of the Lodz Ghetto
'The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto'' is a devastating, day-by-day record of life in the second-largest Jewish ghetto in Nazi Europe - a community that was reduced from 163,177 people in 1941 to 877 by 1944. Compiled by inhabitants of the ghetto and illustrated with more than seventy haunting photographs, the Chronicle is a document unparalleled among writings on the Holocaust.
Lodz (pronounced ''Loge'') is Poland's second-largest city. During the war, the Germans renamed it Litzmannstadt. They appointed a Council of Elders to administer life in the ghetto and named Mordecai Chaim Rumkowski as ''Eldest.'' He was in charge of the Order Service - unarmed Jewish police - and of the Archives.
The extract below is from the day Rumkowski gave his speech 'Give Me Your Children' by an inhabitant of the ghetto, Jozef Zelkowicz.
14 September, 1942
The period of Sept. 5-12, 1942 will leave indelible memories among that portion of the ghetto's population on whom fate smiles and who survive the war.
One week, eight days that seem an eternity!
Even now it is difficult to grasp what has occurred. An elemental force has passed through the ghetto and swept away some 15,000 people (no one knows the exact number yet) and life appears to have resumed to its former course.
In his speech of Sept. 4, 1942 (at 4 P.M.), the Chairman announced that, by order of the authorities, about 25,000 Jews under the age of 10 and over 65 must be resettled out of the ghetto.
In accordance with the Chairman's proclamation on the fourth of this month, pedestrian traffic after 5 P.M. has been suspended until further notice since the fifth of this month, and it was then that the Jewish police's action to round up all persons subject to resettlement began. It was said that had this action encountered any difficulties or resistance, the German authorities would have stepped in.
In point of fact, the operation proceeded as follows: Block after block was surrounded by the Jewish police and then each building surrounded by a host of police and Jewish firemen and entered by a representative of the authorities (the Gestapo). A shot was fired as the signal to assemble, and then all the residents of a given building were assembled in the courtyard, arranged in two rows, and subjected to inspection by representatives of the authorities. In the meantime, the Jewish police were searching the apartments and bringing out anyone who had been hiding or people who were ill. In the smaller buildings, this operation often took only a few minutes. The deportees and those who were to remain were separated into two groups. Those selected for resettlement were sent by wagon to the assembly points.
To encourage the Jewish police and the firemen to conduct the operation conscientiously, promises that their closest relations would be spared had been made. Thus, their children were placed in a hospital and isolated from the rest of the population, and an isolation ward was set up in Marysin for those relations who were elderly or under special protection.
Escape attempts came to a bloody end. Anyone who attempted to save himself by fleeing and was spotted by the authorities had to pay for that attempt with his life. Because the operation proceeded so rapidly, the authorities gave no thought to the motives or causes for any particular act. At 38 Zgierska Street, an elderly woman from Sieradz did not understand if she had been ordered to go to the left or the right and, instead of going to a wagon, she walked over to a group of ''remainers.'' This the authorities interpreted as an escape attempt. The woman was shot to death on the spot.
Incidentally, the populace's strange reaction to the recent events is noteworthy. There is not the slightest doubt that this was a profound and terrible shock, and yet one must wonder at the indifference shown by those - apart from the ones who were not directly affected and who returned to normal life at once - from whom loved ones had been taken. It would seem that the events of recent days would have immersed the entire population of the ghetto in mourning for a long time to come, and yet, right after the incidents, and even during the resettlement action, the populace was obsessed with everyday concerns - getting bread, rations and so forth - and often went from immediate personal tragedy right back into daily life. Is this some sort of numbing of the nerves, an indifference, or a symptom of an illness that manifests itself in atrophied emotional reactions? After losing those nearest to them, people talk constantly about rations, potatoes, soup, etc.! It is beyond comprehension! Why this lack of warmth toward those they loved? Naturally, here and there, there are some mothers weeping in a corner for a child or children shipped from the ghetto, but, as a whole, the mood of the ghetto does not reflect last week's terrible ordeal.
Sad but true!
- Jozef Zelkowicz
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Extract from The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto (Yale University Press). Edited by Lucjan Dobroszycki. Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear.