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Legend of the Lodz Ghetto Children

Legend of the Lodz Ghetto Children - Background Historical...

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Historical Background Lodz, the second-largest city in Poland, is located southwest of the capital, Warsaw. Jewish and German migrants first came to Lodzin the seventeenth century and constituted a large minority in the city. Jews played a substantial role in the textile industryof this town from the time it began to develop, in the second half of the nineteenth century, until World War II. After Lodz was occupied by the Wehrmacht in September 7939, and until the sealing of the ghetto, roughly onethird of the 233,000 Tews who lived there fled to the east. Initially, Lodz was to be the capital of the Generalgouvernement because of its industrial importance andsince German inhabitants of the area really wished to become part of the German Reich. Lodz was attached to the Warthegau (Wartheland), an area annexed to the Third Reich. TheGermans decided to cleanse areas attached to the Reich of all Jewish inhabitants, and the Warthegau and Lodz wereincluded in this plan. Within a short period, the Jews' possessions were plundered, their enterprises and businesses confiscated, theirjobs eliminated, and the very possibility of their making a living revoked. Thousands of the Jews of Lodz were expelled to the Generalgouvernement, andwhen the governor of this zone, Hans Frank, refused to absorb those who remained, they wereevicted to a provisional ghetto to be interned pending deportation. This provisional ghetto-the impoverished Baluty neighborhood, the poorest andmost rundown section of Lodz-was sealed and encased in barbed-wire fences. In May 1940, the Jewish ghetto had a population of roughly164,000. Anyone who attempted to leave the area was summarily shot. Before long, the Lodz Ghetto was out of touch with the world. German police units guarded its perimeter from the outside; a Jewish police force did this duty from the inside. The Germans appointed Hans BieboW a coffee merchant from Bremen, to head the German ghetto administration; Biebow's goal was maximum exploitation of the Jewish property and labor in the ghetto. A separate currency was introduced for the ghetto, and Jews were made to convert the few possessions they still owned, including valuables and cash, into a ghetto scrip that wasworthless outside the ghetto and useful only for the purchase of small quantities of food inside. For these reasons, the ghetto was cut off and isolated. In contrast to other places, where there was I r-------r I
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contact with the outside world and a possibility of smuggling in food, here smuggling was impossible because the Jews could not pay. In Lodz the ghetto inhabitants were required to make do with the starvation rations provided bv the Germans. By order of the authorities, a Jewish leadership wasappointed for the ghetto. This agency, the Judenrat, chaired by Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, was charged with collecting taxes and miscellaneous payments, mobilizing Jews for labor in the ghetto, andmaintaining public order.
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Legend of the Lodz Ghetto Children - Background Historical...

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