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Warsaw Ghetto Liquidation

Last Update 3 April 2006

In the months proceeding the mass deportations increasing unease was felt, under the impact of growing reports and rumours about the deportations from other ghettos and places of Jewish habitation in occupied Poland.

ghetto street
After Expulsion
Unrest and panic were created and grave doubts were raised among the ghetto population by the night raids undertaken by the German police and security forces. These raids were carried out according to prepared lists. The persons on the lists were seized in their homes, taken out and shot at a nearby location. The most murderous raid took place on 18 April 1942, when 52 persons were killed that night. This night became known as the "Night of Blood" or the "Bartholomew’s Night".

v. Sammern
v. Sammern
Immediately after completion of Treblinka the Große Umsiedlungsaktion ("Great Resettlement Action") started on 22 July 1942.
Responsible leaders of the "Great Action" were SS- und Polizeiführer Warschau Ferdinand v. Sammern-Frankenegg, Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienstes in Warschau, Dr Ludwig Hahn and SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle who acted as representative of Odilo Globocnik (SS- und Polizeiführer Lublin).
Executive bodies: The Warsaw Order Police, a small unit of the Warsaw Security Police, a special unit of Volksdeutsche and the Jewish Order Service. Later SS-men from the forced labour camp in Trawniki played the main part in the ghetto liquidation.
The Jewish Order Service (Police) played an important role during the early stages of the "Great Action". The Jewish Police commander Josef Szerynski had been arrested by the Germans on 1 May 1942, on charges of smuggling furs from the ghetto to the Aryan side of the city. Jakob Lejkin, his deputy, took over the command and exactly carried out the German orders, saying that it is better not to leave it to the cruel Germans.
The 2,000 - 2,500 Jewish policemen and their families were promised immunity by the Germans for their co-operation. As the "action" progressed they began to understand that they were not more than a tool of the Germans and their future like ordinary Jews was clouded in doubt. Therefore they began to desert in droves. The German's response: each policeman was personally ordered to bring in five heads per day for deportation. Those who did not fulfill this order were threatened with having their relatives transported to make up the difference.
The SS directed the deportations from two centres in the ghetto. The Aktion Reinhard command, which consisted of a dozen SS officers, sergeants and soldiers set up its headquarters at 103 Zelazna Street (Ul. Zelazna), after having evicted the Jews from the building.
Ber Warman, a Jewish policeman, who guarded 103 Zelazna Street, wrote at the end of August / early September 1942 that SS men started to live there. Before end of August 1942 the Befehlsstelle (order HQ) was on 17 Ogrodowa Street, at the Jewish police headquarters. At the door to one of the rooms was a plaque that read Gastzimmer des SS-Sonderkommandos Treblinka ("Guestroom of the SS Special Command Treblinka").
The HQ on Ogrodowa Street was mainly manned with SS and Gestapo-men who has been stationed in Warsaw for some time. The most prominent members of this group were Hohmann, Witosek, Jesuiter and Stabenow. Tempo and character of the "resettlement" actions were dominated by Karl-Georg Brandt and Gerhard Mende.

Announcement #1
At 10 a.m. on 22 July 1942 Höfle, Michalsen, Worthoff and other officers of Aktion Reinhard visited the Judenrat. Höfle dictated to the Judenrat the German conditions for the "resettlement to the east".
In this way the Judenrat was forced to help "cleaning" the ghetto. The main orders were:
All Jews will be resettled to the east, regardless of age and sex.
With the exception of:
Jews working for German institutions or companies
Jews working for the Judenrat
Jewish hospitals' staff
Members of the Jewish Order Service
Wifes and children of above-mentioned persons
Patients of a Jewish hospital on the day of resettlement.
Each person which will be resettled is allowed taking along 15 kg luggage and all valuables: Gold, jewellery, money etc.
Provisions for three days is necessary.
The resettlement will start on 22 July 1942, 11 o'clock (11 a.m.).
The Judenrat is responsible for delivery of 6,000 persons daily until 4 p.m.. Assembly point is the Jewish hospital at Stawki Street.
On 22 July 1942, the Jewish hospital at Stawki Street has to be emptied so that the building can be used for the people being resettled.
The Judenrat has to announce the German orders.
Each Jew who is leaving the ghetto during the resettlement action will be shot.
Each Jew who is acting against the resettlement will be shot.
Each Jew who doesn't belong to the above-mentioned persons and who will be discovered in Warsaw after the resettlement action will be shot.
The first contingents put together by the Judenrat consisted of refugee assembly institutions, prisons and old people's homes.
If these orders will not be carried out, a corresponding number of hostages will be shot.

Announcement #2
When SS-Hauptsturmführer Worthoff ordered to provide 10,000 Jews for the 24 July 1942, including children of a children's transport, the Judenrat leader Adam Czerniakow committed suicide.
His successor became Marek Lichtenbaum.
The Jewish order service took over the control. It was responsible for hanging up posters on 29 July, announcing that each person who will volunteer for resettlement will get 3 kg bread and 1 kg marmalade.
Because of starvation many Jews followed that announcement. The Germans provided 180,000 kg bread and 36,000 kg marmalade.

On 23 July 1942, the Jewish underground organisations met. Its leaders refused organizing resistance. Only the organisation of the young Zionists, Hashomer Hatzair, organized a propaganda action in the ghetto, informing on handbills that the deportees will be sent to a death camp and not to work. The Jews in the ghetto supposed that it was just a German provocation.

The assembly point (Umschlagplatz) was formerly used by the Transferstelle as a corridor for transports to and from the ghetto. In the adjoining yard, which was surrounded by a high fence, was the abandoned Jewish hospital, into which the victims were crowded until the freight trains arrived. The Germans organized a Dulag (Durchgangslager - transit camp) on Leszno Street. From there after a selection on the Umschlagplatz Jews being able to work were sent to different work camps, including the KZ Majdanek.

In July 1942, 64,606 Jews were deported to Treblinka. This number doesn't include the people who were shot on the streets and in the houses in course of "cleaning" the buildings. Until 29 July 1942, the round ups were organized only by the Jewish police in the ghetto. Afterwards the "actions" were carried out by members of Aktion Reinhard.

In August 1942, the deportations continued with the same relentless efficiency. During the first week in August the Janusz Korczak orphanage was closed. 200 children marched through the ghetto to the Umschlagplatz, accompanied by the old doctor and his long-time assistant Stefania Wilczynska. This incident became a legend.
Janusz Korczak
Between 19 and 21 August 1942, the Warsaw Ghetto saw a break in the Aktion: During these days the Jews from the towns near Warsaw were deported to Treblinka: Otwock, Falenica, Miedzeszyn and Minsk Mazowiecki. In fact the number of deportees to Treblinka in August could be estimated at around 135,000 people.
On 23 August 1942, Jankiel Wiernik was deported to Treblinka. He was one of a few Treblinka survivors, who participated in the Treblinka revolt. Read his story about his deportation!
From 28 August until 3 September 1942, there was another break in the deportations.This fact could be connected with the backlog at Treblinka, where Eberl (the commandant) had allowed more transports to arrive than the camp could manage. The inadequate gassing facilities at Treblinka led to a complete breakdown of the camp's operation. Irmfried Eberl was relieved of his command and Christian Wirth was ordered by Odilo Globocnik to dispose of the mass of corpses. All transports were suspended whilst order was restored.

In August 1942, the underground organisation of "Bund" in the Warsaw Ghetto sent their activist Zalman Friedrich to discover what had happend to the transports from the ghetto. In Sokolów Podlaski near Treblinka he was informed by Polish railway workers that every day a freight trains (with people on board) passed the town to Treblinka. After several hours these trains returned empty. There were no food supplies to the camp...
On Sokolów Podlaski market Friedrich met two naked Jews who had escaped from Treblinka. They described what had happend to the deportees. The information about Treblinka and the fate of the transports from Warsaw Ghetto were confirmed by Dawid Nowodworski who could escape from Treblinka. He returned to the Warsaw Ghetto in late August 1942.
On 14 August 1942, from the Warsaw Ghetto Dulag 1,260 Jews were sent to Lublin. About 1,000 of them were sent to the concentration camp Majdanek, others to the work camp on Lipowa Street 7 in Lublin.

The last phase of the "Great Action" opened on 6 September 1942. Its main feature was a comprehensive selection that went on until 10 September 1942.
The Jews having a permission for work (35,000 permissions have been handed out by the Germans) were concentrated in a "cauldron" in the David quarters ("Cauldron" means "Kesl" in Yiddish, "Kociol" in Polish). During this selection 35,885 Jews were deported, according to the Judenrat lists (published in 1988, Warsaw State Archive). 2,648 were shot on the spot and 60 committed suicide.
After this selection approximately 60,000 Jews remained in the ghetto.
On 15 September 1942, 2,100 Jews from Warsaw (among them 150 Jewish policeman) were sent to Lublin. 600 of them were sent to the work camp on 7 Lipowa Street, 60 to the Flugplatz Camp, and others to KZ Majdanek. Their names are partially avaible at the archive of the State Museum Majdanek in Lublin.
On 24 September 1942, SS-Untersturmführer Karl Brandt proclaimed the end of the resettlement action in the Warsaw Ghetto.
According to German sources 253,742 Jews were deported. According to Jewish sources 270,120 were sent to Treblinka, 10,300 died in the ghetto, 11,580 were sent to Dulag (among them more than 3,500 were deported to Lublin) and 8,000 escaped from the ghetto.

Exact figures about the Warsaw Ghetto drama are partially available but they differ. Jews were deported to the ghetto, escaped from it, were sent to forced labour camps, died by starvation and epidemics, perished somewhere in hidden places or lost their lifes in the struggle against the Germans. Last but not least too many notes got lost and witnesses died before they could tell about their observations.

Photos: GFH


T. Berenstein: Zydzi warszawscy w hitlerowskich obozach pracy przymusowej. Biuletyn ZIH, No.67 (1968)
B. Engelking, J. Leociak: Getto warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejacym miescie. Warszawa 2001
Tak bylo... Sprawozdania z warszawskiego getta 1939-1943. (Wybór). Oprac. J. Adamska, J. Kazmierska, R. Sakowska. Warszawa 1988
Archive of the State Museum Majdanek
Encylopedia of the Holocaust
Yisrael Gutman: The Jews of Warsaw,1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.
The Diary of Adam Czneriakow
Stanislaw Adler: In the Warsaw Ghetto

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