Chaim Rumkowski, also spelled Hayim Romkovsky.

Rumkowski is one of the most controversial figures of the Nazi holocaust. Head of the Judenrat of the Lodz Ghetto, he instituted a policy of handing over the weakest of the ghetto citizens (the children and elderly) to the Nazis for "deportation" in an attempt (he claimed) to spare the greatest number of lives for the longest period of time. For this he is considered either a hero or a Nazi collaborator, depending on one's point of view.

The Hero Argument

Rumkowski hoped to ensure the survival of at least some of the ghetto population by producing war goods for the German army, thus making the ghetto valuable to the Nazis. When faced with a quota of people to be given up for deportation (they suspected, but did not know for sure that this meant death) he chose to sacrifice those least able to work. By keeping production as high as possible, he hoped to spare as many lives as possible. Faced with an impossible choice: to resist and be killed immediately, or to cooperate and hope to be spared eventually, he chose the hope of survival. He did not know that the Nazis intended to kill every one of them, no matter how high their factory production.

The Traitor Argument

Rumkowski ruled the Ghetto with an iron hand, collaborating with the Nazis in return for his and his family's lives, and perhaps even better food rations and small luxuries. His dictatorial rule of the ghetto tightened Nazi control and squelched any will toward revolt. His tight control of black-market trading and harsh punishment of anyone caught stealing also kept possible food sources away from starving people.

His most famous speech was delivered September 4, 1942, generally referred to as the "Give Me Your Children" speech. You can read his defense in his own words there.

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