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Lodz Ghetto

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Before the outbreak of World War II, Lodz had the second largest community of Jews in Europe. They constituted over one third of the city's population. Within seven days of the Nazis' attack on Poland, Lodz became occupied and the persecution of 230, 000 Jews started. They were randomly beaten and killed in the streets, whereas their property was seized.
For the next few months the Jews were also round up for forced labour. Starting from November 16, 1939, to make it easier to distinguish a Jew from a Pole, all members of the Lodz Jewish community were made to wear a yellow armband on their right arm.

Establishment of Lodz Ghetto

lodz ghettoThe Nazis planned to evacuate the whole community of Jews from the city of Lodz, however, as it was impossible to do it immediately, on December 10, 1939 an idea of establishing a closed ghetto was put forward by Friedrich Übelhör, the Kalisz-Lodz District Governor. The northern part of the city, consisting of selected streets of the Old City and the adjacent Baluty District, was chosen as a premise for the ghetto.
On February 8, 1940 an order establishing the Lodz Ghetto was passed.
The Jews, who had been scattered all over the city, were forced to move to the confined area. As the community was so large, it took the Nazis eight months to lock the Lodz Jews in the small area of the Lodz Ghetto. In April it was surrounded by wire and wooden fences, making it impossible for non-Jews to contact the Jewish community. Upon the Lodz Ghetto establishment, the population of the Lodz Jews amounted to 164, 000. A large part of the community, especially the intellectual and political leaders, fled the city and moved to the General Government or eastward. Over the years, the Jews from other parts of Europe (especially the central one) and Romans were deported to the Lodz Ghetto.

Lodz Ghetto transformed into labour camp

To maintain order in the ghetto and organize its community, the Nazis the Jewish Council and appointed Chaim Rumkowski (Elder of the Jews) as its leader. As the Nazis insisted on the Jews pay for their upkeep, Rumkowski suggested that the Ghetto be transformed into an industrial centre providing supplies for Nazi Germany, especially for the German Army, producig anything from textiles to munitions. The Nazis accepted Rumkowski's proposal with one exception. The Jews were to be paid in food only, not in food and money as the Jewish community leader had proposed.
Over 14's and adults worked in the factories established within the grounds of the Lodz Ghetto. As Rumkowski held a belief that the Jews' high productivity would mean survival, he made his community work for 12 hours a day in horrendous conditions. The food was indispensable for the ghetto residents to survive. Chaim Rumkowski and his officials were made responsible for its distribution. As the quality and quality of food provided by the Nazis to the Lodz Ghetto left a lot to be desired, ration cards for food were introduced among the Ghetto Jews. The portions of food given to each individual varied depending on an individual's job in the ghetto, with office workers getting the largest amount of food provisions. Generally, the rations were really small, which was the common cause of starvation and diseases among the Ghetto residents.
The worse was yet to come within the next few months, especially in winters of 1941 - 1942 when, due to short fuel supplies and scarce food rations, about 18,000 ghetto residents died from starvation. In autumn 1941, though the conditions in the Lodz Ghetto were abysmal, the Nazis transported about 20,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma from other areas of the Reich into the Lodz Ghetto.
In December, 1941 the Nazis announced the first deportation of the Ghetto residents. Those who refused to work or were regarded as criminals were to be the first on the deportee lists. The deportation process started in January, 1942. The Lodz Ghetto residents were transported to Chelmno death camp, where they were gassed by carbon monoxide fumes in vans. By May 15, 1943 about 55, 000 people are estimated to have been deported. In September, 1942 another request for deportees came. This time old and sick people, unable to work, and kids were deported from the Lodz Ghetto. Then for a period of about two years, the deportation procedures ceased as the German Army was desperate for munitions, thus, the ghetto became nothing but a labour camp where the sole chance of survival depended on one's ability to work.

Lodz Ghetto Liquidation

In summer 1944, as the tide of Second World War was turning against Germany and Soviet troops were advancing, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, ordered that the Lodz Ghetto and the Chelmno death camp be liquidated. The remaining population of the Jews were to be killed within the next few weeks. First, about 7,000 Jews were deported to Chelmno, where they were killed. Then, the rest, including Chaim Rumkowski and his family, was transported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. By August 1944 the Lodz Ghetto had been liquidated. On January 19, 1945 the Soviet army liberated the Lodz Ghetto. Of all the people who had been transported into the Lodz Ghetto, only about 877 survived, being hidden in the ghetto ruins.

Litzmannstadt Ghetto Trail and Survivors' Park

Nowadays, to commemorate the Jews who had been exterminated by the Nazis in the Lodz Ghetto, there is the Trail of Litzmannstadt Ghetto which consists of 38 sites with commemorative plaques telling the history and fate of the Lodz Jews.
In 2004 the Lodz Ghetto Survivors' Park, situated in Wojska Polskiego Street, was established.The grounds of the Park are located close to the former ghetto boundaries. The idea of setting up the Park was put forward by Halina Elczewska, one of the former Lodz Ghetto residents. On the 68th anniversary of the Lodz Ghetto liquidation 363 trees were planted by the Ghetto Survivors in the Park. Moreover, on that occasion a monument commemorating the tragic events of 1940 – 1944 was veiled.

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