NAZI occupation authorities announced the order establishing the Lodz Ghetto (February 8, 1940). Jews from all over the city were forced to move into the designated area that had been established. They were only allowed to being what they could carry. They were then forced to march to the new ghetto. This hand to be done on foot. The NAZIs located the Ghetto in the most neglected area of northern Lodz which included Baluty and the Old Town. The area for the Jews was very restricted. Armed German police encircled the Ghetto in barbed wire and guarded the perimeter. Hans Biebow, a 38-year-old German businessman, was assigned to run the Ghetto. The NAZIs set up the process of creating a bureaucracy to systematically confiscation the Jews’ property and then further exploit them through slave labor. Conditions in the Ghetto were very crowded Estimates suggest that there were about 3.5 people for every available room. One the Jews were forced in, the NAZIs built a fence around the ghetto (April 1940). The NAZIs then closed the Lodz ghetto (April 30) and the officially sealed it (May 1). There were Jews from Czechoslovakia and other countries added to the population of the Ghetto. Estimates suggest that about 230,000 city Jews were forced into the ghetto. We have also note an estimate of 160,000. We are not at this time able to explain this discreapancy. A Jewish Council was appointed to administer the internal affairs of the Ghetto headed by Mordekchai Chaim Rumkowski. At the time the Lodz Ghetto was created, the NAZIs had not yet fully decided on genocide. Few conceived of the purpose of the ghetto. Many Jews felt safter in the ghetto than they had felt on the streets of Lodz where they were often attacked and robbed by NAZIs or anti-Semetic Poles or drafted into often humiliaring forced labor squads.
Lodz was an important industrial city. Thus many Jews were skilled workers or had a variety of industrial skills. Rumkowski believed that the Jews might be able to survive if they proved useful to the Germans.
The principal problem for the Jews in the Ghetto was the limited amount of food the NAZIs delivered. Many Jews died in the Ghetto, primarily because of manlnutrition and outright starvation. Most were deported to death camps, primarily Chelmo.
The NAZIs announced the order establishing the Lodz Ghetto (February 8, 1940). Jews from all over the city were forced to move into the designated area that had been established. They were only allowed to being what they could carry. Many families were given only a minutes to pack a few belongings. They were then forced to march to the new ghetto. This hand to be done on foot. No vehicles were allowed to move possessions. The NAZIs thought that forceing the Jews into the Ghetto could be done in a day. It actually took weeks. The area for the Jews was very restricted. Armed German police encircled the Ghetto in barbed wire and guarded the perimeter. Hans Biebow, a 38-year-old German businessman, was assigned to run the Ghetto. He set up the process of creating a bureaucracy to systematically confiscation the Jews’ property and then further exploit them through slave labor. Conditions in the Ghetto were very crowded Estimates suggest that there were about 3.5 people for every available room. One the Jews were forced in, the NAZIs built a fence around the ghetto (April 1940). The NAZIs then closed the Lodz ghetto (April 30) and the officially sealed it (May 1). Estimates suggest that about 230,000 city Jews were forced into the ghetto. We have also note an estimate of 160,000. We are not at this time able to explain this discreapancy. Many Jews died in the Ghetto, primarily because of manlnutrition and outright starvation. Most were deported to deat camps before
the Ghetto was closed.
The NAZIs located the Ghetto in the most neglected area of northern Lodz which included Baluty and the Old Town. It composed an area of 4.13 square kilometers. The NAZIs isolated the Jews in the Lodz Ghetto from the rest of the city with barbed-wire available from the military. Special non-Jewish police guarded the perimeter. Anyone trying to escape was shot. Order within in the ghetto was the responsibility of an unarmed Jewish Ghetto police firce. The Ghetto Ghetto itself was divided into three parts by two major city streets. The two streets intersected outside the Ghetto. As these streets were major city throughfares, provision had to be made for passing through the Ghetto. The answer was the construction of bridges over the streets to connect the three segments of the Ghetto. The tollies passed through the Ghetto, bur did not stop.
The NAZI goal was to concentrate the Lodz Jews. They were determined, however, that it be done at no cost to the Third Reich. They insisted that the Jews pay for food, city services, and the cost of administering the ghetto. As the Jews when they were forced into the ghetto had been separated from their possessions and livlihood, few had the money to but food and other necesities. The motivation of the NAZI administrators varied. Some NAZIs believed that the Jews had secret wealth. Others just did not care or were intent that food and other scare resources not be used to ffed a populastion they hated, regardless of the consequences. Others saw an opportunity of making money.
At the time the Lodz Ghetto was created, the NAZIs had not yet fully decided on genocide. Few conceived of the purpose of the ghetto. Many Jews felt safter in the ghetto than they had felt on the streets of Lodz where they were often attacked and robbed by NAZIs or anti-Semetic Poles or drafted into often humiliaring forced labor squads. Some thought that the isolation in the ghetto was actually a kind of sanctuary from dangerous conditions on the outside. Here the children could attend school and religious services quietly conducted. This was of course before food supplies began to run short. Some thought that within the ghetto they would have autonomy and be able to survive away from NAZI brutality. What few realized was that concentrated together they were even more vuknerable than before and that they were at the mercy of the NAZIs when the decession was made as to how to deal with Jews in the occupied countries.
The Germans in the ghettos used a system of appointing a Jewish leader or council and holding them personally responsible. The NAZIs for the Lodz Ghetto selected Mordekchai Chaim Rumkowski. He was appointed the Judenälteste ("Elder of the Jews"). It is unknown why he was chosen. Before the War he had worked as an insurance salesman, Maqnager of a velvet factory, and director of the Helenowek orphanage. There is today much debate about the various Jewish leaders and councils selected by the NAZIs. Did they do their best to protect their people in an impossible situation or were they traitors that sacrificed their people to save their own lives. Rumkowski assumed his position with considerable vigor. He appears to have embraced the idea of an autonomous ghetto, although he had no real alternative but to do so. His strategy was to make the Jews so valuable to the NAZIs that they would want to maintain the Ghetto. It was not an unreasonable effort. There were NAZIs who were interested in using the Jews to support the War effort. Neither Rumkowski or Allied leaders understood at the time that the physical elimination of the Jewish people was one of Hitler's primary war goals. Rumkowski established a ghetto currency with bills using his portrait and signature. Ghetto residents referred to it as "Rumkies." Large areas of the Ghetto had no running water or sewage system. Rumkowski set up the institutions of any municipality. Rumkowski created a post office (the stamps also had his image), schools, and a sewage/garbage collection service. The central problenm that the ghetto residents faced, however, was food.
Henryk Ross was born in Poland (1910). The Lodz Ghetto Jewish Council Department of Statistics employed his as the official photographer. One might think that the Council wanted to record what the NAZIs were doing. This was not the case and if they had the NAZIs would have probably found out and arrested the Council and Ross. The Council wanted evidence the factories to show how productive the Ghetto was to convince the Germans of why it and the Jews there should be left to work for the Reich. This gave him virtually unlimited access tp photograph life in the Ghetto. The Ghetto elite also wanted photographs of themselves and families. So while Ross fullfilled his assignment, he went further. He risked his life by clandestinely photographing the horrors of the Ghetto. Thus the collection is a macbre mixture of well fed elite and the desperate majority of the ghetto. He photographed the daily lives of Jews there both children and adults. His photographs show the streets, gactories, and homes as well as the transports. Along with photographs of the Ghetto admimistrtion elite partying we se hungry and starving people searching and begging for food. He capyuted Jews being herded into cattle trucks for transport to the death camps. There are individual deportations. Ppeople desperately escaping the Nazi round-ups, especially the round-ups of the children. Ross took thousands of photographs. As a result of his position, he was among the last Jews that the NAZIs transported before closing the Ghetto. Just before the NAZIs closed the Ghetto he had the presence of mind to bury his photographs and negatives so that a visual record would be predserved. He managed to survive and after the War returned to dig up his photographic record of over 3,000 negatives. Some had water damage, but most survived. Some of Ross' images were used in the war crimes prosecutions of NAZIs involved in the Holocaust. Ross emigrated to Israel. Most were not published until after he died.
The Education Department eventually set up 43-45 primary in the Ghetto which operated during 1940 and 41. This included both religious and secular schools and two secondary schools. On Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) German ghetto chief Hans Biebow summened Rumkowski (September 23). He ordered him to close the schools. He informed Rumkowski that 20,000 central European and Polish Jews and 5,000 Roma (“Gypsies”) were arriving. The buildings being used for the schools was needed for the new arrivals.
Jewish authorities not only organized schools, but 2-week summer camps for children and youth. The summer camp was organized by the The Education Department and located at Marysin. Marysin was one of the streets that formed the boundary of the Ghetto. About 10,000 children and youths participated. We believe the camp operated in 1940 and 1941. I'm not sure about 1942. By that time the NAZIs were transporting the Lodz Jews in large numbers. We have been unable to find any detailed information about the summer camp.
Lodz was an important industrial city. Thus many Jews were skilled workers or had a variety of industrial skills. Rumkowski believed that the Jews might be able to survive if they proved useful to the Germans. Given the options available, this was not an irrational response. And there were individuals in the NAZI hierarchy that wanted to use the Jews as a slave labor source to support the war effort and to benefit frompersonally from licrative war contracts. And after the disaster before Moscow (December 1941), it ws becoming increasingly clear that it would not be a short war. Fighting the Soviet Union, Britain, and America, NAZI Germany would have to expand its war production. The Lodz Jews in
cooperation with NAZI authorities established a wide range of factories in the Ghetto. One account notes more than 100 factories (August 1942). This created jobs for all those able to work. Ghetto factories did not employ children for the most part the workers had to be over 14 years old. Younger children and elderly workers could find jobs in the mica splitting factories. There were many garment and shoe factories, especially factories producing German military uniforms. One factory even produced the fancy emblems worn by Germany officers. Young girls were employed here because of their small, dexterious hands. There were many other types of plants including even munitions.
Food was the key to survival in the Ghetto. The NAZI authorities in exchange for the production of the Ghetto factories delivered food. NAZI authorities determined what type of food stuffs, in what quantities, and how often. The NAZIs delivered food stuffs in bulk. Rumkowski maintained control over these shipments and determined how the food was divided and distributed. This more than anything else gave him control over the Ghetto. The NAZIs delivered quantities of food that was below the bare minimum for survival. This meant that there would not only be malnutrition and hunger, but over the long term death throug starvatiion. And here it it was the children that were most vulnerable. Not only was the quantity of food inadequate, but much of it was of low quality or in many cases completely spolied. People began starving as time passed on the minimal diets possible with the inadequate NAZI food deliveries. The starvation diets affected health and left Ghetto residents vulnerable to disease. And again it was the children that were most vulnerable and thus most quickly affected. Many Ghetto residents were afflicted with dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhus. Some accounts believe that about 20 percent of the residents died because of the terrible conditions.
Rumkowski's popularity declined as Ghetto residents increasingly felt the impact of hunger. Rumkowski and his associates secured special allocations for themselves causing considerable bitterness. This could be observed because they were not losing weight and gettingf sick. Wild rumors began to spread charging that it was Rumkowski who was creating the food shortage, even that he was destroying food. Of course no matter how the food was distributed, there would have been hunger because of the limited quantiies that the NAZIs were delivering to the Ghetto. Rumkowski reacted bitterly to both the valid criticisms as well as the wild charges. He called his critics traitors and enacted punishments. Particularly bothersome individuals were turned over to the NAZI authorities for deportment.
NAZI authorities annouinced that additional Jews would be brought to Lodz and ordered Jewish authorities to prepare for them. The Lodz residents were shocked. They were already starving and crammed together. Transports began arriving (September 1941).
Estimates of the number of people transported into the Ghetto beginning in September 1942 vary. We have noted estimates of 20,000-40,000. These individuals were deported from Germany, Austria, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (Czechoslovakia), and Luxembourg. About 1,000 individuals arrived in each transport. The transports continued through October. The new arrivals were generally healthy and not yet emaciated by starvation. They were shocked by what they saw when they arrived. The Lodz residents having endurded starvation diets for a year and a half were emaciated and sick, their clothes becoming rags, some without shoes. Many of these new arrivals were so horrified at Ghetto conditions that they volunteered when transports out of the Ghetto began, thinking nothing could be worse than the desperate situation in the Ghetto.
The NAZIs also transported Roma (Gypsies) to Lodz. Most of the Gypsies came from Austria, primarily from the Burgenland province.
Rumkowski announced to the Geetto, "We are forced to take about 5000 Gypsies into the ghetto. I've explained that we cannot live together with them. Gypsies are the sort of people who can to anything. First they rob and then they set fire and soon everything is in flames, including your factories and materials" (October 14, 1941). [Adelson and Lapides, p. 173.] Rumkowski saw to it that the Gypsies were kept segregated in a designated block of buildings.
NAZI authorities announced to Rumkowski that they planned to deport 20,000 people from the Ghetto. I'm not sure what they told him concerning the destination of these individuals (December 10, 1941). The destination was the newly opened Chelmo death camp. Rumkowski somehow managed to get the NAZIs to reduce the quota to 10,000. The NAZIs allowed Rumkowski's Ghetto administration to select the individuals. The list prepared included the Gypsies, those who did not have jobs, criminals, and family members of these categories. Ghetto authorities told those selected that they were being sent to Polish farms for agricultural work. At this time Rumkowski asked Regina Weinberger to marry him. Weinbergerwas an older man. Weinberger was a young lawyer who he appointed his legal advisdor. They married soon afterwards.
The Winter of 1942-43 was very bitter in Europe. This played a role in stopping the Wehrmact before Moscow (Dcember 1941). It also proved to be especially hard on the already weakened Lodz Ghetto residents, The NAZIs delivered only small quantities of coal. As a result, both wood and coal had to be rationed. Not only could dwellings not be adequately heated, but even cooking was difficult and food like potatos could not be eaten without cooking them. Ghetto residents began tearing apart anything made out of wood. Whole structures were dismantled.
Those selected for deportation had to begin reporting (January 6, 1942). Ghetto residents began calling these summons "wedding invitations". The NAZIs concentrated the deportees at designated assembly points before deportation in large enough numbers so that if some did not report as instructed there would still be emough to fill the quota. The transports normally consisted of 1,000 people daily. The destination of the transports was the Chelmo death camp.
The initial 10,000 person quoita had been deported in only a few days (January 19, 1942). NAZI authorities in only a few weeks demanded more deportees. To facilitate the process, unusally small food deliveries were made. NAZI authorities then promissed deportees a meal. Another 34,000 people were deported (February 22 to April 2, 1942). All of these transports were to Chelmo. These deportations were followed by another request for more deportees. This time the NAZIs used another ploy. They asked for the newcomers who often had no personal ties to the Lodz residents and the Ghetto administration. Exemptions were allowed for Ghetto residents with German or Austrian military honors. The Ghetto officials also exempted their associates.
The procedure of having the Jewish authorities to prepare lists of deportees gradually became less effective as more and more Ghetto residents realized what was happening. The NAZIs were thus forced to begin roundups to fill the quotas. German security personnel entered the Ghetto to conduct these roundups. In the process they shot and killed hundreds of Jew. The NAZIs made the most apauling demand of all in the history of the Lodz Ghetto. They demanded the Getto authorities turn over all those who were not working ythis included the sick, eldely and the children. All children under 10 years of age had to be turned over for deportation. Many parents refused to hand over their children (September 1942). Some may have deluded themselves that the earlier transport were to work camps. Transports of the sick, elderly, and young children could be for only one purpose--the killing of non-productive individuals. Finally the German security forces entered the Ghetto, conducting a search for the children. This action defies human imagination
Chelmo was one of the five death camps, camps created for the expressed purpose of killing Jews. Like most of the death camps, the NAZIs located it in Poland. Chelmno was named after te nearby town located about 50 miles from Lodz. The Germans who were in the process of Germanizing the area called it Kulmhof. The first gassing of Jews in large numbers occurred at Chelmo. Some of the work to "perfect" the killing process was done at Chelmo. The killing was overseen by Herbert Lange who commanded a Sonderkommando. The SS transferred Lange to Chelmno. He had worked in the T4 euthanasia program where he was involved with murdering Posen psychiatric patients using gas vans. Thus Lange was an experienced killer before arriving at Chelmo. The killing was initially done using vans. Many Reich Jews were killed here. Chelmo was the first of the death camps to begin operation (December 7, 1941). It was primarily used to kill Jews from the nearby large Lodz Ghetto. The first commandant at Chelmo was Herbert Lange. The camp consisted of two principal sections. The first was for the administration section, the barracks and the storage of valuables and goods taken from the victims. The second was for the burial and cremation of the victims. The killing was done by three gas vans. The Jews were locked into the hermatically sealed van cargo compartments. The carbon monoxide fumes were used to kill the vicytims in the vans that served as mobile gas chambers. Operations at Chelmo continued until most of the Lodz Jews had been killed (March 1943). It was briegly reopened to finish the killing of the Lodz Jews (June 23, 1944). The NAZIs finally ceased operations as the Red Army began moving into western Poland (January 17, 1945). There is no precise accounting of the number of Jews miurdered at Chelmo. Estimates range widely, about 150-300,000 Jews and other NAZI victims.
NAZI authorities for the most part suspended transports from the Lodz Ghetto after the children were transported (September 1942).
The Ghetto was now composed entirely of productive slave laborers. It was also producing munitions, uniforms, and other products needed by the German military. Given that both workers and the products being produced were bady needed, NAZI authorities decided to suspend the trahsports and utilize the productive capability. The Ghetto was run essentially as a slave labor camp, although conditions were somewhat better because the camp was administered by Ghetto authorities rather than brutal SS guards. The fact that the production could be maintained at such low cost was especially attractive for NAZI authorities, many of who benefitted personally in a variety of ways.
There were in early 1944 about 70,000 Jews remainging in the Lodz Ghetto. About 45,000 Jews had died in te Ghetto and the rest had been deported, mostly to the Chelmo Death Camp. NAZI authorities finally decided to liquidate the Ghetto, in part because of the deteriorating military suituation on the Eastern Front. The Red Army began moving into eastern Poland. SS Commander Heinrich Himmler a few days after D-Day in the West finally ordered the Lodz Ghetto liquidated (June 10). NAZI authorities informed Rumkowski. I'm not sure precisely what he was told. Rumkowski told the remaining residents that the Germans needed workers to repair the damage caused by the Allied strastegic bombing camopaign. (This was a commonly NAZI ploy, to blame the Jews themselves or the Allies for what the NAZIs were doing.) I do not know if Rumkowski really believed this. The resumed transports began (June 23). Transports were conducted almost daily until (July 15). It was at this time the SS closed Chelmo because of the approach of the Red Army. The SS dismantled the camp to hide evidence of what they had done there. As a resulted the transports were haulted (July 15, 1944). The transports were, however, resumed after only 2 weeks. They were now routed to Auschwitz-Birkenau and continued until (August 1944). NAZI authorities put Rumkowski and his family and his associates on the last transports. The NAZIs kept a few Jews at Lodz to use as work details, cleaning up the debris on the streets and search for valuables that the Jews may have hidden in the Ghetto.
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