Language of the ghetto

Chaim Rumkowski wanted to make Yiddish the official language of education, administration and judiciary system in the ghetto, although many residents of the ghetto did not know Yiddish. For instance, teaching in Yiddish required a prior training of the teachers, as for most pre-war teachers, now supposed to work in ghetto schools, it was in fact a foreign language. Generally the majority of Polish Jews before the Second World War could speak or at least understand Yiddish, but among intellectual elites Yiddish-speakers were a minority, as Yiddish was associated with less educated and more traditional social groups.

Isolated, closed ghetto in Łódź developed its own particular “jargon”. There is a number of words and expressions that are only known and can be only understood in the context of its history.
Bajrat – synonym of privilege; the word described additional allocations of food, separate soup kitchens and possibilities to spend days off in Marysin or to get a garden there – all that reserved for a relatively big group of the residents of the ghetto who worked for administration and their families.

Chaimki/Rumki – term for ghetto currency, worthless outside the ghetto.

Jeke – negative term describing Jewish deportees from Western Europe brought to Łódź Ghetto, most of them secular and assimilated, having problems with adaptation in new reality.

Lofix – small black cookies made of coffee erzats.

Resort – from German Arbeitsresort – a workplace: factory or workshop employing the residents of the ghetto.

Szpera – from German Gehsperre – prohibition of leaving apartments during actions carried out by the police and SS.