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Lodz Ghetto, the second largest ghetto in Europe, and was often referred to as the gargetto. It
was considered the central ghetto in the Wartheland, Poland area. Lodz was unique in one aspect. The Jews
of the Lodz Ghetto were “privilaged” to see the Jewish nation crumble before them. From Lodz they found
out about many of their fellow Jews being killed in the concentration camps and others being killed right in
thier own homes. They were one of the last ghettos still standing. The Jews were told that these reports
were false, and they believed that at the end of the long train rides was a life of happiness.
Before the German invasion, there was at least 25,000 Jews in Lodz Ghetto. The rest of the
population was occupied by 90,000 Germans. This was the largest amount of Germans outside of Germany.
The Jews of Lodz were the ones who were responsible for the city’s development. Lodz was second in size
to Warsaw, the capital of Poland. Textile factories employed thousands of workers and clothed much of
Eastern Europe. Lodz had over twelve hundred businesses. This is why the ghetto lasted for four years. The
Germans needed the Jews’ productivity and therefore didn’t destroy the Jews in it for awhile.
On February 8th, 1940, the leader of the SS brigade in Lodz issued an order establishing the
Ghetto. At that time, there were about 200,000 Jews in Lodz. Between February 8th and April 30th all
non-Jews living in Baluty, the area were the ghetto was to be established, were ordered to move out while
the Jews from other parts of Lodz were ordered to move in. The Jews were not allowed to take anything
in with them. The ghetto was closed and surrounded by a wall that was six feet high and over ten miles
long. 9 The only outsiders who were permitted to enter and exit the ghetto were German guards and
officials. The Jews of the ghetto knew little of the Nazis’ plan for them. They planned to go about their
daily lives normally. The Germans realized that it would be very hard to evacuate so many Jews at once
and so, they established the ghetto for the Jews of Lodz. The Germans made the Jews work for the German
industry. Lodz’s Gettoverwaltung ( German administration ) was the supreme boss of all of the ghetto’s
industrial export. It gave orders for work and was the only group permitted to accept the finished products
of the ghetto. The Nazis agreed to this and then went right back to pulling Jews off the streets and then
pulled them from their homes. They killed them if they refused.
The Nazis lied to the Jews and told them that they were being moved to better conditions, only to
later kill them on death marches and in concentration camps. They offered a better life outside of the ghetto,
on Polish farms or at work camps in Germany. They cut off the ghetto from the rest of the world. The
Jews were separated under threat of death. Even before the ghetto was set up, the Nazis made a demand
for 25,000 people. But a group of the Lodz Jews were able to bring that number down to 5,000. About a
year after the ghetto was sealed, the deportations really began. Volunteering was tried, but failed. The Nazis
then seized the 57 mentally ill people of the ghetto. Anyone who was outspoken about their views would be
the next one to be deported. When Jews began to be trasported into Lodz, the Germans demanded 1,00 Jews
to be deported everyday to keep the ghetto from becoming too “overcrowded”.
The Jews of the ghetto tried to keep ther cool. There were Orthodox Jews who would not eat
non-kosher food. Hundreds of people kept hidden radios and passed news along even if it was usually met
with death.It was through these radios that they heard of the mass executions of the Jews of Cracow, Lublin
and Warsaw. They heard of the deportations of their families who lived in other cities and who were killed
in Kolo, Chelmno and other places. They listened to these radio brodcasts all the time in hopes of bing set
free. Right before the ghetto was to be liquidated, a traitor led the Gestapo to the secret radios. One of
the owners of a radio, Nathan Widavsky, who was part of the Zionist underground, committed suicide by
painful poisoning. He was afraid that he might choke under the pressure of the Nazis and reveal the names
of other radio owners.
The Jews did not believe the stories that they were told. They believed that the Germans would
spare Lodz and its inhabitants-otherwise why would the Germans be pouring Jews into Lodz ? In the fall of
1941, about eighteen thousand Jews arrived in Lodz from nearby towns. In April 1942, the final deportations
began. First the unemployed and poor were ordered to sign up for “work”, and they did not realize that they
were signing for death.. Germans enterd the ghetto and grabbed all of the elderly, young and weak who hadn’t
complied with the order.Those final weeks, 15,000 people were deported. The population of the ghetto had
dropped to about 70,000.
The war was not going well for the Germans. They were being beaten by the Allies and the Russians
on both fronts. The order then came to liquidate the remainder of the Jews and destroy the ghetto. Trains
left the Lodz railroad station with the remaining 76, 701(an exact number) Jews of the Lodz ghetto headed
for extermination camps, mostly for Auschwitz as the Russian troops advanced. The majority of the Jews
were killed instantly as they entered the camp. A few hundred men were left to burn the ghetto and gather
the remaining valuables for the Germans. Another few hundred people managed to hide themselves underground.
The Russian army marched in as the Germans fled. Most of those in hiding ran out of their hiding spots and
greeted the Russians with smiles. For most it was the first time they smiled in almost 4 years.
About 10,000 Jews survived the Lodz Ghetto. Some had the good fortune to be sent to work camps.
The rest were sent to Auschwitz. More Jews survived from the Lodz Ghetto than from any other ghetto.The
number of people that were lost, though, is unbelievable. Over 60,000 were killed. It reminds me of the movie
?Shindler?s List?, in which Oskar Shindler is found crying near the end about how he wishes he could have
saved ?just one more Jew?.
The Nazis Final Solution didn?t really work out. The Jews outsmarted them by their will and
determination. The Lodz Ghetto was where the Jews showed their strength. The thing that mainly disturbs
me is that the Germans killed as many Jews as they could when they found out they were not going to win
the war. That shows their true self, the coward. What we need to do is be careful who we trust, to
prevent an atrosity like this from happening again.
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