the content of collective memory – namely, what and how to remember – by elevating heroism and sacrifice while banishing compromise, negotiation, and survivalism.
Keywords: Community Leaders, Criminal Proceedings vs. Literary Accounts, Ghetto Police, Holocaust, Holocaust Remembrance, Jewish, Collaborator, Jewish Detainees, Judicial Proceedings, Julius Siegel, Macro-History, Malchiel Gruenwald, Micro-History, Nazi Concentration and Labor Camps, Rudolf Kastner
JEL Classification: K1, K14, K19, K40, K42, K49, N34, N84, N90, N94
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation