Holocaust Period

The outbreak of the war (Sept. 1, 1939) and the invasion of Poland by German troops were marked by immediate heavy loss of civilian (especially Jewish) life and material damage. Military operations caused the death of 20,000 Jews, while bombing destroyed some 50,000 Jewish-owned houses, factories, workshops, and stores in about 120 Jewish communities, in some of which 90-95% of the houses went up in flames. In Warsaw alone, in the first month of the war, 30% of the Jewish buildings were destroyed when entire Jewish neighborhoods burned down. A tremendous stream of refugees sought shelter in the large cities, particularly in Warsaw. Subsequently, tens of thousands of Jewish enterprises not destroyed in the bombing were now lost in liquidation measures, bringing the total amount of Jewish property and business concerns lost or destroyed to an estimated 100,000. Jewish losses on the battlefield totaled 32,216 dead (officers and enlisted men) and another 61,000 taken prisoner, the majority of whom died in captivity.

Military operations were still going on when the German army and SD Einsatzkommandos undertook a campaign of bloody repression. They usually arrested a group of Jews or Poles, who were kept as hostages and eventually shot. Sometimes mock executions were staged, in which the victims stood for hours in suspense anticipating execution. Pious Jews had their beards removed by blunt instruments, which tore their skin, or had their beards burned off. Swastikas were branded on the scalps of some victims; others were subjected to "gymnastics," such as "riding" on other victims' backs, crawling on all fours, singing and dancing, or staging fights with one another. The Nazis took a special sadistic pleasure in violating religious feelings, deliberately choosing Jewish religious holidays on which to carry out their assaults.

They instituted a special campaign of burning down synagogues, or, after destroying their interiors, turned them into stables, warehouses, bathhouses, or even public latrines. At Będzin the synagogue at the old market place was set on fire on Sept. 9, 1939. The flames spread to the neighboring Jewish houses, and as the area was cordoned off by soldiers and SS-men who did not permit anyone to escape or to fight the fire, 56 houses were burned down, and several hundred persons were burned to death. In some places, e.g., Wloclawek and Brzeziny, the president or rabbi of the community was forced to sign a "confession" that the Jews themselves started the fire and to pay heavy fines as punishment for the "arson." The tenants of the houses burned down were brought before a military court. Any Jew who tried to enter a burning synagogue in order to save the Torah scrolls was either shot or thrown into the flames. In many places the military staged autos-da-fé of Torah scrolls, Hebrew books, and other religious articles, and forced the Jews to sing and dance around the flames and shout that the Jews were to blame for the war. The Jewish communities were also compelled to bear the cost of tearing down the remaining walls of the houses and clearing the rubble. It is estimated that several hundred synagogues were destroyed in the first two months of the occupation.

At the same time, mass arrests of Jews were carried out in which thousands of men, women, and children were interned in "civilian prison camps" set up in synagogues, churches, movie houses, and the like, or put behind barbed-wire fences on open lots and exposed to the soldiers' cruelty and torture. Afterward the prisoners were sent on foot to larger centers (such as Wegrow, Lomza, Sieradz, Tomaszow Mazowiecki), where some were set free and others put on forced labor or deported to Germany. In the latter instance their transport to Germany was used for propaganda purposes, as in the case of groups of Jews from Kalisz and Wieruszow who were borne around German towns in trucks bearing the inscription: "These are the Jewish swine who shot at German soldiers."

Precise instructions issued by the High Command of the Wehrmacht on July 24, 1939, for the internment of civilian prisoners provided for the arrest of Jews and Poles of military age at the outset of the invasion. In practice, however, a wild huntdown of Jews was made, without regard to age. In the campaign of terror that followed, hundreds of civilians, Poles, and Jews (in Czestochowa, Przemysl, Bydgoszcz, and Dynow) were slaughtered outright or imprisoned in buildings which were sealed and then set on fire or blown up, the imprisoned dying a horrible death (in Dynow, Lipsk-Kielecki, Mszczonow). No precise figures are available on the number of victims in this period of terror. In the rampage of persecution throughout Poland, people were taken off the streets or dragged from their homes and put on forced labor. They were tortured and beaten, and deprived of their human dignity when forced to perform such acts as cleaning latrines with their bare hands or, in the case of women, washing the floor with their own underwear. Normal life was paralyzed by the arbitrary arrests for forced labor even at a later stage, when forced labor was "regulated" and the still-existing communities or the Judenräte had to provide labor contingents on the basis of an understanding reached with the various German offices or commands.

The systematic robbery of Jewish property involved the closing of all the Jewish shops in many towns, or enforced sale of the wares at nominal prices or against worthless receipts. To facilitate the identification of Jewish property, the chief of the civilian administration attached to the army, Hans Frank, issued an order (Sept, 8, 1939) for all Jewish stores to display a Star of David or other appropriate inscriptions on their stores by the following day. Practically all Jewish communities were also forced to make large "contributions" of money, gold, silver, and jewelry. In many towns compulsory contributions were paid several times over. Large sums were extorted from wealthy individuals under threat of imprisonment. Whenever a Nazi "visit" to the offices of the communities took place, all the money in their safes was confiscated, e.g., in Warsaw on Oct. 5, 1939, when 100,000 zlotys ($20,000) were taken in this manner. "Legal" forms of robbery were also instituted. The civilian administrators attached to the occupation forces issued orders restricting the sums Jews could hold in their bank accounts, while the accounts themselves were blocked. Restrictions were also placed on the amount of cash a Jew could keep in his home. Jewish-owned property was frozen, Jews were prohibited from engaging in the textile and leather business, and their inventories were registered with the Nazi authorities. Any infringement entailed heavy punishment, including death.

Two decrees by Hitler (Oct. 8 and 12, 1939) provided for the division of the occupied areas of Poland into the following administrative units:
  1. Reichsgau Wartheland, which included the entire Poznan province, most of the Lodz province, five Pomeranian districts, and one county of the Warsaw province;
  2. the remaining area of Pomerania, which was incorporated into the Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen;
  3. Regierungsbezirk Zichenau (administrative district of Ciechanow) consisting of the five northern counties of Warsaw province (Plock, Plonsk, Sterpe, Ciechanow, Mlawa), which became a part of East Prussia;
  4. Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz (administrative district of Katowice) – or unofficially Ost-Oberschlesien (East Upper Silesia) – which included Sosnowiec, Bę, Chryzanow, and Zawiercie counties and parts of Olkusz and Zywiec counties: the General Government of Poland, which included the central Polish provinces and was subdivided into four districts, Warsaw, Lublin, Radom, and Cracow.

The areas listed under 1. – 4. were incorporated into the Reich. After the outbreak of the Soviet-German War, the Polish territories previously occupied by the Russians were organized as follows:
  1. Bezirk Bialystok (district of Bialystok), which included the Bialystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Lomza, Sokolka, Volkovysk, and Grodno counties and was "attached" (not incorporated) to East Prussia;
  2. Bezirke Litauen und Weissrussland – the Polish part of White Russia (today western Belorussia), including the Vilna province, which was incorporated into the Reichskommissariat Ostland;
  3. Bezirk Wolhynien-Podolien – the Polish province of Volhynia, which was incorporated into the Reichskommissariat Ukraine; and
  4. East Galicia, which was incorporated into the General-Government and became its fifth district.

The Jewish population of this entire area was 3,351,000, of whom 2,042,000 came under Nazi rule and 1,309,000 under Soviet occupation in September 1939. The ultimate fate of the Jewish population under Nazi rule was the same in all the areas, though the various administrative areas differed in the degree and pace of persecution, depending on local leadership (a Nazi principle of administration).

Reichsgau Wartheland

The area was subdivided into three Regierungsbezirke ("administrative districts") – Poznan, Inowroclaw, and Lodz. On Sept. 1, 1939, it had 390,000 Jews (including 4,500 in Poznan, 54,090 in Inowroclaw, and 326,000 in the Lodz district – 233,000 in the city of Lodz). Like all Polish areas incorporated into the Reich, Wartheland was from the beginning designated to become "judenrein" (Heydrich's "Schnellbrief" of Sept. 21, 1939). In a secret order to the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – Reich Security Main Office) and the high SS and police officials, issued on Oct. 30, 1939, Himmler fixed the period of November 1939-February 1940 for clearing the incorporated areas of their entire Jewish population and the majority of their Polish population as well. A similar decree was issued on Nov. 4, 1939, by Wartheland's Gauleiter Arthur Greiser.

Arrangements were made for the transfer of 100,000 Jews from its territory during this period. In fact, more than 50 Jewish communities were deported wholly or in part to the Lublin district between the fall of 1939 and May 1940; the larger communities among those deported were Poznan, Kalisz, Ciechocinek, Gniezno, Inowroclaw, Nieszawa, and Konin. In some towns the deportation was carried out in stages, with a small number of Jews remaining, engaged in work for the Nazi authorities. In some instances, the regime of terror drove the Jews to desperation, so that they chose "voluntary" exile. This happened in Lipno and in Kalisz, where many Jews, unable to withstand the persecution, fled from the city in October and November 1939. In Lodz, over ten thousand Jews, including most of the Jewish intelligentsia, were deported in December 1939. For weeks the deportees were kept at assembly points, and had to supply their own means of subsistence, though they had been deprived of all their valuables. Large assembly points were located at Kalisz, Sieradz, and Lodz. There, the Selektion ("selection") took place in which able-bodied men, aged 14 and over, were sent to labor camps which had been established in the meantime, while women, children, and old men were deported in sealed freight cars to the Lublin and Kielce areas. This occurred in the severe winter of 1939-1940, and upon arrival at their destination, some of the deportees were dead, others nearly frozen, or otherwise seriously ill. The survivors were bereft of clothing, food, and money. A few found refuge with relatives or friends, but most of them had to find places in the crowded synagogues and poorhouses. For the Jewish communities of the Lublin and Radom districts, the influx of deportees was a very heavy burden. Most of the deportees perished before mass deportation began.


At this time, a second campaign was launched to concentrate the Jewish population in ghettos. The first ghetto in Wartheland was established at Lodz, on orders given by Polizeipräsident (Chief of Police) Johannes Schäfer (Feb. 8, 1940). By the latter half of 1940, all the Jewish communities that had survived the mass deportations were sealed off in ghettos. Lodz ghetto had a population of 162,000 on the day of its establishment (May 1, 1940). The large ghettos in Wartheland included Pabianice (with about 8,500 persons), Kutno (7,000), Belchatow (5,500), Ozorkow (4,700), Zelow (4,500), Zdunska Wola (10,000), Wloclawek (where 4,000 were left after the deportations), and Wielun (4,000). Lodz became a central ghetto (Gaughetto) for the entire province, absorbing Jews sent from ghettos that were liquidated or reduced in size, as well as from the Reich, Vienna, and Prague. Between Sept. 26 and Oct. 9, 1941, 3,082 Jews from Wloclawek and the vicinity arrived at Lodz Ghetto, and between Oct. 17 and Nov. 4, 1941, approximately 20,000 arrived from Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Frankfort, Hamburg, Cologne, Emden, Düsseldorf, and Luxembourg. From May to August 1942, 14,440 "selected" Jews from liquidated ghettos arrived at Lodz.

From the end of 1942 until its liquidation in August 1944, Lodz was the only remaining ghetto in Wartheland. Its comparatively long existence was due to the fact that it became one of the largest industrial plants working for the Wehrmacht or private contractors. In August 1943, some 76,000 workers (about 85% of the entire ghetto population) were employed in 117 warehouses. According to the Nazi Ghettoverwaltung ("ghetto administration"), the total wages and production in 1942 reached a value of 27,862,200 RM ($5,572,440). Large tailor shops also existed at Pabianice, Belchatow, Ozorkow, and other ghettos in the Lodz district. Lodz Ghetto bore the imprint of its Judenältester ("Jewish elder") Mordechai Rumkowski, who at an early stage imposed his rule over the ghetto. The ghetto was administered by division of the population into various socio-economic groups, each with a different status, in accordance with their status in the ghetto hierarchy or their usefulness for the war industry. In those areas of ghetto life in which the Nazis allowed the Jews autonomy, Rumkowski held absolute power.

Physical Annihilation

Partial liquidation actions affecting certain categories of Jews, such as the sick and the old, began in Wartheland as early as the fall of 1940 (in Kalisz). In September or October 1941, experiments in the murder of Jews were carried out in Konin county, where Jews were forced into ditches and covered over with wet quicklime. On Dec. 8, 1941, the murder camp at Chelmno began operation. On Jan. 2, 1942, Greiser's Erlass, die Entjudung des Warthelands betreffend ("Decree on Clearing all Jews from the Wartheland") was issued. In December 1941, the remaining Jews from Kolo and Dabie were deported to Chelmno, followed in January 1942 by the inmates of the ghettos of Izbica Kujawska and other places. From Jan. 16 until mid-May 1942, numerous transports of Jews were dispatched from Lodz Ghetto to Chelmno. By May some 55,000 were murdered there. Between March and September 1942, all the remaining ghettos, with the exception of Lodz, were evacuated. Lodz ghetto was the scene of a bloody "action" against children under ten years of age, the old, and the sick, resulting in the murder of 16,500 persons.

In mid-1943, Himmler and Albert Speer (Reich Minister for Armament and War Production) entered a long-drawn-out contest over the disposition of Lodz Ghetto. Himmler sought to incorporate the ghetto industries into the SS camp combine in the Lublin district, while Speer tried to retain a monopoly over this important industrial center. Their rivalry prolonged the existence of Lodz Ghetto until the summer of 1944, by which time Germany's strategic situation had deteriorated to such an extent that the evacuation of Poland was imminent. In August 1944, Lodz, the only ghetto still left in Europe, was liquidated and all its inmates, some 68,500 Jews, were deported to Auschwitz.

Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen

This area, with a total Jewish population of 23,000, had few and small Jewish communities; e.g., Danzig, Torun, and Bydgoszcz. The province became "judenrein" at a comparatively early stage. The Jews and Poles were exposed to a campaign of terror from the very beginning, which resulted in the massacre of part of the Jewish inhabitants. Others fled from the area, and the rest were deported to the General Government. The last transport of Jews (some 2,000 persons) from Danzig and Bydogszcz, including the surviving Jews of Königsberg, arrived at the Warsaw Ghetto on March 10, 1941.

Regierungsbezirk Zichenau (Ciechanow)

According to the 1931 census, there was a Jewish population of 80,000 in the area of this newly-created administrative district. In the first weeks of the occupation, a large number of Jews from the towns near the German-Soviet demarcation line, e.g., Ostrow Mazowiecka, Przasnysz, Ostroleka, and Pultusk, were forced to cross over to the Soviet zone. Their expulsion was accompanied by acts of terror, such as forcing the Jews to cross the Bug or the Narew rivers and opening fire on them, so that some people drowned or were shot to death. This group shared the fate of all the other Polish refugees in the Soviet Union. At the end of February 1941, about 10,000 Jews from Plock and Plock county were driven out, first passing through the Dzialdowo transit camp, where they were tortured and robbed, and from there to various towns in the Radom district, where within a year most of them died of starvation and disease. In Ciechanow, Mlawa, Plonsk, Strzegowo, and Sierpc, the Jews were segregated into ghettos, along with the few Jews left in towns whose Jewish populations had largely been expelled to the Soviet Union in the fall of 1939. These ghettos situated in the administrative area of East Prussia, ruled by the notorious Erich Koch, endured particularly harsh and bloodthirsty treatment, and the murder of members of the Judenrat and ghetto police was a frequent occurrence. In the fall of 1942 the ghettos were liquidated and the Jews dispatched to Treblinka.

Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz (East Upper Silesia)

According to statistics published by the "Central Office of the Councils of Elders of the Jewish Communities in East Upper Silesia," comprising 32 communities, a Jewish population of 93,628 existed in these communities in March 1941. The largest among these were Bę (25,171), Sosnowiec (24,149), Chrzanow (8,229), Zawiercie (5,472), Dąbrowa Górnicza (5,564), and Oswiecim (6,454). Jews played an important role in the life of this highly industrialized region (in mining, metallurgy, and textiles), and were heavily hit by the early-instituted "Aryanization" process.

A special office, the Dienststelle des Sonderbeauftragten der R. R. S. S. und Chefs der deutschen Polizei für fremdvölkischen Einsatz in Oberschlesien, headed by Gen. Albrecht Schmelt (and commonly referred to as the Schmelt Organization), was in charge of sending the comparatively large number of skilled Jewish workers to German firms in Silesia and the Reich. No German firm was permitted to employ Jewish workers without the consent of the Schmelt Organization, and the latter maintained complete control over the Jewish "work effort." The German firms paid the Jewish workers at the normal rate (in this the Katowice (Kattowitz) area differed from the other occupied areas), but the workers received only a part of their wages and the firms had to submit the remainder to the Dienststelle. In 1942 the Schmelt Organization controlled 50,570 Jewish workers. When the evacuation of Jews from East Upper Silesia took place (starting May-June 1942), the Jewish workers were deported to Auschwitz, which was the major concentration camp as well as the largest industrial combine in Silesia.

The chairman of the Central Office of the Councils of Elders in Sosnowiec, Moshe Merin, exercised a decisive influence on the internal affairs of the Jewish communities and had considerable authority over the Judenräte (the Jewish councils). The formal ghettoization of East Upper Silesia did not take place until a comparatively late date. In Bę and Sosnowiec, for example, a closed ghetto was not established until May 1943, but it was liquidated by August 1943. These ghettos also absorbed the Jews left over from previous Aussiedlungen ("evacuation actions"). Merin was a consistent protagonist of the strategy of "rescuing" Jews by voluntarily providing the Nazi Moloch with contingents of victims to give others the chance of survival. He carried out this policy to its extreme, lending his own active cooperation, as well as that of the ghetto police, to the Aussiedlungsaktionen.

General Government

Originally, the General Government consisted of four districts, Warsaw, Lublin, Radom, and Cracow. When the district of Galicia was added, the Jewish population reached 2,110,000. The transfer of the administration from military to civilian authorities, which took place at the end of October 1939, did not alleviate the harsh conditions, for the uncontrolled terror of the first period was then replaced by "legally" imposed restrictions and persecution. The first proclamation, issued by General Governor Hans Frank on Oct. 26, 1939, stated that "there will be no room in the General Government for Jewish exploiters," and from the very first day of his rule, Frank inundated the Jewish population with a flood of anti-Jewish measures. The personal rights of Jews were severely curtailed in all spheres of private and social life. Jews were deprived of freedom of movement, the right to dispose of their property, exercise their professions, and benefit from their labor. They were denied social and medical insurance benefits (which the anti-Semitic regime in Poland had granted them), religious observance (ritual slaughter and public worship), and a normal school education for their children. Finally, they lost the right to dispose of their own persons. Jews could no longer associate freely and Jewish societies, institutions, and organizations were disbanded and their property confiscated. The Judenrat a quasi-representative body of the Jews, was established in their place by the Nazi authorities.

Warsaw District

This district was divided into ten counties, Warsaw, Garwolin, Grojec, Lowicz, Skierniewice, Sochaczew, Blonie, Ostrow Mazowiecki, Minsk Mazowiecki, Siedlce, and Sokolow Podlaski. In the first half of 1940 the total Jewish population of this district was 600,000, of whom 400,000 lived in Warsaw. Its Jews were concentrated into ghettos in the western counties in 1940, and in the eastern counties in the fall of 1941. The Warsaw Ghetto was established on Nov. 15, 1940. The ghettos in the western part were of short duration. From the end of January to the beginning of April 1942, 72,000 Jews from this area were brought into the Warsaw Ghetto, where they lacked even the most rudimentary means for existence. With their arrival, the total number of refugees in the ghetto rose to 150,000, but the population was being constantly decimated by starvation and disease.

In the fall of 1941, the Jews in each of the eastern counties were concentrated into between five and seven ghettos. This step was in fact in preparation for Aussiedlungsaktionen which began with the Warsaw Ghetto on July 22, 1942, and continued until Oct. 4-6, 1942. In the General Government these actions, under the code name of "Einsatz Reinhard," were always carried out by special commando units, headed by the SS and police chief of the Lublin district, Odilo Globocnik. A decree issued by Frank on June 3, 1942, transferred the civilian authority's jurisdiction over the Jewish population in the General Government to Wilhelm Krüger, its chief of SS and police.

On the eve of its destruction, the Warsaw Ghetto contained 450,000 Jews, of whom approximately 300,000 were deported to Treblinka by Sept. 21, 1942. Officially, 35,639 Jews remained in Warsaw as workers in German factories, employees of the Judenrat, or policemen. In fact, some 60,000 were left, including those in hiding. It is to be noted that Himmler's order to Krüger of July 19, 1942, formally fixed the date of Dec. 31, 1942, as the final date for "cleansing" the General Government of the Jews. Between July 19 and 24, 1942, the Jews of Otwock, Minsk Mazowiecki, and Siedlce were deported. Between September 22 and 27, most of the ghettos in the Sokolow Podlaski, Wegrow, and Minsk Mazowiecki counties were liquidated, followed, in the last days of October, by the remaining ghettos in the Warsaw district. Small groups of Jews tried to hide out on the "Aryan" side or in the countryside. In order to lull the intended victims into a false sense of security, Krüger issued a decree (Oct. 28, 1942) when the annihilation of the Jewish population in the district had been almost completed, providing for "residential quarters" in Warsaw and Siedlce. His aim was to influence the Jews in hiding to believe that these "newly established ghettos" which had already passed through a partial liquidation would now be a safe haven for the survivors. In this he was largely successful. The intolerable conditions in which the Jews found themselves, hiding out in the forests amid a hostile population, induced them to seek out and settle in the new "residential quarters." Only a short while later they were deported. The "new" Siedlce Ghetto, for example, did not last a month, and by November 25, Siedlce was judenrein. In November, too, the liquidation of most of the Jewish labor camps was begun and after "selections" the workers were deported to the Warsaw Ghetto. In the course of the Aktion on Jan. 18-19. 1943, the SS men met with armed resistance from the Jewish Fighting Organization and were forced to cease action for the time being. The Warsaw Ghetto, according to Himmler's decree (Feb. 16, 1943), was to be liquidated at the earliest possible date, and the workers and machinery were to be transferred to the Lublin SS camps.

Lublin District

The ten counties in the Lublin district – Lublin, Biala Podlaska, Bilgoraj, Chelm, Hrubieszow, Janow Lubelski, Krasnystaw, Pulawy, Radzyn, and Zamosc – had a Jewish population of 250,000 in March-April 1941, including 55,000 refugees and deportees. In the beginning, the eastern part of the Lublin district was regarded as a "Jewish reservation" and Jews from parts of Poland that had been incorporated into the Reich, as well as from the Reich itself, from the Czech Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, and from Austria were deported there on a systematic basis. Jozefow, lzbica Lubelska, Krasnystaw, and Zamosc were some of the towns which served as concentration points for these deportees. The local population was also displaced, generally in order to make room for the new arrivals. Even after this plan for the "Jewish reservation" had been given up, tens of thousands of Jews deported from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria continued to stream into the district, to be "evacuated" to the Belzec death camp, whose murder installations began functioning in March 1942.

The Nazi ideologists also regarded Lublin as a reservoir of "World Jewry," which presumably maintained secret links with Jewish communities everywhere. As a result, the Lublin district was turned into an experimental station for various Nazi schemes for the annihilation of Polish Jewry. It was the headquarters of "Einsatz Reinhard" from where its "action groups" began their destructive march through the General Government. The first ghetto in the district was set up in the city of Lublin in April 1941. Since the area designated for the ghetto was too small to hold the approximately 45,000 Jews who were in Lublin at the time, the Nazi authorities forced over 10,000 to leave the city "voluntarily" and move to other towns in the district. The restricted area of the ghetto and its dense population caused epidemics and a high rate of mortality. In November and December 1941 there were 1,227 cases of typhus and the mortality rate that year was three times that of a year before the war (40.8 per 1,000).

In the second half of 1940, about 50 forced labor camps for Jews were established in the Lublin district for local Jews and Jews from other districts. In the winter of 1940-41, there were over 12,000 Jews in these camps. Many succumbed to the intolerable living and working conditions – starvation; wretched accommodation (usually in decrepit old barracks, stables, and barns); lack of hygiene; strenuous work (regulating rivers, draining swamps, and digging canals); and inhuman treatment by the camp commanders. In Osowa camp, 47 inmates were shot in July 1941 after two or three of them had contracted typhus. The Judenräte in ghettos from which the workers had come organized aid for them. The Warsaw Judenrat, for example, spent 520,000 zlotys ($104,000) in aid to the camps in 1940, and the Lublin Judenrat, 150,000 zlotys ($30,000). The "evacuation" campaign in this district preceded those in other parts of the General Government. In the period from March 17 to April 20, 1942, 30,000 Jews from Lublin Ghetto were deported to Belzec and murdered there, while 4,000 others were deported to the Majdan Tatarski Ghetto close to Lublin, which existed until Nov. 9, 1942. In the same period, 3,400 Jews from Piaski and 2,200 from Izbica were dispatched to Belzec, preceded by about 17,000 Jews from Pulawy county (May 6-12). The ghettos which had thus been made judenrein became temporary collection points for Jews deported from the Reich, the Protectorate, and Vienna, and after a short stay there they were sent on to Belzec to be murdered.

Krüger's decree of Oct. 28, 1942, set up eight ghettos in the Lublin district, and like the ghettos in the Warsaw district, their existence was of short duration. By Dec. 1, 1942, five ghettos were left (Piaski, Wlodawa, Izbica, Lukow Lubelski, and Miedzyrzec Podlaski) and the last of these was liquidated in July 1943. The Jewish workers remained in the concentration and labor camps until November 1943. On Nov. 3-7, 1943, 18,000 Jews were murdered in Maidanek concentration camp, over 13,000 in the Poniatowa camp and approximately 10,000 in the Trawniki camp, to which several thousands of Jews had been deported from Warsaw after the ghetto revolt in April 1943.

Cracow District

The Cracow district, consisting of 12 counties (Cracow, Debica, Jaroslaw, Jaslo, Krosno, Miechow, Nowy Sacz, Nowy Targ, Przemysl, Sanok, and Tarnow), had a prewar Jewish population of over 250,000. By May 1941 this number dwindled to 200,000, in spite of the additional influx of 20,000 refugees and deportees from the incorporated areas, including Silesia, Lodz, and Kalisz, in the fall of 1939 and spring of 1940. The expulsion of Jews from the Cracow district, where the General Government capital was situated, was accelerated. In the first few months, Jews living in the border towns along the San River were expelled to the Soviet zone. From the spring of 1940 to November 1941, Jews living in the spas and summer resorts in Nowy Sacz and Nowy Targ counties were expelled, and from May 1940 to April 1941, 55,000 Jews left Cracow voluntarily or were driven out. The Jewish population thus became concentrated in an ever-decreasing number of places – in Cracow county, in seven townships and ten villages, in Nowy Sacz in five places, and in the Nowy Targ county in seven.

The first ghetto was established in March 1941 in the Podgorze quarter of Cracow. A wall sealed it off from the rest of the city and the gates of the wall had the form of tombstones. The first "evacuations" took place in Cracow Ghetto, which underwent three such actions, on May 30-31, October 28, 1942, and March 13-14, 1943. In the final evacuation, 2,000 Jews were murdered on the spot, about 2,000 were deported to Auschwitz, and approximately 6,000 were sent to the nearby camp in Plaszow, located on the site of two Jewish cemeteries. The first Aktion in Tarnow took place on June 11-13, 1942, involving 11,000 Jews. The Jews of Przemysl county were murdered on July 27-August 3 (after 10,000 Jews from the county had been concentrated in the city). At the beginning of August, the Jews from Jaroslaw were deported to Belzec, followed at the end of that month by deportation of the Jews from Cracow county, where at an earlier date the Jews from the ghettos in Bochnia, Wieliczka, and Skawina had been concentrated. In September 1942 approximately 11,000 Jews from Sanok county (earlier concentrated at a camp at Izyaslav (Zaslav) were deported to Belzec or shot in the surrounding forests. That month the ghettos in Tarnow county were finally liquidated.

Krüger's decree of Oct. 28, 1942, setting up six ghettos in the Cracow district (Cracow, Bochnia, Tarnow, Rzeszow, Debica, and Przemysl), was immediately followed by murder "actions" there. From June to November 1942, a total of over 100,000 Jews were murdered, and by Jan. 1, 1943, according to official figures, 37,000 destitute Jews were left in "residual ghettos" and a number of camps. There were over 20 labor camps in the Cracow district, the largest at Mielec (with 3,000 Jewish inmates on the day of its liquidation, Aug. 24, 1944) – and others in Pustkow (1,500), Rozwadow (1,200), Szebnie (2,000-2,500), and in Plaszow with two branches in Prokocim and Biezanow. Plaszow, a collection point for the Jews who survived the liquidation of ghettos and camps in the entire district, had 20,000 imprisoned there in the fall of 1943. In March 1944, large transports were sent from Plaszow to Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenburg, and Mauthausen, while the 567 Jews left were liquidated in January 1945 together with the rest of the Jewish survivors from the Cracow district.

Radom District

The newly created Radom district, comprising the larger part of the Kielce province and parts of the Lodz and Warsaw provinces, had a Jewish population of about 360,000 on Sept. 1, 1939. In this district too the evacuation of the Jews proceeded at a rapid pace. First of all, the district had been heavily bombarded, and there were cities and towns in which up to 80% of the Jewish population had lost their homes and sought refuge elsewhere. Secondly, the deportations from the incorporated areas, the Protectorate (an undetermined number from Prague), and Vienna brought into the district large numbers of homeless Jews – 4,000 from Wartheland, about 10,000 from the Plock county, and 4,000 from Vienna. In 1941, the total number of refugees and deportees reached 70-75,000 (over 20% of the local Jewish population). In 1940-41, a kind of internal expulsion process went on in the district, e.g., in December 1940, when 2,000 Jews were expelled from Radom, and in October 1941, when several thousand were driven out from Tomaszow Mazowiecki.

The ghettos in this district were created at an earlier stage than in other parts of the General Government – in Piotrkow at the end of October 1939, and in Radomsko at the end of December that year. Ghettos were set up in March-April 1941 in the three large cities of the Radom district – in Radom (which in January 1941 had 28,000 Jews), Czestochowa (36,000), and Kielce (20,000). At the end of 1940 the ghetto of Tomaszow Mazowiecki was established (this town had 16,500 Jews in June 1940), divided into three different sections (the Radom Ghetto also consisted of two sections in two different quarters of the city). Many places were in ruins, causing severe overcrowding in the ghettos, and in some of the smaller ghettos there were as many as 12-30 persons to a room. In order to prepare for the Aussiedlungen the Nazis concentrated the Jews in a few ghettos. In the first stage, the Jews who were still living in villages were expelled to the neighboring towns. In the second stage, the Jewish population from the smaller towns was concentrated in the large ghettos, and each of the ten counties had several concentration points assigned to it. At the end of this stage, over 20,000 Jews were living in a few large, heavily guarded ghettos.

The first deportation, to Treblinka, took place on Aug. 5, 1942, in Radom. The Kielce Ghetto inhabitants were deported on August 20-24, and the Czestochowa Ghetto inhabitants, between Sept. 2 and Oct. 5, 1942. By Nov. 7, 1942, most of the Jews had been deported to Treblinka. On Jan. 1, 1943, according to a German source, there were only 29,400 Jews left in the four ghettos ("residential districts") in Radomsko, Sandomierz, Szydlowiec, and Ujazd, provided for in Krüger's second decree (Nov. 10, 1942). These ghettos came to an end in January 1943. Only the Jewish slave laborers in the labor camps were left, mainly near the industrial concerns of Radom, Kielce, Czestochowa, Ostrowiec-Swietokrzyski, Skarzysko-Kamienna, Blizyn, Piotrkow, Tomaszow Mazowiecki, and other towns. These were in fact concentration camps run by the district SS and police chiefs, to whom the German factory owners directly paid the fees for exploitation of Jewish manpower (as was the case in the other districts also). Some of these camps went through a series of transfers and "selections," but continued to exist until the second half of 1944. The German Hasag factories in Czestochowa were still functioning as late as January 1945.

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Einsatzkommando Einsatzgruppe: Battalion-sized, mobile killing units of the Security Police and SS Security Service that followed the German armies into the Soviet Union in June 1941. These units were supported by units of the uniformed German Order Police and auxiliaries of volunteers (Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian). Their victims, primarily Jews, were executed by shooting and were buried in mass graves from which they were later exhumed and burned. At least a million Jews were killed in this manner. There were four Einsatzgruppen (A, B, C, D) which were subdivided into company-sized Einsatzkommandos. Return
Hans Michael Frank Nazi politician and lawyer responsible for the mass murder of Polish Jewry. Return
Inowroclaw (Ger. Hohensalza). City in Bydgoszcz province, central Poland. The first documents concerning Jews there date from 1447. Return
judenrein "Cleansed of Jews," denoting areas where all Jews had been either murdered or deported. Return
Reinhard Tristan Heydrich (1904–1942), Nazi S. S. leader who played a prominent part in the design and execution of the "Final Solution" [Ger. "Endlösung" in Nazi terminology; the Nazi planned mass murder and total annihilation of the Jews]. Return
RSHA One of the 12 main offices of the S. S. established on Sept. 27, 1930, as the roof authority over the different Nazi secret police and intelligence organizations, with the exception of military intelligence (Abwehr). Return
Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945), Nazi leader and one of Hitler's principal lieutenants. After World War I, he joined a nationalist "free corps" and participated in the 1923 Munich putsch. In 1929, appreciating Himmler's devotion and organizational talents, Hitler appointed him chief of the S. S., the elite guard of the Nazi leadership, which, under his rule, increased from 280 members to a vast army. Return
Selektion (Ger.): 1) In ghettos and other Jewish settlements, the drawing up by Nazis of lists of deportees. 2) Separation of incoming victims to concentration camps into two categories – those destined for immediate killing and those to be sent to forced labor. Return
Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski (1877–1944), "Elder of the Jews" in Lodz ghetto. Born in Ilino, Russia, Rumkowski settled in Lodz at the turn of the century. In the period between the two world wars he was engaged in social and welfare activities, running several Jewish orphanages. He was a member of the General Zionist Party and represented it on the council, and later on the committee, of the Jewish community in Lodz. Return
Chelmno (Ger. Kulmhof), Nazi extermination camp on the Ner River 37 mi. (60 km.) from Lodz, for the mass murder of the Jews in the western Polish provinces annexed to the Reich. Between the beginning of December 1941 and spring 1943, the Jews from Warthegau district were dispatched there for extermination. Return
General Government Territory in Poland administered by a German civilian governor-general with headquarters in Cracow after the German occupation in World War II. Return
Judenrat (Ger. "Jewish council"). Council set up in Jewish communities and ghettos under the Nazis to execute their instructions. Return
Treblinka One of the main Nazi extermination centers during World War II. Known until then as a small railroad station between Siedlce and Malkinia, located approximately 62 miles (100 km.) northeast of Warsaw, Treblinka became the final destination for transports that brought Jews from the ghettos of the General Government and about ten European countries to their death. Return
Odilo Globocnik (1904–1945), Nazi executioner of Polish Jewry. Born in Trieste, Italy, Globocnik joined the Nazi Party in Austria in 1922 and was nominated Gauleiter of Vienna in reward for his part in the preparation of Austria's annexation in 1938, but was later dismissed for embezzlement. Return
Belzec (Pol. Bełżec), small Polish town in the Lvov district; site of German labor camps and an extermination camp during World War II. Return
Maidanek (Majdanek), concentration and extermination camp on the southeastern outskirts of Lublin, Poland. Originally set up on July 21, 1941 for prisoners of war, it was soon turned into a camp for Jews and Poles with a maximum capacity for 35,000 inmates. Return
Plaszow (Pol. Płaszow), Nazi forced-labor camp on the outskirts of Cracow, functioning from June 1942 until January 1945. Plaszow became an assembly point for all the able-bodied Jews who survived the deportations from the various ghettos in the Cracow district. Return
Mielec Town in Rzeszow province, S. E. Poland. The Jewish community of Mielec was first organized in the middle of the 17th century. Return
Mauthausen Nazi concentration camp in Austria 12 1/2 mi. (20 km.) S. E. of Linz, established in April 1938 shortly after the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany. Return
Radomsko (Radomsk), town in Lodz province, S. central Poland. Return