Ghetto


     By: It is widely known what went on between the Jews and the Germans during

World War II. Millions upon millions of Jews were killed because of Hitler's
hatred, Hitler's tyranny, and Hitler's fury. While many people today still
cringe at the thought of life in concentration camps, many are not aware of the
harsh reality that existed in the Jewish ghettos. The word "ghetto" is
not only the scariest place in America but also a word used to refer to a Jewish
community. These ghettos or communities were the holding areas of many, many

Jews who were forced to perform slave labor for the Germans during the war
instead of going to concentration camps. In Germany, during the early stages of
the war, more and more occupations were closed to Jews, and the free professions
were totally banned to them. However, during the drafting of a general law
designed to totally displace the Jews from their positions in the economy, it
became evident to the Germans that the problem could not be solved without
simultaneously clearing the way for increased emigration. If the Germans
dispossessed them, they would no longer be a burden on the German economy. In

June of 1938, a man named Martin Bormann, acting on behalf of the fuhrer's
deputy, Rudolf Hess, sent German party activists a secret directive about
"the removal of Jews from the economy." In a Nazi meeting held on

October 14, 1938, a man named Herman Goring, who was second in power only to

Chancellor Adolf Hitler, declared that "Aryanization (making the world one

Aryan race) was the state's, and only the state's concern," adding that he
was not prepared to allocate foreign currency to dispose of the Jews. He also
added the remark that "if the need arises we will have to establish ghettos
in the big cities," and so it seems the stage was set as this was the first
time mention was made of the plan to set up Jewish work brigades. Originally,
the ghettos were not supposed to be permanent institutions, but used as
temporary concentration camps until it was possible to find the ultimate
solution to the problem of disposing of al the Jews. The first known instance of
establishment of a ghetto was in December of 1939 in a town called Leczyca in

Poland when the Germans attempted to segregate the Jewish population from the

Poles. A prominent example of the way in which large communities were
depopulated was the fate of Kalisz, one of the oldest Jewish communities in

Poland with a population of twenty thousand at the outbreak of the war. Both

Germans and Poles joined in the brutal attacks against the Jews. The Jews had no
chance. Many Jews fled, some seven thousand reaching Warsaw. The healthy men
remaining in Kalisz were sent to work in the camp, while the ailing were
slaughtered in a nearby forest. By October of 1940, only a few hundred Jews were
left in the city. The first ghetto to be established in a systematic fashion was
the Lodz ghetto. Governor of the Kalisz-Lodz District, Friedrich Ubelhor, had
planned the idea for a ghetto in Lodz since December 10, 1939. Ubelhor proposed
two things. The first was to close off most of the Jewish population in the
northern part of the city, where most of the Jews lived, and to transfer the

Jews from other parts of the Lodz area to this area. The second was to select
those fit to labor and concentrate them in another ghetto, actually a labor
camp, where they would be organized into labor battalions. The first step in
setting up Ubelhor's labor camp was to first fix the borders of the ghetto and
work out the problems of transport through the streets .The Germans and Poles
also had to find new homes to be resettled in. Other factors that played a part
were sealing and guarding the ghetto, provisions for medical care, sewage,
refuse removal, burials, and fuel necessary for heating. The basis for
establishing the ghetto in Lodz focused primarily on three spheres: (1) the
deportation of as many Jews as possible, with preference given to the wealthy,
the educated, and community leadership, if they had not managed to flee by then;
(2) the confiscation of property on as broad a scale as possible; and (3)
terrifying the Jews by harassment, depriving the population of food, and
abducting people for labor. Once the ghetto was completed and all the Jews had
been confined, a Jewish body for self-administration headed by the elder of the

Jews (Judenalteste) and a large community administration was to be established
within the ghetto immediately. The Council of Elders (Altestenrat) would be
responsible for creating individual departments to deal with nutrition, health,
finances, security, living quarters, and registration. Foods and other supplies
were to be provided only in exchange for merchandise such as textiles and other
goods. The Germans figured that this way they could succeed in dispossessing the

Jews of their valuable assets they had hidden. The apartments belonging to Jews
who were unfit for labor and who were to be disposed of by sending them to the
ghetto could be confiscated and used at German will. In most ghettos that were
established, including Lodz, the distinction between Jews who were fit or unfit
for labor was not observed. Instead, the majority of Jews were interned in
ghettos and the laborers were brought to places of work outside. Ubelhor stated,
"The establishment of the ghetto is naturally only an interim measure. When
and how the ghetto and city of Lodz will be purged of Jews is something I
reserve for my exclusive decision. In any case, however, the final aim will be
to burn this fraternity and pestilence to the end." It was at first planned
that the Lodz ghetto would be liquidated by October 1, 1940. By then the ghetto
did have the appearance of a detention camp or a concentration camp, and existed
primarily for the good of filtering out all the goods and valuable owned by the

Jews. In the middle of January of 1941, the German authorities began the
large-scale confiscation of property and held a thorough discussion on how to
expropriate the real estate of the Jews and whom to appoint as trustees. Jewish
warehouses were especially appealing to the German officials. Textiles, metals,
kitchen wares, household goods, and electrical appliances were most of the goods
that the Germans sought after. Jewish stores were also robbed of their stock
such as food, drugs, and cosmetics. The movement of Jews into ghettos in Lodz
took place on February 8, 1940. Chaos went on for weeks as transfer of Jews wore
on. As a rule the Jews were given no more then a few minutes to gather a few
belongings, while the rest of their property was abandoned to the looting

Germans and Poles. On April 30, 1940, the Lodz ghetto was closed off to the rest
of the world. The Elder of the Jews, Mordekhai Chaim Rumkowski was charged with
the duties such as commercial and economic activities and assuring the steady
supply of food, duties that were usually handled by the municipality or, in a
free society, by the citizenry itself. Rumkowski served the Germans on penalty
of death, meaning the Germans were no afraid to have a new Judenalteste run the
ghetto if there needed to be one. To help him carry out his duties, Rumkowski
was equipped with a police force made up of Jews who were likewise residents of
the ghetto. This force was called the Order Service. The Germans knew perfectly
well that Rumkowski could not possibly handle these jobs. The formula the

Germans had devised was meant to ensure the maximum loss of population during
the ghetto's existence. Forced to work without pay, the Jews would presumably
self-destruct and disappear on their own. The conditions the Germans inflicted
to assure the Jews demise were intolerable living and sanitary conditions,
financial ruin, hunger, hard labor, epidemics, terror, and internal social
disintegration. All of these factors were to be achieved by way of the Jewish
police. The ghetto's function was basically no different from a labor camp: both
were designed to exploit the Jews and to destroy them "naturally."

Josef Goebbels called the ghettos "death caskets." The basic strategy
of "natural death" to all Jews was put to work in all ghettos
established in Poland from 1940 to 1942. Not all ghettos were established as
fast as Lodz. It took a year to completely establish a ghetto in Warsaw. The

Gestapo and SS tried to establish a ghetto in Warsaw as soon as the city had
fell into German hands. On November 16, 1940, the Warsaw ghetto was closed up
for fear of spreading the typhus epidemic through the city. The closed ghetto
covered 2.4 percent of the city's area and had 30 percent of the city's
population crowded between the walls. The walls were 11 miles long, and the wall
around the ghetto was ten feet high. It was estimated on January 1, 1941, that
there was somewhere between 300,000 to 400,000 Jews living in the Warsaw ghetto.

Jews in every ghetto felt the wrath of collective punishment. Collective
punishment was a system the Germans used to punish the Jews by death. This
approach made the entire community, or a certain portion, pay the price for the
act of an individual. The Warsaw Jewish community immediately saw the effects of
collective punishment. On November 13, 1939, two Polish policemen entered a
building at 9 Nalewki Street to arrest a man they sought as a criminal. A
scuffle broke out during the arrest and one of the policemen was shot and killed
by the suspect. In retaliation, the Germans arrested all 53 men that lived in
the building, including some that were just visiting. Adam Czerniakow, who was
head of the Jewish Council in Warsaw, tried to negotiate the men's release
through the SS. Czerniakow was told to pay a ransom of 300,000 zlotys ($36,145

U.S. dollars). It was Czerniakow's understanding that the people would be
released after he paid the ransom. He raised the money and paid in installments.

When he paid the last installment, he found that all 53 men had been executed.

The German paper Krakauer Zeitung reported that a "Jewish gang" killed
the police officer and the inhabitants of the building had interfered in the
search, which is why 53 men were killed. The "Jewish gang" incident
represents the times for Jews: No justice, no chance. Ghetto life was a
nightmare. Ghettos were almost the same as concentration camps, except for the
lack of gas chambers. Jews fought, starved, and died trying to survive. It's
funny how one man's ideas can totally obliterate a genuine race of humans.