Warsaw Ghetto

The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the Jewish ghettos located in the territory of General Government during World War II, established by Nazi Germany in Warsaw, the prewar capital of Poland. Between 1941 and 1943, starvation, disease and mass deportations to concentration camps and extermination camps such as during the Gross-aktion Warschau, reduced the population of the ghetto from an estimated 450,000 to approximately 71,000. In 1943 the Warsaw Ghetto was the scene of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the first urban rebellion against the Nazi occupation of Europe. [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?ModuleId=10005188 "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising"] , United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Last Updated: May 20, 2008.]


The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German Governor-General Hans Frank on October 16, 1940. At this time, the population of the Ghetto was estimated to be 440,000 people, about 38% of the population of Warsaw. However, the size of the Ghetto was about 4.5% of the size of Warsaw. Nazis then closed off the Warsaw Ghetto from the outside world on November 16, 1940, building a wall with armed guards.

During the next year and a half, thousands of the Polish Jews as well as some Romani people from smaller cities and the countryside were brought into the Ghetto, while diseases (especially typhus) and starvation kept the inhabitants at about the same number. Average food rations in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw were limited to 253 kcal, compared to 2,325 kcal for gentile Poles and 5,613 kcal for Germans.

Unemployment was a major problem in the ghetto. Illegal workshops were created to manufacture goods to be sold illegally on the outside and raw goods were smuggled in often by children. Hundreds of four to five year old Jewish children went across en masse to the "Aryan side", sometimes several times a day, smuggling food into the ghettos, returning with goods that often weighed more than they did. Smuggling was sometimes the only source of subsistence for these children and their parents, who would otherwise have died of starvation. Despite the grave hardships, life in the Warsaw Ghetto was rich with educational and cultural activities, conducted by its underground organizations. Hospitals, public soup kitchens, orphanages, refugee centers and recreation facilities were formed, as well as a school system. Some schools were illegal and operated under the guise of a soup kitchen. There were secret libraries, classes for the children and even a symphony orchestra. The life in the ghetto was chronicled by the "Oyneg Shabbos" group.

Over 100,000 of the Ghetto's residents died due to rampant disease or starvation, as well as random killings, even before the Nazis began massive deportations of the inhabitants from the Ghetto's "Umschlagplatz" to the Treblinka extermination camp during the Gross-aktion Warschau, part of the countrywide Operation Reinhard. Between "Tisha B'Av" (July 23) and "Yom Kippur" (September 21) of 1942, about 254,000 Ghetto residents (or at least 300,000 by different accounts) were sent to Treblinka and murdered there. [http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%205886.pdf] In 1942 Polish resistance officer Jan Karski reported to the Western governments on the situation in the Ghetto and on the extermination camps. By the end of 1942, it was clear that the deportations were to their deaths, and many of the remaining Jews decided to fight.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and destruction of the Ghetto

On January 18, 1943, the first instance of armed resistance occurred when the Germans started the final expulsion of the remaining Jews. The Jewish fighters had some success: the expulsion stopped after four days and the ŻOB and ŻZW resistance organizations took control of the Ghetto, building shelters and fighting posts and operating against Jewish collaborators. During the next three months, all inhabitants of the Ghetto prepared for what they realized would be a final struggle.

The final battle started on the eve of Passover, April 19, 1943, when the large Nazi force entered the ghetto. After initial setbacks, the Germans under the field command of Jürgen Stroop systematically burned and blew-up the ghetto block by block, rounding up or killing any Jew they could capture. Significant resistance ended on April 23 1943, and the German operation officially ended in mid-May, symbolically culminated with the demolition of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw on May 16, 1943. According to the official report, at least 56,065 people were killed on the spot or deported to Nazi concentration and death camps, mostly to Treblinka.

People of the Warsaw Ghetto


* Mordechaj Anielewicz - Resistance leader, died in Warsaw in 1943
* Tosia Altman - Resistance fighter, died in Warsaw in 1943
* Adam Czerniaków - Engineer and senator, head of the Warsaw "Judenrat", committed suicide in 1942
* Itzhak Katzenelson - Teacher, poet, dramatist and resistance fighter, died in Auschwitz in 1944
* Janusz Korczak - Children's author, pediatrician, and child pedagogist, died in Treblinka in 1942
* Simon Pullman - Conductor of the Warsaw Ghetto symphony orchestra, died in Treblinka in 1942
* Emanuel Ringelblum - Historian, politician and social worker, and leader of the Ghetto chroniclers, died in Warsaw in 1944
* Lidia Zamenhof - daughter of Dr. Ludvic Zamenhof, creater of Esperanto; Esperantist; Bahá'íist; died in Treblinka in 1942
* Menachem Ziemba - Rabbi-killed in the Ghetto in 1943 uprising


* Icchak Cukierman - Resistance leader
* Marek Edelman - Political and social activist, cardiologist, and the last living leader of the uprising
* Bronisław Geremek - Social historian and politician
* Ludwik Hirszfeld - Microbiologist and serologist
* Zivia Lubetkin - Resistance leader
* Marcel Reich-Ranicki - Literary critic
* Simcha Rotem - Resistance fighter, Nazi hunter
* Władysław Szpilman - Pianist, composer, and memoirist
* Menachem Mendel Taub, Kaliver Rebbe
* Martin Gray

Associated people

* Władysław Bartoszewski - Polish resistance activist of the Żegota organization in Warsaw
* Henryk Iwański - Polish resistance officer in the charge of support for the Ghetto
* Jan Karski - Polish resistance courier who reported on the Ghetto for the Allies
* Szmul Zygielbojm - Polish-Jewish socialist politician, committed suicide in London in protest of the Allied indifference

ee also

*Ghettos in occupied Europe 1939-1944
*Great Synagogue (Warsaw) - One of the largest synagogues in the world, destroyed in 1943
*Jewish Ghetto Police - Collaborationist police force
*"Mila 18" - Book by Leon Uris
*Miła 18 - Command post of the Jewish Resistance during the uprising
*"The Pianist" - The movie about the survival of Władysław Szpilman
*Warsaw concentration camp - The concentration camp established in the former Ghetto
*Warschauer Kniefall - Gesture by Chancellor of Germany Willy Brandt
*Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa - Resistance group
*Żydowski Związek Wojskowy - Resistance group


* Israel Gutman, "Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising", Houghton Mifflin, 1998, trade paperback, ISBN 0-395-90130-8, hardcover, 1994, 277 pages, ISBN 0-395-60199-1
* Martin Gray, "For Those I Loved", Little Brown Company, 1984, 351 pages, hardcover, ISBN 0-316-32576-7
* Władysław Szpilman, "The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945", 2002, ISBN 0-312-31135-4

External links

* [http://warszawa.getto.pl/index.php Warsaw Ghetto Internet Database] hosted by [http://www.holocaustresearch.pl Polish Center for Holocaust Research]
* [http://warsawgetto.org/index.php?mod=plan Detailed, interactive map of the Warsaw Ghetto plotted on pre-war plan of the city]
* [http://isurvived.org/TOC-I.html#WarsawGhetto Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Network: Warsaw Ghetto]
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/warsawtoc.html Documents and information about the Warsaw Ghetto] from the Jewish Virtual Library

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