A highly developed network of religious institutions, social welfare organizations, educational establishments, political parties and associations, commercial enterprises, and institutions of public health offered its members broad material, intellectual, and spiritual support. Successful Jewish merchants, none more celebrated than the nineteenth-century cotton magnate Izrael K. Some of the buildings he funded and commissioned would assist in shaping the look of the city.
In music, Dawid Bajgelman and Teodor Ryder composed and conducted local orchestras. His parents were also laid to rest in the large Jewish cemetery. On a visit to the city in the s, the Austrian Jewish writer Josef Roth, walking that same avenue, commented on the stunning beauty of young Jewish brides strolling arm in arm with their merchant husbands. Here the look of things was grittier. The district had a downscale feel, and its ill-regulated, impoverished surroundings, though home largely to the hardworking poor, also bore a reputation as the neighborhood of roughnecks, illicit traders, and petty gangs.
To walk the streets was to be aware of textile work in all its variety. Manufacture, visible to passersby through nearby windows, spilled from homes and workshops into the streets. Personal memoirs of these years evoke summertime excursions and hours spent in city parks and the nearby countryside. Lives were open-ended then, possessed of numerous potentialities and trajectories into the future. Thoughts of the city stirred recollections of the Yiddish theater, a meeting after school under the clock tower of city hall, visits to the zoo, or open-air concerts in the park, a father coming home from work and reaching into his pocket for the candies he would distribute to the children in the courtyard.
Before the war, many Jews from this city traveled widely both within Poland and abroad. Some went as far as Palestine, sampling an alternative life, before heading back. Trains were a favored mode of transportation then. Recollecting these things would nourish the memory of those who, in later years, looked back on all that was lost. Jewish children at summer camp lift their arms for calisthenics, follow the arc of a volleyball in prologue 7 the air, hold hands and dance in a circle. Thoughts of her loved ones and companions from before the war would bring to mind fondly evoked details of how they appeared in life, an intimate catalogue of tanned limbs, bright faces, dark eyes, and long lashes.
- Antisemitism: A History!
- Ghettostadt: Lodz and the Making of a Nazi City.
- From Harvey River?
- Richard J. Evans | The New York Review of Books.
- Nef, No. 1 from Esquisses Byzantines.
The story of so many lives was as yet unknown. At a critical juncture the caricature of a Jewish face was to be seen hovering menacingly over the city. On that September morning, people looked up and could hardly believe their eyes. Citizens cleared the streets, shut autumn 9 their windows, and scrambled down stairways to reach the protection of cellars and shelters. Downtown the sound of a plane was heard overhead, followed by a single explosion.
Nearby, the streets swarmed with people, some heading directly home, others toward shops to gather needed provisions. Witnesses watched in horror as a young man attempting to run across a downtown street was instantly struck and killed by a streetcar that had suddenly rounded the corner at furious speed. Then yet another explosion was heard, as before. Only hours later did people emerge once more and pour into the streets, continuing to make their way home before nightfall.
But by the middle of the coming week, in the face of the continuing German advance, ultimate prospects for the safety of the city, and for the country as well, appeared increasingly grave. Hoping to bolster defense of the capital, on the night of September 5 the Polish government ordered men between the ages of sixteen and sixty to evacuate the city and proceed to Warsaw.
Ghettostadt: Lodz and the Making of a Nazi City: Lodz and the Making of Nazi City
Along the route, columns of refugees were cut to pieces by German attack from above. Along a route overseen by soldiers, SS, and military and auxiliary police, crowds of local ethnic Germans, their arms raised in salute, excitedly observed the passing of the motorcade and cheered the unexpected appearance of their deliverer. It was nightmarish. To recall the events long afterward is to be reminded of the inadequacy of language in gaining psychological purchase on such outbursts of cruelty as would characterize these initial as- autumn 11 saults on human dignity, human life, and human limb.
When, recognizing what was happening, others disappeared indoors, the tormentor, descending from the vehicle, simply went into a building and dragged a Jewish man from his workbench.
But if the streets were unsafe, so too were the now instantly violable interiors of Jewish homes. A Jewish physician recalled how one day a distant, materially less fortunate former schoolmate from decades past unexpectedly arrived at his home. Sometimes the plunderers walked away with only razors and blades, handkerchiefs, medical equipment, radios, or typewriters, but above all the hunt was on for luxury articles and valu- autumn 13 ables.
In the process, cabinets and closets were emptied, pocketbooks opened, upholstery ripped apart. But the era of unbridled sport and mockery was gradually to be channeled in a more orderly and supervised direction. Under the relentless pressure of these military and civilian administrative decrees, in a matter of weeks and months the commercial holdings, accumulated savings, and household possessions of prosperous Jews, as well as the modest means available to the Jewish middle and lower-middle classes and the Jewish poor, were funneled into German hands.
Into the breach stepped others. On September 12 new elections to the community board were held. Rumkowski craved authority, saw no reason to abandon it, and, it was said, reveled in his moments in the limelight. The arrangement was broadly in conformity with a key occupation directive, issued in September by Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Security Service, calling for the establishment in large and medium-sized cities in the newly conquered territories of councils of so-called Jewish Elders, whose task it would be to cooperate unconditionally in carrying out German instructions affecting the Jews.
The circumstances surrounding his selection by the new German civil administration to head the council remain shrouded in conjecture. At the community headquarters, where the Germans had stationed representatives, he would certainly have drawn notice. An elderly Jew. Gray hair. He looked like a leader. You have a better paper! In the years prior to the First World War he had some success in the textile business, but revolutionary upheaval in Russia put an end to his holdings.
He had been invited, in , to assist in running summer camps for Jewish youngsters, institutions supported through funding by the New York— based Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He considered an adjacent tract of farmland which had recently become available ideal for the creation of an experimental farm where youngsters might learn valuable agricultural skills in preparation for their future independence, whether in Poland or in Palestine.
Yet, apart from the expense of acquiring the additional acreage, others hearing of the scheme thought it at the very least unwise, if not preposterous, to consider situating a year-round colony of Jewish youngsters in the countryside, where they would reside away from the city in the midst of a potentially hostile non-Jewish population.
On the nearby farm, fruits and vegetables, as well as milk, were produced for consumption by residents of the home. An outdoor home such as the one Rumkowski had helped establish offered an outstanding setting for containing communicable illnesses and promoting healthy development. In June a physician, Dr. David Rozenzweig, in an article for the journal The Orphan underscored the kind of sensible measures then being undertaken to minimize the spread of disease among those living communally.
Above all he stressed the importance of creating an environment favorable to the health of mothers, infants, and most especially schoolchildren and orphans, recommending close monitoring of youngsters to detect and respond to symptoms of the onset of tuberculosis. In addition to recommending that youngsters be taught to avoid close contact and that children with known contagion be isolated, Dr.
Rosenzweig thought that summer colonies and other facilities for orphans were ideally suited to promoting the health of children. Scheduling a consultation, Dr. Reicher determined that the girl, eight years old, had contracted gonorrhea. Such cases, the doctor indicated, were at the time by no means rare; transmission of the disease to youngsters from impoverished homes was frequently attributable to the not uncommon practice of several members of the same family sharing a single bed.
Reicher informed Rumkowski of the ongoing danger of the further spread of the disease within the communal setting of the orphanage—where, he explained, the sharing of sheets, towels, and sanitary facilities might offer opportunity for further outbreaks. He advised that all the children in the orphanage be examined and that those found to be infected be sent to a hospital for treatment.
Acceding to this forceful request, Dr. He was impressed with both the quality of the medical facilities and the diligence of the staff as well as the general orderliness of life in the institution. Yet he had otherwise developed a sturdy record of accomplishment on which to draw in defense of his honor and good name. Now, in this hour of crisis, the community had far more pressing matters to attend to, and the moment offered Rumkowski an opportunity to prove his indispensability and worth.
Even more, it offered the promise of winning prestige and a measure of power. That autumn Rumkowski hurled himself into his new tasks. The hungry, the poor, the weak, the sick, the homeless, the imprisoned, and, as autumn 21 ever, the young were to be the objects of his energies and concern. In addition, he secured supplies of milk for downtown orphanages and infant care facilities and, further cajoling Jewish contributors, appealed for help in clothing orphans for the approaching winter.
He ran soup kitchens where, that fall alone, thousands of meals were daily provided to schoolchildren and to the needy. Exercising rights granted him by the city commissioner, he requisitioned essential classroom space for Jewish pupils. So that the Jewish poor might wash, he requested supplies of coal from the city to heat a community-run public bath. For Jewish inmates held in detention, he secured bread from a local bakery at community expense.
His was an act of rescue amid the storm. In town for discussions with party leaders and a per- 22 ghettostadt sonal tour of conditions in newly occupied Poland, Goebbels was anything but impressed with what he found. We get out and inspect everything thoroughly. It is indescribable. These are no longer human beings, they are animals. For this reason, our task is no longer humanitarian but surgical. Steps must be taken here, and they must be radical ones, make no mistake.
The people creep through the streets like insects. It is repulsive and scarcely describable. More a clinical than a social problem. Searching for a solution, such minds tracked effortlessly along lines that foresaw work ahead for the surgeon, if not the sanitation man or the exterminator. The Goebbels visit would coincide with yet another outrage.
At roughly the same time, nearly all the members of the newly established Jewish autumn 23 Council, or Beirat, were inexplicably taken away to an improvised concentration camp set up inside a factory north of the city in Radogoszcz. They were horribly tortured, and all but a handful were shot or beaten to death. Simultaneously, Jews were subject to restriction in their movement about the city and to severe curfews. None could have looked with favor on the receipt of an invitation to assume so dubious and so dangerous a distinction.
For his part, Rumkowski was not one to entertain pleas to be excused from serving on the council. When Dr. Do you think you can just do what you like? If you do not do what I, the president of the Jewish Council, order [you to do], I will crush you like an ant. And if you, you shameless vermin, ever have the audacity to invoke our relationship at the orphanage, you will be sent to a place from whence no one returns alive! Initial measures directed toward restricting the freedom of Jews and excluding them from public life were but one element in a far broader and more ambitious demographic project.
Satisfying as it was to savor the forced submission and ruin of local Jewry, even closer to Nazi hearts lay the parallel endeavor centering on the colonization and repeopling of the newly conquered lands. Many of these settlers, referred to as the Volksdeutsche, or ethnic Germans, were to be drawn from homesteads deep within the newly broadened territorial sphere of Soviet Russia, the improbable ally with which Germany shared the division of the spoils in a defeated and partitioned Poland. By agreement with the Russians, Germany had additionally won for the ethnic Germans— drawn, primarily, from the formerly eastern Polish territory of Volhynia and from the Baltic states—the right to emigrate from Soviet territory and, crossing the divide separating the two occupying forces, to unite with their fellow Germans and begin new lives.
To make room for the new arrivals, and most especially to free up autumn 25 farms, businesses, and homes for their occupancy, these ambitious projections anticipated the rapid forced evacuation of as many as a million Poles and Jews residing in the newly annexed Reich provinces, or Gaus, of West Prussia, Posen Warthegau , and East Upper Silesia, to the unincorporated, German-controlled zone in central Poland known to the Germans as the Generalgouvernement. Through a combination of appeals to the Jewish leadership to as- 26 ghettostadt sist in recruiting persons willing to evacuate and the engagement of local police and uniformed auxiliary forces to clear Jews from their homes in a selected residential area in the north of the city, the operation went ahead.
Terrifying to those affected, the operation undoubtedly offered the community and its leaders a preview of the kind of forced evacuations they might experience in the future. Jews elsewhere in the city took note. The worst hit had been Jews residing in a targeted sector near the Old Market area. Families living in buildings along several streets there had been brutally ejected from their homes with little if anything in hand. At the same time, some of the Jews who had left in the earlier transports managed to make their way back to the city. A notable element of relative calm seemed to follow in the wake of the cancellation of the immediate danger.
Since the Jews were no longer permitted to earn their livelihoods freely as before, if they were not to be left to starve and fall prey to uncontrollable outbreaks of disease that might harm the general population, they were going to have to be fed. It was expected that the city would be responsible for delivering provisions to the ghetto in exchange for payment in the form of surrendered currency and convertible valuables, textiles, and other movable goods.
This was a matter to be coordinated between the city and designated representatives of the Jewish community. To contain contagious illnesses, disinfectants, medicines, and medical instruments would have to be supplied, waste removed, and the dead buried, all matters touching upon the responsibilities of local public health agencies. Also, the establishment of a closed Jewish residential quarter would set in motion a massive population transfer, affecting occupancy and ownership of residential and commercial properties both inside and outside the ghetto.
Just as the ghetto could not exist without the cooperation of these agencies, the German planners understood, too, that within the ghetto the Jews were to bear responsibility for coordinating agencies to perform key tasks on their own behalf. Consequently, Uebelhoer planned to charge the 28 ghettostadt Jews with the task of organizing an internal bureaucracy with departments for distributing delivered stocks of food and fuel, maintaining public kitchens, and overseeing matters related to housing.
They would also have to assemble a staff of physicians and auxiliary care personnel as well as supervise ghetto hospitals and clinics. Here, according to his estimate, more than two thirds of the Jewish population was thought to reside. Upon their departure, Jews were to hand over the keys to their homes to caretakers, who, under police supervision, were obliged to secure the properties on behalf of a city agency, the Municipal Bureau of Lodgings and Real Estate, that was authorized to take possession of surrendered Jewish properties.
Yet from its inception the ghetto was conceived not as an institution of lasting duration but rather as a temporary expedient.
It would track along the pathways of the demographic removal of the Jews and peopling of the city with settlers of German ethnicity , the biological lifting from the general population the threat of contagious illnesses , the economic expropriation of Jewish assets , and the aesthetic a thoroughgoing redevelopment and remaking of the appearance of the city.
Each called for methodical planning and execution. Already traumatized by a season of torments, internally subordinate to a stern yet to the Germans outwardly cooperative leader, the Jews could be counted on to comply, or—if still in need of further intimidation—be made to do as they were told. It was their misfortune to be a source of opportunity for others.
For by now another wandering folk, ethnic peoples of Germanic stock, had begun to pour into the region from Volhynia in the Soviet-occupied zone of Poland to the east, from Galicia to the south, and even from the faraway Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia to the north. Encouraged by the German government to abandon their homes and return to the Reich, they moved to German lands where new homes and a new life were promised. Indeed, viewed through the eyes of the regime, the newcomers were everything the Jews were not, existing within that circle of commonality to which the empathy of good- a city without jews 31 will and of those better situated was supposed to extend.
Their integration into the community was welcomed, and their suffering was to be relieved. For them, this city had become the terminus of a lengthy westward journey by rail, some boarding from their point of origin, others only after an arduous trek across the line of demarcation separating the German and Soviet zones. Some were put up in summer resorts.
Now I know that I am a human being again. A modest sixty-bed hospital, stocked with medicines and staffed by physicians and nurses, saw to their medical 32 ghettostadt needs. For education and amusement, living spaces included recreation areas and were provided with newspapers and radios. One was meant to sense, indeed, that as a citizen of this rapidly evolving city, one was witness to a renewal of epochal proportions.
And this social alteration, involving not simply an ingathering of peoples of welcome ethnic stock but the removal of the Jews, together constituting the centerpiece of a project of wider import, had about it something of the workings of a force of nature. Even in the depths of winter the newly Germanizing city, referred to now as Lodsch, revealed unmistakable indications of these changes.
It was thought to be a matter of note that neither the cold nor the driving snow of mid-January could keep the curious from gathering at the intersections to view some of the newly posted street signs, their white lettering distinctively set against a background of blue, clear evidence of the developing transformation of the urban landscape. Certainly not. But with some love, something can be made out of our neglected city.
It need not necessarily become a second Munich or another Darmstadt. But Lodsch can become a city that is clean and has its own look. Without a doubt schools will be on holiday and all the bells will ring. His new position, given the enormity of the tasks of urban modernization and social renewal that lay ahead, presented great challenges but also potentially immense rewards.
There was much work to be done. These were not, by and large, freestanding rural-style abodes, Hallbauer reminded the public, but units boxed inside sizable three- and four-story residential structures built around deep inner courtyards, often some two hundred meters in length. To reach one of these crowded dwellings one typically traversed long, dark corridors. About half of these oneroom apartments were dependent for natural light on inadequate northern exposures.
Poorly paved streets and sidewalks were one obvious shortcoming in need of immediate correction, but the scandalous inattention to basic principles of sanitation and health was especially troubling. Not infrequently, he noted by way of example, shallow wells serving even residences in the downtown area as a principal supply of drinking water were located dangerously close to receptacles for containing human waste. In his earliest demographic projections Hallbauer had already taken account of their removal from the scene. Estimating that if but one third of the former Jewish population were replaced by new inhabitants of German stock, the overall urban population would likely stabilize at a suitable level of some , residents.
Given the unquestioned assumption that infectious cases of spotted fever originated in the area of heaviest Jewish residential concentration, spreading from there to other sections of the city, the establishment of a ghetto was deemed a rational and effective measure with which to respond to what was seen as an immediate physical threat to the citizenry. In the wake of their exodus, the homes that Jews would be compelled to abandon elsewhere in the city would be freed up for occupancy by local Germans and their ethnic brethren arriving from the East, as well as those relocating to the area from within the Reich.
Circulating throughout the city, they were said to have shed disease-causing agents among the unsuspecting and vulnerable population. City planners reckoned their removal, then, a prudent and decent thing undertaken in defense of the common good. In response to the threat, by decree and by force the Jews were now to be kept at a safe remove, corralled into isolation, and eventually expelled. In the eyes of the authorities, a ghetto, by successfully forming an impermeable barrier separating this collective breeding ground of contagion from the wider commonwealth, was the very device to bring this about.
Without strict intervention to prevent their coming into contact with others, the Jews were sure to continue to serve as carriers infecting anyone who crossed their path. They insisted on the necessity of enforcing the strictest possible enclosure in contrast to what they judged to be the inadequate precautions being undertaken to restrict access to the as yet unsealed Jewish residential quarter in Warsaw. Indeed, restraining wire had been trampled or even removed. Thus a restricted Bannmeile, or inviolable neutral zone, would surround the district.
Unauthorized entry by Jews into the zone was to be met with deadly force. Additionally, they conceded, the ghetto was going to have to be equipped with medical facilities in order to contain as far as possible the spread of infection. These facilities were to be staffed exclusively by ghetto physicians and medical assistants. Medicines were to be available for purchase at any of four ghetto pharmacies which were projected initially to serve the needs of the community.
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Necessary disinfectants were also to be supplied. Buildings which previously counted up to residents now [contain] to 1, and even more inhabitants. Similar circumstances will have to be reckoned with in Lodsch as well. In this situation it is clear that latrine facilities will have to be expanded and that, in view of the considerable daily yield of feces, a regular emptying of the cesspools will have to be systematically carried out.
Contact is in any case to be avoided. The installation of suitable rooms for the passing of delivered goods will prove necessary. On December 29 the Jewish community had been directed to undertake measures necessary for creating such a facility within two days after the beginning of the New Year. The project called for the conversion of an existing factory on Wesola Street, well within the projected zone of the ghetto, adjacent to a Jewish psychiatric hospital and located conveniently near an old Jewish burial ground that would serve as a site for the rapid disposal of the dead.
To increase the isolation of the structure, along the front of the building a fence two meters high was to be installed, and where appropriate, windows were to be a city without jews 41 sealed; inside, existing machinery was to be disassembled and removed, making way for the installation of three hundred beds; latrines to accommodate the expected requirements of the facility were to be dug immediately. Schnell, proved to be an agency in a hurry indeed. Schnell had a further concern, however, indicative of continued uncertainty about whether the ghetto, once established, really was to be of only brief duration.
But their immediate physical extermination appears not to have been the initial goal of the public health establishment, which was considerably less obsessed with destroying the Jews than with seeing to it that they not pose a health threat to the general population. But so long as they remained, they should be given the minimal resources necessary to combat the outbreaks that, paradoxically, were now more likely precisely because they were forced to live under conditions of crowding and deprivation.
On January 24, preliminary to the formal public announcement of the establishment of the ghetto, local authorities began a limited transfer of Jews to the zone. They were to be conducted, under police escort, to precincts 5 and 6, from whence they would be settled in what was now being referred to as a Seuchengebiet, or zone of quarantine. Already time was pressing. While those moving to the district were henceforth directed straight to the community headquarters rather than to the police precincts, the police continued to play a key role, supervising the formal registration of new arrivals and then escorting them by groups to the district.
Members of the housing staff did their best to alleviate the general discomfort by distributing rolls and hot refreshments to those waiting in line.
Many revealed signs of nervous strain while awaiting transfer to their new residences. In consequence, a special administrative section had to be formed to sort through these claims. Additional complications resulted when it was discovered that a number of persons looking for places to live in the assigned district had succeeded in bypassing the department altogether and obtained housing permits directly through the police precincts.
Complicating the resolution of such matters were instances in which people who had taken up residence in an apartment could not produce evidence one way or another as to whether they had done so legitimately. Speaking to a correspondent for the Lodscher Zeitung, Dr. One cannot be warned urgently enough against contact with Jews.
Promotion of public health was, of course, a matter not only of inventorying human material but of promoting enlightened practices and serving the basic medical needs of the community as well. Whatever disruptions and inconveniences this might entail for non-Jews living in the district were subordinated to the chief administrative goal: 46 ghettostadt Jews residing outside the zone were to abandon their homes and properties and take up alternate residence in the closed district. The operation was to commence on Monday, February Movement was not to be random but was regulated by the day and hour according to precise timetables issued weekly by the police.
On a simultaneous schedule, Jews from elsewhere in the city, assembled into groups of three hundred, would set out under armed escort northward toward the ghetto. While under way, and then while awaiting ultimate assignment of new quarters, persons were forbidden to leave the columns. The general pattern, then, was to coordinate as closely as possible the movement of Poles, advancing sector by sector out of the ghetto a city without jews 47 district, with the regulated entry of Jews arriving from elsewhere in the city into areas the Poles had abandoned.
Reporting to the municipal housing authorities, ethnic Germans were to be assigned residences in newly available apartments in the city center, while Poles would have to take up residence in newly designated Polish areas. Hoping to ease the sometimes overwhelming burdens associated with imminent departure, they assisted families in packing, arranged for carts and stretchers to accommodate the aged and sick, and even pitched in by carrying items for at least a few of those weighted down with luggage as they struggled along the route of march.
All the same, the transports were marred by inevitable disorder as so many people, quickly proving unable to keep up under the burden of having to carry their own belongings, tired and fell out of line. Empty-handed departures were occasioned not merely by confusion but by force, for some evacuations were accompanied by brazen cruelties: armed men appeared at doorways brandishing guns and demanding that residents get out immediately and leave everything behind. Yet many did succeed in saving what they could, hastily selecting and packing a portion of their a city without jews 49 belongings, though often this entailed little more than the basics: some undergarments and extra clothing, as well as sheets, pillows, and blankets, heaped, when available, onto hand carts and sleds, which they hauled themselves, and atop which were to be seen seated small children who, oblivious to the reason for this sudden uprooting, asked of anxious and bewildered parents the unanswerable question, why were they moving?
Polish youngsters ran after the sudden exiles, too, barking insults. Conditions there, too, left much to be desired. Inside the bureau a kind of barely controlled bedlam reigned. Given the stream of interruptions, he seemed unable or unwilling to concentrate on or understand what these petitioners were saying. Others were speedily hauled away to stag- 50 ghettostadt ing areas elsewhere in the city and terrorized. Some more were taken to a nearby woods and shot. Indeed, violence against the Jews was continuously in the air. As if in conformity to a kind of kinetic law, those same violent impulses and energies, though momentarily restrained when tightly wound around precise administrative procedures, were just as easily released into another form, and with great force.
People were literally frantic, beaten, wounded. Women as well as men wailed and cried. Even now, apart from the matter of securing his power and arranging its organizational bases, it was the care of orphans that drove the energies of the chairman. They had been the focus of his career, his point of contact with the community, and, though this was open to question, the source of his claim to its respect. Repeatedly during his tenure as head of the ghetto, Rumkowski would be portrayed as pleased by the organization of these affairs, refreshed at the very sight of his children hard at work on their indoor and outdoor projects, attending to their lessons in school, spooning thick soup from their bowls, dancing in circles.
The decisive difference, noticeable above all to those who knew the city well, was that at last the Jews had disappeared from the urban scene. Their presence was said to have been attributable to exploitative Jewish commercial enterprise. Past, like everything connected with Judaism. From the Gau capital in Posen came word of a recent planned renovation: a synagogue was to be torn down to its foundation and converted into a public swimming pool.
Three mounted Stars of David, sheet-copper constructions of which the largest measured some two meters high, had been pulled from the structure. To especially worthy settlers he distributed cash premiums, and from unwed young women he elicited a promise: once married to eligible German men, they should keep him informed about the many children they were sure to bring into the world.
Fittingly, Greiser was said to have been especially solicitous toward the littlest of Germanic youngsters he encountered along the way. The matter was ultimately referred for consideration to the Reich Commissariat for the Strengthening of Germandom and the Litzmannstadt branch of the Security Service SD. In delayed response, in late May, with the ghetto by then a reality and the Marienkirche still fenced inside, the SD rejected the appeal, arguing that the church was situated in a district that even prior to the war had been one in which Jews constituted a majority of the population.
The Marienkirche is closed until further notice, probably until the dissolution of the ghetto. He estimated that some eight to ten thousand persons—to be drawn from a list of tradespeople, including shoemakers, saddle makers, leather goods specialists, tailors, undergarment seamstresses, hat and cap makers, plumbers, carpenters, painters, bookbinders, and paperhangers—could be made available for the purpose. In turn, the ghetto would be granted compensation, either in the form of 58 ghettostadt wage payments, which Rumkowki could then pass on to the workers, or through provision of foodstuffs of equivalent value for feeding the ghetto population.
Rumkowski would, however, undertake the responsibility for making repairs. Whatever else the Jews might be in the opinion of anti-Semites, those who had their eye on the local economy also saw in the Jews an exploitable factor of production in the form of trained, inexpensive labor from which money could be made. As warning signs posted at the ghetto perimeter made unmistakably clear, unauthorized entry by outsiders was strictly forbidden.
In this way, even the Jewish dead might enjoy the prospect of lying undisturbed. According to schedule, brooking no delay, on the night of April 30 the ghetto would be sealed. The date was one of some portent. From this place there was to be no unauthorized entry or exit. To them fell responsibility for overseeing the ghetto. However long it should endure, they would see to it that it was exploited to their own best advantage.
Above all, in their view, with the creation of the ghetto, Litzmannstadt had taken an essential step toward realizing its great potential. What made Lodz different was that it was the only major city in the expanded Reich where an already sizeable German population shared the same space with a large number of Poles and with close to two hundred thousand Jews who were markedly different from their acculturated and middle-class co-religionists in Germany.
For the Nazis, this stark clash of rising Germandom with the masses of Ostjuden provided an ideal object lesson in the centrality of race politics as a pitiless zero-sum game. And as the example of Lodz shows, one did not have to be an actual perpetrator to enjoy the benefits of genocide: new apartments, gleaming parks, cut-rate goods on sale, excellent stores up for new ownership. Before the war, Lodz was the second largest city in Poland. It was a sprawling, brash industrial town of about , inhabitants, according to the census percent were Poles, 32 percent were Jews, and 9 percent were German.
Lodz was known as the "Polish Manchester," an ugly scramble of large and small textile mills, of enormous palaces and appalling slums. Singer's The Brothers Ashkenazi in Yiddish--whose themes were strikingly similar: class tension, ethnic strife, the harsh tensions of bare-knuckled capitalism. Both Reymont and Singer described the Lodzhermensch , a word that was the same in German and in Yiddish. The Lodzhermenschen --mostly Germans and Jews--were the entrepreneurs and the hustlers who built up the city in the nineteenth century, who made and lost huge fortunes, who started big factories and sometimes burned them down to collect insurance.
Some of the Lodzhermenschen turned into legendary businessmen, such as the German Karl Scheibler and the Jew Izrael Poznanski, who endowed hospitals and religious institutions and patronized the arts. Over time Lodz also became a major cultural center, the home of great Yiddish and Hebrew writers, of actors and artists such as Moshe Broderson, Yisroel Rabon, Shimon Dzigan, Yitzhak Katzenelson, and Julian Tuwim, a Lodz Jew who wrote in Polish and is remembered as one of Poland's finest poets of the last century. Artur Rubenstein was born in the city. Like Chicago, many intellectuals and artists came to love their raw, unfinished town.
They took a perverse pride in its newness, its lack of tradition. On September 8, , just one week after Germany invaded Poland, Lodz fell. The Nazis annexed the city and its surrounding area to the Reich and called it the Reichsgau Wartheland, run by the cruel and corrupt Arthur Greiser.
Long before the Nazis decided to implement the Final Solution, Lodz already became a kind of test case, a model of how to deal with Jews who dared to live in German space. On a beautiful autumn day in , a German film crew arrived in Litzmannstadt to record the heroic saga of this new Nazi city rising from the dump heap of the past. The crew started shooting near a new water park, surrounded by streets bearing such wondrous names as Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel. In the coming weeks it would film green zones, parks, theaters, schools, new housing projects for German refugees from the East, sporting events.
The crew slowly assembled a stirring account of an urban miracle, a living example of how National Socialism would renew the German people. In these new eastern marches of the Reich, just annexed from a defeated Poland, this city would exemplify the promise of the Nazi future: modern, beautiful, a home to new German settlers from the East, a bulwark of German culture and German values.
Horwitz describes many milestones in the rise of this new Nazi town: the opening of a new German theater, a performance of Don Giovanni , a wonderful staging of Faust. The Nazis went to great lengths to foster a proper appreciation for the hallmarks of German culture. When Bernhard Rust, the Nazi education minister, dropped in on a gymnasium class that was studying Faust , he told the students to remember Goethe's message: "He alone wins freedom and life who conquers it every day.
As ordinary Germans enjoyed the benefits of their new Nazi city, they did not have to think too much about the mass murder of the Jews. It began in By December , transports of Jews from the Warthegau were rolling toward the gas trucks of nearby Chelmno. To be sure, in the first months of the occupation much dirty work took place in full view of the citizens of Litzmannstadt: the burnings of the synagogues, the mass arrest of Jewish intellectuals at the Astoria cafe, the public shooting of hundreds of Jews in March , the vicious beatings of frightened Jews stampeded into the ghetto.
But after the establishment of the ghetto in April , Litzmannstadt Germans could build for their future and not have their dreams interrupted by the reality of the Jews and their destruction. Those few Germans who had to come into daily contact with Jews were issued extra pay and extra soap to protect themselves from dirt and contagion. Essential business between the ghetto and the city was transacted in a "neutral zone" to which only a few had access. Wagons that carried goods in and out of the ghetto changed drivers, so that non-Jews did not come in and Jews did not get out.
Of course, the Germans directly involved in the ghetto administration enjoyed certain benefits that made up for their exposure to Jews. There were copious presents to take home to the family in Germany and privileged access to the warehouses that stored the better Jewish property. The Jews themselves were now mostly hidden from view, behind a barbed wire enclosure that sealed off the ghetto from the outside world.
German police routinely shot Jews who wandered too close to the fence, and sometimes even German officials complained about the trigger-happy policemen who took their target practice a little too often. In other parts of occupied Poland, intrepid Jewish couriers often filtered in and out of ghettos carrying money, news, and weapons, but not in Lodz.
In , a report from an underground Jewish National Committee in Warsaw told Jewish organizations abroad that all attempts to penetrate the ghetto and establish contacts with its inhabitants had failed. This was just one of many reasons that no resistance movement developed in the Lodz ghetto, even though before the war Lodz Jewry enjoyed the reputation as one of the most combative Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. The Nazis planned to make Litzmannstadt entirely Judenrein as early as , but that had to wait. When the Lodz ghetto was first decreed in February , it was meant to be a transitional holding pen for Jews to be shoved out of the Wartheland and into the Generalgouvernement, the bailiwick of Hans Frank, who governed occupied Poland.
As Horwitz and other scholars show, Gauleiter Arthur Greiser, with Himmler's support, wanted the Warthegau to become a model, a laboratory, of ethnic cleansing and racial transformation, where massive deportations of Poles and Jews would allow for a large influx of ethnic Germans. Friedrich Uebelhoer, the Regierungspraesident , likened the Jews to a "pestilential boil" who could be "burned off without a trace.
But Hans Frank did not want his kingdom to become a dumping ground for Jews, and other Nazi schemes for the elimination of the Jews, such as the Madagascar Plan, also went nowhere. After an initial spate of deportations of Poles and Jews into the GG in and early , Frank prevailed on Hitler to call a halt. So the German rulers of the Wartheland had to rely on Hitler's assurances that final victory would allow them to get rid of the Jews.
In the meantime the local Nazis hit on a stopgap measure: a ghetto in a run-down area in the northern part of the city that included Baluty, the Old Town, and semi-rural Marysin. Ghettoization in Lodz, as elsewhere, was an ugly business, and the Jews arrived in their new "homes" traumatized and largely dispossessed.
On March 6 and 7, , the Germans murdered hundreds of Jews in the city in order to hasten the stampede of Jews into the ghetto area. By the end of April the ghetto was closed, and , Jews were pushed into an area of about four square kilometers. Tens of thousands of Jews, including much of the intellectual and economic elite, had already fled the city for Warsaw and points east. The population density in this slum was seven times the pre-war level; there were few homes equipped with modern plumbing, and the area lacked a modern sewage system.
But the ghetto would last much longer than the Germans expected.
Britain refused to surrender, the war dragged on, and the Lodz Jews turned out to be a valuable labor pool. Many Germans greedily exploited the ghetto to line their own pockets and thereby protect themselves from a trip to the Eastern Front. It would be a mistake to see the Lodz ghetto, or indeed any of the hundreds of ghettos that the Nazis created in occupied Eastern Europe, as merely an antechamber to the death camps. In fact, the ghettos in Poland were unprecedented phenomena, neither normal communities nor concentration camps. The ghettos were quite varied, and these differences stemmed from many factors.
What was the nature of local Jewish society before the war? Was the ghetto located in the Generalgouvernement, in the Reich, or in the newly occupied eastern territories? What were the aims of the local German authorities and how much power did they have? Did an economic base and a skilled labor force facilitate the development of workshops and industry? Was the ghetto economy centralized or was there room for "private enterprise"? What room for maneuver did the local Jewish leadership have? How much of the pre-war leadership strata remained?
Did the local Judenrat enjoy the confidence of the ghetto inhabitants, and did it have a leader who could convince the Jews that labor might save them? Was the ghetto "open" or "closed"? How much information came in from the outside, and from other ghettos? Did the ghetto contain a critical mass of elites, writers, intellectuals and activists to organize cultural and political activities? Did it have a core of youth movement activists? How did the ghetto organize and control the critical functions of relief?
Questions, questions. No two ghettos were alike. The Lodz, or Litzmannstadt, ghetto had many unique features. It was the second largest ghetto in Nazioccupied Poland. It was a "work ghetto" where, by , almost all of the Jews were employed in shops, or ressorts , that produced for the Germans.
It was one of the first ghettos that the Nazis established and it was the last ghetto that they liquidated.
And the Lodz ghetto also provides a case study of a key aspect of the unfolding of the Final Solution, how policy toward the Jews was shaped by an interplay of local pressures and decisions made in Berlin. The Lodz ghetto was constantly "in play," its fate always subjected to power struggles that took place in the higher levels of the Nazi hierarchy and in the lower spheres of the Lodz city administration.
Mordecai Haim Rumkowski, the "Elder of the Jews, " was quite aware of these internecine German tensions, and nurtured the hope that they might buy him and the Lodz Jews some precious time. Rumkowski was indeed able to buy time, until August He paid a heavy price. At first the Germans paid little attention to such details as feeding or employing the Jews.
German officials such as Alexander Palfinger, who worked in the city's Food Supply and Economic Office, believed that the more the Jews starved, the faster they would cough up the riches that they had allegedly squirreled away. At any rate, as Palfinger wrote, "the rapid dying out of the Jews is for us a matter of total indifference, if not to say desirable, as long as the concomitant effects leave the public interest of the German people untouched Why starve the Jews when they could work?
Biebow realized that Palfinger greatly overestimated the Jews' loot, especially since the German Criminal Police was diligently robbing Jews of whatever wealth they managed to hide. The Kripo used an elaborate network of Jewish informers and tortured any Jew suspected of hiding valuables. Walter Zirpins supervised the torture chambers and went on to enjoy a distinguished postwar career as a criminologist in West Germany.
Ethnic Germans living in the area were to be relocated to newly available former Jewish residences in the center of the city. By contrast, Poles from the ghetto area were to be rehoused in Polish areas. Horwitz never fully explores the experience of the Polish inhabitants of the city. Horwitz does signal that in the process of making space for ethnic Germans, Poles were rehoused away from the center of the city and utilized as a workforce, but this de-Polonization disappears from the text, which focuses on the Germanization of the city and the expulsion of Jews to an urban ghetto.
This complexity comes across somewhat in the debates over the precise location of the ghetto boundary that was contested by ethnic Germans, Poles, and Jews in February Polish bishops were concerned about the presence of the Church of the Virgin Mary within the ghetto area. Neither opposed ghettoization in principle but the ghetto in practice. Ghettoization put an end to the historical realities of Jews and non-Jews living on the same streets and in the same apartment buildings. On April 30, , the ghetto was sealed. Henceforth, more than , Jews were confined to around 4 square kilometers of the city that lay within the ghetto fence.
Outside of the ghetto a new city was being created. Horwitz's great contribution is in looking beyond the ghetto to the wider city that underwent a policy of Germanization, in part through the renaming of streets and the city itself which became Litzmannstadt on April 11, Germanization also involved the physical remaking of the infrastructure of the city, both below and above ground. Central to this process was Wilhelm Hallbauer who was appointed director of the building department with a mission to modernize the city.
He set about remodeling overcrowded streets and poor sewers into a city deemed fit for future generations of ethnic Germans, who were seen within Nazi thinking as at the pinnacle of a racist worldview. As Horwitz demonstrates, the wartime history of this place is a story of racial urban planning, with very different places created for Jews and Germans.
However, rather than unpacking the precise relationship between the policies of resettling ethnic Germans and segregating and deporting Jews in this place, Horwitz tends to assert their connectedness. He situates the two cities--one the ghetto deemed temporary, the other Litzmannstadt part of the grand designs of the envisioned thousand-year Reich--side by side and highlights their contrasts in a book that tends more to description than explanation.
This is not to downplay his achievement.
Related Ghettostadt: Lodz and the Making of a Nazi City
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