"If it were not for Rumkowski, the Lodz ghetto probably wouldn't have survived as long as it did!"
Lodz was Poland's second largest city at the time when Germany invaded the country. The city lay in the part of the country that became part of the German empire, the so-called Warthegau. The 223,000 Jews living in Lodz accounted for nearly 35 percent of the city's total population. About 10 percent of the residents of Lodz were Germans. In April 1940, the city was renamed Litzmannstadt, after the German General Karl Litzmann, who had conquered Lodz during World War I.
Immediately after the Germans had taken Lodz, most of the Jewish residents' financial assets were confiscated. A number of anti-Jewish restrictions were imposed, which meant, among other things, that Jews could not own cars or radios and not travel by public transportation. Thousands of Jews were sent off for forced labour. In mid-November 1939 all synagogues were destroyed in the city.
On February 8, 1940, the Jews in Lodz began to be transported to a ghetto, set up in the most outdated part of the city. During 1941-1942 38,000 Jews from neighbouring areas and from some German-controlled countries in Europe were also transported to the ghetto.
In total, about 205,000 Jews passed the ghetto in Lodz. At most, 164,000 people lived there at the same time. The congestion was huge, there was a great lack of food and there was no water and drainage. A special group of Jews were forced to collect all the stools and carry it away on carts. These people were considered to be the lowest standing and most of them died in typhus. In total, nearly 45,000 Jews died of starvation, cold and disease in the ghetto. At regular intervals, Germans also performed public executions, to scare the residents from opposition.
Life in the ghetto became hard and those who could work got food. Everyone else had to do the best they could. In order to work, a work identification document was needed and one had to apply for it. At the same time, a photograph was taken where one copy would be on the ID document and the other on the application. Below you can see some examples of a "Work identification" document.
There were hospitals and schools for the children. Lodz ghetto was completely isolated from the outside world. As no extra food or other goods could be smuggled in from outside, the ghetto in Lodz was one of the absolute poorest. When nobody got into or out of the ghetto in Lodz, they could never establish any contacts with the national Polish resistance movement outside. However, an underground group in the ghetto built their own receivers capable of receiving radio broadcasts, which became the only information from the outside world that came into the ghetto. The group was unveiled by the Germans in early June 1944 and executed.
Judenrat (Jewish Council) head of the Council of Elders in the Lodz Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War II was Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski (February 27, 1877 – August 28, 1944). He succeeded in convincing the Germans how indispensable and effective all ghetto residents were for the production of the German war industry. The factories consisted of uniforms and shoes for German soldiers. The Council also negotiated that initially no detainees would be deported. The most successful ghetto was in fact Lodz and it was thanks to all the factories and the work force. The council also thought that this would just spare the residents. However, this was nothing that the Germans could later hold without the first deportations from the ghetto began in January 1942. Sick, residents older than 65 years and children under 10 years, ie those who could not work in the ghetto were the first Jews deported. The number residents sent to Chelmno in January 1942 in the ages under 10 years and over 65 years was approximately 16 000 (the German leadership in Lodz announced more than 20,000 to Judenrat).
Ghetto's liquidation came in the middle of 1944 from Berlin. The ghetto was almost completely emptied from residents on August 23, 1944. A total of 146,000 were killed, of which about 71,000 in Chelmno from 1942 to 1944 and about 75,000 in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 (source JewishGen). In the ghetto itself, approx. 43,000 people, representing 36.8% of the Jewish population, died in the ghetto.
700 residents were left behind to "clean up" the ghetto while about 200 were hiding from the cleansing. Only 877 residents were found in the ghetto when the Red Arm arrived and liberated it on January 18, 1945. Unfortunately, the Red Army had reportedly raped, plundered and killed residents after Lodz liberation. The Germans robbed and shipped all machines from the factories in the city before the ghetto was closed. When the liberation came, there were no working factories left after the end of the war. The positive was that the Allied Warfare did not bombard Lodz and they managed almost completely without damaging the houses and factory premises.
By the end of 1941, about 5,000 Romans were brought to Lodz and placed in a secluded part of the ghetto. All of these were deported to the Chelmno gas chambers in early 1942.
Jewish population in Lodz during World War II:
The Jewish population just before the outbreak of World War II
Jews added to the population during the occupation (relocated persons 1941-42 from areas and districts around Lodz as well as Eastern Europe)
Reduction of the Jewish population in Lodz during occupation:
a. Killed before the ghetto's establishment (Oct 1939 - Apr 1940)
b. Killed in the sealed ghetto (May 1940 - Jul 1944) *
c. "Volunteer" refugees moved to the General Government (May 1940-Jul 1944)
d. Deported to work camps (1940-1944)
e. Deported to the Chelmno concentration camp (1942)
f. Deported at the cleansing of the ghetto mainly to Auschwitz (Jun - Oct 1944)
Reduction summed up
The number of Jews in Lodz liberated by the Red Army (January 1945)
* 36.8% of the Jewish population during occupation