Michał Weichert - a Biography

Employees (IfZ):   Martin Wiesche

Michał Weichert (1890-1967) was a Jewish theater director, who led Jewish Social Self-Help (Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe – JSS) and subsequently the Jewish Aid Office (Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle – JUS) from 1939 through to the end of the occupation period in the Generalgouvernement in Poland. His organization, under German control, was responsible for the welfare of the Jewish population there. As part of his role, Weichert was positioned between Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, and German institutions as well as foreign aid organizations, and acted as a key representative of Jewish interests in the Generalgouvernement.

In addition to the question of how he attempted to promote these interests in face of the increasingly radical policy of extermination, the study focuses in particular on Weichert’s relations with other actors within the occupation milieu, including Jewish groups, Polish and Ukrainian organizations, and the German administration officers in particular. With regard to this last point, the study looks into what relationship Weichert had as a Jewish official with the Nazi occupational authorities and how this relationship has been viewed by others.

The study does not, however, focus exclusively on the period between 1939 and 1945 but also looks at Weichert’s life as a whole from a comprehensive biographical perspective. Weichert was (and remains) not only a controversial personality but his life serves as an example that illustrates major themes in the Jewish history of the first half of the 20th century: Migration, inner-Jewish differences, as well as coexistence with other population groups. As part of the societal elite among the Jewish population in Poland from the late 1920s, Weichert’s biography also serves as a contribution to an understanding of Jewish-Polish relations before, during, and after the Holocaust.

Michal Weichert, Moamit, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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