by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat
It was March 1941. Nearly a year had passed since I had been born, and despite my parents’ continued optimism, conditions were getting worse, not better.
Still, Żarki remained an open ghetto and, for that, families were thankful. Everyone returned to his own home each night. And now Papa had an important role inside our community. Right after I was born, the Nazi government declared that every ghetto and town in Poland must have a Judenrat—a formal council of Jewish leaders. The Nazi regime declared that these leaders would help the German army enforce rules and maintain order among Jews. Membership on the Judenrat was not necessarily a coveted role. Jews quickly came to view Judenrat leaders as traitors, assisting the enemy. Papa wasn’t given a choice, though. The elders in his own Jewish community selected him to be president of Żarki’s Judenrat.
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