|German: Ghetto Warschau|
Warsaw: Muranów, Pow?zki, Nowolipki, ?ródmie?cie Pó?nocne, Mirów|
|Date||October 1940 to May 1943|
|Incident type||Imprisonment, mass shootings, forced labor, starvation, mass deportations to Treblinka and labour camps in the Lublin Reservation|
|Participants||SS-Totenkopfverbände, Gestapo, Orpo battalions, Einsatzgruppen, Trawnikis, Waffen-SS|
|Organizations||Schutzstaffel (SS), RSHA|
|Camp||Treblinka, Majdanek |
Jewish Historical Institute|
Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
The Warsaw Ghetto (German: Warschauer Ghetto, officially Jüdischer Wohnbezirk in Warschau Jewish Residential District in Warsaw; Polish: getto warszawskie) was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established by the German authorities in the Muranów neighborhood of the Polish capital between October and November 16, 1940; within the new General Government territory of German-occupied Poland. There were over 400,000 Jews imprisoned there, at an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), with an average of 9.2 persons per room, barely subsisting on meager food rations. From the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi camps and mass-killing centers. In the summer of 1942 at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp during Großaktion Warschau under the guise of "resettlement in the East" over the course of the summer.
The death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of rampant hunger and hunger-related diseases, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the casualties of the final destruction of the Ghetto.
Before World War II, Warsaw was one of the most diverse cities in the Second Polish Republic. The majority of Polish Jews lived in the merchant districts of Muranów, Pow?zki, and Stara Praga, while most ethnic Germans lived in ?ródmie?cie. Over 90% of Catholics lived further away from the bustling commercial and vital centre of the capital. The Jewish community was the most prominent there, constituting over 88% of the inhabitants of Muranów; with the total of about 32.7% of the population of the left-bank and 14.9% of the right-bank Warsaw, or 332,938 people in total according to 1931 census. Many Jews left the city during the depression, which was more severe and longer-lasting in Poland than elsewhere in Europe. In 1938 the Jewish population of the Polish capital was estimated at 270,000 people.
The Siege of Warsaw continued until September 29, 1939. On September 10 alone, the Luftwaffe conducted 17 bombing raids on the city; three days later, 50 German planes attacked the city centre, targeting specifically Wola and ?oliborz. In total, some 30,000 people were killed, and 10 percent of the city was destroyed. Along with the advancing Wehrmacht, the Einsatzgruppe EG IV and the Einsatzkommandos rolled into town. On November 7, 1939, the Reichsführer-SS reorganized them into local security service (SD). Meanwhile, the German fifth column members of Selbstschutz (detained by the defenders of Warsaw) were released immediately. The commander of EG IV, SS-Standartenführer Josef Meisinger (the "Butcher of Warsaw"), was appointed chief of police for the newly formed Distrikt Warschau. After the takeover of Warsaw, the German authorities began the registration of the ethnic Germans who were issued the Kennkarte separate from the rest of the locals. By June 1940 there were 2,500 Reichsdeutsche and 5,500 Volksdeutsche registered in Warsaw. In the next two years their number more than doubled, on top of over 50,000 German military personnel.
By the end of the September campaign the number of Jews in and around the capital increased dramatically with thousands of refugees escaping the Polish-German front in any way possible, often on foot. In less than a year, the number of refugees in Warsaw exceeded 90,000. Once the partition of the country between Germany and the invading Soviet Union was complete, on October 12, 1939, the General Government was officially established by Adolf Hitler in the occupied area of central Poland. The Jewish Council (Judenrat) in Warsaw was formed by the Nazis on October 7. It was composed of 24 prominent individuals led by Adam Czerniaków, personally responsible for carrying out German orders. The persecution of Jews began soon thereafter. On October 26, the imposition of Jewish forced labour was announced, to clear the rubble from bomb damage among similar tasks. One month later, on November 20, the bank accounts of Polish Jews and any deposits exceeding 2,000 z? were blocked. On November 23, all Jewish establishments were ordered to display a Jewish star on doors and windows. Beginning December 1, all Jews older than ten were compelled to wear a white armband, and on December 11, they were forbidden from using public transit. On January 26, 1940, the Jews were banned from holding communal prayers ostensibly due to the risk of "spreading epidemics". Food stamps were being introduced by the German authorities, and the liquidation of all smaller Jewish communities in the vicinity of Warsaw had intensified. The Jewish population of the capital reached 359,827 before the end of the year.
On the orders of Warsaw District Governor, Ludwig Fischer, the Ghetto wall construction started on April 1, 1940, circling the area of Warsaw inhabited predominantly by Jews. The work was supervised by the Warsaw Judenrat. The Nazi authorities expelled 113,000 ethnic Poles from the neighbourhood, and ordered the relocation of 138,000 Warsaw Jews from the suburbs into the city centre. On October 16, 1940, the creation of the ghetto covering the area of 307 hectares (3.07 km2) was announced officially by the German Governor-General, Hans Frank. The population of the ghetto was 450,000 initially. Before the Holocaust began the number of Jews imprisoned there was between 375,000 and 400,000 (about 30% of the general population of the capital). The area of the ghetto constituted only about 2.4% of the overall metropolitan area.
The Germans closed the Warsaw Ghetto to the outside world on November 15, 1940. The wall around it was typically 3 m (9.8 ft) high and topped with barbed wire. Escapees were shot on sight. German policemen from Battalion 61 used to hold victory parties on the days when a large number of desperate prisoners were shot at the ghetto fence. The borders of the ghetto changed and its overall area was gradually reduced, as the captive population was ravaged by outbreaks of infectious diseases, mass hunger, and regular executions.
The ghetto was divided in two along Ch?odna Street (pl), which was excluded from it, due to its local importance at that time (as one of Warsaw's east-west thoroughfares). The area south-east of Ch?odna was known as the "Small Ghetto", while the area north of it became known as the "Large Ghetto". The two zones were connected at an intersection of Ch?odna with ?elazna Street, where a special gate was built. In January 1942, the gate was removed and a wooden footbridge was built over it, which became one of the postwar symbols of the Holocaust in occupied Poland.
The first commissioner of the Warsaw Ghetto, appointed by Fischer, was SA-Standartenführer Waldemar Schön, who also supervised the initial Jewish relocations in 1940. He was an attritionist best known for orchestrating an "artificial famine" (künstliche Hungersnot) in January 1941. Schön had eliminated virtually all food supplies to the ghetto causing an uproar among the SS upper echelon. He was relieved of his duties by Frank himself in March 1941 and replaced by Kommissar Heinz Auerswald, a "productionist" who served until November 1942. Like in all Nazi ghettos across occupied Poland, the Germans ascribed the internal administration to a Judenrat Council of the Jews, led by an "Ältester" (the Eldest). In Warsaw, this role was relegated to Adam Czerniaków, who chose a policy of collaboration with the Nazis in the hope of saving lives. Adam Czerniaków confided his harrowing experience in nine diaries. In July 1942, when the Germans ordered him to increase the contingent of people to be deported, he committed suicide.
Czerniaków's collaboration with the German occupation policies was a paradigm for attitude of the majority of European Jews vis à vis Nazism. Although his personality as president of the Warsaw Judenrat may not become as infamous as Chaim Rumkowski, Ältester of the ?ód? Ghetto; the SS policies he had followed were systematically anti-Jewish.
Czerniakow's first draft of October, 1939; for organizing the Warsaw Judenrat, was just a rehash of conventional kehilla departments: chancellery, welfare, rabbinate, education, cemetery, tax department, accounting, vital statistics... But the Kehilla was an anomalous institution. Throughout its history in czarist Russia, it served also as an instrument of the state, obligated to carry out the regime's policies within the Jewish community, even though these policies were frequently oppressive and specifically anti-Jewish. -- Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews 
The Council of Elders was supported internally by the Jewish Ghetto Police (Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst), formed at the end of September 1940 with 3,000 men, instrumental in enforcing law and order as well as carrying out German ad-hoc regulations, especially after 1941, when the number of refugees and expellees in Warsaw reached 150,000 or nearly one third of the entire Jewish population of the capital.
During the first year and a half, thousands of Polish Jews as well as some Romani people from smaller towns and the countryside were brought into the Ghetto. Nevertheless, the typhus epidemics and starvation kept the inhabitants at about the same number. An average daily food ration in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw was limited to 184 calories, compared to 699 calories allowed for the gentile Poles and 2,613 calories for the Germans. In August, the rations fell to 177 calories per person. The German authorities were solely responsible for the arrival of food aid, consisting usually of dry bread, flour and potatoes of the lowest quality, groats, turnips, and a small monthly supplement of margarine, sugar, and meat.
The only real means of survival was the smuggling of food and bartering; with men, women and children all taking part in it. Up to 80 percent of food consumed in the Ghetto was brought in illegally. Private workshops were created to manufacture goods to be sold secretly on the Aryan side of the city. Foodstuffs were smuggled often by children alone who crossed the Ghetto wall any way possible by the hundreds, sometimes several times a day, returning with goods that could weigh as much as they did. Smuggling was often the only source of subsistence for the Ghetto inhabitants, who would otherwise have died of starvation. Unemployment leading to lack of funds was a major problem in the ghetto.
Despite grave hardships, life in the Warsaw Ghetto had educational and cultural activities, conducted by its underground organizations. Hospitals, public soup kitchens, orphanages, refugee centers and recreation facilities were formed, as well as a school system. Some schools were illegal and operated under the guise of soup kitchens. There were secret libraries, classes for the children and even a symphony orchestra. Rabbi Alexander Friedman, secretary-general of Agudath Israel of Poland, was one of the Torah leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto; he organized an underground network of religious schools, including "a Yesodei HaTorah school for boys, a Bais Yaakov school for girls, a school for elementary Jewish instruction, and three institutions for advanced Jewish studies". These schools, operating under the guise of kindergartens, medical centers and soup kitchens, were a place of refuge for thousands of children and teens, and hundreds of teachers. In 1941, when the Germans gave official permission to the local Judenrat to open schools, these schools came out of hiding and began receiving financial support from the official Jewish community.
Not long after the Ghetto was closed off from the outside world, a number of German war profiteers such as Többens and Schultz appeared in the capital. At first, they acted as middlemen between the high command and the Jewish-run workshops. By spring 1942, the Stickerei Abteilung Division with headquarters at Nowolipie 44 Street had already employed 3,000 workers making shoes, leather products, sweaters and socks for the Wehrmacht. Other divisions were making furs and wool sweaters also, guarded by the Werkschutz police. Some 15,000 Jews were working in the Ghetto for Walter C. Többens from Hamburg, a convicted war criminal, including at his factories on Prosta and Leszno Streets among other locations. His Jewish labour exploitation was a source of envy for other Ghetto inmates living in fear of deportations. In early 1943 Többens gained for himself the appointment of a Jewish deportation commissar of Warsaw in order to keep his own workforce secure, and maximize profits. In May 1943 Többens transferred his businesses, including 10,000 Jewish slave workers to the Poniatowa concentration camp barracks. Fritz Schultz took his manufacture along with 6,000 Jews to the nearby Trawniki concentration camp.
Approximately 100,000 Ghetto inmates died of hunger-related diseases and starvation before the mass deportations started in the summer of 1942. Earlier that year, during the Wannsee Conference near Berlin, the Final Solution was set in motion. It was a secretive plan to mass-murder Jewish inhabitants of the General Government. The techniques used to deceive victims were based upon experience gained at the Che?mno extermination camp (Kulmhof). The ghettoised Jews were rounded up, street by street, under the guise of "resettlement", and marched to the Umschlagplatz holding area. From there, they were sent aboard Holocaust trains to the Treblinka death camp, built in a forest 80 kilometres (50 mi) northeast of Warsaw. The operation was headed by the German Resettlement Commissioner, SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle, on behalf of Sammern-Frankenegg. Upon learning of this plan, Adam Czerniaków, leader of the Judenrat Council committed suicide. He was replaced by Marc Lichtenbaum, tasked with managing roundups with the aid of Jewish Ghetto Police. No-one was informed about the real state of affairs.
The extermination of Jews by means of poisonous gases was carried out at Treblinka II under the auspices of Operation Reinhard, which also included Beec, Majdanek, and Sobibór death camps. About 254,000 Warsaw Ghetto inmates (or at least 300,000 by different accounts) were sent to Treblinka during the Grossaktion Warschau, and murdered there between Tisha B'Av (July 23) and Yom Kippur (September 21) of 1942. The ratio between Jews killed on the spot by Orpo and Sipo during roundups, and those deported was approximately 2 percent.
For eight weeks, the deportations of Jews from Warsaw to Treblinka continued on a daily basis via two shuttle trains: each transport carrying about 4,000 to 7,000 people crying for water; 100 people to a cattle truck. The first daily trains rolled into the camp early in the morning often after an overnight wait at a layover yard; and the second, in mid-afternoon. Dr Janusz Korczak, a famed educator, went to Treblinka with his orphanage children in August 1942. He was offered a chance to escape by Polish friends and admirers, but he chose instead to share the fate of his life's work. All new arrivals were sent immediately to the undressing area by the Sonderkommando squad that managed the arrival platform, and from there to the gas chambers. The stripped victims were suffocated to death in batches of 200 with the use of monoxide gas. In September 1942, new gas chambers were built, which could kill as many as 3,000 people in just 2 hours. Civilians were forbidden to approach the camp area. In the last two weeks of Großaktion Warschau ending on September 21, 1942, some 48,000 Warsaw Jews are deported to their deaths. The last transport with 2,200 victims from the Polish capital included the Jewish police involved with deportations, and their families. In October 1942 the Jewish Combat Organization (?OB) was formed and tasked with opposing further deportations. It was led by 24 year-old Mordechai Anielewicz. Meanwhile, between October 1942 and March 1943, Treblinka received transports of almost 20,000 foreign Jews from the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia via Theresienstadt, and from Bulgarian-occupied Thrace, Macedonia, and Pirot following an agreement with the Nazi-allied Bulgarian government.
By the end of 1942, it was clear that the deportations were to their deaths. The underground activity of Ghetto resistors in the group Oyneg Shabbos increased after learning that the transports for "resettlement" led to the mass killings. Also in 1942, Polish resistance officer Jan Karski reported to the Western governments on the situation in the Ghetto and on the extermination camps. Many of the remaining Jews decided to resist further deportations, and began to smuggle in weapons, ammunition and supplies.
On January 18, 1943, after almost four months without deportations, the Germans suddenly entered the Warsaw Ghetto intent upon further roundups. Within hours, some 600 Jews were shot and 5,000 others removed from their residences. The Germans expected no resistance, but the action was brought to a halt by hundreds of insurgents armed with handguns and Molotov cocktails.
Preparations to resist had been going on since the previous autumn. The first instance of Jewish armed struggle in Warsaw had begun. The underground fighters from ?OB (?ydowska Organizacja Bojowa: Jewish Combat Organization) and ?ZW (?ydowski Zwi?zek Wojskowy: Jewish Military Union) achieved considerable success initially, taking control of the Ghetto. They then barricaded themselves in the bunkers and built dozens of fighting posts, stopping the expulsions. Taking further steps, a number of Jewish collaborators from ?agiew were also executed. An offensive against the Ghetto underground launched by Von Sammern-Frankenegg was unsuccessful. He was relieved of duty by Heinrich Himmler on April 17, 1943 and court-martialed.
The final battle started on the eve of Passover of April 19, 1943, when a Nazi force consisting of several thousand troops entered the ghetto. After initial setbacks, 2,000 Waffen SS soldiers under the field command of Jürgen Stroop systematically burned and blew up the ghetto buildings, block by block, rounding up or murdering anybody they could capture. Significant resistance ended on April 28, and the Nazi operation officially ended in mid-May, symbolically culminating with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw on May 16. According to the official report, at least 56,065 people were killed on the spot or deported to German Nazi concentration and death camps (Treblinka, Poniatowa, Majdanek, Trawniki). The site of the Ghetto became the Warsaw concentration camp.
The ghetto was almost entirely leveled during the Uprising; however, a number of buildings and streets survived, mostly in the "small ghetto" area, which had been included into the Aryan part of the city in August 1942 and was not involved in the fighting. In 2008 and 2010 Warsaw Ghetto boundary markers were built along the borders of the former Jewish quarter, where from 1940-1943 stood the gates to the ghetto, wooden footbridges over Aryan streets, and the buildings important to the ghetto inmates. The four buildings at 7, 9, 12 and 14 Pró?na Street are among the best known original residential buildings that in 1940-41 housed Jewish families in the Warsaw Ghetto. They have largely remained empty since the war. The street is a focus of the annual Warsaw Jewish Festival. In 2011-2013 buildings at number 7 and 9 underwent extensive renovations and have become office space.
The No?yk Synagogue also survived the war. It was used as a horse stable by the German Wehrmacht. The synagogue has today been restored and is once again used as an active synagogue. The best preserved fragments of the ghetto wall are located 55 Sienna Street, 62 Z?ota Street, and 11 Waliców Street (the last two being walls of the pre-war buildings). There are two Warsaw Ghetto Heroes' monuments, unveiled in 1946 and 1948, near the place where the German troops entered the ghetto on 19 April 1943. In 1988 a stone monument was built to mark the Umschlagplatz.
There is also a small memorial at ul. Mila 18 to commemorate the site of the Socialist ?OB underground headquarters during the Ghetto Uprising. In December 2012, a controversial statue of a kneeling and praying Adolf Hitler was installed in a courtyard of the Ghetto. The artwork by Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, entitled "HIM", has received mixed reactions worldwide. Many feel that it is unnecessarily offensive, while others, such as Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, feel that is thought-provoking, even "educational".
17 June 1941 announcement signed by Ludwig Fischer about the risk of typhus from contacting Jews
17 November 1941 Public announcement of the execution of eight Jewish dwellers of the Warsaw ghetto for having trespassed its boundaries, signed by Heinz Auerswald
Originally captioned "Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs," photo of women and children
Mi?a 18 memorial
One of 22 Warsaw Ghetto boundary markers
Umschlagplatz Memorial on Stawki Street
300,000 Jews murdered by bullet or gas.[page 35]
Likwidacja getta warszawskiego wiosn? 1943 r. oznacza?a natychmiastow? lub chwilowo odwleczon? ?mier? ok. 50 tys. osób. Tymczasem Gross Aktion, tzw. Wielka Akcja, zako?czy?a si? wys?aniem do obozu zag?ady w Treblince ok. 250 tys. osób. Zatem to lato 1942 r., a nie wiosna 1943, by?o okresem faktycznej likwidacji spo?eczno?ci warszawskich ?ydów.
Chapter I: Warsaw Besieged: ... the roads were jammed, and gradually we were completely engulfed in the slow but steady flow of humanity toward the capital. Mile after mile it was the same ... as tens of thousands of provincials entered Warsaw in the hope of finding shelter there.
The Jewish police have learned how to hit, to enforce order, and to send people to the labor camps, and they are one of the contributing factors that keep people in line. -- Emanuel Ringelblum 
Friedman sought to inform world Jewry of the initial transports, he sent a telegram stating: 'Mr. Amos kept his promise from the fifth-third.' This is an allusion to Amos 5:3: 'The city that goes out a thousand strong will have a hundred left, and the one that goes out a hundred strong will have ten left to the House of Israel'.
The Jews of Poland were augmented by around 3,000 Slovakian and Austrian Jews (the camp elite) expelled to Poland beforehand, and housed separately from the rest.
Deportations from Theresienstadt and Bulgarian-occupied territory among others.
For years, Oyneg Shabbos had discreetly chronicled conditions and hid their photos, writings, and short films in improvised time capsules. In May 1942, the Germans began filming a propaganda movie titled "Das Ghetto" which was never completed. Footage is shown in the 2010 documentary called "A Film Unfinished" which concerns the making of "Das Ghetto" and correlates scenes from the film with descriptions of them that Czerniakow mentioned in his own diary.
Though Apfelbaum is listed in many books and articles devoted to the revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto as one of the commanders of the Jewish Military Union (see: Moshe Arens, "The Development of the Narrative of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising," Israel Affairs, Vol.14, No.1, January 2008), and a square was named for him in Warsaw, historians Dariusz Libionka and Laurence Weinbaum have cast doubt about his existence.