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Jewish 'Headships' and Nazi Anti-Jewish Policies

This Holocaust Memorial Day lectures discusses the Nazi strategies for controlling and targeting Jewish groups and leaders.

When Hitler rose to power in Germany in 1933 he brought with him the will to get rid of the Jews entirely ("Entfernung der Juden ueberhaupt"). However, the exact meaning of this vague goal was not clear, and consequently the Nazi anti-Jewish project turned into an escalating trial-and-error enterprise, in which different orientations pointed to different directions and even quarrelled with each other. During the first years (1933-1937) those policies - whether legal, economic or social - had an abstract "Jew" in mind but targeted individual Jews or (the many) existing Jewish organizations. It was the Jewish Department of the SD (SS Security Service) which in 1937 started to develop a concept of conducting anti-Jewish policies through dealing with "heads', i.e. authoritative representatives, of the Jews as a collective. As the SS was eager to become the dominant force in shaping and implementing anti-Jewish policies, it wanted to both implement the headship idea and be the German agency controlling them. The concept was indeed implemented, step-by-step, and resulted in the establishment of an enormous number of Judenvereinigungen (Associations of Jews) and Judenraete (Jewish Councils), usually initiated and often controlled by SS agencies, throughout Europe and North Africa. These headships were neither part of the "ghettoization" process, nor an inherent part of the Final Solution, although they played a role in both.

In this lecture the emergence of the 'headship' concept in the Nazi bureaucracy and its complicated implementation process in the varying settings will be depicted and analysed, thus shedding light on the ways in which administrative concepts and fervent antisemitism created effective tools for the persecution of the Jewish communities during the Holocaust.

Dan Michman is Professor of Modern Jewish History and Chair of the Arnold and Leona Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar-Ilan University.


Professor Dan Michman | talks


Date and Time:

24 January 2013 at 6:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide
29 Russell Square
020 7636 7247

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