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The establishment of Litzmannstadt Ghetto


   On the 21st of September 1939 Reinhard Heydrich sent the heads of the SD operational groups and other central authorities of the IIIrd Reich a secret telegram containing guidelines for the solution of the Jewish problem. Thus began the history of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto.


In his guidelines Heydrich spoke of two phases to the solution of the “Jewish problem”: the concentration of Jews in isolation sites, and their total extermination, hidden behind the term “final solution“ (Endziel).

Rumours of the foundation of a Ghetto in Łódź ran around the city probably from the end of September or the beginning of October 1939. This is attested to by the account of an unknown person in the documents of  Chief of the Jewish Elders in Litzmannstadt Ghetto:

“I remember that as early as October 1939 the director of the Adam Osser mill,  Mr Otto Hiller, whose son was a Gestapo officer, showed me a detailed plan of the projected Ghetto. He told me then, that the entire Jewish population of Łódź, i.e. 260,000 people, would be placed into this patch of Łódź... and that the Ghetto would have its own internal currency, post office, security services, and that  Jews would work in the Ghetto for the German authorities ... his words sounded strangely unpleasant and seemed like a fantasy even when heard from the mouth of a whole range of other Germans...”. 

The position of the authorities was set down in a secret circular from the chief of the Kalisz department on 10 XII 1939 in which Friedrich Übelhör wrote that the complete evacuation of all Jews from Łódź was not at that time possible, and in connection with this a ghetto would be opened in the northern districts of the city. This undertaking was not realized occur till the beginning of February 1940, when the idea of deporting all Jews from the land incorporated into the Reich to the General Gubernat was finally abandoned.

The Ghetto’s borders

The decree issued by the police president Johann Schäfer announcing the opening of a separated district for Jews in Łódź appeared on 8 February 1940 in the newspaper “Lodscher Zeitung”. It indicated the approximate borders of the Ghetto and contained a detailed plan for the resettlement of the area’s inhabitants.

Litzmannstadt Ghetto was situated in the most rundown, northern part of Łódź - Bałuty and the Old Town, in a total area of 4.13 km2.

At the time the district was opened, its borders ran along the following streets: Goplańska - Żurawa - Wspólna - Stefana - Okopowa -Czarnieckiego - Sukiennicza - Marysińska - Inflancka – along the walls of the Jewish cemetery, and further along Bracka - Przemysłowa - Środkowa - Głowackiego - Brzezińska - Oblęgorska - Chłodna - Smugowa - Nad Łódka - Stodolniana - Podrzeczna - Drewnowska - Majowa - Wrześnieńska - Piwna - Urzędnicza - to Zgierska and Goplańska. A year later, in May 1941, by a decision of the German authorities the area of land contained within the triangle of Drewnowska, Majowa and Jeneralska streets was detached from the Ghetto. As a result of this, the Jewish district’s western border was moved eastwards, and its total area reduced to 3.82 km2.

Sealing the Ghetto

The main arterial roads, running along  Nowomiejska - Zgierska and B. Limanowskiego streets, were excluded from the Ghetto. In this way the Ghetto was cut into three parts. At first movement between these parts was possible through gates built specially for this purpose and opened at specified times. However, these crossings did not fulfil their role, as they interrupted traffic flows. In their place, in summer 1940, wooden footbridges were built over Zgierska Street, near Podrzeczna and Lutomierska Streets, and Limanowskiego Street, near Masarska St.

The final sealing of the Ghetto and its total isolation from the rest of the city took place on 30 April 1940. Barriers and barbed-wire fences were erected around the Ghetto and along its two main, separated through roads (Nowomiejska - Zgierska and B. Limanowskiego).

A telephone was available only to the administrative authorities, and even then only on business. On 13 July 1940 conditions for postal communication between the Ghetto and the outside world were defined. Only post cards could be sent, they had to be written legibly in German, and only personal news was permitted.

Over 160,000

Unofficial contacts between the Jewish and “Aryan” inhabitants of Łódź were hampered by the fact that the town had a 70,000 strong German minority, loyal to the new authorities. Houses next to the Ghetto were demolished. Bałuty and the Old Town had no sewers, so it was not possible to escape from the Ghetto underground. All these factors combined to mean that that Łódź Ghetto was more tightly sealed and better guarded than any other ghetto set up by the III Reich. This had a tragic effect on the lives of the Ghetto’s inhabitants, as it made the smuggling of food and medicine virtually impossible.

In total, according to official statistics from the 12 VI 1940, 160,320 Jews were held in the Łódź Ghetto, of whom 153,849 were inhabitants of Łódź and 6471 came from the Warta Land, and had found themselves here as a result of wartime movements. Half a year later, that is, in the period from 17 October to 4 November 1941, 19,954 Jews from Austria, the Czech lands, Luxemburg and Germany were deported to Łódź on the order of Heinrich Himmler of 18 September 1941.

From 7 December 1941 to 28 August 1942 a further 17,826 Jews from liquidated provincial ghettos  in the Warta Land, including those from the ghettos in Włocławek, Brzeziny, Głowno, Ozorków, Stryków, Łask, Pabianice, Sieradz, Zduńska Wola and Wielun, were settled in the Łódź ghetto. In all, over 200,000 Jews from the Warta Land and Western Europe passed through the Łódź Ghetto.

Two isolated camps were opened within the Ghetto’s borders – one for Gypsies (Zigeunerlager) and one for Polish children and youth (Polenjugendverwahrlager).


5,007 Gypsies from the Austro-Hungarian border region – Burgenland – were transported to Łódź between 5 and 9 November 1941. A camp for them was established in the square of  Brzezińska, Towiańskiego, Starosikawska and Głowackiego Streets. The sanitary conditions here were horrendous. Over 600 Gypsies died as a result of typhus and other diseases. This camp was in existence until 12 I 1942, i.e. until the murder of its inhabitants in the extermination camp in Chełmno nad Nerem.

The camp for Polish children and youth on Przemysłowa Street came into life on 1 December 1942. Its inmates were children from 8 to 16 years old, whose parents were in camps or prisons, minors from orphanages and foster homes, and homeless children. Children accused of collaborating with the resistance movement, illegal trade, refusing to work, petty theft,  formed a large group of those imprisoned here. The number of inmates in this camp at the end of 1943/beginning of 1944 was 1086 boys and approximately 250 girls. The conditions in the camp were tough, destroying their young bodies. They were fed starvation rations, like those in concentration camps. All children over 8 were subject to forced labour (10 - 12 hours). Many of them died of hunger, diseases and beatings from the German functionaries. The camp was in operation until the liberation of the city.