(1877-1944) An industrialist, Zionist
activist and head of the Judenrat in the Lodz ghetto. Known as a
philanthropist during the interwar period, he furnished the Jewish
orphanage in Helenowek, near Lodz, for example. He was a Zionist
activist in Poland, where he was that party's representative in the Lodz
After the Germans occupied Lodz, he was ordered to organize a
council of elders (Judenrat), where he served as chairman until the
liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944. He and his family were part of
the last transport to Auschwitz. He was a controversial figure.
From an account by Adam Czerniakow:
"It is said that in Lodz, Rumkowski issued his own money, called 'Chaimki'. He is known as 'Chaim the Terrible'."
Adama Czerniakowa dziennik getta warszawskiego, edited by M. Fuks,
(Warsaw, 1983), p. 146. (English translation: The Warsaw Diary of Adam
Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom, [New York: Stein and Day, 1982].)
"On May 17, 1941, Rumkowski gave a report to the [Warsaw] Community
about his activities in Lodz. For him, individuals do not exist. He has a
Sonderkommando for matters of requisitioning. He collects diamonds and
furs. There are no poor people on the streets.
People pointed out to him that 150,000 Lodz residents had escaped to
Warsaw, where it was worse, that 1,000 people a month were dying in
[his ghetto], that the number of births was decreasing. He answered with
irritation that he had not said that it was better in Lodz. (...)
Conceited and stupid. Harmful, because he convinces the authorities that
things are fine in [his ghetto]." (p. 183)
From an account by E. Ringelblum:
"Rumkowski from Lodz came today, September 6. They call him 'King
Chaim', a seventy-year-old man, overambitious and a bit odd. He told
fantastic things about the ghetto. That there is a Jewish state there
that has 400 policemen and three prisons. He has a Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and all kinds of other ministries."
E. Ringelblum, Pisma z getta 1939-1943, (Warsaw, 1961), Vol. 1, p.
137. (English translation: Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of
Emmanuel Ringelblum. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.)
Many historians have criticized Rumkowski's attitude as head of the
Judenrat. They emphasize his despotism, his acquiescence vis-ŕ-vis the
Germans, and his combating of the anti-fascist underground in the
The liquidation of the ghetto took place in July 1944; approximately
7,000 people survived. Adolf Rudnicki wrote a novel about the event,
titled Kupiec lodzki (The Merchant of Lodz), (Warsaw, 1963).