• Der Judenälteste und seine SS–Männer: Benjamin Murmelstein, der letzte Judenälteste in Theresienstadt und seine Beziehung zu Adolf Eichmann und Karl Rahm

    Anna Hajkova (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, German Literature and Culture, Jewish Studies
    Motion pictures and history, Jewish Holocaust (1939-1945), Jews, History, Oral history
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Holocaust, masculinity, violence, victim society, Murmelstein, Film and history, Gender studies, Holocaust studies, Jewish history
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    This article examines the relationship of Benjamin Murmelstein and the SS. Murmelstein, the deputy chairman of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna, was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in January 1943, and became the ghetto’s last Elder of the Jews during the large transports to Auschwitz in fall 1944. He had a long and prominent position in interactions with the SS organizers of the forced emigration and deportations. He was in the center of Viennese events, while Adolf Eichmann developed his model and created the team of "Eichmann’s Men", whose orders Murmelstein had to follow and with whom he negotiated the room for maneuver. After the war, he was accused of collaboration; while the Czechoslovak investigations acquitted him, survivors’ representation and popular memory treat him until today as a repulsive outcast. The accusations point out Murmelstein’s twofold special position: he had a working relationship with the last commandant of Theresienstadt, Karl Rahm, Eichmann’s former assistant. Moreover, unlike almost all other Jewish functionaries, Murmelstein survived to tell the tale. He had a rare connection with Rahm, which he knew to work: both came from Austria and both were social climbers, looked down by the establishment - be it the smart educated SD colleagues or the long-assimilated Jewish academics of the Jewish council of Elders. Both the Elder of the Jews and the commandant were choleric and men of action. Murmelstein was smart enough to take advantage of their shared habitus and character features, establishing something like a singular male bonding. While this was a factor in bringing himself and the several thousand ghetto residents to the see the liberation, his communication with the enemy made him a lifelong pariah for the Jewish community.
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    7 years ago
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