Group 13

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For the Group 13 elements of the periodic table, see Boron group

"The Group Thirteen" network (Polish: Trzynastka, Yiddish: Das Draitzental) was a Jewish collaborationist organisation in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War. The Thirteen took its informal name from the address of its main office in Leszno Street 13. The group was founded in December 1940 and led by Abraham Gancwajch,[1] the former head of Hashomer Hatzair[2] in Łódź. Sanctioned by Sicherheitsdienst (SD),[3] and also known as the Jewish Gestapo,[4] the unit reported directly to German Gestapo.[citation needed]

The group[4] vied for control of the ghetto with the Judenrat and infiltrated the Jewish opposition within the ghetto.[5]

The group's most important branch was the Office to Combat Usury and Profiteering in the Jewish Quarter of Warsaw.[6] Supposed to combat the black market, it actually collected large sums via racketeering, blackmail and extortions.[3][4] The group also ran its own prison. In total, the group numbered between three and four hundred uniformed Jewish officers, distinguished by caps with green bands.[6] In July 1941 Group 13 lost to the Judenrat in the political arena and the Office was incorporated into the Jupo.[4]

After the Office was closed the remaining members of the Group 13 centered around Gancwajch concentrated their efforts on their own hospital and ambulance service (the so-called Emergency Service or First Aid Station which was created in May 1941) which however quickly became used predominantly for smuggling and contraband.[3][4] They also had other operations, for example a brothel at 'Britannica' hotel[4] and near total control over the horse-drawn carriages and all transportation within the ghetto.[3]

In mid-1941, shortly before the Office was closed, there was a split in the Group leadership, when Morris Kohn and Zelig Heller broke with Gancwajch and established their own organizations.[4] Kohn and Heller eventually outlasted the Group, and their demise only came during the mass deportations from the ghetto.[3] The rise and fall of the Group was likely related to the struggles for power between various factions in German military and bureaucracy who supported various factions in the Ghetto for their own purposes.[3]

In April 1942 many members of the Group 13 were shot by the Germans.[4] Gancwajch and surviving members of the group later re-emerged posing as Jewish underground fighters, though in reality they were hunting for Poles hiding or otherwise supporting the Jews. After closing the Jewish Gestapo, Gancwajch stayed in Warsaw outside the ghetto, where he continued working for the Nazis.[4] He was rumored to have died around 1943;[1][4] a hypothesis about his post-war collaboration with NKVD was never confirmed.


  1. ^ a b The record at Warsaw Ghetto database
  2. ^ W. D. Rubinstein, The Left, the Right, and the Jews, Universe Books, 1982, ISBN 0-87663-400-5, Google Print, p. 136.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Israel Gutman, The Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt, Indiana University Press, 1982, ISBN 0-253-20511-5, Google Print, p. 90–4.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Itamar Levin, Walls Around: The Plunder of Warsaw Jewry During World War II and Its Aftermath, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, ISBN 0-275-97649-1, Google Print, pp. 94–98.
  5. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918–1947, McFarland 1998, ISBN 0-7864-0371-3, Google Print, p. 66.
  6. ^ a b Anna Heilman, Never Far Away: The Auschwitz Chronicles of Anna Heilman, University of Calgary Press, 2001, ISBN 1-55238-040-8, Google Print, p. 52.