There were times when people felt safe and then chaos exploded in front of them. People could be living a life of luxury and the next day everything could be taken from them including their loved ones. One of the major steps the Nazi Regime did to organize their control and start the seclusion of the non-Aryan people were the use of the ghettos. One of the most famous ghettos was the Warsaw ghetto in Poland. Warsaw was the capital of Poland and after the takeover of the Germans it became a hell for many Jews.
The Warsaw ghetto was one of the worst ghettos to be in but through all the struggle and heartache the Jews were still able to fight back in the end. We will see how the Germans took over Warsaw, how it changed into a city of destruction, but also how in the end the Jews were able to revolt and fight back for their lives or the lives of others. Life in the ghettos was harsh. The main causes of death were malnutrition, the exposure to the cold, and the cruelty from the soldiers. They would beat, torture, shoot Jews on the streets and there were also mass executions. The Germans also tried to restrict them of any rights they had.
The Jews were not allowed to write, teach, study, or participate in any religious activities or ceremonies. And if any were caught doing such an act, many were thrown in jail, beaten, or even killed. Some though took the risk and smuggled journals in, hoping they might get some attention from anybody outside the ghetto. The ghetto was no place for any human life. The ghettos tried to break down the Jews in every possible way and it was especially hard on the children. One writes, “But the thing that bothers me the most—the worst thing the Germans did to me in Warsaw was to deprive me of a childhood.
I had no school, no friends, no life other than watching those around me die. ” In the end more than 85,000 people died in the ghetto. Hitler had two goals he wanted to accomplish during his ruling. First he wanted to create a superior race which was called the Aryan race. They were considered anyone who fell under strict regulations such as blond haired and blue eyed. Anyone who didn’t qualify was considered subhuman or Untermenschen. Jews were ranked the lowest according to the Germans.
They were called by Germans, “maggots, parasites, vampires, spiders sucking blood, and vermin. The other goal Hitler wanted to accomplish was to provide ‘living space’ for the Aryan race, or Lebensraum. The way he was going about that was to take land by force from neighboring countries. He believed they needed living space because that was how they would be able to thrive and prosper. On August 23, 1939, Hitler signed a pact with Stalin so he wouldn’t interfere when Hitler invaded Poland and in return Stalin would receive half of the land that was conquered. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 and it was called a Blitzkrieg, or ‘lightning war’ because how fast they attacked and all the destruction that was created.
One of the most powerful weapons used was the stukas, which were warplanes with a screaming device. This helped wipe out Poland’s force and many of their supplies. Even though much of Poland was destroyed, the capital Warsaw was not going to give up. There were over one million in the city and a third was Jews. “Time after time German infantry stormed the city, only to be driven back by the rifles and machine guns of stubborn defenders. ” The Germans attacked areas in Warsaw that were highly populated with Jews and had air strikes during the major Jewish holidays. As the battling continued the conditions in the city worsened.
Bodies started piling up due the bombing everyday and they resorted to using public parks as mass graves. Food also started to become scarce. The only sources of food sometimes were the animals that were killed, which were lying on the sides of the streets. Finally on September 27 Warsaw surrendered with a count of 6,000 dead and over 700,000 taken prisoner. Once Poland was taken over, Hitler and the Nazi Regime started to organize on how to carry out the final solution: the total extermination of Jews. Heydrich was put in place to control the design of plans for the Polish Jews.
He put together a special group of the S. S. , the Einsatzgruppen to make the Jews locate in one area. Within a few months of the German occupation, thousands of Jewish settlements were erased from the map of Poland, their inhabitants ejected without notice, forbidden to take bare necessities, condemned to exposure, hunger, and homelessness. The Einsatzgruppen forced Jews into the cities of Lodz, Krakow, and Warsaw. These cities were close to railroads, which provided easy transportation for later. By mid-October 1939, 330,000 Jews were homeless. Hanz Frank was now appointed governor general of Poland.
With this control of the Polish Jews, Hitler saw this as cheap labor for him to use for the war effort and later for the construction of the camps. Frank looked over the labor, made sure food and resources were drained and were given to the Reich. International laws were being put in place to regulate how Jews were treated; this secluded them even more. Anyone over the age of ten had to wear an arm band starting in December 1939. “It was interesting to observe how quickly the brotherhood born under the continuous danger of death disappeared and how quickly the difference between rich and poor, Christian and Jew once again became apparent. Frank also issued that all Jews between the ages of fourteen and sixteen had to work for the Germans now. The work was very laborious and strenuous.
They had to basically clean up the mess that was created when the Germans attacked to take over Poland, such as clean up rubble and bury corpses. The Germans also brought some to the countryside so they could the start the building of the prison camps. Many were not treated well and tortured in the process. They were used in place of horses and in many cases a lot were worked to death. Some of the most savage abuse was to the Orthodox Jews.
They were forced to clean public toilets with their prayer shawls, were forced fed pork, and had to set fire on their own synagogues. One of the most humiliating torments was called ‘bearding’ to the men. The Germans cut off beards of the Jewish men in public, and some even forced family members to do it to their own relatives, which is a huge disgrace in their religion. Many Poles also participated in the humiliation of Jews in these cities and helped the Germans point out who were Jews. A survivor states, “as if the Poles had been given a license to be mean, to be as cruel as they could be, and they were thoroughly enjoying it.
The Nazis didn’t want to deal with all the tasks of handling the Jews, so they set up a council of Jews called the Judenrat. They had to handle administrative tasks. Only areas with more than 10,000 had a council. The council was made up twelve or twenty-four members. They were chosen by Adam Czerniakow, the chairman of Warsaw’s Judenrat. Many Jews had become suspicious of the council and didn’t know if they were on their side anymore. But the council tried to prove their loyalty by saving money and using it towards Jewish cemeteries, organizing soup kitchens, and supporting Jewish hospitals.
Then in November 1939 the Gestapo of Warsaw told the Judenrat that there was to be a ghetto. Jews had to resettle in a one-hundred block in Warsaw. If they didn’t follow, all members were going to be shot. “They were being ordered into a trap. They would be cut off from the rest of the world and surrounded by their enemies, who could do whatever they wanted behind high walls. ” The council was put in a hard situation to tell the Jews to resettle into a smaller area. Only one council member refused to endorse it, Zygelboym and he persuaded the rest to refuse it as well.
They later found out the head of German forces knew nothing about it. So the council didn’t have to report this to the Jews. But Zygelboym fled to London after being threatened by the S. S. But then this gave the idea to the Germans and the worst was about to begin for the Jews. The start of the extreme exclusion was during the winter of 1940. One day the Jews woke up to see a brick wall being put up and they had no idea what was going on. The fear increased when they saw this and caught on to what was happening. Barbed wire was put in place and Nazi patrol was standing near the entrance.
The Jews were being forced into one small area of Warsaw now. The most run down section was chosen surrounded by factories so the Germans could use the Jews to work; families were told to leave their items and only bring what they could carry. Many had to leave their businesses if they were not in the designated area as well. And anyone who was living in the ghetto area was asked to leave but they were allowed to bring everything they wanted and they upgraded to the homes that the Jews left behind. By October 1940, all Jews were forced into the walled-off area. More than 150,000 moved into the ghetto and 80,000 Poles had to move out.
It turned into a very crammed area as one Warsaw Jew said, “There is no room in the ghetto—not and empty crack, not an unoccupied hole. ” The Jews knew their fate was getting worse when they were put in a secluded area guarded by officers and they were not allowed out. “Closed ghetto means gradual death. An open ghetto is only a halfway catastrophe. ” This area was referred to as a death box and considered by many as just a holding pen until the final solution or whatever they were going to do them later. Many didn’t know what was to come. The Germans used the slowest, most painful way to torture the Jews before extermination.
They deprived them of shelter and food. Many Jews lived in apartments with fifteen to twenty people in them. They endured one of the coldest winters during 1940-1941with very little coal to keep warm and then the Nazi ordered them to give up their warm clothes for the army. The ghetto was getting worse by the minute. “The prey was at the mercy of the hunter, with no means of escape. ” But one of the biggest tasks in the ghetto was trying to stay clean. Soap was scarce and only could be found if you bought it on the black market. So many didn’t wash for months and this caused many problems.
The toilets also became plugged and stopped functioning. Due the cold temperatures, pipes froze and weren’t repaired as well. The odors were horrible and the results of this were deadly diseases. About 150,000 got typhus and 20,000 died from it. The main source of this was the exposure to human waste everywhere in the ghetto. The Germans started to set up quarantines. Jews didn’t like this because basically the Germans would put them in a room and let them starve to death, so many Jews tried to hide it if they had typhus. Mottel Pinkert, the chief undertaker, was the busiest man in the ghetto.
He was known as the King of Corpses. The Jews started getting use to seeing dead people everywhere. They were almost becoming distanced from the effect of death because it occurred so often. Anyone that was killed or died during the night was piled up in the street, stripped of their clothing and the caretaker would come in the morning to pick them up. “And there was something infinitely agonizing and appalling in this tangle of nightmare and ordinary life. ” Keeping the ghettos dirty was in the Germans advantage because this was a cheaper way of killing the Jews instead of mass shootings.
The spread of disease and the harsh climates were in their favor. Starvation was still the main reason for death in the camps. It was more apparent now since the Germans controlled what came into the ghetto. The Germans prolonged death because they gave the Jews some food but not enough to sustain them. They were allowed 184 calories a day, that’s 15% of the calories needed to sustain an adult. They were given twenty grams of bread and one-half cup of milk, a little fat, and maybe a potato or turnip; there was no meat given.
One of the effects of hunger was the concept of “snatcher. Some became so desperate that they if they saw someone with food they would do anything to take it from them. Smuggling became a way to survive in the ghetto. So many were willing to risk it because they were so hungry, and it also became a way to make a living. Bribery was the key to smuggling. If the palms of an officer were greased this meant they allowed unauthorized people into the ghetto to sell food or to allow food carts cross a checkpoint; they would look the other way. The Jews also used structures bordering the ghetto to help them.
They used cellars and dugs trenches between houses to transport food into the ghetto. Street cars were used; one was marked ‘Aryan’ the other was marked with a Star of David. “The rate of the work was extraordinary, so that the transfer of 100 sacks of wheat or sugar took just a dozen or so minutes. ” Even people such as Mottel Pinkert’s undertakers helped with smuggling by bringing back empty coffins with food. One of the cleverest ways to smuggle food was by a woman named Baylke. She transferred toilet waste in a wagon that had to be dumped outside of the ghetto.
She traded valuables for food and hid the food in a tin under the human waste. No one suspected food to be under there. Germans started to catch on and tried to rearrange boundaries and made punishments harsher; they eventually made the punishment death because Jews didn’t care if they were put in jail for a time frame. And to much surprise most of the people who smuggled food into the ghetto ranged from the ages of seven to fourteen. But having younger children get the food was an advantage because it aroused pity in people, and most of the times they were able to get the food for nothing.
Another important thing to keep them safe for a while was the ability to do work. Employment saved many lives for a while because you were not chosen to be sent to the labor camps right away. They received work passes to show proof to the soldiers. A job that was available was the Jewish police force which became very popular. They helped guard the gates, direct traffic, guard the soup kitchens and post offices, and caught smugglers. At first many Jews were relieved when they became in charge, but they quickly found out that the Jewish police force was as bad the Nazi soldiers.
A survivor commented on the appearance of a Jewish police, “…in every aspect of his appearance he was trying to imitate an SS man. ” Most who took the job were converts and already had hatred toward the Jews for being put in the same situation as they were. But the next best job was to work in a manufacturing business. They helped make clothing, textiles, and machinery; they were basically helping the war effort. Many worked twelve to fourteen hours a day just for a watery bowl of soup. Even with all the terror and fear surrounding the ghetto they had a will to survive.
They love life and they do not wish to disappear from the earth before their time…. Say what you wish, this will of ours to live in the midst of a terrible calamity hidden power whose quality has not yet been examined…We are left naked, but as long as this secret power is still within us, we do not give up any hope. The strength came from their unity in their religion. Even though they could get killed if the Germans found out they were holding ceremonies, the Jews did it anyways because that was what kept them going. The unity and solidarity was very important in the camps.
Families became closer because they relied on one another now. Humor and music were also big parts in ghetto life to help with the situation. Songs were written to express what many felt. Ghetto schools were also kept secret. The ghetto was the hardest on the children because they had to learn how to grow up fast. They were faced with death and risking their lives every day. Having the schools gave the children something to do. They usually were small and held in kitchens or cellars of houses. If they were ever found the teachers were shot and the children were sent off to the concentration camps.
And finally in mid 1941, the Judenrat helped to allow limited education in the ghetto where children could be educated up to fourth grade. To keep the people in the ghetto informed about what is going on outside the ghetto an underground society was created. One of the main men participating in the underground was Emmanuel Ringelblum, who encouraged many Jews to keep journals so it could be a testament for others to know what really happened in the ghettos. The underground published newspapers and made their own machinery from junk and scrap metal they found. They constantly moved so they wouldn’t get caught.
The underground also tried to sabotage in the factories to slow down production of German goods. The killing started to increase in the ghettos. Firing squads were brought in and numerous people were being killed in the night. This caused stress and panic throughout the ghetto and made many Jews stop dealing in anything that was against German law. Then in July 1942 the final solution was coming together with the completion of the death camp, Treblinka, located sixty miles away. More than 350,000 Warsaw Jews who survived all the disasters in the ghetto were going to be gassed in the death camp.
On July 18, 1942 a hundred ghetto Jews were arrested, including doctors, businessmen, and members of the Juderant. The Germans told the council they needed workers in the east and wanted 60,000 Jews to be resettled there from the ghetto. If the council didn’t obey these orders and didn’t make the Jews follow, the one hundred prisoners would be killed. The ones chosen to leave were the ‘unproductive’ ones. The place where the Jews loaded on the train to leave the ghetto was called the Umschlagplatz. But come to find out it was all a lie; the resettlement was actually to the death camp, Treblinka.