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Lodz Ghetto

Last Update 26 July 2006





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On 8 September 1939 Lodz was occupied by German troops. In April 1940 the town was re-named Litzmannstadt, after the German general Karl Litzmann who was killed near Lodz in 1915. 34% of the 665,000 inhabitants were Jews, making Lodz an important centre of Jewish culture in Poland.
From the moment of occupation, the Jews suffered from persecution by SS and 1,500 Volksdeutsche, the latter members of the approximately 60,000 inhabitants of German origin.

Jews were attacked, deported for work, their shops and flats plundered, Jewish institutions were closed by the new administration. A multitude of harassments made Jewish lives more difficult: Jews were not allowed to leave the town without permission, possess cars or radios, have bank accounts, use public transportation, celebrate religious holidays, etc. Between 15 and 17 November 1939 all synagogues were destroyed. From 17 November Jews had to wear the "Yellow Star" (Judenstern) on the front or back of their clothes.
Lodz: Ghetto Bridge at Zgierska Street *
A Ghetto Entrance
A Ghetto Entrance
Within the five months following the occupation, the Germans deported around 70,000 Jews for work. Many Jews left the city and fled to the Generalgouvernement.
Between December 1939 and February 1940 the Lodz ghetto was established in Stare Miasto (Old Town), Baluty, the poor Jewish quarter, and the suburban area of Marysin. On 8 February 1940 the ghetto was officially opened and 164,000 remaining Jewish inhabitants were forced to move there.

The ghetto was ruled by the Ghetto-Verwaltung (Ghetto Government) with its chief Hans Biebow. Special banknotes and coins were issued, as well as special stamps. A dedicated German police squad, led by Walter Rudolf Keuck, supervised the ghetto and guarded the Jews. The ghetto area of four square kilometres became the most densely populated part of Lodz.
Around 200,000 Jews (including approximately 38,500 deported Jews from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Luxemburg) vegetated in wretched wooden houses comprising 31,271 apartments. Living and, particularly, sanitary conditions were disastrous. Apart from the lack of food, only 725 apartments had running water, there was no sewerage, no coal or wood for heating the rooms, no warm clothes and shoes. As a consequence, 21% of the ghetto population died in various epidemics, of starvation or were frozen to death.

Rumkowski *
Economic plunder took place in two ways, the confiscation of Jewish property and enforced labour in as many as 96 newly built ghetto workshops and factories, where starvation forced the Jews to work strenuously for a piece of bread and some soup. This work as well as all other Jewish affairs within the ghetto was managed by the Judenrat (Lodz: Ältestenrat / Council of the Eldest), which was established by the Germans in October 1940. It was led by Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski (official title: Ältester der Juden / Eldest of the Jews).
The Judenrat managed the inadequate food rations, 5 hospitals, 47 schools, the allocation of quarters, the Jewish Order Service and even a ghetto prison.

Because the ghettos were only intended to be temporary, the fate of the Lodz Jews was extermination. On 16 January 1942 deportations to Chelmno Extermination Camp began. The Ältestenrat was forced to select a specific number of people for each transport.

Between January and May 1942, 55,000 Jews and 5,000 Gypsies were sent to Chelmno. Between 5 and 12 September 1942, 12,000 Jews were deported to the same destination. This bloody week was known as Gehsperre (gehen = to walk, Sperre = block / Engl.: curfew). During the Aktion Gehsperre the ghetto hospital was closed. Its patients were the first to be deported, followed by nearly all other elderly or infirm people. Children were separated from their parents and also deported.
Rumkowski prepared this deportation, which was of course based on German orders. In his famous speech he said: "They demand what is most dear to (the ghetto) children and old people."
By September 1942, all Jews from the Warthegau (German expression for the annexed Western part of Poland) had been either murdered or expelled, apart from the 77,000 Jews remaining in Lodz. Consequently the extermination facilities in Chelmno were closed and the deportations from the Lodz ghetto ceased. For 19 months, until May 1944, the ghetto was turned into a labour camp: 90% of the Jews worked in the ghetto factories. Older people, children and most of the women were no longer among them.

Deportation to Chelmno *
In spring 1944 the Germans decided to liquidate the ghetto. Chelmno was re-established and in early June 1944 the first transport of this second wave left Lodz. Between that date and 15 July 7,176 Jews were sent to Chelmno and perished there. From 7 August the new destination was Auschwitz-Birkenau. By 30 August 1944, approximately 67,000 Lodz Jews had been sent there.
Around 800 Jews were kept in a barrack to clean the ghetto area. Tons of the deportees' belongings were collected and sent to Germany. In autumn 1944, 40-60 vans left the former ghetto every day.
These remaining workers were intended to be subsequently shot, the burial pits already having been dug at the Jewish cemetery. Fortunately the potential victims heard about the planned executions. They escaped and hid in the ghetto. On 19 January 1945 they were rescued by the Red Army.

The total number of survivors of the Lodz Jewish community, which in 1939 exceeded 220,000 people, has been estimated at only 5,000-7,000.

See the names of 7,168 individuals from Lodz who were transferred to the death camp at Chelmno, between June and August 1944 at "Lodz Transports to the Chelmno Extermination Camp".

200,000 Jews lived in the ghetto
Sources:
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust

Photos:
USHMM*
R. Gertz * www.foto-onlineauktionen.de


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