Litzmannstadt ghetto

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Children, women and men with Jewish stars , photo of a member of the propaganda company 689 Zermin 1941

The so-called Ghetto Litzmannstadt , also Ghetto Lodsch , in Poland during the German occupation (1939–1945) was a collective camp (Jewish residential district / Jewish ghetto) of the Nazi state during World War II from 1939 to 1944 . It was the longest existing Nazi ghetto and the second largest in Poland after the Warsaw Ghetto in terms of number of prisoners . The city of Lodz was in April 1940 after the former general and Nazi Reichstag Karl Litzmann in Lodz been renamed. Like the other Nazi ghettos , it served primarily as a stopover before deportation to the German extermination camps Kulmhof , Auschwitz II , Majdanek , Treblinka and Sobibor .

Litzmannstadt Ghetto (Poland)
Litzmannstadt ghetto
Litzmannstadt ghetto
Map of today's Poland

Establishment of the ghetto

Plan of the "Litzmannstadt Ghetto"
Deportation of Jews, photo taken by Dr. Gauss from March 1940

With the exception of Warsaw , no other city in Europe before the Second World War had as many Jews as Łódź. The 223,000 Jews made up a third of the population of the textile metropolis. Even before the German attack on Poland and before the establishment of the ghetto, around 62,000 Jews lived in Łódź's poor district of Baluty under adverse circumstances. Even before the ghettoization, the district's infrastructure was in a deplorable condition; here were mostly single-story wooden houses, most of which had no gas or electricity supply. Around 95% of the buildings were without toilets, water or a sewer connection. The resettlement of more Jews from Łódź, the surrounding area and later from the Reich and the countries occupied by the National Socialists worsened housing conditions catastrophically.

On November 2, 1939 Goebbels visited Łódź and noted in his diary (fragments):

“Drive through Lodz with a visit to the Jewish quarter of Baluty. We get out and inspect everything in detail. It's indescribable. These are no longer people, these are animals. That is why it is not a humanitarian but a surgical task. You have to make cuts here, and very radical ones at that. Otherwise Europe will one day perish from the Jewish disease. Driving on Polish roads. This is already Asia. We will have a lot to do to Germanize this area. […] Conditions are still great in Lodz. The plague of the Jews is gradually becoming unbearable. In addition, pretty much all bodies rule against each other. Why does this pile of dirt have to become a German city! It's a Sisyphean task to try Germanise Lodz. And we could have used this city so well as a dumping ground. "

After the visit of the Propaganda Minister, the Lodzer Zeitung announced on November 16, 1939, as the official bulletin of the German military and civil authorities, the introduction of a symbol for the Jewish population, consisting of a 10 cm wide yellow armband. This instruction, which applies locally to Łódź, is noteworthy because a Reich-wide police ordinance on the compulsory identification of Jews did not come into force until September 1, 1941.

On December 10, 1939, the district president of Kalisch (later Litzmannstadt) , Friedrich Uebelhoer , sent out a circular about the formation of a ghetto in the city of Lodsch . The document contained specific orders for the establishment of a ghetto in the north of the city, for the separation of the area from the rest of the city and for the supply of the residents. The letter ended with the statement that the establishment of the ghetto was only an interim solution and that in the end “the ghetto and thus the city of Lodsch should be cleared of Jews”.

In February 1940, the Police President of Łódź, SS Brigadier Johannes Schäfer , declared the particularly backward districts of Bałuty, Marysin and Stare Miasto (old town) in the north of the city to be ghetto. All non-Jewish residents had to leave the area by April 30th of that year, and at the same time 100,000 Jews were forcibly quartered in addition to the 60,000 Jews already resident . The new "Jewish Ghetto", about four square kilometers in size, was provided with barbed wire and walls, for which purpose entire streets were partially demolished.

From now on it was forbidden for Jews to leave the ghetto without permission under the penalty of death . The instructions of Walter Rudolf Keuck, the commander of Litzmannstadt's police force, on May 19, 1940 stipulated that any attempt to leave the ghetto illegally should be shot immediately without warning. The same was true for people who were found smuggling. Armed SS guard units posted in watchtowers on the border of the ghetto were responsible for monitoring compliance with this prohibition . The construction of the ghetto took place u. a. by the Hamburg Reserve Police Battalion 101. The guard was also carried out by police units, u. a. 1940-1941 by the said police battalion.

Separation of a youth custody camp

Around September 30, 1942, by order of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, part of the ghetto was evacuated in order to establish the Litzmannstadt youth custody camp. This new "camp" was opened as a separate facility shortly before the first transport of children on December 1, 1942. The construction of the barracks was completed in early 1943; However, a further expansion followed until the end of 1943. In ulica Przemysłowa there was the so-called Poland youth detention center of the SS, in which Polish children and young people had to do forced labor, and in a former monastery building in ulica Sporna there was a so-called Germanization camp in which selected children should be re-educated or selected to become Germans.

Gypsy camp

Image from the area called "Gypsy Camp".

Between November 5 and 9, 1941, 5,007 Sinti and Roma were deported to the ghetto and locked in a separate area, the so-called "Gypsy camp" (between Wojska Polskiego, Obrońców Westerplatte, Sikawska and Głowackiego). There were 2,689 children among these prisoners. Around 2,000 "gypsies" were selected from those interned in the Lackenbach camp (at that time the Niederdonau district ), the remaining 3,015 came from the Styrian district: in 2011 they came from the Oberwart district (they were transported from the Pinkafeld assembly camp ), 1004 from the remaining districts ( Removal from the assembly camp in Fürstenfeld ). The respective district administrators were responsible for the selection.

There were neither sanitary facilities nor cooking facilities in the gypsy camp. Several hundred people died of hunger and typhus within a few weeks . It was from here that deportations took place between January 5 and 12, 1942, for mass murder to the Kulmhof extermination camp . At that time, the only access to this part of the camp was at number 99 Brzezinska Street (today Wojska Polskiego). Those who were murdered or deceased on site were buried in mass graves at the Jewish cemetery (grave fields PV and PVI).

living conditions

Guard at the gate, behind it a sign “Residential area of ​​the Jews. Do Not Enter"; Admission of the member of PK 689 Zermin 1941
Street scene from the ghetto, photo by I. Neander, c. 1940/1944
Crossing over a thoroughfare, photo by Wilhelm Holtfreter around 1940/1943

From the beginning, the living conditions in the ghetto were inhumane: the residents suffered from malnutrition , died en masse from diseases or froze to death in winter; some of them died on the street. The SS deported more and more people to the "Ghetto Litzmannstadt" concentration camp because of their attribution to Judaism, especially from Western Europe .

Between 1940 and 1944, 43,441 people died within the ghetto. In May 1941 there were around 20,000 people infected with tuberculosis .

In 1940 there were 39,559 children, 20,318 boys and 19,241 girls under the age of 14 in the ghetto. In 1941 another 2,538 were added from other areas. By 1942, 347 children were born inside the ghetto. That year only 11,329 boys and 10,598 girls lived in the Litzmannstadt ghetto.

Forms of exploitation

The National Socialists saw in the people only " human material " with great labor potential , which they wanted to exploit in the best possible way: Forced laborers from Litzmannstadt were cheap for the client, almost free of charge, because only 30 of the five Reichsmarks that each of the 70,000 forced laborers brought in were available Reichspfennig compared to labor costs. Major customers who had cheap production in the ghetto included the companies Josef Neckermann and Heinrich Leineweber.

Above all, soldiers ' uniforms, boots, weapon parts and ammunition were manufactured in the “Ghetto Litzmannstadt”. The most important external transport connection was the Radegast train station , via which raw materials and food were delivered and the finished products were transported away until Radegast finally became the deportation point to the extermination camps.

Many Jews hoped to escape deportation through their "war-important" activities. The Germans also regularly confiscated property belonging to Jews. Here, especially at the beginning of the ghetto, there were disputes over competence among the German authorities. While the Ghetto Economic and Nutrition Office , headed by the Bremen businessman Hans Biebow , regarded the goods in the ghetto as their property, various other German authorities also confiscated goods from the ghetto. An announcement by the police chief of December 1939 and a circular from the district president of March 4, 1940 did nothing to change this. The criminal police, whose job it was to prevent smuggling, confiscated mainly gold and jewelry items.

"Jewish self-government"

The German occupiers delegated almost all of the organizational work relating to the "Ghetto Litzmannstadt" to their victims - from distributing insufficient and inferior food rations to the residents and assigning them to forced labor and running schools to compiling the transport lists for the deportations to the extermination camps .

For this purpose - as in other ghettos created by the National Socialists - a Judenrat was set up and charged with the tasks mentioned. The appointment of the Judenrat took place on 13./14. October 1940. Chaim Rumkowski , as the “Jewish elder of Litzmannstadt”, became its inward-looking leader, who in reality had no independent decisions to make.

As departments passed:

  • the "head office": as the central secretariat responsible for correspondence with Germans and the entire administration.
  • Registration office: a central office set up on German orders, which registered the personal data of all ghetto residents.
  • Statistics department: for the quantitative recording of all areas of life and work in the ghetto.
  • Ordnungsdienst (OD): a camp police that had 850 to 1,200 members in several departments and was used to maintain order and security in the ghetto.
  • Express court: the court created on March 11, 1941, was supposed to hear personal and criminal cases. Those convicted were sent to the central prison to serve their sentences. This prison was built on German orders.
  • Supply department: for the administration of food and medicines that the ghetto received from German authorities.
  • Housing department: to manage the living space.
  • Health department: for the administration of all hospitals, pharmacies, rescue stations, medical services, old people's homes, orphanages.
  • School section: it was responsible for the schools in the ghetto and the homes in Marysin.
  • Central employment office
  • Ghetto newspaper in Yiddish (March 4 to September 21, 1941)
  • Resettlement Commission: an office created on German orders to draw up lists for transports, deportations, etc.

In addition to making work easier for the SS, all of these and other institutions were also intended to simulate the impression of normality and serious Jewish “self-administration” for Poles and Polish Jews.

Ghetto money 50 Mark obverse

On June 24, 1940, the Jewish elder Rumkowski published the announcement that from June 28, 1940 only ghetto money - Rumkowski spoke of Mark receipts - could be used for payments in the ghetto.

Deportation lists

One of the enforced tasks of the Judenrat was the compilation of lists for the coming transports, because this directly concerned the murder of its own religious brothers and sisters. Although the National Socialists still fooled the Jews into believing that they were being called upon to do work in the East, none of the members of the Judenrat believed these lies. In order to avoid unrest, the members of this council and the members of the Jewish "security police", which was headed by council member Leon Rozenblatt, continued to claim that the evacuated persons were used for work in the east.

The occupiers imposed certain, mostly weekly, quotas on the Judenrat, which had to be strictly adhered to. If the quotas were not met, the food for the ghetto residents, which was already insufficient, was cut even further or other punitive measures were imposed. At times the quota of Jews to be extradited was 20,000 people a week. From January 16, 1942 until May, 55,000 Jews and 5,000 Roma were deported to the Kulmhof extermination camp (Chełmno). The deportations in the week of September 5 to 12, 1942, went down in history as the "Gehsperre" campaign. All patients in a ghetto hospital, children and old and frail residents, a total of 12,000 Jews, were sent to their deaths in Chełmno.


To ensure at least a minimum of education , there were schools in the ghetto until 1942. Around 13,000 children studied in 23 elementary schools, and another 1,278 in two middle schools. There were 414 unpaid teachers. With the official conversion of the ghetto into a labor camp, the schools were closed in 1942.

End of the ghetto

Announcement on the downsizing of the ghetto of August 22, 1944

Under the impression of the advancing Soviet army , the gradual dissolution of the Litzmannstadt ghetto began. Himmler originally planned to convert the ghetto into a concentration camp . Instead, the quotas for the Judenrat were increased, ostensibly for clean-up work in the Reich. In reality, many of those evacuated were gassed in Auschwitz . Young and healthy people were also sent to the camp in large numbers or sent to the German Reich as so-called “transit Jews” for forced labor in the armaments industry. In 1944, for example, several hundred Jewish women ended up in the subcamps of the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Freiberg (500), Oederan (200) and Hainichen (150).

On August 28, 1944, Chaim Rumkowski and his family were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp . The liquidation of the Litzmannstadt ghetto proceeded quickly, so that on January 19, 1945, only 870 members of a clean-up squad, 30 children and 80 adults were freed by the invading Soviet army. They had been able to hide from the deportations. One of the photographers from the statistics department, Henryk Ross , was also in the clean-up team , who was able to use it to save his photos and to present a selection at the Eichmann trial in 1961.

Perpetrators and their persecution

The head of the collective camp / ghetto was Hans Biebow since May 1940 . Reinhard Heydrich , head of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) appointed him on May 1, 1940 as head of the "Food and Economic Office Ghetto". The 250 members of the German “ghetto administration” and the Judenrat in the Lodz ghetto, which had to report directly to him, were subordinate to Biebow. After the war, Biebow was initially able to go into hiding in Germany, but was arrested in 1947. After the Allies extradited him to Poland, he was sentenced to death on April 30, 1947 in Łódź and executed there on June 23, 1947. From May 1940 to February 1941 Walter Zirpins headed the criminal investigation department in the so-called Red House. A late preliminary investigation against the civil servant, who had meanwhile further risen, was opened in 1960 shortly before his retirement and then discontinued.

Radegast Holocaust Memorial

Radegast Holocaust Memorial

In 2005 a Holocaust memorial was inaugurated on the site of the former Radegast (Polish: Radogoszcz) train station . In the period from January 16, 1942 to August 29, 1944, more than 150,000 Jews were transported from this train station to the Kulmhof and Auschwitz extermination camps. The memorial includes the wooden station building in which a museum has been set up, a true-to-original train of the Reichsbahn, gravestones and memorial plaques as well as a tunnel that leads to a memorial that Czesław Bielecki erected in 2003 in the form of a tower reminiscent of a crematorium with the inscription “ You shall not kill ”was designed. This symbolizes the way to the extermination camp.

In the immediate vicinity of the former ghetto area, a survivors' park, Park Ocalałych, with an area of ​​around 8.5 hectares was laid out in 2004 as part of the commemorative event for the 60th anniversary of the ghetto's dissolution. The initiative for this came from Halina Elczewska, a survivor of the ghetto. She also planted the first “memory tree” in memory of what she went through. Another 363 trees were planted by other survivors. It is the youngest of the parks in Łódź .

Photographs from 1940 to 1944

A collection of around 500 color slides of the German ghetto administration has survived, made between 1940 and 1944 by the financial director of the German ghetto administration, Walter Genewein from Salzburg. There are also pictures by Jewish photographers from the so-called ghetto that were taken between 1940 and 1944. There are thousands of photographs from almost all areas of the ghetto. The nearly 12,000 preserved contact prints are now in the Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi (State Archives Łódź) . Since there are only a few photographs from the German Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland, this collection of photographs occupies a special position for historical studies . The 50 photographs from this fund, known from an exhibition, document the fate of Jews as well as Sinti and Roma in the ghetto established by the German occupiers in 1939. All photographs were taken at the time on behalf of the Litzmannstadt Jewish Council . The pictures were originally supposed to show the supposedly functioning community in the ghetto. In fact, they also make the inhumanity of the Nazi regime more than clear - at least in some photographs.

More photographs by Henryk Ross can be found in the Art Gallery of Ontario .

See also


  • The last days of the Łódź ghetto . From: analyze & criticism , No. 493 of March 18, 2005.
  • Lucjan Dobroszycki (Ed.): The chronicle of the Łódź ghetto, 1941–1944 , New Haven 1984, ISBN 0-300-03208-0 , 1987 ISBN 0-300-03924-7 .
  • Sascha Feuchert , Erwin Leibfried, Jörg Riecke (eds.): The Chronicle of the Lodz / Litzmannstadt Ghetto . Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2007, 5 volumes. ISBN 3-89244-834-5 .
  • Angela Genger , Hildegard Jakobs: Düsseldorf / Getto Litzmannstadt. Klartext, Essen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8375-0236-7 .
  • Gordon J Horwitz: Ghettostadt: Lódz and the Making of a Nazi City . Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2008
  • Guido Knopp : Holocaust . In collaboration with Vanessa von Bassewitz, Christian Deick et al. Munich, C. Bertelsmann 2000, ISBN 3-570-00351-5 .
  • Jewish Museum Frankfurt / M. (Ed.): "Our only way is work" - The Ghetto in Lodz 1940–1944 . Exhibition catalog of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main , Erhard Löcker Verlag, Vienna 1990, ISBN 3-85409-169-9 .
  • Andrea Löw: Jews in the Litzmannstadt ghetto. Living conditions, self-perception, behavior . Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 978-3-8353-0050-7 (the book deals in particular with the difficulties of Jewish administrative institutions). Review by Klaus A. Lankheit in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , No. 23 of January 27, 2007, p. 8.
  • Isaiah Trunk , Robert Moses Shapiro: Łódź Ghetto: A History . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008
  • Thomas Weber : Lodz Ghetto Album: Photographs by Henryk Ross (photographs selected by Timothy Prus & Martin Parr) . Archives of Modern Conflict. Chris Booth, London 2004, ISBN 0-9542813-7-3 .
  • Jakub Poznański : Diary from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto . Edited and translated from Polish by Ingo Loose. Berlin: Metropol Verlag 2011, ISBN 978-3-86331-015-8 .
  • Dawid Sierakowiak's ghetto diary. Notes of a seventeen year old 1941/1942 . Edited by Hubert Witt, trans. v. Roswitha Matwin-Buschmann. Reclam, Leipzig 1993, ISBN 3-379-01459-1 .
  • Topography of Terror Foundation (ed.): The Face of the Ghetto - The Face of the Ghetto. Pictures taken by jewish Photographers in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto 1940–1944. Catalog volume for the presentation of the same name - catalog to the exhibition. Berlin 2010, 96 pages, ISBN 978-3-941772-08-3
  • Jens Jürgen Ventzki: Victims of the Holocaust: Roma and Sinti. Unwanted transports. The German Jews and the Austrian Sinti and Roma in the Lodz Ghetto . In: The Jewish Echo . European Forum for Culture and Politics (Yearbook) October 2004, pp. 141 ff.
  • Josef Wulf : Lodz. The last ghetto on Polish soil. Bonn 1962 (series of publications by the Federal Center for Homeland Service 59).
  • Michal Unger (Ed.): The Last Ghetto: Life in the Lodz Ghetto, 1940–1944. Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 1995. (Many photographs and illustrations of primary sources, exhibition catalog).
  • Peter Klein : The "Gettoverwaltung Litzmannstadt" 1940 to 1944: an office in the field of tension between local bureaucracy and state policy of persecution , Hamburg: Hamburger Ed., 2009 ISBN 978-3-86854-203-5 (Berlin, Techn. Univ., Diss., 2007).
  • Josef Wulf , Lodz - the last ghetto on Polish soil , Bonn 1962.
Deportation lists
  • Compilation of the Jews deported from Essen to Litzmannstadt on October 27, 1941, created by the International Tracing Service in Arolsen , in: Hermann Schröter (Ed.): History and Fate of the Essen Jews: Memorial Book for the Jewish Citizens of the City of Essen . Essen: City of Essen, 1980, pp. 346-370.
  • Hildegard Jakobs (ed.): In the Litzmannstadt (Łódź) ghetto: 1,003 biographies of those deported from Düsseldorf on October 27, 1941 . Essen: Klartext, 2011 ISBN 978-3-8375-0372-2 .
Perpetrator report
  • Walter Zirpins : The ghetto in Litzmannstadt, seen by the criminal police. In: Kriminalistik 15 (1941), Issue 9, September, pp. 97-99.

Web links

Commons : Łódź Ghetto  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Andrea Löw: Jews in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto - Living Conditions, Self-Perception, Behavior , Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen, 2006, p. 7.
  2. Waiting room of death star from August 29, 2004, accessed on March 1, 2020.
  3. Sascha Feuchert, Erwin Leibfried, Jörg Riecke: The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto / Litzmannstadt. Wallstein, 2016, p. 358.
  4. Goebbels Diary (after a visit to Lodz) Chronology of the Holocaust, accessed on March 1, 2020.
  5. Goebbels Diary (after a visit to Lodz) Chronology of the Holocaust, accessed on March 1, 2020.
  6. RGBl. I, p. 547. , ALEX - Historical Legal and Legal Texts Online , accessed on March 1, 2020.
  7. also Friedrich Übelhör.
  8. Document 54 in: The persecution and murder of European Jews by National Socialist Germany 1933–1945 , Volume 4: Poland - September 1939 – July 1941 (edited by Klaus-Peter Friedrich), Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-486- 58525-4 , quotation p. 174.
  9. Inge Schlotzhauer: Our only way is work , in: Semit 3/90, p. 60.
  10. ^ The deportations to Łódź in 1941
  11., The Gypsy Camp (Gypsy camp) , accessed on July 21 of 2010.
  12. Bernd Ulrich: "Old and young died of hunger." (Contemporary witnesses describe the minimal living conditions, d-radio, broadcast on April 30, 2010)
  13. N. Grüss: Children martyrology , Buenos Aires 1947: 49; here after Josef Wulf, 1962, p. 36.
  14. Bernd Ulrich: "Old and young died of hunger" - 70 years ago the Jewish ghetto Litzmannstadt was cordoned off . Calendar sheet from Deutschlandradio. April 30, 2010. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  15. Claude Lanzmann , speaks around 1975 in the interview film with Paula Biren as a contemporary witness, in particular about these ghetto police: Four Sisters (Les Quatre Soeurs) (2017)
  16. The 17-year-old David Sierakowiak reports about it in his ghetto diary (see literature); see. also web resource .
  17. Cziborra, Pascal. Freiberg concentration camp. Secret pregnancy. Laurel publishing house. Bielefeld. 2008. p. 184 ff.
  18. Inge Schlotzhauer: Our only way is work , in: Semit 3/90, p. 61.
  19. Broadcast on Deutschlandfunk by Sabine Adler on January 25, 2013, 7.51-7.59 a.m. (panel: Auschwitz survivors from the Lodz Ghetto)
  20. Color slides of the German ghetto administration in Łódź in the collection of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt
  21. Today five of them are known by name; but there was probably more. Lejb Maliniak, Mieczysław Borkowski and Hans Ruiczek, Mendel Grosman and Henryk Ross
  22. Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi (State Archives Łódź, homepage )
  23. ^ The Berlin Documentation Center Topography of Terror on the exhibition (January 13 to March 28, 2016) "The Face of the Ghetto" . This is supplemented by reports from former ghetto residents and entries in the ghetto chronicle . A brief outline of the history of the ghetto and explanations to the photographers introduce the exhibition. "The Face of the Ghetto" was shown for the first time in 2010 after the opening of the Documentation Center in Berlin.
  24. A Jewish photographer buries 6000 negatives to hide them from the Nazis: Now they have reappeared
  25. Interview with the author.
  1. p. 16.
  2. p. 32.
  3. pp. 20-22.
  4. pp. 19-20.
  5. p. 45.
  6. p. 52.

Coordinates: 51 ° 47 ′ 12 "  N , 19 ° 27 ′ 36"  E