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The Lodz Ghetto - 60 Years Later

A tourist who walks through the district of Baluty and sees a lot of high concrete blocks of flats among green meadows and trees can hardly imagine that a huge ghetto once existed here and what kind of tragedy played here every day. Also the thousands of mostly young families living in these houses do not know and do not care much about this. Sixty years after the liquidation of the last large ghetto in occupied Poland, Ghetto Litzmannstadt, faces its festive commemoration in Lodz in August 2004. This would be probably the last celebration with invited last survivors who are now between 70 and 80 years old. Local authorities with the mayor Mr. Jerzy Kropiwnicki try to present their city as a place of dignity and to explain to Lodz inhabitants what really happened in the past. They attempt to erase anti-Semitic feelings similar to an action of rubbing out anti-Semitic slogans which appeared an walls a couple of years ago. To pay respect to the Jewish victims and not to make any false steps as it was done sometimes before, a special coordinator, Mr. Czeslaw Bielecki, was hired to help to find proper solutions for many arousing problems. Like languages on plaques prepared to unveiled in many places of the city. At the beginning the information was in Polish, Hebrew, English and German. After heavy protests of many Jews, Yiddish should now substitute German.

The Jewish population of Lodz 1939 was about 250 thousands, one third of the city. The ghetto was established in February 1940 on the area of four square kilometers.  About 164 thousands Jews were enclosed there, not only from Lodz, but from all surrounding towns as well as from Germany, Austria and Prague. The president of the Judenrat, Chaim Mordechaj Rumkowski, was a very controversial figure. He cooperated with the Nazis even by making personally deportation lists of thousands Jews. One can speculate about his moral responsibility in deportation of thousands Jewish children, orphans, the elderly and the sick persons. He had an idea that the cooperation helped to survive at least some of the adult Ghetto inhabitants. As a fact, the Lodz ghetto belonged to last ones and was liquidated 1944 as the Soviet Army already crossed Polish borders.

The Soviet Army came into a distance of 120 km away from Lodz but decided not to move further for some strategic reasons. The last transport left ghetto on August 29th. It counted 76,701 Jews. Chaim Rumkowski and his entire family were also among them, traveling however in a luxurious wagon offered by the Nazis. They all were sent to Auschwitz. When German soldiers finally left Lodz in January 1945, in the ghetto were 830 Jews who worked in a sanitary pertaining brigade. Actually over 10 thousands people survived the martyr. As there was not enough time, the majority of buildings survived but fell to ruin and devastation quite soon as there was no owners and nobody who paid attention to them. A lot of personal remembering which also were found, are now exhibited in the Yad Vashem museum.

The Lodz ghetto belonged to those of best documented ones. Almost all deportations lists survived, a lot of photographs (a big collection of them were recently found in a Viennese antique shop and a famous movie was made out of this story).

Today 350 persons are registered in a Jewish Community of Lodz. There is a synagogue in 28, Rewoulcji 1905 Street (second courtyard) and a huge Jewish cemetery, the biggest ever still functioning. It stays under protection and administration of the Lauder Foundation, like many other remained Jewish relicts in nowadays Poland.

Read about this topic on my recommended books page.

cover

Book of the Month

The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, 1941-1944

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto

 

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