Rumkowski and the Orphans of Lodz

Lucille Eichengreen, Author, Rebecca Camhi Fromer, With Mercury House $16.95 (125p) ISBN 978-1-56279-115-5
Chaim Rumkowski, the Nazi-appointed leader of the Jewish community in the Polish ghetto of Lodz, has long been a controversial figure, despised by some as a collaborator for his role in the deportation of Jews from the ghetto. Eichengreen offers what appears to be an insurmountable case against Rumkowski. Soon after the teenage Eichengreen (From Ashes to Life) was deported to the Lodz ghetto in October 1941, she was told that Rumkowski, the ghetto's Jewish liaison to the Nazis, was alleged to have been a child molester before the war. In the following years, she learned, both from other ghetto residents and firsthand, that these accusations were true. The sexual abuse detailed here in spare, chilling prose is just the most egregious of the material and emotional hardships of ghetto life that made human decency virtually impossible. The author cogently describes the exploitation and deceit that infested intimate relationships in the ghetto. At times, her pillorying of Rumkowski's feeble attempts to save a few Jews appears unfair. She ridicules his apparently understandable statement that, if he were able to save a hundred Jews, his efforts would have been worthwhile, with the comment, ""The enormity and monstrosity of Rumkowski's words appalled me."" But the weight of the evidence she has marshaled, which includes testimony she gathered after the war from other survivors, will remove from most readers any sympathy they might otherwise have had for Rumkowski and his difficult position. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
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