The Łódź Ghetto was more isolated than other ghettos in occupied Poland. It was cordoned off with a fence and watch posts, guarded by armed German policemen, who were allowed to shoot without warning at anyone who would approach the boundary of the ghetto. The houses that had stood along the boundaries of the ghetto were demolished – this way an open space was created to make it impossible to sneak unnoticed. Another aspect of isolation was introducing different currency in the ghetto. Ghetto money was worthless outside its boundaries. Forced labor was only organized within the ghetto area. The part of Łódź, where the ghetto was located didn’t have sewage system – it was therefore impossible to get out to the “Aryan” side through the sewers, as some people did in Krakow or in Warsaw. The only newspaper allowed in the ghetto was the official “Geto Tsaytung”. Its readers learned next to nothing about the world outside the ghetto.
The system of forced labor was developed on an unprecedented scale in the Łódź Ghetto. Factories and workshops were located within its boundaries. The profits that Germans took from production based on slave labor were high, and as a result they decided not to liquidate the ghetto in Łódź until August 1944. This ghetto was practically a labor camp. Until the end of 1940, 30 establishments (called “resorts”) were created, and their number reached 55 in 1941. Approximately 30 per cent of adults confined in the ghetto worked there. By 1942, work in the “resorts” became the condition of survival, as those who didn’t work, were the first to be deported. This situation induced creating further work places – in 1942 there were 90 factories and workshops, that employed 80 per cent of the residents of the ghetto, including children and youth. In the years 1943-1944 the number of “resorts” reached 100, and the level of employment – 95 per cent. People worked in appalling conditions. The Third Reich earned millions.
Food rations, even for those performing hard physical labor or working 10 hours a day or longer, were not sufficient. Many workers collapsed at work because of hunger and exhaustion. There was shortage of food in the ghetto, and few available products were of extremely bad quality. What is very significant: in documents and diaries from Łódź Ghetto the assigned amounts of basic necessities were given in decagrams (bread, meat, potatoes), milliliters (oil, vinegar) or single pieces (matches). In the accounts describing the reality of the ghetto, the word “erzats” is frequently used, along with examples of inedible products that residents of the ghetto ate though. All food in the ghetto was rationed, and the system of assignments and food stamps was corrupted – it was an important problem in the realities of the ghetto (often ignored nowadays), that there were privileged groups backed by ghetto officials who could receive bigger rations, while others starved.
The residents of the ghetto, lacking contact with the external world, were totally dependent on ghetto’s pathological administrative system. Ghetto administration included: Administrative Department, Housing Department, Food Allocations Department, Healthcare Department, Social Service Department and Education Department. Since September 1942 a special commission existed responsible for conducting adoptions of orphaned children. Its role was particularly important in that period, as the deportation action (Wielka Szpera) shattered numerous families – many children who avoided deportation lost their parents and remained without custody. From September to December 1942 the commission enabled adoption of 720 orphans. The adoptions were often performed within close or distant family. The commission was also in charge of material aid for the families that had orphaned children in custody, including additional food allocations for adopted orphans.
Seven hospitals operated in the Łódź Ghetto between 1940 and 1942: Łagiewnicka Street 34-36, Drewnowskia Street 75, Wesoła Street 12 (contagious diseases), Bazarna Street 5, Łagiewnicka Street 37, Wesoła Street 17 (psychiatric) and Mickiewicza Street 7. In September 1942 all hospital patients were deported to the death camp in Chełmno (Kulmhof), and the hospitals were liquidated. The buildings were taken over by workshops and factories. At the end of 1942 the Germans allowed the administration of the ghetto to open two hospitals: at 7, Mickiewicza Street (internal medicine, gynecology, surgery) and at 74, Dworska Street (contagious diseases) in the former old people’s home. But remembering the mass deportations of the hospital patients in 1942, the residents of the ghetto were rather reluctant to go to hospitals. In that period there were also public bath houses and disinfection points in the ghetto.
Marysin was an area of fields and gardens located in the northeastern part of the ghetto. Its name became synonymous for privilege and well-being in the ghetto. Resort hotels for the officials of ghetto administration, summer houses of highest officials, private gardens were situated there, and they most probably angered average residents of the ghetto.
Initially, in the first years of the existence of the ghetto, there were orphanages, schools and holiday day-care centers for children in Marysin. Summer camps were organized there in 1940 and 1941, for a total of 13,789 children from the ghetto. A theater for children was founded, and there was a bulletin called “Jutrzenka”. Łódź Ghetto was the only one, where a special space for children was created, as a substitute for freedom and leisure, with green, better food and access to healthcare. In the years 1940-1942 Marysin was something of a thriving “City of Children”. But in September 1942, during the “Wielka Szpera” deportations, children from Marysin, together with thousands of other children from the ghetto, were transported to the death camp in Chełmno (Kulmhof). The buildings of “City of Children” were transformed into workshops.
In November 1940 the Department of Archives was founded as part of ghetto administration. It functioned as long as it was possible given the times and circumstances. Its task was to collect documents relating to everyday realities and history of the ghetto. Department staff was supposed to document an flatter the merits of Ch.M. Rumkowski, and collect evidence of his activities, but they undertook a more important task: to describe everything that was happening in the ghetto, and collect materials for future generations. From 12 January 1941 till 31 July 1944 they worked on the “Chronicle of the Ghetto.” The team of archivists consisted of 10 to 15 people, both locals from Łódź and deportees from other places in Poland and in Europe. Most were journalists, writers and scientists, but there was an engineer and a craftsman in this group as well. Only one of the authors of the Chronicle survived the Holocaust – Bernard Ostrowski. Others: Józef Klementynowski, Julian Cukier-Cerski, Szmul Hecht, Bernard Heilig, Abram Kamieniecki, Oskar Rosenfeld, Oskar Singer, Peter Wertheimer, Józef Zelkowicz, Jerachmil Bryman, Moszek Nowak, Celina Jaszuńska and Alice de Buton either died in the ghetto or were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The first entries in the Chronicle were edited in Polish. From September to December 1942 entries were written in Polish and in German, and from January 1943 exclusively in German. The editors of the “Chronicle” created daily reports for the Archive that included weather, numbers of births and deaths, important events, information about provisions, data relating to industrial production in the ghetto, and descriptions of everyday life. They had access to announcements and correspondence collected in the Department. As staff members they could access data relating to resettlements and deportations, population – including numbers of men and women, records of marriages and funerals. The Chronicle didn’t have any readers at that time – it was concealed in the archive. The texts underwent strict censorship, and – most probably – were a result of autocensorship. In the entries from before September 1942, the editors emphasized the greatness of Rumkowski, and uncritically described his actions. “The Chronicle” doesn’t fully encompass the life in the ghetto, but it remains one of the most precious and most important source for contemporary researchers dealing with the history of Łódź 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.
The ghetto in Łódź was the longest existing ghetto in occupied Poland. It was liquidated relatively late – in August 1944. It was the second largest (after Warsaw) ghetto in occupied Europe. The total number of people imprisoned in the ghetto is approx. 200,000. In 1942 40,000 people lived there on 1 km sq., on average 7 persons in one room.
On 16 December 1941, Chaim Rumkowski – Head of the Judenrat received an order from the German authorities indicating (more…)
Approx. 1000 Jews from Vienna are deported to Łódź Ghetto in the first transport from Western Europe.
Deportations of Jews from Łódź Ghetto to Chełmno death camp begin. The death camp located 70 km from Łódź was created in December 1941 and was the first one in the entire system of Nazi death camps in occupied Poland; more than 57,000 Jews were murdered there until May of 1942.
Chaim Rumkowski’s speech at Plac Strażacki (Firefighters’ Square) urging families in the ghetto to give their children for the deportation.
Wielka Szpera – massive and brutal deportation action directed against children under the age of 10, elderly people over the age of 65, and people suffering from illnesses or disabilities. As a result more than 15,500 Jews were deported and murdered in Chełmno death camp. One third of the victims were children under the age of 10.„Obwieszczenie o „Wielkiej Szperze” obowiązującej od godziny 17:00 5 września 1942. źródło: Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi, zespół archiwalny: Akta Miasta Łodzi
Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler orders the final liquidation of Łódź Ghetto – the last large ghetto remaining in occupied Europe.
End of the liquidation action in Łódź Ghetto – the last transport leaves the Radegast Station for Auschwitz-Birkenau
Trial of Hans Biebow, head of the German administration of the Łódź Ghetto. Biebow was sentenced to death.