by Evan Sembell, Eric Yakle, and Owen Hamelin
Jews faced many hardships during the Holocaust, but the two most difficult things that they encountered were the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps.
Global Effect: Jewish Ghettos (OH)
Introduction: German advancement into Poland in September of 1939 was the started the rounding up of Jews. German soldiers took Jews from small town and villages and placed them in big cities with a dense population of Jews1. Jewish councils were later formed to carry out German rules2. The Jews were housed in the poorest of neighborhood then sealed off from the outside world this was now known as the ghetto3. Factories had been raided and positions were filled by Jews to help keep up the high demand of the war effort and the German economy4. This allowed the German army to produce goods without adding them the extra manufacturing cost. In these ghettos the Jews were deprived of their property to make the Jews feel less powerful and to dehumanize them5. The Germans succeeded in sealing the Jews off from the rest of the world, by doing this it made it so that interaction between them and the rest of the world would cease to happen. The ghettos were also used to round up all the Jews making it easier to ship them off to the many different concentration camps.
Everyday Ghetto Life: Everyday ghetto life consisted of harsh and inhumane treatment. Of the harshest was the poor food rations given to the Jews. They were limited to very small rations that were not sufficient enough to allow a person to survive. One man named Abraham LeWent once said, “The hunger in the ghetto was so great, so bad, that people were laying in the streets and dying…” After the ghettos were formed, smuggling became a way of life. Even with the punishment for smuggling was death, it was either a bullet to the head or the long suffering of starvation. The rations given to the Jews was only 10 percent of what was needed on a daily basis. Even with the punishment for smuggling it never stopped, not even for a moment. The Jewish police regulated and enforced German laws placed to prevent uprisings. Many Jews were forced to work in factories to produce goods for the German war effort. All of this work done by the jews was for little to no money at all. Many times two or three families would share a living space making living conditions cramped and unbearable. A ten foot wall surrounded the ghetto so that nothing could get in or out, that way the Jews had been totally cut off from the outside world.
Local Effect: Warsaw Ghetto (EY)
A city with a population of 1.3 million, the city of Warsaw was the capital of the newly resurrected Polish state in 1919.6 With a population of 350,000 Jews, 30% of the entire population, Warsaw’s Jewish community was the second largest in the world, trailing only to only New York city.7 Shortly after the German invasion on September 1, 1939, the first anti-jewish decrees were issued.8,9 All jews were from then on required to wear an armband with a blue Star of David on it.10 Along with the requirement for them to wear an armband, economic measures were put into place which caused most Warsaw Jews to become unemployed.11 On October 12, 1940, the establishment of a Jewish ghetto was announced in Warsaw that required all Jewish residents of the city to move into a designated area which was sealed off from the rest of the city.12 On November 16 all the Jews were forced inside the ghetto, where 30% of Warsaw's population crammed into an area 2.4% of the city's surface area.13 Masses of Jewish Refugees brought the ghettos population to almost a half a million residents at one time.14 The ghetto was surrounded by walls built with the hands of the residents and closely guarded by Nazi soldiers.15 With the close guard of the soldiers and the walls that surrounded the ghetto the Warsaw Jews had effectively been cut off from the rest of the world causing many problems such as overpopulation, disease, starvation, bad living conditions, and exposure to mother nature.16,17 There were usually between 6 and 8 residents per room and daily calorie intake was only one tenth of the recommended daily consumption.18 Between 1940 and mid-1942, 83,000 Jews had died of starvation and disease in the ghetto.19 Those individuals that participated in illegal activities such as the smuggling of food and other medicines were generally able to live longer in the Warsaw ghetto.20 Although life seemed desolate and quit from the outside of the ghetto, there was still an underground library, underground archive, youth movements, and even a symphony orchestra which allowed for an escape from the harsh reality of their surroundings.21 In January of 1943, SS and police units went to the Warsaw ghetto with the intentions of deporting the remaining jews to a nearby forced-labor camp.22 Believing that the SS and police were taking them to the Treblinka killing camp, the jews decided to resist deportation and took small arms action against the Nazi’s.23 After capturing only 5,000 Jews the SS and police halted the operation and withdrew from the ghetto temporarily.24 In April of 1943 a new group of SS and police returned to the Warsaw ghetto intending to deport the remaining inhabitants to the forced labor camps in the Lublin district.25 Once again the ghetto inhabitants offered organized small arms resistance and managed to hold off the Nazi’s for four weeks until the Germans finally ended the operation on May 16.26 Following the liquidation of the Jews from the ghetto a few individual persons continued hiding in the ghetto until the liberation of Warsaw from Nazi control by the Soviets on January 17, 1945.27 Of the original 1.3 million, only 174,00 people left in the city after the liberation, and of the original 350,000 Jews, only 11,500 were left and had survived.28