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Lublin Ghetto

Last Update 14 July 2006





Ghettos
Ghettos
Lublin Ghetto
Lublin Ghetto
Shortly before WW2 about 40,000 Jews lived in Lublin, one third of 120.000 inhabitants. Lublin was an important centre of Jewish religion, education and social life. In 1930 the Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin (Yeshiva of the Wise Men in Lublin) was established, a world-famous yeshiva (rabbinical high school). Before the war the Jewish community in Lublin had 12 synagogues, about 100 private prayer homes, 3 cemeteries, a Jewish hospital, orphanage for the children, shelter for the elderly, their own schools and 2 newspapers: "Lubliner Tugblat" ("Lublin Daily") and "Lubliner Stimme" ("Lublin Voice"), both published in Yiddish. In the town many Jewish parties and organisations were very active. The Jews had their own representation in the town council and many commercial and social organisations. Jews dominated in trading, they owned more than 50% of the workshops and about 30% of the factories. Very special for Lublin was the low level of assimilation: From 40,000 Jews only about 1,000 declared to use the Polish language at home. Most of the younger generation spoke Polish fluently.

Lublin Ghetto Market
Lublin Ghetto Market
German
German Convoy in Lublin
On 18 September 1939 German troops entered the town, after a short battle in the Lublin suburbs and the bombardment* on 8 September. Many buildings were destroyed, the inhabitants had to move closer.
On 14 October the Jewish community received an order to pay 300,000 zlotys as contribution for the German Wehrmacht. German soldiers rounded up the Jews in the streets and forced them to work. Many were beaten or tortured. German soldiers robbed Jewish shops and apartments. As in other places the Jews were humiliated, but worse was to come.
On 25 October the Jewish population in Lublin was registered: 37,054 Jews lived in the town. Now mostly younger Jews and political activists left Lublin and tried to reach Soviet occupied Poland.
The German civil administration, under governor Zörner in Lublin was organized on 1 November 1939, after establishment of the Generalgouvernement. On 9 November 1939 SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik was appointed SS- und Polizeiführer in the Lublin district. On this day the first resettlement of Jews took place in the town: In the early hours of the morning SS-men surrounded the town centre and removed the Jews from their flats. Most of them lost their whole estate within a few minutes. All Jews were resettled this particular day to the Jewish Town and Old Town in Lublin. Again many of them decided to leave the city.
Lublin Ghetto
Lublin Ghetto
Later in November 1939 German authorities ordered that all Jewish shops, workshops and factories should be marked with the Star of David. From December 1939 they also had to wear the "Star" in the form of armbands. For many people the order was a great shock, branding them in this way.
Sujka Erlichman-Bank:
"On 1 December we were "decorated" by the yellow Star of David. This winter morning Dr Mordechaj Tenenbaum, old children doctor, came to work. On his overcoat he had a yellow "patch" and in his eyes tears. It was horrible! He, who loved every sick child, stood before us and was degraded. He smiled, wiped off the tears and by trembling voice appeased everybody: "It is nothing, my children. We have not to be shamed - in spite of all we are still Jews."

Judenrat Entrance
Judenrat Entrance
Toward the end of 1939 the Lublin Judenrat (Jewish Council) was established. This institution consisted of 24 members and was created by the Jews themselves, after many discussions regarding collaboration with the occupying forces. The elected president of the Lublin Judenrat was Ing. Henryk Bekker (before the war he was leader of the Folkspartaj in Lublin, deputy to the Town Council and president of the Jewish Community Council). Vice-presidents of the Judenrat were Dr Marek Alten (a lawyer, former Austro-Hungarian officer, one of the leaders of the Zionist Organisation in the town) and Salomon Kestenberg (famous paper merchant and vice-president of the pre-war Jewish Community Board). Regarding Bekker all survivors from the Lublin Ghetto said he was a very kind and helpful person.
Together with the Judenrat, some Jewish institutions were established like Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe and different committees added their help. The Judenrat controlled the Jewish Hospital, orphanage and shelter for the eldery.

1941 Round-Up near Lublin
1941 Round-Up near Lublin
Jewish Quarter
Jewish Quarter
The Lublin district became a Judenreservat (Jewish reservoir): All Jews from the Generalgouvernement, the occupied Polish districts and the German Reich would be brought there. Until February 1940, 6,300 Jews had been deported to the Lublin district, among them around 1,200 German Jews from Stettin. Most of them were sent to small ghettos in Piaski, Glusk and Belzyce.
In 1940 SS and police organized round-ups in Lublin and its environs. Thousands of men were sent to Belzec work camp. There they had to build the Eastern Wall at the Soviet border. Many of them died there due to primitive conditions.
Until March 1941 many Jews still lived in their own apartments, except from the town centre where they were not even allowed to walk on the main street. They had to work for German institutions and companies, for example in the Forced Labour Camp Lipowa Street 7. Very often round-ups took place in the Jewish district finding people for work. German institutions, officers and even soldiers went on looting Jewish shops and flats.

Lublin Meat Market
Lublin Meat Market
Lublin Ghetto Round-Up
Lublin Ghetto Round-Up
In March 1941 Lublinís governor Zörner proclaimed the establishment of a ghetto in Lublin. It comprised the oldest and poorest part of the historical Jewish district in Lublinís Old Town. Several days before setting-up the ghetto about 14,000 Lublin Jews (most of them poor and without work) were resettled to several small towns in the Lublin district, but parts of them returned illegally. Around 40,000 Jews still lived in the town.

Until March 1942 the ghetto was not strictly closed, but Jews were not allowed access to the so-called "Aryan streets". Many Jewish families, especially those who worked as specialists for German institutions, still lived outside the ghetto.
The conditions were not as horrible as in the ghettos of Warsaw or Lodz regarding lack of food. In the Lublin ghetto Jews had contact with the world outside, enabling them to smuggle food inside the area allotted them. Even Nazi newspapers wrote about illegal trade in the ghetto on a large scale.

Lublin Ghetto Street
Lublin Ghetto Street *
Lublin Jews #1
Lublin Jews #1
Sujka Erlichman-Bank wrote:
"After my return from Warsaw I realized exactly the differences of the conditions in both ghettos. In Lublin there was not an intensive social and cultur life. There were many reasons of this situation. At first, in the beginning of the war, Soviet troops came almost to Lublin what facilitated the escapes. Mostly the political activists and youth escaped. The big number of the resettled people from the western part of Poland were deported to Lublin. Most of them were poor people from low social classes. Intelligentsia, for example from Lodz and surroundings escaped to Warsaw, believing that the capital will have a better fate. Lodzís intelligentsia was very active in Warsaw and replaced the Warsaw one which has escaped. Also the buildings of both towns were different. The great houses with the back-premises gathered inside the big number of inhabitants, and a part of them could go into the underground, making social work during the police time. The buildings in Lublin were smaller and separated frome each other, so in the evening it was impossible to organize themselves. There was the positive side of Lublin also. The misery was here much more "modest" than in Warsaw. Here people didnít die in the streets. They agonized only in the silence of the houses, or shelters for the refugees, or in the hospitals. We can say it was more "decently". Also Lublinís nouveaux riches behaved themselves quite decently."

Up until March 1942 many Warsaw Jews escaped to Lublin, believing that it was a richer town with much food. Indeed the biggest problem in the Lublin ghetto was not the shortage of food but typhus epidemic and overcrowded apartments.

Brama Grodzka - "Ghetto B"
Lublin Jews #2
Lublin Jews #2
From October 1941 the Nazi administration prepared the expulsion of Lublin's Jews, apart from 25,000 working for the German army, SS and police. In December 1941 groups of young Jewish men were brought to Majdanek for constructing the camp.
Early in 1942, the ghetto was divided into two parts: A - the so-called Big Ghetto with Jews having no work, and B - several streets being the "better" part of the ghetto (Grodzka Street*, Kowalska Street, Rybna Street). In Ghetto B the Judenrat and its institutions were located. Jews who worked for the Germans lived here along with doctors from the Jewish hospitals. Ghetto B was fenced in with barbed wire. Jews, living in both parts of the ghetto, were allowed to visit each other at special times during the day only, which required special permission. When the ghetto was divided the decision about deportation of the Lublin Jews to Belzec death camp had already been planned at Globocnik's headquarters.

Several days before the deportations started, the SS registered all Jewish workers. They received a stamp mark in their ID cards, by the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police). Only these persons were exempt from deportation. They then had to move to Ghetto B.

Lublin Ghetto
A Jew in the Lublin Ghetto
On 16 March 1942, several hours before the beginning of the ghetto liquidation, SS-Hauptsturmführer Hermann Höfle met the representatives of all Nazi institutions in Lublin. They were informed that all unemployed Jews would be deported to Belzec "which is the last station in Lublin district", and "that these people never will come back. For the Jewish workers the SS is building a big camp (Majdanek) which will be main reservoir of the Jewish labour power for the German factories in the town". He promised that during the deportation the SS would select people for work.
At 10 p.m. the ghetto was surrounded by SS and Ukrainians from Trawniki. They lit the main ghetto street, which shocked the people being driven from their homes. Many of them, especially the elderly and sick were killed on the spot. Two hours later SS-Hauptsturmführer Hermann Worthoff from the Gestapo Lublin, being responsible for Jewish affairs, met the Judenrat. He ordered that every day around 1,500 people had to be deported "to the East, for work". Everyone would be allowed to take 15 kg of luggage on the journey, along with valuables and money.
Meanwhile the first group of Jews were brought to the Great Synagogue, now being used as a gathering centre for the deportees. On this night they were brought to the Umschlagplatz near the town slaughterhouse.
Early on the morning of 17 March 1942 the first Lublin Jews were deported to the Belzec extermination camp. At this time none of the Jews knew about the fate of these deportees nor the destination of the transports. But several days after the beginning of the deportation a young boy (his name is unknown) escaped from Belzec. Returning to Lublin he explained the fate of the deportees. Nobody wanted to believe him.
Until 14 April 1942 about 26,000 Lublin Jews were sent to Belzec. About 200 children from the Jewish Orphanage were executed together with their teachers in a Lublin suburb. Several hundred patients from the hospitals were shot at Niemce Forest (15 km from Lublin), together with their doctors and nurses.

Forced Labourers
Majdan Tatarski Forced Labourers
Lublin Jews #2
Lublin Jews #3
During the ghetto "action" the SS changed their regulations regarding the "Work Jews". All those working for the Germans had to change their ID card into a Juden-Ausweis. These people were exempt from the next deportations. According to this SS order only 2,500 Jews were allowed to stay in the ghetto officially. On 30 March 1942 Worthoff ordered the selection of the Judenrat members and other officials. The president of Lublinís Judenrat Ing. Henryk Bekker and other members (among them Dr Josef Siegfried who was president of the Jüdische Soziale Selbsthilfe in Lublin) were deported to Belzec the same day.
Ing. Bekker probably knew the fate of his fellow sufferers: He went to the deportation train wearing ritual Jewish clothing and without any luggage. Together with the Judenrat members, 35 Jewish policemen and their families were deported.

Lublin Jew
Lublin Jew
Deportations halted on 14 April 1942. The SS knew that around 7,000-8,000 Jews still tried to hide themselves in cellars in the old ghetto dwellings. Therefore Worthoff and the Gestapo staff (responsible for the deportations: Dr Harry Sturm, Walther Knitzky and Kalich) ordered the transfer of all remaining Jews to the small ghetto of Majdan Tatarski in a Lublin suburb.
Majdan Tatarski was located in the neighbourhood of the forced labour camp at Flugplatz (Airfield). The Jews who were in this ghetto could even observe their comrades working at the Flugplatz camp. There the possessions of the Aktion Reinhard victims were sorted. Before the war roughly 1,500 Polish people lived in Majdan Tatarski, mainly workers from the aircraft factory Plage-Laskiewicz. In the new ghetto many people had to spend their nights on the streets and courtyards due to lack of space. On 22 April 1942 about 2,500-3,000 people, mostly women with children, having no J-Ausweis (Identity Card for Jews), were taken to Majdanek concentration camp. After this selection about 2,000-2,500 people were shot at Krepiec Forest and 200-300 young men were selected for Majdanek concentration camp. Rumours about their fate spread among the ghetto prisoners. Many of them could no longer believe in survival. In Majdan Tatarski 4,000 Jews still resided there.
After this selection the Majdan Tatarski ghetto was organized as a closed ghetto, surrounded by barbed wire.
The president of the new Lublin Judenrat was Dr Marek Alten, but the man with the biggest influence in the ghetto was Shama Grajer, before the war a barber and owner of the Old Town brothel. During the war he was an intimate with the Gestapo in the ghetto. At his Lubartowska Street restaurant the SS deportation staff gathered. He provided them with the best of drinks and Jewish musicians. Grajer even sold J-Ausweise for many people, taking thousands of zlotys, and participated in the SS corruption. In Majdan Tatarski everyone called him the "Jewish King". He participated in the next selections and decided who would be selected for Majdanek.

Ghetto Postcard
Ghetto Postcard
Humiliated Jews
Humiliated Jews *
In September 1942 about 1,000 Jews were deported to the ghetto in Piaski near Lublin. The next selection took place on 24 October. Among the deportees a group of so called "privileged" Jews (officials of the Ghetto Arbeitsamt (job centre) and workers from Victor Kreminís company) who were exempt from the deportations until then were taken to Majdanek concentration camp.
On 9 November 1942, according to Himmlerís order that June (to finish the deportations from the ghettos in the Generalgouvernement to the death and concentration camps until the end of December 1942), a last group of about 3,000 Jews from Majdan Tatarski was deported to Majdanek. About 180 people were shot in the ghetto, most of them children and people wanting to hide themselves in cellars. Hermann Worthoff personally shot Dr Marek Alten, Shama Grajer and Moniek Goldfarb who was commander of the Jewish ghetto police. They were killed by personal order of Odilo Globocnik in order to eliminate all witnesses of SS corruption.

Lublin Ghetto Ruins 1943
Lublin Ghetto Ruins 1943
In Majdanek new transports were selected: Old people and children were sent to the gas chambers, people being able to work remained alive. From Majdanek some prisoners were brought to other forced labour camps in Lublin: 7 Lipowa Street, Flugplatz, Sportplatz or several smaller work places. Specialists were transferred to the Gestapo prison in the castle where they had to work as Hofjuden, personal slaves for the Gestapo officers and their families.
Some Lublin Jews who survived until November 1943 were executed during the mass execution of all Jewish prisoners on 3 November 1943 at Majdanek. This execution, the largest in the history of all concentration camps, is known as Aktion Erntefest ("Operation Harvest Festival"). On this day around 18,000 Jews from different camps in Lublin were executed at Majdanek.
The last group of 400-500 Lublin Jews, working at the Castle, survived until July 1944. Together with many Polish political prisoners they were shot on 21 and 22 July 1944, a few hours before the Red Army liberated the city. The person responsible for organising these executions was Hermann Worthoff, the same man who had earlier liquidated the Lublin Ghetto and been complicit in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Jews killed in July 1944 at the Castle had been selected by him as so-called "Hofjuden", working for the Lublin Gestapo. They had been rescued by Worthoff during "Aktion Erntefest" (some of them were transferred from 7 Lipowa Street Camp to the Castle) but he ordered them killed at the very last moment before the arrival of the Soviet Army (the Soviets were by that time in the suburbs of Lublin). Only two or three Jews survived from this group. The Polish political prisoners killed that day were mainly those who were under investigation by Worthoff and had been sentenced to death during the final period of the occupation (May-June 1944).
Only 200-300 of formerly 40,000 Lublin Jews survived in hiding or were finally liberated from a number of different concentration camps. About 1,000 Jews survived the war in Soviet areas.

The Lublin Ghetto was the first ghetto in the Generalgouvernement to be liquidated, and the Nazis gained much experience, for future deportation actions. Jews from Lublin were the first victims of the newly constructed death camp at Belzec.

The Lublin Album

40,000 Jews lived in the ghetto
Photos:
GFH *
ZIH Warsaw *
Marek Gromaszek*

Sources:
State Archive in Lublin: Collection of Lublinís Judenrat 1939-1942; Collection of Governor of Lublin District 1939-1944.
Archive of the Majdanek State Museum: Collection of Survivorís Memoirs and Testimonies.
Institute of the National Remembrance in Warsaw: Records from the trials against Hermann Worthoff and Dr. Harry Sturm.
N. Blumental: Documents From Lublin Ghetto. Judenrat Without Direction. Jerusalem 1967.
S. Erlichman-Bank: Listy z piekla. Bialystok 1992.
S. Goldberg (Chehever): The Undefeated. Tel-Aviv 1985.
J. Kasperek: Kronika wydarzen w Lublinie w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej. Lublin 1983.
R. Kuwalek, W. Wysok: Lublin - Jerozolima Krůlestwa Polskiego. Lublin 2001.
T. Radzik: Lubelska dzielnica zamknieta. Lublin 1999.

© ARC (http://www.deathcamps.org) 2005