Ghettoization of

European Jewry


On October 23, 1941, S.S. head Heinrich Himmler issued an order down the Nazi chain of command which heralded a major change in Nazi policy with respect to the "Jewish problem." Until then, the Nazis worked vigorously to encourage Jews to emigrate. The Madagascar Plan was one example of strategies which were formulated to remove Jews from Germany and its occupied lands. As is described in more detail later, many countries refused to accept Jewish refugees. This shift in policy resulted in the deportation of Jews to camps and ghettos in the East. The policy to "resettle" Jews to these ghettos and camps was a significant step in what was to become the "Final Solution" the systematic murder of millions of Jews.

Ghettoization (December 1939 to March 1942)

Although the Nazis were successful in isolating Jews socially and economically, the actual physical isolation of the Eastern European population did not begin until December 1939. Jews had known the ghetto since the Middle Ages, although Jews were then permitted to leave the ghetto during the day and participate in the business of the general community. The purpose of the Nazi ghetto, however, was to create a total confinement for the Jewish population, turning entire neighborhoods into a prison unlike the ghettos of centuries past.

The Nazis hoped that the wretched ghetto conditions would deplete the Jewish population quickly and naturally through starvation, disease and cold. The ghetto also served as the holding area for eventual transport to the death camps for those who were able to survive.

Ghetto inhabitants in many areas were forced to become slaves for German industry. Factories were built alongside or within ghetto walls so that industries could take advantage of this free labor. The administration of Jewish life was the responsibility of the Jewish Councils, the Judenräte.

Life in the ghetto was abominable, and thousands died. There was no medicine. The food ration allowed was a quarter of that available for the Germans, barely enough to allow survival. The water supply was contaminated in many ghettos. Epidemics of tuberculosis, typhoid, and lice were common. Bodies of new victims piled up in the streets faster than they could be carted away. In the Warsaw ghetto, more than 70,000 died of exposure, disease, and starvation during the first two winters. Almost all of those who survived the Warsaw ghetto were either killed when the ghetto was razed in 1943 or died in the death camps.

History of the Jews in Poland

The earliest verifiable records of Jewish settlement in Poland date from the late 11th century. However, it is generally believed that Jews arrived in Poland much earlier. Many scholars discard the theory that a large number of followers of the Judaic faith came to Poland from the east in about 965 after the fall of the Khazar state. While it is true that the rulers of Khazar converted to Judaism, there is substantial disagreement amongst researchers as to whether or not their subjects converted in significant numbers.

The first Jews to arrive on Polish territory were merchants who were referred to as Radhanites. The Radhanites were merchants whose trade extended over vast distances between east ans west. They were fluent in Arabic, Persian, Greek, Spanish, "Franklish" and "Slav" languages. Their entrance occurred simultaneously with the formation of the Polish state. One of them was Ibrahim ibn Jacob, the author of the first extensive account about Poland. In the summer of 965 or 966 Jacob made a trade and diplomatic journey from his native Toledo in Moslem Spain to the Holy Roman Empire and Slavonic countries.

Feudal disintegration, the birth of towns and the development of commodity money relations favored the settlement by Jews in Poland. Nevertheless, the influx of Jews was brought about mostly by their persecution in Western Europe, which gained in force during the crusades. Among the first Jews to arrive in Poland (in 1097 or 1098) were those banished from Prague. Jews from Bohemia and Germany settled primarily in Silesia. They usually engaged in trade and agriculture and some owned landed estates. By the middle of the14th century they had occupied thirty-five Silesian towns. Jewish settlement in other parts of Poland proceeded at a much slower pace and the first mention of Jewish settlers in Plock dates from 1237, in Kalisz from 1287 and a Zydowska (Jewish) street in Krakow in 1304.

Earlier, Mieszko III, the prince of Great Poland between 1138 and 1202 and the ruler of all Poland in 1173-77 and 1198-1202, employed Jews in his mint as engravers of dies and technical supervisors of all workers. Until 1206, Jews worked on commission for other contemporary Polish princes, including Casimir the Just, Boleslaus the Tall and Ladislaus Spindleshanks. From pure silver they struck coins called bracteates, which they emblazoned with inscriptions in Hebrew.

In 1264, a successor to Mieszko III in Great Poland, Boleslaus the Pious, granted Jews a privilege known as the Kalisz statute. According to this statute, (which was modeled on similar decrees issued in Austria, Bohemia and Hungary) Jews were exempted from municipal and castellan jurisdiction and were subject only to princely courts. The same statute granted Jews free trade and the right to conduct moneylending operations which were, however, limited only to loans made on security of " immovable property".

The Kalisz statute, which described the Jews as "slaves of the treasury", ensured protection of persons, protection of property and freedom in conducting religious rites. They were also given the opportunity to organize their internal life on the principle of self-government of their individual communities. Similar privileges were granted to the Silesian Jews by the local princes, Prince Henry Probus of Wroclaw in 1273-90, Henry of Glogow in 1274 and 1299, Henry of Legnica in 1290 - 95 and Bolko of Legnica and Wroclaw in 1295.

These privileges resulted in hostile reactions against the Jews by the Catholic clergy. In 1267, the Council of Wroclaw created segregated Jewish quarters in citiesand towns and ordered Jews to wear a special emblem. Jews were banned from holding offices where Christians would be subordinated to them and were forbidden to build more than one prayer house in each town. These resolutions, however, though they were reiterated during the subsequent councils in Buda in 1279 and Leczyca in 1285, were generally not enforced due to the profits which the Jews' economic activity yielded to the princes.

The turn of the 13th and 14th centuries saw the end of feudal disintegration in Poland. In the reunited kingdom the role of towns and the burghers grew. The rulers, interested in the development of a commodity money economy, encouraged Jewish immigration. The most outstanding of those rulers was Casimir the Great who in 1334, a year after ascending the throne, acknowledged the privilege granted the Jews in Great Poland by Boleslaus the Pious in 1264. As a result Jews were exempted from German law and came under the jurisdiction of the voivodes.

In the 14th and 15th centuries the main occupation of Jews in Poland was local and long distance trade. Jews performed the role of middlemen in trade between Poland and Hungary, Turkey and the Italian colonies on the Black Sea. They also took part in the Baltic trade and commercial operations in Silesia. Owing to their links with Jewish communities in other countries as well as experience in trade and moneylending operations, Jewish merchants gained the advantage over local merchants, both in European and overseas trade.

Following protests by the rich Polish burghers and the clergy, the scope of credit operations conducted by the Jews was seriously curtailed in the early 15th century. In 1423 the statute of Warka forbade Jews the granting of loans against letters of credit or mortgage and limited their operations exclusively to loans made on security of moveable property.

The amassed capital was invested by the Jews in leaseholds. In the 14th and 15th centuries rich Jewish merchants and moneylenders leased the royal mint, salt mines and the collecting of customs and tolls. The most famous of them were Jordan and his son Lewko of Krakow in the 14th century and Jakub Slomkowicz of Luck, Wolczko of Drohobycz, Natko of Lvov, Samson of Zydaczow, Josko of Hrubieszow and Szania of Belz in the 15th century.

For example, Wolczko of Drohobycz, King Ladislaus Jagiello's broker, was the owner of several villages in the Ruthenian voivodship and the soitys (administrator) of the village of Werbiz. Also Jews from Grodno were in this period owners of villages, manors, meadows, fish ponds and mills. However until the end of the 15th century agriculture as a source of income played only a minor role among Jewish families. More important were crafts for the needs of both their fellow Jews and the Christian population (fur making, tanning, tailoring).

The expansion of the scope of economic activity carried out by the Jews sharpened competition between them and their Christian counterparts. In the 14th century anti-Jewish riots broke out in Silesia which was ruled by the Bohemian-German dynasty of Luxembourg. These reached their climax during the epidemics of the Black Death when, as earlier in Western Europe, Jews were accused of systematically poisoning the wells. In 1349 pogroms took place in many towns in Silesia and some of the refugees from those towns, as well as Jews banished from West European countries, sought shelter from persecution in Poland.

Streams of Jewish immigrants headed east to Poland during the reign of Casimir the Great who encouraged Jewish settlement by extending royal protection to them. First mentions about Jewish settlements in Lvov (1356), Sandomierz (1367), Kazimierz near Krakow (1386) and several other cities date from the second half of the 14th century. In the 15th century Jews appeared in many cities in Great Poland, Little Poland, Kuyavia, Pomerania and Red Ruthenia. In the 1450s Polish towns gave shelter to Jewish refugees from Silesia which was then ruled by the Habsburgs.

In 1454 anti-Jewish riots flared up in Wroclaw and other Silesian cities. They were inspired by the papal envoy, the Franciscan friar John of Capistrano. Though his main aim was to instigate a popular rebellion against the Hussites, he also carried out a ruthless campaign against the Jews whom he accused of profaning the Christian religion. As a result of Capistrano's endeavors, Jews were banished from Lower Silesia. Shortly after, John of Capistrano, invited to Poland by Zbigniew Olesnicki, conducted a similar campaign in Krakow and several other cities where, however, anti-Jewish unrest took on a much less acute form.

Forty years later, in 1495, Jews were ordered out of the center of Krakow and allowed to settle in the "Jewish town" of Kazimierz. In the same year, Alexander Jagiellon, following the example of Spanish rulers, banished the Jews from Lithuania. For several years they took shelter in Poland until they were allowed back to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1503.

Towards the end of the Middle Ages Jews lived in 85 towns in Poland and their total number amounted to 18,000 in Poland and 6,000 in Lithuania, which represented merely 0.6 per cent of the total population of the two states. The 16th and the first half of the 17th century saw increased settlement and a relatively fast rate of natural population growth among both Polish and Lithuanian Jews. The number of immigrants also grew, especially in the 16th century.

Among the new arrivals there were not only the Ashkenazim, banished from the countries belonging to the Habsburg monarchy, that is Germany, Bohemia, Hungary and Lower Silesia (in the 1580's the whole of Silesia had only two Jewish communities, in Glogow and Biala), but also the Sephardim who were driven away from Spain and Portugal. Moreover many Sephardic Jews from Italy and Turkey came to Poland of their own free will.

Towards the end of the 16th century the flood of immigration abated and new communities were founded generally as a result of the movement of the population from the crowded districts to new quarters. In around 1648 Jews lived in over half of all cities in the Commonwealth, but the center of Jewish life moved from the western and central parts of Poland to eastern voivodships where two out of three townships had Jewish communities. Beginning in the middle of the16th century Jews started to settle in the countryside in larger numbers. In the middle of the 17th century there were 500,000 Jews living in Poland, which meant some five per cent of the total population of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The legal position of the Jews was still regulated by royal and princely privileges and Sejm statutes, with the difference that in 1539 Polish Jews from private towns and villages became subordinated to the judiciary and administration of the owners. From that time on, an important role was played by privileges granted by individual lords. On top of that, the legal status of Jews was still influenced by synodal resolutions and the common law.

All this amounted to a considerable differentiation in the legal position of the Jewish population. In some cities Jews were granted municipal citizenship, without, however, the right to apply for municipal positions. In many towns, especially the gentry towns, Jews were given complete freedom in carrying out trade and crafts, while in others these freedoms as well as the right to settle were restricted. Finally there were also towns where Jews were not allowed to settle.

In the 16th century more than twenty towns obtained the privilegia de non tolerandis Judaeis. These included Miedzyrzec in 1520, Warsaw in 1525, Sambor in 1542, Grodek in 1550, Vilna in 1551, Bydgoszcz in 1556, Stryj in 1567, Biez, Krosno and Tarnogrod 1569, Pilzno in 1577, Drohobycz in 1578, Mikolajow in 1596, Checiny in 1597. In practice, however, this ban was inconsistently observed. In other locations, separate suburbs, "Jewish towns", were formed (for example in Lublin, Piotrkow, Bydgoszcz, Drohobycz and Sambor) or the Jews fought for and won the revocation of those discriminatory regulations, for example in Stryj and Tarnogrod. The restrictions imposed on the territorial expansion of Jewish quarters forced the Jews to seek the privlegia de non tolerandis christianis, or bans on Christian settlement in Jewish quarters. Such privileges were won by the Jewish town of Kazimierz in 1568, the Poznan community in 1633 and all Lithuanian communities in 1645.

Between 1501 and 1648 Jews further intensified their economic activity. This was accompanied by a basic change in the occupational structure of the Jewish population in comparison with the previous period. The primary sources of income for Jewish families were crafts and local trade. The magnates for whom Jewish traders and craftsmen were an important element in their rivalry with the royal towns, generally favored the development of Jewish crafts.

On the other hand, in larger royal towns as well as in the ecclesiastical towns Jewish craftsmen and also Christian craftsmen who were not members of a guild (known as partacze or patchers) were exposed to permanent harassment from the municipal authorities and the Christian guilds. They could carry out their occupations only clandestinely. In a small number of towns, for example in Grodno, Lvov, Luck and Przemysl, some Jewish craftsmen managed to wrest for themselves the right to perform their trade from the local guilds, but that only after having to pay heavy charges.

Despite these difficulties Jewish crafts, which were encouraged by royal starosts and owners of gentry jurisdictions, not only maintained their state of ownership but expanded it considerably. In the middle of the 17th century Polish and Lithuanian Jews practiced over 50 trades (43 in Red Ruthenia) and were represented in all branches of craftsmanship. The most numerous of them were those who made food, leather and textile products, clothing, objects of gold and pewter and glass manufacturers. In the first half of the 17th century Jewish craftsmen founded their own guilds in Krakow, Lvov and Przemysl. In Biala Cerkiew several Jewish craftsmen (tailors and slaughterers) belonged to Christian guilds in 1641.

In the 16th and the first half of the 17th century Jews played an outstanding role in Poland's foreign trade. They contributed to the expansion of contacts with both the east and the west and were instrumental in importing foreign commercial experience to Poland. Particularly animated trade contacts were maintained by Jewish merchants with England and the Netherlands through Gdansk, and Hungary and Turkey through Lvov and Krakow. Jews exported not only Polish agricultural produce and cattle but also ready-made products, particularly furs and clothing. In return they brought in goods from east and west which were much sought after in Poland. Jewish wholesalers appeared at large fairs in Venice, Florence, Leipzig, Hamburg, Frankfurt on Main, Wroclaw and Gdansk. In order to expand their trade contacts they entered into partnerships. For example in the mid-16th century Jewish merchants from Brest Litovsk, Tykocin, Grodno and Sledzew founded a company for trade with Gdansk, while in 1616 a similar company was established by merchants from Lvov, Lublin, Krakow and Poznan. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, in many towns Jewish and Christian merchants set up joint ad hoc companies in order to conclude profitable financial operations. In European and overseas trade only a relatively small number of Jews were engaged. The most numerous group among Jewish merchants were owners of shops as well as stall keepers and vendors whose whole property was what they put on show on the stall in front of their houses or on a cart, or what they carried in a sack on their backs.

The expansion of Jewish trade troubled the burghers for whom Jewish competition was all the more painful since they now had yet another rival in the developing gentry trade. The struggle of part of the burghers against Jewish merchants manifested itself among other things in attempts at curtailing Jewish trade. The monarchs, though generally favorably disposed towards the Jews, under the pressure from the burghers and the clergy passed a number of decrees which restricted Jewish wholesale trade to some commodities or else to certain quotas of purchases they were allowed to make. More severe restrictions were contained in agreements concluded between municipal authorities and Jewish communities, though these were seldom observed in practice. In private towns, Jewish trade, which yielded considerable profit to the owners, could develop without any obstacles.

The Jews' trading activity also encompassed credit operations. The richest Jewish merchants were often at the same time financiers. The most famous Jewish bankers were the Fiszels in Krakow and the Nachmanowiczs in Lvov as well as Mendel Izakowicz and Izak Brodawka in Lithuania. Those and a number of other Jews pioneered centralized credit operations in Poland. Though banking institutions created by them mainly financed large Jewish tenancies and wholesale trade, as a sideline they also lent money to the gentry on pledge of incoming crops and to Jewish entrepreneurs. A positive role was also played by much smaller loans granted by Jews to many small craft and trade shops. In many cases these loans were instrumental in opening a business. However, the other side of the matter must not be overlooked. The lending of money at high interest led to the impoverishment of both Jewish and Christian debtors. Some of them were put in prison as a result and their families were left with no means of subsistence. This money lending activity aggravated prejudice against Jews among the burghers, something which had always been there anyway due to their religious and traditional separateness.

An important field of the Jews' economic activity were tenancies. In the period under discussion, next to rich merchants and bankers who held in lease large economic enterprises and the collecting of incomes from customs and taxes, there appeared a numerous group of small lease holders of mills, breweries and inns. There also increased the number of Jewish subtenants, scribes and tax collectors employed by rich holders. Some of the latter sometimes attained important positions. For example, in 1525, during the ceremonies connected with the Prussian Homage, without relinquishing his Jewish faith the main collector of Jewish taxes in Lithuania, Michal Ezofowicz was knighted and given the crest of Leliwa. His brother Abraham Ezofowicz, who had been baptized, was also knighted and granted the starosty of Minsk and the office of Lithuanian deputy treasurer.

In the first quarter of the 16th century, Jewish lease holders performed their functions as full-fledged heads of enterprises subordinated to them, for example salt mines and customs offices. "In this period," wrote in 1521 Justus Ludwik Decius, the chronicler of Sigismund the Old, "Jews are gaining in importance; there is hardly any toll or tax for which they would not be responsible or at least to which they would not aspire. Christians are generally subordinate to the Jews. Among the rich and noble families of the Commonwealth you will not find one who would not favor the Jews on their estates and give them power over Christians."

The gentry, who in the 16th century conducted an unrelentless struggle against the magnates, came out against the leasing of salt mines, customs and tolls to the Jews by the lords and the king. Under the influence of the gentry, the diet of Piotrkow in 1538 forbade Jews to take in lease public incomes. This ban was reiterated several times by subsequent diets but it proved only partly effective. In 1581 the autonomous representation of the Jews (the Diet of the Four Lands), which gathered in Lublin, took a decision which, under penalty of anathema, forbade fellow Jews taking the lease of salt mines, mints, taxes on the sale of liquor and customs and tolls in Great Poland, Little Poland and Mazovia. This ban was justified in the following way: "People fired by the greed of great income and wealth owing to those large tenancies, may bring unto the whole [Jewish population]- God forbid-a great danger."

From that time on, Jewish lease holders were active only in Red Ruthenia, Podolya, Volhynia, west bank Ukraine and Lithuania. In the tenancies supervised by the Jews as well as in the estates run by the gentry, feudal exploitation of the peasant serfs often led to local revolts which in the Ukraine turned into a Cossack and peasant uprising. The cooperation of the Jewish lease holders with the magnates in the latter's colonial policy caused these revolts often to be held under the slogan of struggle against the Poles and Jews.

Next to crafts, trade, banking and leasing operations, agriculture had become an increasingly important source of income for the Jewish population in the eastern regions of the Commonwealth. Maciej Miedhowita, author of the Polish Chronicle (1519), when mentioning Jews, says that in Ruthenia they were engaged not only in moneylending and trade but also soil cultivation. In towns Jews owned fields and gardens. In Chelm in 1636 Jewish landless peasants were forced to do serf labor. In villages Jews also toiled the land adjoining the inns, mills and breweries they held in lease.

Some Jews earned their living as paid kahal officials, musicians, horse drivers, factors on gentry estates and in the houses of rich merchants, as middlemen known as barishniki, servants, salesmen, etc. There was also a large group of beggars and cripples without any means of subsistence. Only some of them obtained from time to time assistance from charity organizations and were given a place to sleep in an almshouse. In view of the growing financial differentiation among the Jews social conflicts intensified. The middle of the 16th century saw the beginning of opposition by Jewish craftsmen against individuals who placed their capital in leather, textile and clothing manufacture. The struggle of the populace against rich merchants and bankers was reflected in the activity of Salomon Efraim of Keczyca, an outstanding plebeian preacher. In his book Ir Gibborim (The Town of Heroa), published in 1580 in Basle, he sharply criticized the exploitation of the poor by the rich. He also attacked the rabbis who tried to gain the favor of the wealthy Jews. He presented his views not only in his books and lectures in the synagogue, but also during fairs which were attended by numerous Jews.

There are records of joint revolts by Jewish craftsmen and Christian "patcher" against the guild elders. There were also joint revolts of the Jews and the burghers against the gentry. This found expression in an agreement which in 1589 Jews in Kamionka Strumilowa concluded with the municipal authorities "with the consent of all the populace". The councilors "accepted the Jews into their own laws and freedoms while they [the Jews] undertook to carry the same burdens as the burghers". Jews pledged themselves to help in keeping order and cleanliness in the town, hold guard and take part in anti-flood operations together with Christians. The latter promised that they would "defend those Jews as our real neighbors from intrusions and violence of both the gentry and soldiers. They would defend them and prevent all harm done to them... since they are our neighbors."

The rapid development of Jewish settlement and economic activity was accompanied by expansion of their self-government organization. In the 16th century its structure had no equal in all of Europe. As in the Middle Ages, every autonomous Jewish community was governed by its kahal or a collegiate body composed of elders elected as a rule from among the local wealthiest The kahal organized funerals and administered cemeteries, schools, baths, slaughterhouses and the sale of kosher meat. In the closed "Jewish cities" it also took care of cleanliness and order in the Jewish quarter and the security of its inhabitants. To this should be added the administering of charities such as the organization of hospitals and other welfare institutions and the dowering of poor brides. Another important function was to establish the amount of taxes each individual household in the given community was to pay.

The further hierarchic development of the Jewish autonomous institutions was connected with the difficulties which in the early 16th century the authorities encountered in exacting taxes. Between 1518 and 1522 Sigismund Augustus decreed the foundation of four Jewish regions called lands. Each of these lands was to elect at a special diet its elders, tax assessors and tax collectors. In 1530 the king established a permanent arbitration tribunal based in Lublin which was to examine disputes between Jews from various lands. In 1579 Stephen Bathory called into being a central representation of Jews from Poland and Lithuania with responsibility for exacting poll taxes which had been introduced for the Jewish population in 1549. This institution, known as the Diet of the Four Lands (Va 'ad Arba Arazot), was constituted at a congress in Lublin in 1581. The Diet of the Four Lands, which usually was summoned once a year, elected from among its number a council, known as the Jewish Generality. The latter was headed by a Marshal General and included a Rabbi General, Scribe General and Treasurers General. The diets were attended by representatives of both Poland and Lithuania until 1623 when, following the establishment of a separate taxation tribunal for Lithuanian Jews, a separate diet of Lithuanian Jews was also set up.

These institutions continued in existence until 1764. The diet of Polish Jews usually convened in Lublin, sometimes in Jaroslaw or Tyszowce, while the Lithuanian diets debated most often in Brest Litovsk.

The diet or Va 'ad represented all the Jews. It carried out negotiations with central and local authorities through its liaison officers (shtadlans) who, by their contacts with deputies, tried to influence the decisions concerning Jews taken by the Sejm and local diets of the gentry. During the sessions of the ra 'ads not only fiscal matters were discussed but also those related to the well-being and cultural life of the Jewish population in the Commonwealth. They took decisions on the lease of state products, the amount of interests in credit transactions among Jews, the protection of creditors against dishonest bankrupts, the upbringing of young people, the protection of the family, etc.

The Va 'ad also took decisions on the taxation of the Jewish population, for example for defensive needs of the country. The main tax was the poll tax. In addition the Jews, like the rest of the burghers, paid taxes for the city's defenses. Besides taxes, all townsfolk, irrespective of religion, were obliged to perform certain tasks and contribute money in order to build and expand defensive systems and maintain permanent crews of guards. The Jews, like the Christian population, had personally to contribute to the town's defense preparedness. In the Jewish quarter the most important structure was the fortified synagogue. In the 16th and 17th centuries several dozen such buildings were erected in Poland's eastern borderlands, including such places as Brody, Buczacz, Czortkow, Husiatyri, Jaroslaw, Leszniow, Lublin, Luck, Podkamien, Pomorzany, Sokal, Stryj, Szarogrod, Szczebrzeszyn, Szydlow, Tarnopol, Zamosc and Zolkiew.

One of the main duties of all townsfolk, including the Jews, was to defend the city as a fortified point of resistance in case enemy troops succeeded in forcing their way through into the country. In the early 16th century in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to this was added the duty of providing a contingent of soldiers. After 1571 this duty was changed to appropriate money dues. For the first time Jews were ordered to provide an army contingent in 1514 but this obligation began to be exacted more consistently only after 1648. As was the case with the remaining population Jews acquired their military training during obligatory exercises and their fighting preparedness and ability to wield arms were tested during special parade.

The first mention of a Jew's direct participation in battle against enemies of the Commonwealth dates from the middle of the16th century. During the reign of Stephen Bathory there served in the Polish army one Mendel Izakowicz from Kazimierz near Krakow. He was a bridge builder and military engineer and during the war against Muscovy rendered considerable services to the Polish army. During the war with Muscovy in 1610-12 in one regiment only, probably one of those belonging to Lisowski's light cavalry, more than ten Jews served at one time. A certain number of Jews also fought on the Polish side in the Smolensk war of 1632-34 and some of them were taken prisoner by the enemy.

The year 1648, when the Cossack uprising under Bohdan Chmielnicki broke up, was a breakthrough in the history of both the Commonwealth and Polish Jewry. The country was plunged into economic crisis made worse by war devastation. The wars against the Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and the Tartars, which Poland fought almost uninterruptedly between 1648 and 1717, brought in their wake a permanent downfall of towns and agriculture and decimated the population. During Bohdan Chmielnicki's revolt and wars against the Ukraine and Russia Jewish communities in the areas occupied by enemy troops were completely wiped out. Some Jews were murdered, some emigrated to central Poland and the rest left for Western Europe. The drop in the number of the Jewish population during the Ukrainian uprisings (1648-54) is estimated as amounting to some 20 to 25 per cent, that is between 100,000 and 125,000. A rapid growth in the number of the Jewish population was recorded only in the 18th century, after 1717. It is estimated that in 1766, when the census of Jews obliged to pay poll taxes was concluded, there were in the Commonwealth as a whole some 750,000 Jews, which constituted seven per cent of the total population of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. According to Rafal Mahler, at this time some 29 per cent of all Jews lived in ethnically Polish areas, 44 per cent in Lithuania and Byelorussia and 27 per cent in regions with a predominantly Ukrainian population. Two thirds of all Jews lived in towns and the remainder in the countryside.

Following the first partition of Poland some 150,000 Jews found themselves under Austrian occupation, about 25,000 in the Russian zone and only 5,000 in Prussia. The population census conducted in Poland in 1790-9I demonstrated a further increase in the number of Jewish inhabitants. Tadeusz Czacki estimated them at over 900,000, that is some 10 per cent of the total population of the then Commonwealth. In the same period (1780) in the Austrian zone there were over 150,000 Jews and several tens of thousands in the remaining partition zones.

The reconstruction of towns after each war took a long time. The quickest to emerge from ruin were the estates of magnates who willingly employed the Jewish population. In the eastern part of the Commonwealth and partly in central Poland Jews played an important role in reactivating crafts, and not only such traditionally Jewish branches as goldsmithery, pewter, haberdashery and glass manufacture, furriery and tailoring, but also tin and copper working, arms production, carpentry, printing, dying and soap manufacture. There appeared in this period a large number of Jewish craftsmen who traveled from village to village, from manor to manor, in search of temporary employment. The material situation of Jewish craftsmen was generally difficult. The pauperization of towns and villages made it hard to sell their products both for Jewish craftsmen and their Christian counterparts. In the large cities, rivalry between the guilds on the one hand and the Jewish and Christian "patchers" on the other bred conflicts. These often ended in compromise and Jews more often than ever before were admitted to Christian guilds. At the same time, next to the old ones, new, purely Jewish guilds were formed, for example in Poznari, Krakow, Lvov, Przemysl, Kepno, Leszno, Luck, Berdyczow, Minsk, Tykocin and Bialystok.

During the wars of the middle of the 17th century Jewish wholesale trade, both long distance and foreign, came nearly to a standstill. Only in some cities, for example Brody and Leszno, Jewish merchants, thanks to considerable support on the part of the magnates, succeeded in renewing contacts with Gdansk, Wroclaw, Krolewiec, Frankfurt on Oder and to a lesser degree with England. Thanks to the magnates' assistance local, Jewish trade also began to expand. Most shops in the reconstructed town halls were leased to Jews (for example in Staszow, Siemiatycze, Kock, Siedlce and Bialystok). Peddling was also spreading as a result of which trade exchange between town and country, interrupted during the wars, was revived.

After the middle of the 17th century wars radical changes took place in the organization of credits. Large banking houses disappeared and the kahals, instead of being creditors, turned into debtors. Representatives of the gentry and the clergy increasingly often placed their money in Jewish communities at the same time forcing the latter to take genuine responsibility for the debts of individual Jews. In case a kahal was unable to repay its debts, the gentry had the right to seal and dose down its prayer house, imprison the elders and confiscate goods belonging to merchants. In order to safeguard themselves against the lightheartedness of individual debtors the communities applied the credit hazakah, which consisted in the community issuing permissions to its members who wanted to avail themselves of credit. Whether someone was given a loan or not was often decided by a clique consisting of the kahal elders. Part of the capital leased from the gentry and the clergy and augmented by means of interest disappeared into the pockets of the kahal oligarchy, while part of it was turned over to nonproductive purposes, for example to financing defense in ritual murder trials, paying for the lords' protection, etc.

In the first half of the 18th century the gentry and the clergy became anxious of the fate of money located in the Jewish communities and the interests from unpaid debts which were growing in a landslide. When the above mentioned methods failed to produce adequate results, the krupki were applied, that is a consumption taxation, the income from which was destined totally for paying off the debts. Finally in 1764 a decision was taken on abolishing kahal banks altogether and servicing debts by taxing each Jew.

As a result of the general impoverishment of the Jewish population in the second half of the 17th and in the 18th century, differences between the people and the kahal oligarchy deepened, the latter trying to pass the burden of the growing state and kahal taxes onto the shoulders of the poorer classes. In several cities, for example in Krakow, Leszno and Drohobycz, the Jewish poor revolted against the kahal oligarchies. A fierce struggle against the kahals was carried out by Jewish guilds which tried to free themselves from their economic dependence. At the same time, especially in larger royal towns, conflicts fired by economic rivalry broke out between Jews and Christians. The tense atmosphere of this struggle, conducted usually under religious slogans, was conducive to the outbreak of anti-Jewish riots and pogroms, for example in Krakow, Poznan, Lvov, Vilna, Brest Litovsk and several other cities. Particularly menacing were ritual trials organized in the period of religious prejudices. However much more dangerous was the situation in the Ukraine where the Jews returned only in the late 17th century. The role played in the 18th century by Jewish lease holders in the Polish magnates' colonial policy turned the anger of the local populace, as was the case during Bohdan Chmielnicki's uprising, against both the Polish gentry and Jews generally. In 1768, during a peasant rebellion called kolisczzyz na, which was organized under the slogans of "winning independence" and defense of the Russian Orthodox religion, in Humari and several other Ukrainian cities several thousand gentry and several tens of thousand Jews were murdered.

The events in the Ukraine in 1768 turned the minds of the more enlightened section of Polish society to the problem of carrying out fundamental political reforms and solving both the peasant and the Jewish question. The latter was not only discussed in the last decades of the Commonwealth but practical ways of solving it were sought. Many pamphlets and Sejm speeches dealt with this matter. Some were for the further limitation of the Jews' economic activity while others spoke of turning the Jews into subjects of the gentry, as was the case with the peasants. Finally there were also those who demanded the expulsion of Jews from Poland. These views were opposed by an enlightened group of the gentry, led by Tadeusz Czacki and Maciej Topor Butrymowicz. This group demanded the limitation of the authority of the kahals and a change in the occupational structure of Jews through their employment in manufacturing and agricultural farms. It was also for the assimilation of the Jews and their inclusion in the burgher estate.

In the 1760s the Jewish question was the subject of Sejm debates. In 1764 the Sejm passed a resolution on the liquidation of the central and land organization of the Jews. In 1768 it decided that Jews might perform only such occupations which were allowed to them by individual agreements with towns. From the point of view of Jews, this meant full dependence on their all-time rival in the economic field, that is on the burghers. The Sejm of 1775 undertook the problem of agrarianization of the Jewish community and passed a resolution granting tax exemptions to those Jews who settled on uncultivated land. The same law forbade rabbis to wed those who had no permanent earnings.

Jewish reforms were also discussed during the Great Sejm which elected a special commission for Jewish affairs. However this commission did not manage to submit its findings before 14 April 1791, that is the date when the law on towns was passed, on the basis of which Jews were not included in the burgher estate. Later the Jewish question was dealt with several times; however the Four Year Sejm failed to approve any fundamental reforms in this field. The only important concession for the Jews during the debates of the Four Year Sejm was contained in the law of the police commission of 24 May 1792 which said that Jews, like all other citizens of the Commonwealth, could avail themselves of the right not to be put in prison without a court verdict. 

Though no important law concerning the solving of the Jewish question was approved by the Four Year Sejm, the very fact that the matter was discussed was welcomed by part of the Jewish community with appreciation. On the first anniversary of the passing of the Third of May Constitution services of thanksgiving were held in all synagogues and a special hymn was published. 

Neither was the difficult Jewish question solved in the Prussian and Austrian partition zones. In the Prussian zone, according to the decree issued by Frederick II, the Jewish population was to be subordinated to the Prussian Jewish ordinance (General Judenreglement) of 17 April 1797. The right to permanent residence in towns was granted only to rich Jews and those engaged in trade. Jews were forbidden to pursue those occupations which were already represented in the guilds. The poor Jews, the Bettel Juden, were ordered by Frederick II to be expelled from the country. The activity of Jewish self-government organizations was limited almost exclusively to religious affairs.

In the Austrian partition zone the attitude towards the Jewish question went through two stages, In the initial period, that is during the reign of Maria Theresa and the first years of rule of Joseph II, the separateness of the Jewish population from the rest of Galician society was retained and, with only slight modifications, Jewish self-government was preserved. The poorest Jews were expelled from the country. The remainder were limited in their right to get married, removed from many sources of income and forced to pay high taxes. In the second half of the reign of Joseph II the Jews were recruited into the army (1788) and then, on the strength of the grand Jewish ordinance of 1789 certain restrictions in relation to the Jewish population were lifted and attempts were made to make them equal with the burghers. Expulsions of the Jewish population from Galicia were discontinued, the separate Jewish judiciary was abolished, Jewish self-government was restricted. Jews were ordered to wear dress similar to the Christian population and obliged to attend either German or reformed Jewish schools. However the separate Jewish tax was retained and their economic activity in the countryside was restricted. Some of these decrees met with a decided opposition on the part of the Jews and were eventually revoked. In 1792 Leopold II, Joseph II's successor, changed the military duty of the Jews into a money contribution, while the decree ordering the Jews to wear Christian dress was never introduced in practice.

In the second half of the 17th century Jews took an increasingly numerous part in the wars fought by the Commonwealth. During wars against the Cossacks and the Tartars, the Jewish population provided infantry and mounted troops. Some young Jews fought in the open field, for example in the battle of Beresteczko. Jews also fought in defense of besieged cities, for example Tulczyn, Polonne, Lvov and others. During Poland's wars with Sweden (1655-60), Russia (1654-67) and Turkey (1667-99) Jews provided recruits and participated in the city's defense (for example Przemysl, Vitebsk, Stary Bychow, Mohylew, Lvov and Trembowla), together with the burghers and gentry organized sorties to the enemy's camp (for example at Suraz in 1655, in the vicinity of Podhajce in 1667 and in Przemysl in 1672). The military engineer Jezue Moszkowicz of Kazimierz near Krakow, who in 1664 served in the Polish army, saved heavy mortars and other weapons from being sunk during the war against Russia.

During the Kosciuszko Insurrection and wars against Tsarist Russia in 1794 Jews supported the uprising either in auxiliary services or in arms. For example they took part in the April revolution in Warsaw where many of them perished. After the Russian army was repulsed from Warsaw the idea was born to create a separate military unit composed of Jewish volunteers. This idea was backed by the commander in chief of the Insurrection, Tadeusz Kosciuszko. "Nothing can convince more the far away nations about the holiness of our cause and the justness of the present revolution," he wrote in a Statement on the Formation of a Regiment of Jews, "than that, though separated from us by their religion and customs, they sacrifice their own lives of their own free will in order to support the uprising." The Jewish regiment under Colonel Berek Josielewicz took part in the fighting during the storming of the Praga district of Warsaw by Tsarist troops on 4 November 1794. With the blood shed in this war they documented the loyalty of the Jewish population to the cause of the revolution and the slogans it upheld-equality and fraternity.

As the 19th century began, the Jewish community differed from the other groups of citizens of the partitioned country in their speech, customs and religion. They were also in different legal positions which were defined in the statutes of each of the ruling powers and the short-lived Duchy of Warsaw (1807-15) created by Napoleon. The laws that were derived from the period of the Commonwealth (prior to partition), laid down different rules for each estate: the gentry, the clergy, the burghers and the peasants. The place of Jews in society was defined by separate laws and thus they formed another independent estate. 

The foreign partitioning powers introduced many changes to these laws, for the most part to the detriment of their Jewish populations as compared with their status in pre-partition Poland. In spite of this regression, it was during the 19th century that the process of gradual emancipation of Jews was initiated. This was closely connected with the social liberation aims of the rest of the population. 

In the part of Poland which was governed by Austria, the basic legal regulations concerning Jews were introduced during the late 18th century. They restricted the number of occupations that Jews were allowed to perform (for example they were forbidden to be chemists, brewers or flour-millers), engaging in trade was limited and some of the Jews were forced to move from country to towns. It should be added that some towns still enjoyed the privilege of de non tolerandis Judaeis, such as Biala, Jaslo, Wieliczka and Zywiec. In others, the occupation authorities forced the Jews to live in special quarters, ghettos, in the cities of Lvov, Nowy Sacz and Tarnow. These new regulations, which were introduced as a ''progressive reform'', contributed to the worsening of the living conditions of a large part of Jewish society. According to estimates, in the 1820's in Galicia over forty per cent of all Jews had no permanent employment thus forming the proletariat (Luftmenshen) who lived ''from the air''. 

These restrictions applied above all to the poor strata whom the Austrian authorities thought to be a troublesome element. On the other hand, rich entrepreneurs enjoyed a relatively wide scope of freedom of activity. Thus this policy led to the intensification of material and social differences among the Jews. While certain individuals managed to acquire riches, the overwhelming majority lived in poverty. 

Jewish merchants played important role in Galicia. Major trade centers were Lvov and Brody. The latter became a large commercial center in Central Europe due to its convenient location across communication routes and to it acquiring, in the first half of the 19th century, customs privileges which promoted trade with Russia. 

Basic changes in the situation of Galician Jewry took place after 1848. Jews were active in the revolutionary movement of the period, which resulted in a Polish-Jewish reconciliation and Jewish emancipation. In the years following 1859 the Austrian authorities began to gradually repeal legal restrictions. In 1867-68 all citizens, Jews included, were finally made equal in the eyes of the law. 

As a result of difficult economic conditions in Galicia, equal rights were not enough to solve many everyday problems. Poor economic conditions forced many people to emigrate. Generally, Jews from Galicia sought work in other countries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, sometimes in Vienna, and also in Hungary and the Balkan countries. Towards the end of the 19th century the wave of peasant emigration included many Jews as well. Between 1881 and 1900 some 150,000 Jews emigrated, while between 1900 and 1914 about 175,000 Jews from Galicia left for the United States. The repressive Prussian laws introduced in former Polish territories were directed against the Jewish proletariat. There were a number of restrictions which, among other things, aimed at forcing the Jews out of the country as long as they could not produce evidence of possessing appropriate wealth. The General Ordinance on the Jews (General-Judenreglement) of April 17, 1797 divided all Jews into those ''protected''( Schutzuden), who were obliged to know the German language and possess a sufficient amount of wealth, and those who were merely ''tolerated''. 

This ordinance limited the rights of Jews to settle in the countryside. It also ordered the removal from the area those Jews who could not prove that they had resided in a given town in the territory of the partition zone at the time when this territory had been annexed to Prussia. The same regulations were introduced in the Grand Duchy of Poznan which had been part of the Duchy of Warsaw before the former was joined to Prussia. 

Equal rights for all Jews came in 1848, when the differences between the two categories of Jews were abolished. Later, in 1850 , Jews were given the same rights as the remaining subjects of the king of Prussia. It should be added incidentally that the legislation which accorded certain privileges to those Jews who spoke German was conducive to assimilation. On the other hand, a large number of those who could not speak German, had to leave the country.

The constitution of the Duchy of Warsaw, by abolishing differences between the estates, introduced formal equality of all citizens. In spite of this, it provided for a number of restrictions in relation to Jews. For example they were forbidden to work in certain occupations and the granting of full rights to them was made dependent on their cultural and traditional assimilation. The Jewish question became the subject of extensive discussion. Some authors accused them of selling cheap, poor quality products. To this the outstanding economist, Wawrzyniec Surowiecki (1769-1827) replied: ''It is not the fault of the merchant or the craftsman that he supplies the country with this sort [of goods], but it is the result of the poverty and misery of the inhabitants who can afford nothing better. Were this sentence not true in relation to Poland, the Jews, together with their humble goods, would have soon gone bankrupt.'' In such discussions one could easily discern interests of the burghers who were afraid of competition from Jewish merchants and craftsmen and therefore were in favor of restrictive measures against the Jews. 

The overwhelming majority of Jews in the Duchy of Warsaw were poor and made their living from petty trade and crafts. Only some succeeded in accumulating wealth. Of the latter, the leading place undoubtedly goes to the family of Samuel Zbitkover (1756-1801) who laid the foundations of his fortune in the final years of the Commonwealth when he was engaged in provisioning the army. Then there was also the banker Samuel Kronenberg whose son would play an important role in the country's economic and political life. 

The Congress of Vienna of 1815 created from part of the Duchy of Warsaw a new political entity-the constitutional Kingdom of Poland (also known as Congress Poland), with the Russian tsar as its king. Although the constitution provided for equality of all citizens, this referred only to Christians while Jews were deprived of both citizenship, and civil rights. The legal norms from the period of the Duchy of Warsaw were kept in force. Jews were not subject to duty in the army services but instead they were burdened with heavy taxes. In cities the Jewish population had no municipal rights. Only limited forms of Jewish self-government were preserved. From the highly complex system of autonomous self-governing organizations of Jewish society in old Poland, only the lowest rung, the community, was left. In 1821 new regulations replaced the former kahal boards with new prayer-house supervisory bodies. The latter's terms of reference were limited only to religious matters and charity campaigns. They were also entrusted with certain administrative functions, for example the collecting of recruitment taxes. 

Important changes, connected with the process of social differentiation, took place within Jewish society. This process. took on a particularly clear-cut form in the country's capital, Warsaw, where there arose a group of rich business owners and numerous intelligentsia, the latter composed for the most part of representatives of the professions (doctors, lawyers) as well as artists and booksellers, since Jews were not employed in public offices and institutions. These groups kept in touch with the corresponding Polish groups and took an active part in the country's intellectual life and political movements. Gradually they also came closer to the Polish forms of dress, customs and language. They began to aspire to full citizens' rights and emancipation and the transformation of the Jewish community as a whole. They sought ways of reforming the traditional customs, adapting the various religious requirements and prescriptions to the conditions of contemporary life and freeing themselves from the domination of the intolerant, and sometimes downright primitive, orthodox circles. Jewish youth formed secret societies collaborating with their Polish counterparts in clandestine educational and political work. 

The November Insurrection of 1830-31 did not change the legal status of the Jews. The conservative leaders of the insurrection did not plan very progressive reforms in any field of social life. Nevertheless since Jews in Warsaw shared the national liberation aims of the insurrection, in early 1831 small groups of the richest Jewish sections were allowed to join the National Guards. Representatives of the petite bourgeoisie could enlist in the Municipal Guards while the proletariat joined the Security Guards. 

After the collapse of the November Insurrection the first steps were taken to introduce into the Kingdom of Poland the same rights as those binding in the rest of the Russian Empire in relation to Jews. Also in this field the Russian authorities attempted to blur out the differences between the Polish partition zone and the rest of Russia, although the administrative separateness of the Kingdom of Poland and its self-governing bodies were preserved for the time being. The national authorities opposed unification attempts and tried to keep in force separate laws for the Jews. On the other hand progressive circles were preparing projects for granting Jews equal rights. The latter attempts corresponded to those represented by the progressive enlightened Jewish circles. It is true that arguments and discussions did not produce any direct effect in the form of new laws, but they promoted cooperation between those Jewish and Polish circles who wanted the abolition of legal and economic elements of the feudal system which still prevailed in the Kingdom of Poland. Next to the enfranchisement of the peasants, the most important question was the granting of equal rights to the Jews. 

Political movements became particularly active in 1861. Young Jews joined the various underground circles which arose in many towns. In summer news reached Poland about the death of two outstanding and much esteemed Polish emigration leaders, Joachim Lelewel (1786-1861) and Prince Adam Czartoryski (1770-1861). Prayers in commemoration of these two famous Poles were held in churches with the participation of Jews and in synagogues with the participation of Poles. Joint manifestations were organized on anniversaries of important historic events. The famous rabbi Dov Berush Meisels (1798-1870), who had moved from Krakow to Warsaw, proclaimed the brotherhood of Poles and Jews. 

The right to vote was granted to all male citizens over 25 years of age who could speak and write Polish, irrespective of religion, but with a qualification that the voter must own property. Through these changes Jews were allowed to take part in elections on an equal footing with the rest of society. Jewish representatives were elected to local self-governing bodies. 

In the autumn of 1861 further demonstrations took place. For example on October10th, during the funeral of Archbishop Antoni Fijalkowski (1778-1861), three graduates of the Warsaw rabbinical school unfurled the Polish banner. Patriotic manifestations with the participation of Jews were held also in other towns. The Russian authorities decided to approve the principles of reform of the legal status of Jews, which had been prepared by the autonomous organs of the Kingdom of Poland. On June 5th 1862 the decree introducing equal rights in many important fields was announced. Thus the road to gradual emancipation was opened. 

Since the most politically-minded Jewish circles considered the changes as their victory, they supported the January Insurrection of 1863. Several months after the outbreak of the insurrection, the insurrectionary National Government proclaimed full equality of rights for Jews in Poland. Jews found themselves in the ranks of insurrectionary armies and also among the leaders of the insurrection. The well-known banker and industrialist, Leopold Kronenberg (1812-78), who had wide-ranging contacts in European banking circles, organized the insurrection's finances. The fall of the insurrection, however, crushed hopes and destroyed the reforms of the National Government.

The progress which took place in introducing equal rights for Jews in the 1860's favored the development of transformations in consciousness in cultural and political life. In the second half of the 19th century, new political currents took shape. They had their supporters not only among the relatively limited wealthy social strata and intelligentsia, but also among the masses of the population. 

In the previous decades a movement aimed at the emancipation of Jews had developed. One important component of it was making Jews similar in dress and customs to their Polish surroundings and animating their intellectual life. Some of the leading representatives of this movement gradually became assimilated into Polish society. For them assimilation was the aim to which Jewish society as a whole should aspire. Though they preserved their links with their old circles, their children considered themselves, and were considered by others, to be Poles. These sections of Jewish society produced many families which played an important role in Polish culture, for example the Slonimskis, Natansons and Toeplitzs. 

The program of assimilation found it hard to reach to the masses of the population, one of the reasons being that the latter had no access to schools other than religious ones and had no conditions for mastering the Polish language and adopting different customs. What is more, after the basic premises of emancipation were won, the program of assimilation ceased to be considered as the only way to social emancipation. Other political concepts appealed to the masses much more. 

Towards the end of the 19th century another factor also emerged. Throughout Europe a wave of nationalism, directed above all against the Jews, swelled. France saw the Dreyfus case in 1894, in Czechoslovakia there was the Hilsner case in 1899 and in Russia the Beylis case in 1913. In Germany Richard Wagner wrote: ''The liberation from the yoke of Judaism is for us the supreme necessity.'' In the Kingdom of Poland this current was represented by Roman Dmowski (1864- 1939) and the National Democratic Party created by him. 

The medium for anti-Semitic sentiments was the growing rivalry among the petite bourgeoisie. In Warsaw and other towns appeals to boycott Jewish shops appeared and instances of raids on Jewish shops were noted. The writer and journalist Leo Belmont (1862-1941) wrote: ''In some shops the eloquent notice 'Christian shop' appeared in accordance with the recommendation of Mr. Roman Dmowski who is the author of a new commentary to the Gospels, namely that Christ cleansed the Temple of the Jewish money-lenders only in order to bring the Polish tradesmen in there.'' And although the progressive Polish circles opposed such tendencies, they could do nothing to prevent them. This situation contributed to the defeat of the assimilation movement as the political concept which would help Jews win for themselves mass influence in society. 

The difficult economic situation, discrimination practiced by the Russian authorities and finally the emergence of anti-Semitism gave rise to Jewish emigration. They departed for some West European countries but above all for the United States. In most cases, however, they preserved strong sentimental links with their home country. 

Towards the end of the 19th century, among the Jewish proletariat, some groups of the impoverished petite bourgeoisie and part of the intelligentsia, great influence was exerted by the ideologies of the workers' parties. Later a Zionist movement emerged and finally the conservative movement took on organized forms. Other groups and movements had much lesser influence. 

The above mentioned political and ideological movements were not fully uniform. The workers' parties were divided as far as their strategies and tactics were concerned. Also, in addition to organizations which accepted members irrespective of nationality, there were some which had a powerful national character. Among the Jewish proletariat strong influence was exerted by the Jewish socialist Bund party formed at a secret meeting in Vilna in 1897. The Bund members proclaimed that it was possible to solve the social and nationality problems of the Jews in their countries of residence, that is also in Polish territories. Considerable influence was also won by the party called Po'alei Zion (Workers of Zion) divided into a left and right wing. Many Jews were members of the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. Within the Polish Socialist Party a Jewish Organization existed which produced many outstanding leaders. 

The workers' movement aimed at the solution of nationality problems through the transformation of the existing social system and the liquidation of exploitation of man by man which was inherent in the capitalist system. A different stand was taken by the Zionist movement which put to the fore the nationality question. It maintained that this question could not be solved by way of cooperation of working people irrespective of their nationality. It treated the nationality conflicts as an unavoidable phenomenon and saw the only hope in the foundation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The realization of this goal was to be the main task of each Jew, although it was also necessary to defend one's interests within the country of residence. The Zionist movement, too, was divided as regards concepts concerning its strategy and tactics. 

For the conservatives, the most important problem was the preservation of tradition identified with religion and the scrupulous observance of customs. This was accompanied by considerable indifference towards other matters. In relation to authorities their program principle was the attitude of loyalty, and thus they proclaimed full obedience to state laws. Thus far they had not formed their own political organization and their influence was based on the authority of the zaddikim and the faithful Hasidim who formed their courts. 

In 1918 some groups of the Jewish population, especially the conservative circles which maintained a detached attitude in relation to problems which did not concern the Jews directly, took a position of neutrality and expectation on the question of the rebirth of the Polish state. Some were afraid of any change since-as the experience of many generations had taught them-changes usually brought disaster in their wake. This opinion seemed to be justified in view of the anti-Jewish riots and raids which took place in some parts of the country, although the real significance of these events must not be overestimated. They were caused by conflicts of a social and economic nature between the merchant stratum and its customers from small towns and the countryside. In other instances these were simply criminal offenses, for example in Lvov where the pogroms in the Jewish streets were the work of criminals released from prisons.

The conservatives, represented by the orthodox party Agudat Israel, which was founded in Poland in 1916, declared their loyalty to the Polish state shortly after its government was constituted. On the other hand representatives of other directions, especially the socialist organizations and their like, very often demonstrated their positive attitude to the independence of Poland and also took an active part in the struggle for liberation. Jews found themselves in the ranks of the Legions organized by Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935) and also in other volunteer formations which proclaimed the program of independent Poland. 

Such attitude to the approaching transformations was connected with the conviction-maintained by both the Polish and Jewish masses-that the re-emergent Polish state would have a truly democratic character and thus would bring a solution of the urgent social and political problems and become a state of social justice for the working people. 

Poland emerged as a bourgeois republic under the influence of the great revolutionary movement which swept the whole of Eastern and Central Europe in the years 1917-19. Although the reborn state did not solve the basic economic and social questions, its legislation granted equal rights to all citizens irrespective of nationality and religious convictions. This was guaranteed by its constitution adopted by the Sejm in March 1921 . Thus were abolished the legal norms inherited from the partitioning powers, which gave different legal status to various groups of society. However some questions as laid down in the constitution lent themselves to various interpretations. In 1931 the Sejm passed a law which abrogated expressis verbis all regulations which were discriminatory on grounds of religion, nationality and race. In this respect independent Poland fulfilled the people's hopes. 

The matter was different in the field of economic relations. In the inter-war period Poland found herself in an extremely difficult situation. Leaving aside the fluctuations of economic development experienced by all capitalist countries (a particularly deep drop in production, employment and incomes was noted in the first half of the 1930's), the average increase in the number of places of work was far behind the population growth. Overpopulation of the countryside became more acute, which in turn brought about the shrinking of the internal market and the resultant impoverishment of petty tradesmen and craftsmen. Unemployment in towns took on catastrophic dimensions. In these circumstances, especially in the 1930's, the pauperization of those strata which earned their living from small shops increased. Economists spoke of the overcrowding of trade and crafts. 

According to the 1931 census of the nearly 32 million Polish citizens, 10 per cent (or some three million) were Jews. Of this figure 42 per cent worked in industry, mining and crafts and 36 per cent in trade and kindred branches. Other occupations played a lesser role in the Jews, occupational structure. In some branches of the economy Jews constituted a majority. This concerned above all the retail trade where 71 per cent of all tradesmen were Jewish. In the clothing and leather industry this percentage was almost 50. Typical Jewish occupations were tailoring and shoemaking. However in the conditions of massive unemployment, in spite of the over abundance of certain specialties in crafts, they had no chance of finding employment. At the same time there was a growth in the number of merchants and craftsmen of other nationalities. In the countryside, the expanding cooperative movement became a serious rival to the private merchants. 

It would be wrong to assume that the concentration of Jews in certain branches of the economy and their pauperization were the result of a deliberate policy on the part of the state. It is true that the administration was unfavorably disposed towards employing other than Polish nationals in state enterprises, especially those of military importance (for example railways and armaments factories) and therefore removed Jews from these establishments. However, the direct reason for anti-Jewish discrimination has to be sought in the past, in the relations which had been formed in the period of the partitions. The overcoming of the traditional occupational and social structure of the Jewish community could be accomplished only by the acceleration of the economic development of the country as a whole and also by the creation of conditions favoring the acquiring of new trades which had not been popular among the Jewish community. This problem was also perceived by some Jewish organizations which undertook actions aimed at training young people in various specialties. This was done most often by the Zionist organizations which in connection with their Palestinian plans attempted to prepare groups of settlers having definite trades. However the scope of this action was very modest indeed since it depended on winning financial means as well as those willing to go to Palestine. Similar undertakings could not be carried out on a mass scale without appropriate assistance from the state in a situation where the government found it difficult to acquire sufficient financial resources for the most urgent needs. What is more, even if money had been available, the specialists trained in this way would not have been able to find employment anyway. 

The same objective reasons made it impossible to overcome the concentration of Jewish laborers in small enterprises and workshops, while it should be borne in mind that over 70 per cent of the Jewish urban proletariat were employed in such small establishments.

This adverse situation was also affected by some traditional customs and religion. Since Jews observed Sabbath, it was difficult to employ in one enterprise both Jewish and Christian workers without disorganizing the rhythm of production. Even Jewish entrepreneurs unwillingly employed a Jewish labor force. Of course not all of them were Orthodox Jews and not all of them refused to work on Saturdays. However those who wanted to work on Saturdays were treated with suspicion by their employers who feared lest they belonged to a socialist or communist organization and one day might organize the factory work force in struggle for their interests. In smaller establishments, in which the owner himself took part in both the production process and management, work on Saturdays was suspended. 

The Jewish question in inter-war Poland was above all a social problem. Without solving the problems which were common to all working people, there was no chance of changing the lot of the Polish Jews. And the capitalist system provided no prospect of a radical overcoming of backwardness and increasing the number of jobs, despite efforts on the part of the state undertaken in particular in the second half of the 1930's. 

Thus emigration continued. There are no exhaustive data on this subject. However, it is known that between 1927 and 1938 nearly 200,000 Polish Jews left Poland, of which number 74,000 went to Palestine, 34,000 to Argentina and 28,000 to the United States. The largest waves of emigration were recorded in the 1920's. Following the great slump, after 1929, those countries which up till then accepted immigrants, introduced new, ever more severe restrictions on immigration. This concerned, among other countries, the United States. For this reason in the 1930's overseas emigration limited in scope while the number of those going to Palestine increased. According to the most reliable calculations, between 1919 and 1942 almost 140,000 Polish Jews went to Palestine, that is, some 42 per cent of the total number of immigrants accepted by that country; the largest intensification of Palestine-bound emigration took place in the years 1933-36 when the number of emigrants amounted to 75,000. 

In the difficult economic situation and the changes in legal and political status of Jews after Poland had regained her independence, various programs of activity were formed. The traditional program of the Agudat Israel, which boiled down to the observance of religious prescriptions, loyalty towards the state and the expectation of the Kingdom of God, could not suffice. Although the position of this party among the petite bourgeoisie was maintained by the authority of the zaddikim (a particularly important role in the leadership of the Agudat Israel was played by the famous zaddik of Gora Kalwaria who was however criticized by many), its attempts at consolidating a specific kind of ideological ghetto (the isolation of the Jews from the goyim) resulted in a gradual decrease of its influence. Step by step the party moved towards the acceptance of the prospect of building a Jewish state in Palestine. 

On the other hand, the influence of the workers' parties continued to be strong. The most important role was still played by the Bund, some concepts of which were close to those of the radical left wing, though its members represented a whole variety of views. The Bund differed from the program put forward by the communists in that it demanded cultural and national autonomy for national minorities, especially for the Jews, and perceived the necessity of organizing the whole of the Jewish proletariat in one, separate national party. Many Bund leaders saw the need for dictatorship by the proletariat (the Bund program adopted in 1930 mentioned the possibility of such dictatorship). The party was decidedly opposed to the conservatives and discarded religion. It accused the Agudat Israel of defending the interests of the propertied classes to the detriment of the needs of the masses. The most outstanding leaders of the Bund were Victor Alter (1890-1941), Henryk Erlich (1882- 1941) and Samuel Zygelbojm (1895-1943). 

The Bund, like the illegal Communist Party of Poland to which many Jews also belonged and the Polish Socialist Party, saw the only chance of solving the Jewish question in Poland in building a socialist society without man's exploitation by man. It sought its allies among workers of all nationalities living in Poland. It opposed all concepts of emigration since it perceived the impracticability of the idea of organizing emigration of a several million strong nation. The socialist leaders considered the Palestinian campaign to be an element weakening the forces of the proletariat fighting for a change in social relations and as a solution which at best could constitute a chance for only few. 

A radical social program was also voiced by the left wing of the Po'alei Zion which saw prospects for the Jews in a socialist revolution and in introducing cultural and national autonomy. For the future, it accepted the idea of building a socialist Jewish state in Palestine and therefore it supported the Palestinian campaigns. Its leading members were Antoni Budhsbaum, Szachna Sagan and Jozef Witkin-Zerubavel (1876-1912). A much smaller following was enjoyed by the right wing of the Po'alei Zion which concentrated above all on Palestinian works, that is all activity aimed at forming. a future Jewish state, including education of qualified farmers, workers and soldiers. 

All the workers, organizations, irrespective of the differences that separated them, cooperated in many important issues. They undertook a common struggle against campaigns organized by the right wing of the National Democratic Party. In Warsaw they even formed an underground organization the task of which was to put up armed resistance to the nationalist militants. Both Jews and Poles connected with the workers, movement took part in its work. 

Different views were voiced by Zionist organizations which saw the Jews, future exclusively in emigration and in building their own state. The Palestinian works became the most important aim while current issues of political life were relegated to the background, though they were not totally neglected. 

After Poland regained her independence, the most important organization was the Zionist Organization in Poland composed of three regional branches (for the former Austrian partition zone, eastern Galicia and western Galicia). Its members represented various views which in later years resulted in its break-up and the formation of a splinter group known as Zionist Revisionists who set up the New Zionist Organization. Among the leading activists of the Zionist movement mention is due above all to Rabbi Osias (Jehoshua) Thon (1870 - 1936), Emil Sommerstein (1883- 1957), Henryk Rosmaryn (1882-1955), all representing the Et Livnot wing, and Yizhak Gruenbaum (1879-1970), the magnificent orator, for many years Sejm deputy from the Al ha-Mishmar wing. 

Zionism was strongly opposed to both the workers, and conservative movements. The latter accused them of profaning religious tradition because in the future Jewish state the language of everyday use was to be Hebrew, the language of the holy books. The other political groups generally considered Yiddish to be the language of everyday use. 

It is only an apparent paradox that the Zionist movement found support in Poland's nationalist circles. In the 1930's government circles granted it some assistance, especially to the radical group of the Zionist Revisionists who were ready to win an independent Jewish state in armed struggle. The plane on which agreement was reached was the question of emigration. For the Polish government saw no chances of solving the country's social problems with the use of its own resources and wanted to stimulate the emigration of the most impoverished sections which were the heaviest burden on the labor market. In the second half of the 1930,s another factor was added to this. From the National Democratic Party, the Sanacja government-the political camp which wielded dictatorial power in Poland at the time-adopted some of its ideas an tried to induce emigration first of all of national minorities . 

An important arena of struggle among various political groups active among the Jews were the religious communities. The community was in principle a religious institution derived from the synagogue supervisors established in the former Russian partition zone. The principles of activity of the communities were laid down in a decree of 1927 which was binding in all of Poland with the exception of Silesia. By law, each community encompassed all followers of Judaism who lived in its area of operation. Obviously unbelievers were allowed to leave this organization and thus relinquish both the duties and the rights which were binding on its members. However, in fact only a few did that. 

According to the above mentioned decree, the terms of reference of the community included the maintenance of the rabbinate, the buildings and facilities which served religious needs and cemeteries, the supervision of religious instruction of their youth, the provision of kosher meat to the faithful, the administration of the community's property and funds and dispensing of charities. The sphere of activity thus defined went beyond the limits of purely religious ministrations. The management of funds and assistance to the poor were after all of basic importance, especially in the years of economic crisis. The authorities of the community were thus responsible not only for satisfying religious needs but also for social policy. For these reasons the Jewish communities aroused interest in some political parties.

Traditionally the community boards were dominated by the Agudat Israel. However as early as the 1920's, especially in large industrial centers, the Bund and the Zionists were also represented on these bodies. During the elections held in the spring of 1931, those groups challenged the orthodox factions since they saw the possibility of transforming the denominational institutions into a kind of cultural and national self-government. In this conflict, representatives of the Agudat Israel resorted to various abuses of electoral regulations, such as depriving their opponents of the right to vote on the accusation that they were acting against the religion. They also used the assistance of administrative bodies which were afraid lest the denominational self-government might become in time a political institution. The opponents of the conservatives quite rightly maintained that in many communities the latter neglected the needs of the working masses and even accused them of corrupt practices. 

The second half of the 1930's brought many phenomena which intensified emigration sentiments among the Polish Jews. The country's economic situation did not promise any improvement, while emigration could facilitate the gaining of means of subsistence. Some young Zionists grew impatient since the longed-for proclamation of a Jewish state did not materialize. Violent acts committed by the National Democrats became more frequent, despite opposition on the part of progressive organizations and many outstanding scholars. However in practice in many universities the nationalists succeeded in introducing various regulations which were aimed against students of Jewish origin (not only those who considered themselves to be Jewish). Some municipal authorities passed regulations discriminating against the Jews though formally in accord with the existing legislation. There were cases of groups of militants beating up professors (for example Professors Edward Lipiriski and Tadeusz Kotarbinski) who were opposed to anti-Semitism. There were also instances of pogroms in small towns where the mob, incited by the nationalists and composed mainly of criminal elements, robbed and demolished Jewish booths and shops and maltreated their owners. Assistance from the workers could not always stop the attackers. The government took an equivocal stand in this matter. Though it condemned pogroms, yet at the same time Prime Minister Felicjan Slawoj Skladkowski (1885-1962) declared in the Sejm: ''Economic boycott? That's right!'' The Church condemned such excesses, but simultaneously well-known journalists writing for Catholic journals advised Christians to stay apart from the Jews. 

Of great importance were the events in Germany. After Hitler took power, mass persecutions of Jews started, among whom there were also some 50,000 Polish subjects living in Germany. This resulted in official protests from the Polish consulates and embassy which took various steps to help the persecuted. However, the Polish authorities were afraid that this persecution would reduce the Polish Jews living in Germany to such poverty that they would be forced to return to Poland where they would not find any means of subsistence. Many employees of the Polish consulates-as reports sent to Warsaw indicate-intervened on behalf of Jews for purely humanitarian reasons, since they wanted, at least to some degree, to alleviate the difficult situation of the persecuted Jews. 

These interventions stopped the Third Reich from applying against the Polish Jews all repressive measures which were used against the German citizens of Jewish origin. However nothing could change radically the situation of Polish Jews in Germany. In the years 1938-39 more and more often Polish Jews, leaving behind all their property, were hurried across the border to Poland under threat of death. Particularly harsh measures were applied in the last days of October 1938 when some 13,000 were forced in this way out of Germany (according to data of the Polish consulates). For several days the victims stayed in the open air, between the two border points, before they were allowed back to Poland. Here, having no means of subsistence, they waited for many weeks in transit camps near the border.

Hitler's Plans for Poland

The words which you cited were addressed by Hitler to his assembled military commanders on 22 Aug 1939 and recorded in the notes of Gen. Canaris. Somehow the American journalist Louis Lochner got wind of it and it was published in the West during the war. (Source: Marrus, Holocaust in History, pp20-21)

Hitler said are various other things in the same vein; e.g., Keitel on October 17th 1939, that German plans in Poland entailed a "hard ethnic struggle [Volkskampf] which will not permit any legal restrictions". The Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, told his police chiefs on May 30th 1940 that Hitler had told him that "We must liquidate those people who we have discovered form the leadership in Poland; all those who follow in their footsteps must be arrested and then got rid of after an appropriate period". This policy had been deferred, he said, while the spotlight of the world was on Poland, but with the invasion of France it could now be put into practice. This speech initiated the notorious "AB" [Ausserordentliche Befriedungsaktion = "extraordinary Pacification Action"] which was intended to eliminate the Polish intelligentsia, which Frank defined as "teachers, clergy, doctors, dentists, vets, officers, ranking bureaucrats, big merchants, big landowners, writers, journalists, as well as persons who had university or high school diplomas." (Source: Noakes and Pridham, Nazism: A History in Documents, p965)

On October 2 1940, Hitler said that "all the representatives of the Polish intelligentsia must be murdered. That sounds cruel, but it is the law of life." (N & P p988)

Apparently, some consideration was given to an extermination campaign against the Poles. Frank addressed a group of Nazi leaders on 14 December 1942: "... we are now faced with the problem of what line should be taken in the future towards the Poles .... It would be desirable if the Reich ministries, the Party agencies and the territorial authorities could finally decide on a course of action. It simply will not do for some people to say that Poles of whatever sort will be exterminated, and for others to say all Poles ... must be put to work. There is a complete contradiction here. One could say: we will keep all the Poles who are in work, and all Poles who are not in work will be exterminated. There is, however, a major problem there in that the extermination of millions of human beings is dependent on preconditions which at the moment cannot be fulfilled," (ibid 967) i.e., the same kind of debate as between the 'productionists' and 'attritionists' re. the Jews. The decision not to proceed with extermination seems to have depended on practical rather than ethical considerations.

However, the following passage is revealing and of great interest to Holocaust students: it comes from comments on the "Generalplan Ost", a Nazi planning document whose text has unfortunately been lost, and which outlined Nazi plans for Poland. The comments of an RSHA official, Dr. Erhard Wetzel, are all we know of the plan. In part, Wetzel said (27 Apr 42): "It should be obvious that one cannot solve the Polish problem by liquidating the Poles in the same way as the Jews. Such a solution of the Polish problem would burden the German people with guilt for years to come and lose us the sympathy of people everywhere". (ibid 979) (The plan called for deporting 80-85% of Poles "to the East", specifically to the Siberian steppes. There are other similarities with the early stages of the Final Solution. Poles were deported from areas to be cleared for German colonization by cattle cars, and the phrase "Final Solution of the Polish Problem" is occasionally encountered, too. If anyone is interested I can dig up an example. This argues against the simplistic "intentionalist" view of the Holocaust.)

Jewish Life in Poland Before the 1939

As previously noted, Polish Jews demonstrated their Polish patriotism irrespective of their political opinions, general views, or wealth. In 1916, there were still demonstrations and strikes in Warsaw (still occupied by the Germans) organized jointly by the Social Democrats of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Polish Socialist Party (there were Jews in both these organizations), and also the Jewish Socialists of the Bund. The Orthodox Jews demonstrated their patriotism in their own way, for example, taking part in 1916 in the 125th anniversary of the publishing of the May 3rd Constitution, in its day one of the world's most liberal constitutions. Alongside other Jewish organizations, the Warsaw rabbinate took part in the procession, among them the venerable Rabbi Abraham Perlmutter, a member of the Council of State and later a senator in the independent Polish Republic.

It has already been pointed out that many Polish Jews in no way differed from their Polish fellow citizens. They lived in various districts of Poland's towns and cities, owned factories and various business establishments, sometimes in partnership with Poles. There were 370,000 Jews living in Warsaw before the war, and they therefore formed almost one-third of the population of the capital and one could have often seen them in the crowd on the pavement at the busy crossroads of Jerozolimskie and Marszalkowska streets.

However, Jews lived in greatest numbers in the northern districts of the city. It was mainly small traders, craftsmen, and workers, who lived here. One of the well-known streets in the district was Gesia Street, familiar to all the inhabitant of Warsaw who came here to do their shopping.

The northern district, which was inhabited by Poles as well as Jews, was one of the most densely populated in Warsaw. There were shops and workshops in the courtyards of the houses as well, and these therefore turned into alleyways with crowds of people passing through them on weekdays. But the courtyards emptied completely on Saturdays, since the Jews here, who were on the whole religious, celebrated the Jewish Sabbath; and also on Sundays since there was an official ban on trade and craft manufactures.

After the capital, Lodz was the largest Jewish center. In 1939, there were 250,000 Jews there in a population of 672,000 --- that is 35%! The Lodz Jews were highly differentiated in terms of class: there were many workers, especially textile workers, and small traders, but there were also very wealthy merchants (wholesalers), and also a small group of princes of the Polish textile industry. One of these was Icchak K. Poznanski, who city mansion still stands in Piotrkowska Street to the present day.

There were Jews living in hundreds of small Polish towns, often constituting half or even three-quarters of the population. Kazmirierz Dolny on the Vistula was a town of this kind -- very picturesque and a favorite haunt of the landscape artist. The Jews here were mainly engaged in trade, and sold their wares, which were usually cheaper than elsewhere, from booths set out in the town square. The local peasantry willingly made use of these services.

Jewish intellectual, cultural, scientific, and religious life flourished in Poland. In Tlumackie Street in the center of Warsaw, there was a splendid synagogue built in 1878 by the architect Leandro Marconi. The synagogue had excellent cantors and one of the best choirs in the country, which often also gave concerts in the Philharmonia and other concert halls. The Nazis blew up this synagogue in May 1943 as a sign of victory over the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and they also destroyed the historic round synagogue on Twarda Street, named after its founder Zelman Nozyk, was saved and is still used by the faithful today. after restoration work.

Next to the Tlumackie synagogue, there was a Central Judaic Library and Judaic Studies Institute, built by voluntary subscription from among the Jewish community, and opened in 1936. During the occupation, various welfare organizations had their headquarters here (Jewish Social Self-Help), while the historian Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, who kept the underground Warsaw Ghetto Archive, was working in the basement. After the war, the building, which had been partially burnt and damaged by the occupying forces, was restored and is now the headquarters of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland, with a Museum, library, archive, and a reading room.

Before the war, the Jews had their own education system, with Yeshiva, or advanced schools for Talmudic studies. There were Yeshiva in several towns, including Warsaw, Krakow, and Lublin. It is the Lublin Yeshiva that one can see in this slide. This was completed in 1930 and was then the most modern Yeshiva building in the world. The building survived the war.

There were many cultural institutions, schools, old people's homes, hospitals, clinics, and charitable bodies organized by the Jewish communes, including the children's home run by Janusz Korczak.

As well as the large numbers of assimilated and polonized Jews, the religious Jews living according to tradition, there were also many Hasidim in Poland. Their main tenet was to adore God through a simplified ritual linked with singing and dancing. The slide shows Hasidim in the Kazimierz district of Krakow. Hasidim who visited the spa of Krynica-Zdrój to rest and take the waters, did not forget about learned disputation.

The Character of the Warsaw Ghetto

Throughout the autumn everyone was preoccupied with the nature of the ghetto. Would it be an open district with Jews free to leave and Poles free to enter during the day? Would it close only at night, when the curfew was in force? Or perhaps contact between the two populations would be restricted to several hours? Not many could bring themselves to consider the nightmarish possibility of an hermetically sealed ghetto, shut off completely from the outside world. But during the hectic weeks of population exchange and wandering, when finding safe quarters became the most pressing and urgent concern, no time was left of speculation or anything else. (Photos)

Jewish owners of shops, workshops, and other businesses excluded from the designated ghetto found themselves on the horns of a painful dilemma: should they close down, remove the remaining merchandise from the store, their work tools from their workshops, and resign themselves to the loss of livelihood, or should they stay put in the hope that after the closure of the ghetto they would still be allowed to pursue their occupations outside the ghetto? On November 16, all questions, dilemmas, and speculation were settled in one single blow. Polish and German policemen were posted at the ghetto gates, and only those with special permits were allowed to leave or enter the district. The ghetto had been effectively sealed off. Some 1,700 grocery stores and about 2,500 other Jewish owned businesses remained outside the ghetto perimeter.

The group that was particularly hard hit by ghettoization consisted of assimilated Jews and Catholic converts. The proportion of assimilated Polish Jews and Jews who had strong ties to the non-Jewish milieu was smaller than in Western and Central Europe. Nevertheless, there were thousands of Jews in Poland, and especially in Warsaw, who regarded themselves as full-fledged Poles; their social, cultural, religious, and family ties with Jews and Jewishness were tenuous at best. Also in this hard-hit category were mixed families and several thousand converts, who were classified as Jews by the race laws.

Before July 24, 1940, Jews residing in the General Government were classified according to social-religious criteria, not by race. A Jew was a person of the Mosaic persuasion or a member of the Jewish community. This loophole seemed to provide am opportunity for converts to evade the anti-Jewish decrees and other discriminatory practices; in fact, a spate of conversions took place, although the phenomenon did not turn into a mass flight to Christianity. In his notes, Emmanuel Ringelblum mentions several hundred Jewish converts to Christianity. In other places the figures were higher, particularly in Warsaw, but the "wave" of conversions appears to have encompassed no more than a few hundred.

In Hungary, for example, from 1938 to 1939, when the anti-Jewish laws which came into effect at that time either applied only partially to converts or not did not apply to them at all, nearly 15,000 Jews converted. The relatively small number of converts in Warsaw, and in Poland in general, must be attributed first and foremost to the more tightly knit structure of Polish Jewry and to its strong sense of collective identity, traditions and religion.

Even before the establishment of the ghetto, the Germans had imposed a number of proscriptions in line with Nazi racial doctrine. For example, Jews and converts alike were required to wear an armband with the Star of David. This summary order issued by Governor Frank left the question of directives in this matter to the discretion of local executive agencies. Acting on Frank's decree, Ludwig Fischer, the governor of Warsaw, issued a directive defining a Jew as a member of the Jewish community or who had belonged to the Jewish community at any point in the past. Thus the order applied even to the offspring of converts.

The directive of July 1940, which defined a Jew, went further still -in fact, it came close to the definition spelled out in the Nuremberg Laws: a person was a Jew if all four of his or her grandparents had belonged to the Jewish community; a person with only two or even one such grandparent was considered Mischlinge, or of mixed Jewish blood. The definition, then, went back three generations. Even if one's parents were true Christians, the religious denomination of one's grandparents could dispatch the offspring of converts toward the foreign and strange world of the ghettoized Jews. At a certain stage, a ban on baptizing Jews in the General Government was under consideration, but Frank refused to sign the necessary decree. At the same time efforts were apparently made to release the converts from having to wear the identifying armband.

The only organization that maintained contacts with the authorities was the Central Welfare Council (R.G.O.), which assumed responsibility for lobbying and intercession on behalf of the converts. The heads of the R.G.O. argued that among the converts were prominent Polish cultural and social figures who had absolutely nothing in common with the Jews; for such persons the armband amounted to an intolerable burden. In response, the Germans asked for a list of persons that the Council recommended for exemption, and they promised to consider the request. It seems that a list of 2,000 names was delivered to the authorities. The reply followed shortly: after serious consideration the appropriate authorities had decided that the request to release converts from the obligation of wearing the Star of David armband could not be granted.

To be sure, most converts did manage to evade the order, although some of them suffered harassment on this account. Just before the deadline for the closure of the ghetto, however, the Germans came to the homes of those converts whose names had appeared on the list and forced them to move into the ghetto. In all, some 2,000 Christians were forced into the ghetto. They formed their own community around the church on Leszno Street which had been included within the ghetto borders. The priest, too, was a converted Jew. The community received assistance from Caritas, a Christian welfare agency, and many years later Cardinal Wyszynski endeavored to portray the aid extended by the Church to the Jewish converts in Warsaw as assistance to the ghettoized Jews.

Ghettoization marked a turning-point in the life of the Jews, a point no less radical I than the beginning of the war and the occupation. The ghettos created by the Nazis during I World War II were not comparable to their medieval namesakes. The latter consisted of Jewish quarters or streets that separated Christians from Jews by designating a religious, social and cultural enclave. Apart from that, however, social and economic intercourse between the two groups remained unobstructed. Although the medieval ghetto may have , been established in order to humiliate the Jews as prescribed by Christian doctrine- and --conditions may have been crowded and unsanitary even by contemporary standards, the ghetto as an institution was often regarded favorably by the Jews, since it facilitated the preservation of their traditional way of life and protected them from potentially unsettling developments in the outside world. In March of 1941, Ringelblum wrote in his diary that "analogy with the ghetto as it existed in the past is inaccurate, since in those times the ghetto was an outcome of historical development, a general phenomenon, whereas now it is a concentration camp."

Articles in the underground press offer ample evidence of the Jews' preoccupation with the sense of isolation, humiliation, congestion, hunger, and disease rampant in the ghetto. The December 1940 issue of Befraiung, for example, the organ of the Socialist Zionist Poalei Zion, published an extensive historical survey of the ghetto, which opened with these words:

The sky over our heads is again overcast with the clouds of the Middle Ages. All the antiquated edicts and repressive measures, which appeared to have been completely forgotten, and which seemed to be of interest only to a professional historian, resurfaced in our everyday lives shrouded in darkness, becoming part of our bitter reality. At this moment the problem of the ghetto, in all its gravity and terror, is our most pressing concern. With all the savagery mustered by the beast lurking in man, we have been counted as impure and cast out from among the surrounding non- Jewish population, and we remain hermetically sealed off behind narrow walls, without light, air, or greenery.

The ghetto was in fact circumscribed so as to exclude from its bounds the smallest patch of green or cluster of trees. Adjoining Nalewki Street, Krasinski park, a tiny public garden in the heart of the Jewish district, was not included in the ghetto. The question of its inclusion was the subject of numerous discussions. Czerniakow was made many promises, but, like so many others, these promises proved false, a cruel act of deception by the Germans.

The ghetto streets thronged with people the penned crowds, nervous and always in a hurry. It was a constant stream of humanity. In April 1941, the press organ of the youth section of Hashomer Hatzair published an article entitled "A Walk Down the Ghetto Streets." Its author noted that it took him "three quarters of an hour to traverse the cage designed for half a million people."

Dry statistics accurately convey the horrendous congestion in the ghetto: 30 percent of the city's population was squeezed into an area 2.4 percent of the city's size. According to an official Jewish newspaper appearing in Cracow several times a week, in January 1941, the population of the Warsaw ghetto consisted of 380,979 Jews, 1,718 Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, and 43 members of other religions.

The ghetto boundaries shifted constantly, in accordance with the ongoing tendency to reduce its area by "amputation." At the same time, the population kept increasing due to deportations and evacuations from the neighboring towns and villages and to the transfer of refugees in the wake of complete or partial liquidation of other Jewish ghettos and settlements. Because of the soaring death rates among the ghetto population, this incessant influx was not always reflected in the statistics.

In April 1941, the refugee population in the Warsaw ghetto stood at 130,000. In January 1941, the entire ghetto contained 380,000people. By March the number had risen to 445,000, and then in June it declined to 440,000. In July it suddenly dropped to 420,000, and the downward trend continued throughout 1941. A similar ebb and flow was evident in 1942, when the ghetto population rose from 369,000 to 400,000 between February and June, then fell by 45,000 in the month of July, just before the "great deportation."

The death rates reflect the dreadful conditions of life in the ghetto. Thus, from January to April 1941, the number of deaths per month rose from 898 to 2,061; then in July and August it soared to 5,550 and 5,560 respectively. The annual death toll that year reached 43,000, or 10 percent of the total ghetto population. Even if the death rate had maintained its 1941 levels which is to say, even if the Nazis had not instituted their policy of mass murder in the death camps in 1942 the harvest of death in the Warsaw ghetto alone would have surpassed the loss of life in countries such as France, Belgium, Italy, or Romania throughout the war. In other words, if the ghetto had been kept in operation for another ten years, the entire Jewish population of Warsaw would have been decimated even without the gas chambers of Treblinka and Auschwitz.

It is impossible to say for certain whether this appalling mortality rate was linked to a cold-blooded, calculated Nazi plan regarding ghettoization, but statements such as the l following by Governor Frank are more than suggestive. "The fact that we are sentencing 1.2 million Jews to death by hunger," Frank said in August 1942, "there is no need to elaborate on that. This is quite clear, and if the Jews do not die of hunger, anti-Jewish decrees will have to be expedited. Let us hope this will be the case. " By that time, however, Frank was aware of the plan for the complete and final extermination of the Jews.

On the other hand, we know of other statements by senior Nazi officials in which better food rations are recommended for Jews so that the population might be utilized properly as a labor force. According to still other statements, the harshest possible measures were to be taken against the Jews since they could not be put to death.

It appears, however, that before early or mid- 1942, German authorities in the General Government did not actually have a plan, or simply did not know what fate awaited the Jews there. It was clear to them that the ghetto and other anti-Jewish measures amounted to an interim phase, which would have to be followed by permanent arrangements for the future in line with Nazi doctrine. Various proposals were put forward, including the aforementioned plans to concentrate all or most of the Jews in a kind of reservation in the Lublin area or on the island of Madagascar. With the launching of the ''final solution" in 1942, all of these plans were abandoned.

Although some of the ghetto afflictions might be seen as an amplification of the shortages and hardships that plague every society even in normal times, the ghetto residents faced many adversities that stemmed directly from the quarantine and the dreadful conditions the Nazis had imposed on them. Hunger and the permanent shortage of food were among the most acutely felt hardships. The hunger problem was not just a "matter of bread," for bread ranked as a delicacy in the ghetto. The food that people l dreamed about night and day was of a much coarser kind.

Food was rationed to everyone. The official daily rations were as follows: 2,614 calories for Germans, 669 calories for Poles, and 184 calories for Jews. Germans and Poles, however, found ways to obtain additional, higher quality food in the free and black markets to which they had access. This source was closed to the Jews, who could not tap into the supply networks linking the countryside with the city. Smuggling food into the ghetto thus became the only source of acquiring supplementary provisions.

Cultural Self-Preservation

The Nazi did not initially allow any education to be organized, but despite this ban secret teaching was organized under cover of charitable action to feed children, by the Jewish Self-Help. However, for a short period of time the Nazis gave permission for a small number of elementary schools to be opened and also trade training centers, thanks to the effort of Adam Czerniakow, an engineer. 

"Jews are people of the book" -- this is a phrase that can be found in descriptions of Jewish culture. An despite the ban on publishing newspapers (apparent from the Gazeta Zydowska -- Jewish Gazette), books were still bought and sold in the streets. It is worth remembering that before the war Jews published more than 30 daily newspapers and about 130 other periodicals. During the occupation, there were about 70 underground newspapers published by various political groupings, mainly in the Warsaw ghetto.

Poverty, hunger, and epidemics gave rise to a terribly high death rate. Deaths in the street were en everyday occurrence. Special teams scoured the streets and took corpses to the cemetery in Okopowa Street, most frequently burying them in common graves. We should note that this was necessary to obtain a special pass to carry the dead there or to organize family funerals.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Many Jews in ghettos across eastern Europe tried to organize resistance against the Germans and to arm themselves with smuggled and homemade weapons. Between 1941 and 1943, underground resistance movements formed in about 100 Jewish groups. The most famous attempt by Jews to resist the Germans in armed fighting occurred in the Warsaw ghetto. (map)

In the summer of 1942, about 300,000 Jews were deported from Warsaw to Treblinka. When reports of mass murder in the killing center leaked back to the Warsaw ghetto, a surviving group of mostly young people formed an organization called the Z.O.B. (for the Polish name, Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, which means Jewish Fighting Organization). The Z.O.B., led by 23-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, issued a proclamation calling for the Jewish people to resist going to the railroad cars. In January 1943, Warsaw ghetto fighters fired upon German troops as they tried to round up another group of ghetto inhabitants for deportation. Fighters used a small supply of weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto. After a few days, the troops retreated. This small victory inspired the ghetto fighters to prepare for future resistance. (Photos)

On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended. The Germans had slowly crushed the resistance.

Of the more than 56,000 Jews captured, about 7,000 were shot, and the remainder were deported to killing centers or concentration camps.

Internet Resources

Vice-President Al Gore's comments on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Ghetto Fighters Museum
Jürgen Stroop
Stroop Report and the original in German

Krakow's Jewish Ghetto

The Jewish Community

(Also Cracow) City in southern Poland; the third largest in the country and one of the oldest. Krakow is mentioned from the eighth century; in the eleventh century it became the residence of the Polish princes. Between 1320 and 1596 it was the capital of the kingdom of Poland.

From the early fourteenth century, Krakow was one of the most important Jewish communities in Europe. In 1495 the Jews of the city were expelled to Kazimierz, a new town being built nearby that eventually became a quarter of Krakow, and the history of the Jews in the two places became closely intertwined. In 1867 Jews were given the right of residing in every part of the city.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, Krakow was an outstanding center of Jewish learning and culture in Europe. During the Swedish invasion (1655-1657) the Krakow Jewish community underwent much suffering, but after the city was liberated the community gradually regained its strength. From 1815 to 1846 Krakow and its environs constituted a free republic, and the Jewish community flourished. Subsequently, in the period from 1846 to 1918, when the city was part of Austrian-ruled Galicia, the Jewish community grew and progressed further, with a thriving cultural and social life. In independent Poland (1918-1939) Jewish life flourished in Krakow more than ever, although in the years preceding the outbreak of World War II the Jewish community suffered from the increase of antisemitism in the country.

In 1540, Krakow had a Jewish population of 2,100; in 1772, 4,000; in 1880, 20,000 (one-third of the total); in 1900, 25,000; and in 1921, 45,000. By 1939 the number of Jews had grown to 60,000, out of a total population of about a quarter of a million.

Nazi Occupation

Krakow was occupied by the German army on September 6, 1939, and the persecution of the Jews was launched without delay. It was organized mainly by Einsatzkommando 2 of Einsatzgruppe 1, commanded by Obersturmbannfuhrer Max Gross-Kopf. On October 26 the occupation authorities declared Krakow the capital of the Generalgouvernement (the territory in the interior of occupied Poland). As a result, the persecution of the Jews was intensified. It was in Krakow that the Generalgouvernement issued all its anti-Jewish decrees.

A Jewish committee was organized in the early stage of the occupation, and on November 28 it was declared a Judenrat (Jewish Council). The chairman of the Judenrat was Dr. Marek Bieberstein, with Dr. Wilhelm Goldblatt as his deputy. In the summer of 1940 both men were imprisoned by the Gestapo and Dr. Artur Rosenzweig was appointed chairman. On December 5 and 6, the Germans conducted a sweeping terror operation in the Jewish quarters, mainly to raid Jewish property. Several synagogues were burned down on this occasion.

On May 1, 1940, a decree was issued placing the city's boulevards and major squares out of bounds to Jews. That same month the expulsion of Krakow Jews to neighboring towns was launched; by March 1941, forty thousand Jews had been expelled and no more than eleven thousand were left in the city. While the expulsions were taking place, the victims were robbed of all their property.

The Ghetto

On March 3, 1941, the Krakow district governor, Otto Wachter, published a decree on the establishment of the ghetto, to be located in Podgorze, a section in the southern part of the city. The ghetto was sealed off on March 20, within a wall and a barbed - wire fence. It covered an area of no more than 656 by 437 yards (600 x 400 m), bisected by Limanowskiego Street. In addition to the Krakow Jews, several thousand Jews from neighboring communities were also packed into the ghetto, mainly from Skawina, Wieliczka, and Rabka. In late 1941, eighteen thousand Jews were imprisoned in the ghetto. The worst problems were the overcrowding (four to five persons to a room) and the poor sanitary conditions. (Pictures)

Several organizations were active in the ghetto in efforts to alleviate the plight of the population. The more important were the Judische Soziale Selbsthilfe (Jewish Social Self - Help Society), later called the Judische Unterstutzungsstelle (Jewish Aid Agency), and the Centralne Towarzystwo Opieki nad Sierotami (Federation of Associations for the Care of Orphans; CENTOS).

The Germans established several factories in the ghetto to exploit the cheap manpower that was available among the imprisoned population. Several hundred Jews were also employed in factories situated outside the ghetto, and they were daily escorted to and from their work.

On March 19, 1942, the Germans launched what they called an Intelligenz Aktion, a terror operation directed at the intelligentsia in the ghetto. Some fifty prominent Jews were seized in this operation and were taken to Auschwitz, where they were killed.


At the end of May 1942, the Germans began deporting Jews from the ghetto to the extermination camps. On May 28 the ghetto was hermetically sealed off and the Aktion was launched. Taking part were special detachments of the Gestapo, the Schutzpolizei (regular uniformed police), and a Waffen - SS unit stationed at Debica. The Aktion continued until June 8, and when it ended six thousand Jews were deported to the Belzec extermination camp; three hundred were shot to death on the spot. Among the victims were the poet Mordecai Gebirtig and the Judenrat chairman, Artur Rosenzweig, who had refused to carry out the Germans' orders. The Judenrat was liquidated, and in its place the Germans put up a Kommissariat, headed by David Guter.

Following this Aktioni the ghetto area was reduced by half, although it still had a population of twelve thousand. In mid - October 1942 the Jewish Kommissariat was ordered to compile a list of four thousand ghetto inmates for yet another deportation. When the order was ignored, the Germans launched a second Aktion, on October 27 and 28, in which they employed their usual terror tactics to round up seven thousand Jews for deportation. In addition, they shot six hundred Jews on the spot. Most of the deportees were sent to Belzec, and the rest to Auschwitz. In the course of this Aktion the hospital, the home for the aged, and the orphanage, all situated on Jozefinska Street, were liquidated. When the Aktion was over the ghetto area was further reduced, and what remained was cut in two. The first part, known as "A, " contained the Jews who were working, and the second, "B, " the rest of the ghetto prisoners.

On March 13, 1943, the residents of part "A, " two thousand in number, were transferred to the Plaszow camp; the following day, March 14, an Aktion took place in which part "B" was liquidated. Some twenty - three hundred Jews were taken to the Auschwitz - Birkenau extermination camp and killed there in the gas chambers, and seven hundred Jews were killed on the spot. Of the Jews who were transferred to Plaszow, only a few hundred survived.

The Resistance Movement

From its inception, the Krakow ghetto had underground organizations operating in it, of which the more prominent were the Akiva and Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir Zionist youth movements. In the initial stage the underground operations concentrated on education and mutual help. The Jewish underground also published a newspaper, He-Haluts ha-Lohem (The Fighting Pioneer). In October 1942 the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization), a united underground organization independent of the Warsaw ZOB, was formed. It set itself the goal of conducting an armed struggle against the Nazi occupiers.

Heading the organization were Zvi Bauminger, Aharon Liebeskind, Gola Mira, Shimshon Draenger, and Gusta (Justyna) Draenger - Dawidson. The Jewish Fighting Organization decided not to prepare for an uprising inside the ghetto, whose restricted space offered no chance at all for an armed struggle, and instead to move the fighting to the "Aryan" side of Krakow. Some ten operations were launched outside the ghetto, the most famous being the attack on the Cyganeria cafe in the center of the city, which was frequented by German officers. Eleven Germans were killed in this attack and thirteen wounded.

Attempts were also made to engage in partisan operations in the vicinity, but these encountered difficulties caused by the group's isolation and the hostile attitude manifested by the local units of the Armia Krajowa (the Polish Home Army), which did not take kindly to Jewish partisan operations. The Jewish underground suffered heavy losses, and in the fall of 1944 its remnants decided to cross the border into Slovakia and from there to make their way into Hungary. This plan succeeded, and members of the Krakow Jewish Fighting Organization continued their resistance operations in Budapest, where they joined up with the Ha-No'ar ha-Tsiyyoni (Zionist Youth) organization.


On the "Aryan" side of Krakow, a branch of Zegota (Rada Pomocy Zydom, or Council for Aid to Jews) was active from the spring of 1943. It was headed by Stanislaw Dobrowolski, a Polish Socialist Party activist. The Jewish representative in the branch, Miriam Hochberg - Peleg (whose underground alias was Maria Marianska), made tireless efforts in behalf of the Jews in the ghetto. The Zegota branch aided several hundred of the Krakow Jews who escaped.

Liberation and Aftermath

After the war about four thousand survivors of the ghettos and concentration camps, most of them former residents of Krakow and its vicinity, settled in the city, remaining there for a short while. In 1946 thousands of Jews who had fled to the Soviet Union at the beginning of the war and were now returning to Poland made their home in Krakow, whose Jewish population rose to ten thousand. Several Jewish institutions were established, including a branch of the Jewish Historical Commission (the forerunner of the Warsaw Zydowski Instytut Historyczny, or Jewish Historical Institute), which was headed by Josef Wulf and Michal Maksymilian Boruchowicz (Borwicz). Most of these Jews emigrated from Poland between 1947 and 1951, under the impact of the antisemitic waves that struck the country. After 1968 only a handful of Jews were left in Krakow. 

Courtesy of: "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" ©1990 Macmillan Publishing Company.


The Character of the Lodz Ghetto

When Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the world watched with concern and disbelief. The following years revealed persecution of Jews, but the world reveled in the belief that by appeasing Hitler, he and his beliefs would remain within Germany. On September 1, 1939, Hitler shocked the world by attacking Poland. Using blitzkrieg tactics, Poland fell within three weeks. 

Lodz, located in central Poland, held the second largest Jewish community in Europe, second only to Warsaw. When the Nazis attacked, Poles and Jews worked frantically to dig ditches to defend their city. Only seven days after the attack on Poland began, Lodz was occupied. Within four days of Lodz's occupation, Jews became targets for beatings, robberies, and seizure of property. (Photos)

September 14, 1939, only six days after the occupation of Lodz, was Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days within the Jewish religion. For this High Holy day, the Nazi's ordered businesses to stay open and the synagogues to be closed. While Warsaw was still fighting off the Germans (Warsaw finally surrendered on September 27), the 230,000 Jews in Lodz were already feeling the beginnings of Nazi persecution. 

On November 7, 1939, Lodz was incorporated into the Third Reich and the Nazi's changed its name to Litzmannstadt ("Litzmann's city") - named after a German general who died while attempting to conquer Lodz in World War I.

The next several months were marked by daily round-ups of Jews for forced labor as well as random beatings and killings on the streets. It was easy to distinguish between Pole and Jew because on November 16, 1939 the Nazi's had ordered Jews to wear an armband on their right arm. The armband was the precursor to the yellow Star of David badge which was soon to follow on December 12, 1939. 

Getting the Ghetto Started

On December 10, 1939, Friedrich Übelhör, the governor of the Kalisz-Lodz District, wrote a secret memorandum which set out the premiss for a ghetto in Lodz. The Nazis wanted Jews concentrated in ghettos so when they found a solution to the "Jewish problem," whether it be emigration or genocide, it could easily be carried out. Also, enclosing the Jews made it relatively easy to extract the "hidden treasures" that Nazis believed Jews were hiding. 

There had already been a couple of ghettos established in other parts of Poland, but the Jewish population had been relatively small and those ghettos had remained open - meaning, the Jews and the surrounding civilians were still able to have contact. Lodz had a Jewish population estimated at 230,000, living throughout the city. 

For a ghetto of this scale, real planning was needed. Governor Übelhör created a team made up of representatives from the major policing bodies and departments. It was decided that the ghetto would be located in the northern section of Lodz where many Jews were already living. The area that this team originally planned only constituted 4.3 square kilometers. To keep non-Jews out of this area before the ghetto could be established, a warning was issued on January 17, 1940 proclaiming the area planned for the ghetto to be rampant with infectious diseases. 

On February 8, 1940, the order to establish the Lodz ghetto was announced. The original plan was to set up the ghetto in one day, in actuality, it took weeks. Jews from throughout the city were ordered to move into the sectioned off area, only bringing what they could hurriedly pack within just a few minutes. The Jews were packed tightly within the confines of the ghetto with an average of 3.5 people per room. In April a fence went up surrounding the ghetto residents. On April 30, the ghetto was ordered closed and on May 1, 1940, merely eight months after the German invasion, the Lodz ghetto was officially sealed. 

The Nazis did not just stop with having the Jews locked up within a small area, they wanted the Jews to pay for their own food, security, sewage removal, and all other expenses incurred by their continuing incarceration. For the Lodz ghetto, the Nazis decided to make one Jew responsible for the entire Jewish population. The Nazis chose Mordekchai Chaim Rumkowski. 

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski

No one really knows why the Nazis chose Rumkowski at the Älteste ("Elder of the Jews") of Lodz. Was it because he seemed like he would help the Nazis achieve their aims by organizing the Jews and their property? Or did he just want them to think this so that he could try to save his people? Rumkowski is shrouded in controversy - did he help the Nazis murder his people or did he save lives? 

Once the ghetto was sealed on May 1, 1940, a relative calm followed. It seemed to many residents that the sealing not only locked them in the ghetto, but it also precluded non-Jews from entering and tormenting Jews through forced labor and random beatings. Some thought that perhaps the sealing was a good thing - allowing Jews autonomy and protection from the outside world. What these people did not realize was that the ghetto was established simply as a temporary holding place until the Nazis could decide what they were going to do with Jews. The ghetto and its residents were completely at the mercy of the Nazis. 

Rumkowski and His Vision

To organize and implement Nazi policy within the ghetto, the Nazis chose a Jew named Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. At the time Rumkowski was appointed Judenälteste (Elder of the Jews), he was sixty-two years old, with billowy, white hair. He had held various jobs including insurance agent, velvet factory manager, and director of the Helenowek orphanage before the war began. 

Rumkowski was a firm believer in the autonomy of the ghetto. He started many programs that replaced outside bureaucracy with his own. Rumkowski replaced the German currency with ghetto money that bore his image and signature - soon referred to as "Rumkies." Rumkowski also created a post office (with a stamp with his image) and a sewage clean up department since the ghetto had no sewage system. But what soon materialized was the problem of acquiring food. 


With 230,000 people confined to a very small area that had no farmland, food quickly became a problem. Since the Nazis insisted on having the ghetto pay for its own upkeep, money was needed. But how could Jews who were locked away from the rest of society and who had been stripped of all valuables make enough money for food and housing? Rumkowski believed that if the ghetto became an extremely useful workforce, then the Jews would be needed by the Nazis and thus, the Nazis would make sure that the ghetto received food. 

On April 5, 1940, Rumkowski petitioned the Nazi authorities requesting permission for his work plan. He wanted the Nazis to deliver raw materials, have the Jews make the final products, then have the Nazis pay the workers in money and in food. On April 30, 1940 Rumkowski's proposal was accepted with one very important change - the workers would only be paid in food. Notice, that no one agreed upon how much food, nor how often it was to be supplied. 

Rumkowski immediately began setting up factories and all those able and willing to work were found jobs. Most of the factories required workers to be over fourteen but older people and children often found work in mica splitting factories. Adults worked in factories that produced everything from textiles to munitions. Young girls were even trained to hand stitch the emblems for the uniforms of German soldiers. 

For this work, the Nazis delivered food to the ghetto. The food entered the ghetto in bulk and was then confiscated by Rumkowski's officials. Rumkowski had taken over food distribution. With this one act, Rumkowski really became the absolute ruler of the ghetto, for survival was contingent on food. The quality and quantity of the food delivered to the ghetto was less than minimal, often with large portions being completely spoiled. Ration cards were quickly put into effect for food on June 2, 1940. By December, all provisions were rationed. 

The amount of food given to each individual depended upon your work status. Certain factory jobs got a bit more bread than others. But office workers received the most. Since an average factory worker received one bowl of soup (mostly water, if you were fortunate you would have a couple of barley beans floating in it), the usual rations of one loaf of bread for five days (later the same amount was supposed to last seven days), a small amount of vegetables (sometimes "preserved" beets that were mostly ice), and brown water that was supposed to be coffee. This amount of food starved people. As ghetto residents really started feeling hunger, they became increasingly suspicious of Rumkowski and his officials. Many rumors floated around blaming Rumkowski for the lack of food, saying that he dumped useful food on purpose. The fact that each month, even each day, the residents became thinner and increasingly afflicted with dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhus while Rumkowski and his officials seemed to fatten and remained healthy just spurred suspicions. Searing anger afflicted the population, blaming Rumkowski for their troubles. 

When dissenters of the Rumkowski rule voiced their opinions, Rumkowski made speeches labeling them traitors to the cause. Rumkowski believed that these people were a direct threat to his work ethic, thus punished them and later, deported them. 

Fall and Winter 1941

During the High Holy days in the fall of 1941, the news hit - 20,000 Jews from other areas of the Reich were being transferred to the Lodz ghetto. Shock swept throughout the ghetto. How could a ghetto that could not even feed its own population, absorb 20,000 more? The decision had already been made by the Nazi officials and the transports arrived from September through October with approximately one thousand people arriving each day. 

These newcomers were shocked at the conditions in Lodz. They did not believe that their own fate could ever really mingle with these emaciated people, because the newcomers had never felt hunger. Freshly off the trains, the newcomers had shoes, clothes, and most importantly, reserves of food. The newcomers were dropped into a completely different world, where the inhabitants had lived for two years, watching the hardships grow more acute. Most of these newcomers never adjusted to ghetto life and in the end, boarded the transports to their death with the thought that they must be going somewhere better than the ghetto. 

In addition to these Jewish newcomers, 5,000 Roma (Gypsies) were transported into the Lodz ghetto. In a speech delivered on October 14, 1941, Rumkowski announced the coming of the Roma:  We are forced to take about 5000 Gypsies into the ghetto. I've explained that we cannot live together with them. Gypsies are the sort of people who can to anything.  First they rob and then they set fire and soon everything is in flames, including your factories and materials. (2)

When the Roma arrived, they were housed in a separate area of the ghetto. 

December 10, 1941, another announcement shocked the ghetto. Though Chelmno had only been in operation for two days, the Nazis wanted 20,000 Jews deported out of the ghetto. Rumkowski talked them down to 10,000. Lists were put together by ghetto officials. The remaining Roma were the first to be deported. If you were not working, had been designated a criminal, or if you were a family member of someone in the first two categories, then you would be next on the list. The residents were told that the deportees were being sent to Polish farms to work. 

While this list was being created, Rumkowski became engaged to Regina Weinberger - a young lawyer who had become his legal advisor. They were soon married. 

The winter of 1941-42 was very harsh for ghetto residents. Coal and wood were rationed, thus there was not enough to drive away frost bite let alone cook food. Without a fire, much of the rations, especially potatoes, could not be eaten. Hordes of residents descended upon wooden structures - fences, outhouses, even some buildings were literally torn apart. 

The Deportations

Beginning on January 6, 1942, those who had received the summons for deportations (nicknamed "wedding invitations") were required for transport. Approximately one thousand people per day left on the trains. These people were taken to the Chelmno death camp and gassed by carbon monoxide in trucks. By January 19, 1942, 10,003 people had been deported. 

After only a couple of weeks, the Nazis requested more deportees. To make it easier on the Nazis, they slowed the delivery of food into the ghetto. Then the Nazis promised people going on the transports a meal. From February 22 to April 2, 1942, 34,073 people were transported to Chelmno. Almost immediately, another request for deportees came. This time specifically for the newcomers that had been sent to Lodz from other parts of the Reich. All the newcomers were to be deported except anyone with German or Austrian military honors. The officials in charge of creating the list of deportees also excluded officials of the ghetto. 

In September 1942, another deportation request. This time, everyone unable to work was to be deported. This included the sick, the old, and the children. Many parents refused to send their children to the transport area so the Gestapo entered the ghetto and viciously searched and removed the deportees. Rumkowsky responded on September 4, 1942, with "Common sense requires us to know that those must be saved who can be saved and who have a chance of being saved and not those whom there is no chance to save in any case...." Not everyone approached the question with the same calm.

Two More Years

After the September 1942 deportation, Nazi requests nearly halted. The German armaments division was desperate for munitions, thus for workers and the Lodz ghetto now consisted purely of workers. For nearly two years, the residents of the Lodz ghetto worked, hungered, and mourned. 

The End: June 1944

On June 10, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto. The Nazis told Rumkowski and Rumkowski told the residents that workers were needed in Germany to repair the damages caused by air raids. The first transport left on June 23, with many others following until July 15. On July 15, 1944 the transports halted. The decision had been made to liquidate Chelmno because Soviet troops were getting close. Unfortunately, this only created a two week hiatus, for the remaining transports would be sent to Auschwitz. 

By August 1944, the Lodz ghetto had been liquidated. Though a few remaining workers were retained by the Nazis to finish confiscating materials and valuables out of the ghetto, everyone else had been deported. Even Rumkowski and his family were included in these last transports to Auschwitz. 


Five months later, on January 19, 1945, the Soviets liberated the Lodz ghetto. Of the 230,000 Lodz Jews plus the 25,000 people transported in, only 877 remained. 


The Character of the

Theresienstadt Ghetto

The Theresienstadt ghetto was established by the Nazis in an 18th century fortress in Czechoslovakia on November 24, 1941. More than 150,000 Jews passed through the ghetto during its four-year existence, which was used as a holding area for eventual murder in Auschwitz. It was run by the SS and commanded, in turn, by Siegfried Seidl (November 1941 - July 1943), Anton Burger (July 1943 - February 1944), and Karl Rahm (February 1944 - May 1945). Czech gendarmes served as the ghetto guards, and with their help the Jews were able to maintain contact with the outside world. (Photos)

The Nazi Plan for Theresienstadt

The Nazi plan was (1) to concentrate in Theresienstadt most of the Jews of the Protectorate as well as certain categories of Jews from Germany and western European countries: prominent persons, persons of special merit, and old people; (2) to transfer the Jews gradually from Theresienstadt to extermination camps; and (3) to camouflage the extermination of European Jews by presenting Theresienstadt as a "model Jewish settlement." The leaders of Czechoslovak Jewry supported the plan hoping it would mean that the Jews would not be deported.

The First Months

The first Jews, came to Theresienstadt at the end of November 1941. Conditions were similar to those in concentration camps, and it did not take long to dispel the hope that Theresienstadt would save Jews from deportation; the first such deportation, of 2,000 Jews to Riga, took place in January 1942. Deportation cast a pall of terror over the inmates. Yet, living conditions actually improved as time went on.


In September 1942 the ghetto population reached its peak, 53,004 people, and Jews continued arriving until the end of the war. Deportations to the east - to ghettos in Poland and the Baltic states and, as of October 1942, to the Treblinka and Auschwitz extermination camps - were continued. The final phase began in the fall of 1944, continuing until the gas chambers in the east ceased to function; only 11,068 people remained in the ghetto. (See also Eichmann's letter on Theresienstadt.)

Life in the Ghetto

The internal affairs of the ghetto were run by an Altestenrat (Council of Elders), under Jacob Edelstein, who was succeeded, in turn, by the sociologist Paul Eppstein and Rabbi Benjamin Murmelstein of Vienna. The Jewish leadership had to compile lists of those to be deported. It was also responsible for allocating work, distributing food, providing housing, and overseeing sanitation and health services, the care of the old and the young, cultural activities, and the maintenance of public order. Its achievements helped ease the prisoners' lot. Although schooling was prohibited, regular classes were held, clandestinely. Thanks to the large number of artists, writers, and scholars in the ghetto, there was an intensive program of cultural activities. Religious observance had to contend with difficult conditions, but it was not officially banned.

The International Red Cross Visit

At the end of 1943, when word spread in the outside world of what was happening in the Nazi camps, the Germans decided to allow an International Red Cross investigation committee to visit Theresienstadt. In preparation, more prisoners were deported to Auschwitz, so as to

reduce congestion. Dummy stores, a café, a bank, kindergartens, a school, and flower gardens were put up. The committee's visit took place on July 23, 1944; the meetings of the committee members with the prisoners had all been prepared in advance, down to the last detail. In the wake

of the "inspection" the Nazis made a propaganda film showing how the Jews were leading a new life under the protection of the Fuhrer. When filming was completed, most the "cast, " were deported to Auschwitz.

Epidemics and the Last Six Months

As a result of the intolerable conditions in the ghetto epidemics broke out, taking a fearful toll. By the end of 1943 the ghetto health department had managed to set up a hospitals, and a beginning was made in regular medical checkups and inoculations against contagious diseases; the mortality rate began to drop.

In the last six months of the ghetto's existence, more Jews were added to its population; from Slovakia, Hungary, the Protectorate, Germany, and Austria. Before the war came to an end, the International Red Cross succeeded in transferring some of them to neutral countries. At the end of April the ghetto experienced its final shock, when the Germans brought in thousands of prisoners who had been evacuated from concentration camps. As a result there was a new outbreak of epidemics in Theresienstadt. On May 3, five days before the ghetto was liberated by the Red Army, the Nazis handed Theresienstadt over to a Red Cross representative. The last Jew left Theresienstadt on August 17, 1945. Overall, between November 24, 1941, and April 20, 1945, 140,000 Jews were taken to Theresienstadt. Of these, 33,000 died there, 88,000 were deported to extermination camps, and 19,000 survived either in Theresienstadt or among the two groups that had been transferred to Switzerland and Sweden; and 3,000 of those deported survived. By national origin, the people who had been taken to Theresienstadt came from Czechoslovakia (75,500), Germany (42,000), Austria (15,000), the Netherlands (5,000), Poland (1,000), Hungary (1,150), and Denmark (500). (3)

Resistance and Escape

Why did only 25-30,000 Jews go into hiding out of 490,000 in Warsaw, compared with 20-25,000 out of 140,000 in Holland? The answer is complicated. First, as Michal Borwicz has pointed out, getting 'Aryan papers' was seen by the ghetto as a form of betrayal. People who escaped often felt guilty, because they had left relatives behind, because they were putting their Christian friends at risk. Second, there was no good reason to escape until the Great

Deportation began in July 1942. About 17% of the ghetto population died in the first 20 months of the ghetto's existence; in Holland, about 40-50% of the Jews in hiding were betrayed or discovered in a similar period: so even without szmalcowniks or rampant anti-Semitism. No matter where you were, you were safer in the ghetto than on the Aryan side.

Deaths in the ghetto were mainly confined to refugees in the 'points' and street beggars. These were also people who had no contacts, no money, and no hope on either side of the ghetto wall. They didn't need to escape: they needed food. The middle class, in the meantime, were able to survive reasonlably well in the ghetto. Chaim Kaplan, for example, earned money by giving Hebrew lessons, and he says in his diary at the end of July 1942 that he is feeling hunger FOR THE FIRST TIME. There was a thriving underground economy -- not only food smuggling, but an export economy as well which brought in 16 million zlotys in June 1942 -- and in general, people with some resources could manage.

Even those Poles who had close friends or family among the Jews, and who later were involved in Zegota and so on, did not think of smuggling people out of the ghetto during this period: instead, they smuggled food, medicines, fuel, etc., in to their Jewish friends. In fact there may have been more Christian Poles living inside the ghetto in 1940-42 than Jews living outside: non-Jewish spouses, and a number of servants who moved into the ghetto with their employers.

Also it was not only Jews who 'kissed the ground of the ghetto': Ringelblum mentions that members of the Polish underground would hide out in the ghetto from time to time, because the Germans didn't like to go there -- they were afraid of typhus. In the ghetto, you didn't have street executions or 'lapanki'; in the ghetto you were dealing with a Jewish administration and police force instead of a German one; and who would suspect that a Pole would go there to hide? So in short, until July 1942 the idea of leaving the ghetto simply didn't occur to anybody, and if it did, wasn't treated seriously.

The movement to leave the ghetto developed at the same time and for the same reasons as armed resistance: on a small scale during the Great Deportation, on a larger scale afterwards, and really seriously only after the January Aktion. During the July Aktion it was difficult to leave the ghetto: it was almost hermetically sealed (except for work parties), food smuggling stopped dead, Christians had to leave the ghetto, the tram-lines were stopped, the 'mety' and the courts on Leszno were shut down, the number of telephones was drastically reduced. So it was physically much harder to get in and out or make contact with friends. Also people had their hands (and minds) full with immediate problems: how to avoid roundups, what was happening to family members, how to get something to eat. Finally, the ghetto was slow to accept that the deportations meant Treblinka and Treblinka meant death. So it was only towards the end of the first Aktion that people started escaping in larger numbers. Then when the Aktion ended, the number of escapes decreased. Now people thought the Germans had accomplished their purpose -- to get rid of 'unproductive elements' -- and that they needed the 'shops' for war production. Only the January Aktion finally persuaded people that they meant to liquidate the ghetto altogether; especially when Toebbens and Schultz started trying to persuade people to move to their new shops in Lublin. The bulk of escapes, at least half, took place after January 18 1943.

Here are some estimates:

Stayed outside ghetto in 1940 2,000 of 410,000 = 0.5%
Escaped XI 1940- VII 42 3,000 of 490,000 = 0.6%
Escaped during first Aktion 5,000 of (variable)
Escaped after first Aktion 15,000 of 60-70,000 = 21 - 25%

So that, szmalcowniks or no szmalcowniks, a fifth to a quarter of the ghetto population escaped ONCE THE NECESSITY BECAME APPARENT.

Let me suggest that this is not a bad ratio, especially considering the lack of social contacts between Jews an Poles, the low level of assimilation, and all the other barriers and obstacles. I can't compare it to Holland, because I don't know the situation there in enough detail. I estimate that the maximum population on the Aryan side at any time was about 25,000; 5,000 people either 'kissed the ground', especially after the 'amnesty' of February 1942, or returned to take part in the Ghetto Uprising, or had been caught and killed before the maximum point was reached (about May 1943).

Over the next 14 months until the 1944 uprising: 3 - 4,000 people voluntarily surrendered at the Hotel Polski some number left Warsaw; on the other hand, some came to Warsaw from elsewhere some were caught in the frequent house searches or in street roundups almost all of them had to pay off szmalcowniks, usually several times But how many were betrayed or murdered? If there were 15,000 Jews still alive and in Warsaw on August 1 1944 -- a conservative estimate, I believe -- then probably about 5,000 or so. And in Holland? No

szmalcowniks, no Hotel Polski, no house searches, no street roundups, and about the same overall survival rate: about 10,000 caught or betrayed out of 20-25,000 in hiding. All this makes sense only because there was a strong positive as well as negative side: the Jews had friends as well as enemies in Poland. But that will have to wait for another time.

Polish Collaboration?

Helga Hirsch is a young Polish journalist who has chosen to focus on a difficult aspect of Polish history: Poles who oppressed, robbed, and murdered Jews during the Second World War. The articles introduction included a quote from the editor of Poland's largest daily news paper, Adam Michnik, who said: "I think that the ability to confront the darker episodes of one's inheritance is for every people a test of its degree of democratic maturity." (4)

Hirsch's article ran roughly as follows:

History does not allow much room for mythology. It is only a question of time before a younger generation of daughters and sons, nephews and nieces tear apart the history of their parents and grandparents -- though not with the intention of harming them.

The young journalist Michal Cichy of the Gazeta Wyborca, Poland's largest daily newspaper, no doubt had little idea of the effect of his charges upon Polish society. Cichy accused the sacrosanct Polish underground and Home Army (AK) of having murdered Jews during the 1944 uprising. In return, Cichy was attacked for his anti-Polish position.

Responding to Cichy's claims, the leading veterans' organization (Union of Soldiers of the Home Army) acknowledged that some members of the AK did engage in such activities but represented a small and regrettable portion of the AK as a whole. Cichy's article, however, cast a shadow over the activities of thousands whose only concern was the freedom of the Polish people. Furthermore, there were many who fought side by side with Polish Jews against the Nazis.

Within the heated public atmosphere, Cichy sought further documentation in Poland's various institutes and archives but without substantial success. The issue, however, was changing its character from a focus on the Home Army to the nature of Polish-Jews relations during the Second World War. By and large a collage of perspectives have emerged.

As a more general observation, Poland remains in the minds of many Jews an anti-Semitic land. Poles were either indifferent to the fate of the Jews and/or were willing to accept their elimination as a consequence of the Nazi occupation. On the other hand, no one questions the place of Poles among the "Righteous Among Nations" honored at Yad Vashem's Holocaust memorial. Alongside these Poles one should also remember the nun and monks of various Catholic orders and numerous others who attempted to help the Zegota (Hilfsrat fuer Juden). However, beside the brighter side of Polish-Jewish relations, there remains the darker aspects.

Poles generally did not collaborate with their Nazi occupiers. Polish anti-Semitism, similarly, did not become a subject of discussion between Poles and Germans. Aleksander Smolar, a Polish sociologist who emigrated after the 1968 anti-Semitic outburst, believed that during the Nazi occupation Polish anti-Semitism largely disappeared from the streets as well as from the underground press, political parties, and military units. On the other hand, Calel Perechodnik wrote in his 1943 memoirs that Polish peasants (and "lower elements" in Polish society) took advantage of the Nazi occupation to take advantage of this opportunity of the century to take out their revenge against Poland's Jews. Under the Nazi occupation, they could beat and plunder Jews with impunity. Many viewed this as a "now or never" opportunity. Besides, they did not consider themselves guilty of any crimes. Those responsible were the Germans.

One such sad event took place in January 1943 as the then twenty-three year old Irena Fiszelson was on her way to her hideaway in Warsaw. Waiting for the train at Naleczow, a Pole, despite her blond hair, recognized her and demanded 500 Zloty or risk arrest. Later, riding the train, she entered into a conversation with a railroad worker. Two days later that same railroad worker met her at the entrance to her Warsaw hideaway and demanded money for his continued silence. Even so, two days later he informed the Polish police of her location. Although Irena was not home when the police arrived, her small son was and his release came only after the payment of 5000 Zloty. These incidents also made it imperative for her to find a new place to hide.

These types of activities were more common in the immediate vicinity of the ghettos and concentration camps. Those who escape the ghetto into the "Aryan" quarter of the city were often met by Polish bands demanding payment even if it meant the clothes off the backs of the Jewish escapees. Escapees from the concentration camps often fell into the hands of Polish peasants, who assumed -- not always incorrectly -- that Jews carried with them sacks of gold and other valuables. Polish historian Teresa Prekerowa observed that those inhabiting the areas around Treblinka and Sobibor became apparently quite wealthy as a consequence.

Blackmailers were usually satisfied with money, gold, clothing, or furniture, and let their victims move on. Some Jews, however, paid with their lives. Erna Rosenstein, a painter with the "Krakow group" living today in Warsaw, lost her mother and father after she left them with a Pole promising to hide them from the Germans. The same Pole, however, took her parents from the village and into the forest were he murdered them.

Already in November 1941, the commander of the Home Army, General Grot-Rowecki, indicated to the London government-in-exile that the overwhelming majority of Poles were fundamentally anti-Semitic. When the respected Catholic weekly newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny asked forty years after the end of the war if Poles shared in the fate of the Jews because of their general indifference to the Holocaust, the newspaper was flooded with angry letters and forced the paper to distance itself from the whole issue.

The central theme aired in the Tygodnik Powszechny fell only into the realm of Polish guilt as a result of general passivity. This same theme took on more specific dimensions with Michal Cichy's article on the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and the anti-Semitic activities of the Home Army and the Polish underground.

On the evening of September 11, 1943, AK soldiers ran across a group of Jews -- men, women, and children -- hiding in a bunker at Prosta Street 4. After forcing them out and searching them, the soldiers took the men into an area near Zelazna Street and shot them one by one. Twenty-nine year old Janel Celnik testified later that after being shot in the shoulder, the soldier stood over him and shot roughly another seven rounds. Three hit Celnik -- one in the neck and twice in the shoulder blade. Convinced that Celnik was dead, the soldier left. As the night progressed, Celnik dragged himself into the ruble to hide. Throughout the night, he could hear additional shots and cries from other victims in the area. As it turned out, the soldiers had returned to the bunker where they shot the women and children. Under the direction of Captain Hal, the AK murdered better than a dozen Jews.

Although many responses were simply negative, Cichy's article did generate a few positive responses. A former member of the AK who had hidden his Jewish identity, an engineer by the name of Ryszard Grabowski, responded with his own experience. Confronted by a pistol-toting drunk AK sergeant, declared his intention to complete a job started by the Germans. Grabowski was forced to flee into near by ruins to avoid being shot.

Clearly, under the umbrella of the AK gathered a variety of political forces from the democratic to the radical right and anti-Semitic. Furthermore, the civilian leaders of the underground threatened those engaged in blackmail, denouncing Jews to the Germans or Polish police, or participation in the murder of Jews with the death penalty. Given the conditions of the occupation and war, however, civilian leaders to control every group. The lower ranks of regular AK troops proved more difficult. According to Teresa Prekerowa, there were as many as twenty to thirty instances where AK soldiers executed Jews during the 1944 uprising.

Marek Edelman, the last survivor of the 1943 Ghetto-Uprising leadership, explained the struggle to have begun within the Communist Peoples Army (AL). Recalling those days, Edelman said "The AK wanted me shot." They claimed that he had falsified identification and was a Jewish spy. They then placed him under lock and key. Later, the AK threatened to shoot him because "the Jews are evil." Similarly, the police in the old part of the city were generally militant anti-Semites.

Even so, Jewish members of the AK seemed reluctant to deal with the issue. Ignatz Bubis, chair of the Central Council of the Jews in Germany, stated that "They would have endangered the AK's image [had they spoken out]" during an interview with Wladislaw Bartoszewski, Poland's current ambassador to Vienna. Yet it is hard to deny that the AK refused to provide Jews with weapons until after all Poles had been well equipped while regularly placing Jews in dangerous positions. Grabowski's own group leader encouraged three young Jews to demonstrate that they were not cowards. "Your life is of little value so have no fear of death. Thanks to us you have survived thus far..."

Marek hundreds of other Jews, sought refuge in the basements of Warsaw and waited for the arrival of the Red Army. Edelman greeted the Red Army as his liberator. Many Poles, however, viewed the arrival of the Red Army as the replacement of one occupying power by another.

With the inclusion of Poland in the Soviet sphere of influence, Polish-Jewish relations did not normalize. Anti-Semitism became intertwined with anti-Communism. Following the rejection of the "Jewish commune" (whose leaders' names, i.e., Berman or Lampe, were clearly not Polish), some former members of the AK (read "Jews") were put on trial as political reactionaries. Anti-Semitism had political legitimacy and it became dangerous to be a Jew in Poland.

Poles, who had provided sanctuary for Jews, were reluctant to bring their acts to the attention of the public. Jews who survived because of either their "good looks" or a false identify card concealed their true identify even after the end of the Second World War. Tragically, those who suffered the most during the war also suffered the most after the war...

Ignatz Bubis reported of a former tailor from Deblin whose mother and sister were murdered shortly after their return in early 1945. Another survivor reported the fate of Jozef Wajsblum and Mendel Brit, both having been released from Auschwitz, were shot on March 19, 1945, in their homes in Wachock (near Kielce). Chaim Binsztok, a survivor from the Starachowicy camp, suffered the same fate at Wachock's train station.

Many Jews were beaten and sometimes killed on the train during their repatriation. In a particular case on January 8, 1946, Jews being repatriated were traveling from Lemberg to Krakow. The train director, a Jewish lawyer, was thrown off the train while numerous other Jews were beaten into unconsciousness and robbed.

The high point of anti-Semitic activity came on July 4, 1946, during a pogrom in Kielce. Forty-two people, including a number of women and children, were murdered by the local police (Miliz) and an local Poles. Another 100 Jews were wounded as rocks, iron rods, and fists were used in the attack. Near Kielce approximately thirty Jews were killed while riding the train. Only in the fall of 1946 did anti-Semitic outbursts subside, but not before 1500 to 2000 Jews had been killed.

Today, these activities are denounced as the result of reactionary elements of the AK or provoked by Soviet authorities. The problem, however, remains: Why did thousands take part in the massacre of Polish Jews?

Among a small circle of Polish academicians the number of victims is still being debated. The general public, however, shows little interest in either the numbers or the debate. What is emerging, nevertheless, is a self-critical reflexion previously impossible in a postwar Poland where the AK had been denounced. The natural instinct, according the Adam Michnik, is to call for "self-defense through self-idealization." Thus, Polish society seeks to protect itself through simply self-denial.

The demythologization process in Poland will not come easily. The questions raised about the Polish-Jewish relations during the Second World War opens the door to questions about contemporary anti-Semitism in Poland. The discussion is becoming increasingly virulent since the exodus of some 20,000 Polish-Jews in 1968-1969 -- at which point in time Poland became a land without practically any Jews. 

The Question of Jewish Complicity: Judenrat

As far back as 1933, Nazi policy-makers had discussed establishing Jewish-led institutions to carry out anti-Jewish policies. The concept was based upon centuries-old practices which were instituted in Germany during the Middle Ages. As the German army swept through Poland and the Soviet Union, it carried out an order of S.S. leader Heydrich to require the local Jewish populace to form Jewish Councils as a liaison between the Jews and the Nazis. These councils of Jewish elders, (Judenrat; plural: Judenräte), were responsible for organizing the orderly deportation to the death camps, for detailing the number and occupations of the Jews in the ghettos, for distributing food and medical supplies, and for communicating the orders of the ghetto Nazi masters. The Nazis enforced these orders on the Judenrat with threats of terror, which were given credence by beatings and executions. As ghetto life settled into a "routine," the Judenrat took on the functions of local government, providing police and fire protection, postal services, sanitation, transportation, food and fuel distribution, and housing, for example. 

The Judenrat raised funds to create hospitals, homes for orphans, disinfection stations, and to provide food and clothing to those without.

Jewish leaders were ambivalent about participating in these Judenräte. On the one hand, many viewed these councils as a form of collaboration with the enemy. Others saw these councils as a necessary evil, which would permit Jewish leadership a forum to negotiate for better treatment. In the many cases where Jewish leaders refused to volunteer to serve on the Judenrat, the Germans appointed Jews to serve on a random basis. Some Jews who had no prior history of leadership agreed to serve, hoping that it would improve their chances of survival. Many who served in the Judenrat were arrested, taken to labor camps, or hanged. 

When the Nazis required a quota of Jews to participate in forced labor, the Judenrat had the responsibility to meet this demand. Sometimes Jews could avoid forced labor by making a payment to the Judenrat. These payments supplemented the taxes which the Judenrat levied to finance the services provided in the ghettos. 

Underground Jewish organizations sprang up in the ghettos to serve as alternatives to the Judenrat, some of which were established with a military component to organize resistance to the Nazis. 

Spiritual Resistance in the Ghettos

While there were examples of courageous armed uprisings in the ghettos, resistance also took forms without weapons. For many, attempting to carry on a semblance of "normal" life in the face of wretched conditions was resistance. David Altshuler writes in Hitler's War Against the Jews about life in the ghettos, which sustained Jewish culture in the midst of hopelessness and despair. 

"All forms of culture sustained life in the ghetto. Since curfew rules did not allow people on the street from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next morning, socializing had to be among friends living [in] the same building or visitors who spent the night. Card playing was very popular, and actors, musicians, comics, singers, and dancers all entertained small groups who came together for a few hours to forget their daily terror and despair." 

Artists and poets as well entertained, and their works, many of which survive today, are poignant reminders of the horrors of the period. Underground newspapers were printed and distributed at great risk to those who participated. Praying was against the rules, but synagogue services occurred with regularity. The education of Jewish children was forbidden, but the ghetto communities set up schools. The observance of many Jewish rituals, including dietary laws, was severely punished by the Nazis, and many Jews took great risks to resist the Nazi edicts against these activities. Committees were organized to meet the philanthropic, religious, educational, and cultural community needs. Many of these committees defied Nazi authority. 

Some Jews escaped death by hiding in the attics and cellars and closets of non-Jews, who themselves risked certain death if their actions were discovered by the Nazis. 

The writings and oral histories of survivors of the labor and concentration camps are filled with accounts of simple sabotage. Material for the German war effort, for example, might be mysteriously defective, the result of intentionally shoddy workmanship by Jewish slave labor.

Despite the myth to the contrary, Jewish armed resistance to the Holocaust did occur. This active resistance occurred in ghettos, concentration camps, and death camps. Many of those who participated in resistance of this type were caught and executed, and their stories will never be told. However, there are many verifiable accounts of major incidents of this resistance.

Theological Responses

Representing Judaism's Orthodox community, Pessach Schindler, Professor of Rabbinical Studies at Hebrew University, began with a critique of the term "Holocaust." Schindler rejected the popular term in favor of "Shoah." The term Holocaust was associated with the offering made at the Temple -- a form of loving sacrifice. The "Holocaust" concept, Schindler asserted, evolved from Christian theology..though it has its parallels with Judaism (via the Abraham and Isaac story)...In short, Jews were not "a willing sacrifice of love." Thus, Schindler's advocated replacing the term "Holocaust" with "Shoah" meaning "a complete burning up." Another option, however, was the term hurban which has redemptive aspects.

Schindler appealed to two writings to illustrate his position: the Esh Kodesh (The Sacred Fire) and Em Habam S'meha (The Happy Mother of Children). Both were written during the war. The Esh Kodesh came from the pen of Rabbi Kalymnos Shapiro and composed between September 1939 and July 1942. (5) A classic Hasidic Rabbi, Shapiro's community resided north of Warsaw, numbered no more than 1000, and had a generally mystical orientation. This isolated, self-contained community called Piazeno, moved then to Warsaw en masse. Shapiro tried to deal with theological issues in the context of the then emerging Second World War. Shapiro's questions moved beyond the physical trauma towards the theological. In his mind, the question of the nature of God -- the search for meaning -- becomes paramount. Shapiro's style leaves aside more systematic understanding for a series of questions. These times brought about an understanding, so Schindler believed, that he found lacking in post-Holocaust writings. Shapiro's questions included "What is God's role in suffering? the meaning of martyrdom? what were the themes of protest (direction from "the above"), what were the motives or nuances for raising the moral of the people to whom He spoke. The basic idea being the need to accept suffering with love "as formative or cleansing while acknowledging 'trying moments' as actually bringing people closer to God." "Suffering" within "theology of opportunity." Thus, Shapiro's starting point for the blending two concepts: the God of "mercy and compassion" with the "God of Justice." Simply put, we have a short glimpses of events. This is, consequently, not a simplistic notion of Shoah as response to the sins of the Jews.

What of the question of martyrdom? The tradition of Abraham and Isaac is, thus, projected onto the Jewish community under Nazi occupation. In this case, however, Abraham is not allowed to show God his full faithfulness because of "outside intervention" of an angel. Will the "job" now be completed? We may not have an angel to intervene this time? Or was the Abraham-Isaac tradition not a renunciation of child sacrifice so typical of earlier times?

What were the themes of protest? In the Winter of 1939/40 in the Warsaw ghetto, what of "Sarah" and the consequences of teaching? "Sarah" indicates the limits to suffering as well as the changing Hasidic theology of the late 19th century. Shapiro called upon God to stop the drama of suffering before it got any worse.

Within the post-1941/42 period, themes of encouragement and raising moral -- at odds with idea of martyrdom. One was to continue more than before to concentrate on "doing good things" in order not to "lose God" and become like those who opposed you. On July 4, 1942, Shapiro's diary cam to an abrupt conclusion: "Zion shall be justly redeemed." On September 1, 1943, at the age of 55, Shapiro died at Maidanek.


Armed Resistance

Jewish Partisans

Some Jews who managed to escape from ghettos and camps formed their own fighting units. (Map) These fighters, or partisans, were concentrated in densely wooded areas. A large group of partisans in occupied Soviet territory hid in a forest near the Lithuanian capital of Vilna. They were able to derail hundreds of trains and kill over 3,000 German soldiers.

Life as a partisan in the forest was difficult. People had to move from place to place to avoid discovery, raid farmers' food supplies to eat, and try to survive the winter in flimsy shelters built from logs and branches. In some places, partisans received assistance from local villagers, but more often they could not count on help, partly because of widespread antisemitism, partly because of people's fears of being severely punished for helping. The partisans lived in constant danger of local informers revealing their whereabouts to the Germans.

Many Jews participated in the partisan units formed in France and Italy to help regular Allied forces defeat German forces. They forged documents and identity cards, printed anti-Nazi leaflets, and assassinated collaborators.

Twenty-three-year-old Hannah Senesh, a Hungarian Jew who emigrated to Palestine in 1939, was one of the thirty-two Palestinian parachutists the British dropped behind German lines to organize resistance and rescue efforts. Before crossing the border in Hungary on June 7, 1944, to warn Hungarian Jews about the extermination camps, Senesh, a poet, handed a poem to one of her companions. It ended with these lines: "Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor's sake. Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame." Senesh was captured the next day and executed as a traitor to Hungary.

Resistance in the Ghettos

Tuchin Ghetto. On September 3, 1942, seven hundred Jewish families escaped from this ghetto in the Ukraine. They were hunted down, and only 15 survived.

Warsaw Ghetto. By 1943, the ghetto residents had organized an army of about 1,000 fighters, mostly unarmed and without equipment. They were joined by thousands of others, mostly the young and able-bodied, still needed for forced labor. By that time, the half-million original inhabitants had been depleted to about 60,000 as a result of starvation, disease, cold, and deportation. 

In January 1943, the S.S. entered the ghetto to round up more Jews for shipment to the death camps. They were met by a volley of bombs, Molotov cocktails, and the bullets from a few firearms which had been smuggled into the ghettos. Twenty S.S. soldiers were killed. The action encouraged a few members of the Polish resistance to support the uprising, and a few machine guns, some hand grenades, and about a hundred rifles and revolvers were smuggled in. 

Facing them were almost 3,000 crack German troops with 7,000 reinforcements available. Tanks and heavy artillery surrounded the ghetto. 

Himmler promised Hitler that the uprising would be quelled in three days, and the ghetto would be destroyed. It took four weeks. The ghetto was reduced to rubble following bomber attacks, gas attacks, and burning of every structure by the Nazis. Fifteen thousand Jews died in the battle, and most of the survivors were shipped to the death camps. Scores of German soldiers were killed. Some historical accounts report that 300 Germans were killed and 1,000 wounded, although the actual figure is unknown.

Bialystok Ghetto. Jewish paramilitary organizations formed within the ghetto attacked the German army when it was determined that the Nazis intended to liquidate it. The battle lasted just one day, until the resisters were killed or captured. 

Vilna Ghetto. Some inhabitants of the Vilna Ghetto began an uprising against their Nazi captors on September 1, 1943. Most participants were killed, although a few escaped successfully and joined partisan units. 


Moving towards the Final Solution

Hans Frank on the Extermination of the Jews, December 16, 1941

...One way or another - I will tell you that quite openly - we must finish off the Jews. The Fuehrer put it into words once: should united Jewry again succeed in setting off a world war, then the blood sacrifice shall not be made only by the peoples driven into war, but then the Jew of Europe will have met his end. I know that there is criticism of many of the measures now applied to the Jews in the Reich. There are always deliberate attempts to speak again and again of cruelty, harshness, etc.; this emerges from the reports on the popular mood. I appeal to you: before I now continue speaking first agree with me on a formula: we will have pity, on principle, only for the German people, and for nobody else in the world. The others had no pity for us either. As an old National-Socialist I must also say that if the pack of Jews (Judensippschaft) were to survive the war in Europe while we sacrifice the best of our blood for the preservation of Europe, then this war would still be only a partial success. I will therefore, on principle, approach Jewish affairs in the expectation that the Jews will disappear. They must go. I have started negotiations for the purpose of having them pushed off to the East. In January there will be a major conference on this question in Berlin,* to which I shall send State Secretary Dr. Buehler. The conference is to be held in the office of SS Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich at the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt). A major Jewish migration will certainly begin.

But what should be done with the Jews? Can you believe that they will be accommodated in settlements in the Ostland? In Berlin we were told: why are you making all this trouble? We don't want them either, not in the Ostland nor in the Reichskommissariat; liquidate them yourselves! Gentlemen, I must ask you to steel yourselves against all considerations of compassion. We must destroy the Jews wherever we find them, and wherever it is at all possible, in order to maintain the whole structure of the Reich... The views that were acceptable up to now cannot be applied to such gigantic, unique events. In any case we must find a way that will lead us to our goal, and I have my own ideas on this.

The Jews are also exceptionally harmful feeders for us. In the Government-General we have approximately 2.5 million [Jews], and now perhaps 3.5 million together with persons who have Jewish kin, and so on. We cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews,** we cannot poison them, but we will be able to take measures that will lead somehow to successful destruction; and this in connection with the large-scale procedures which are to be discussed in the Reich. The Government-General must become as free of Jews as the Reich. Where and how this is to be done is the affair of bodies which we will have to appoint and create, and on whose work I will report to you when the time comes....

Wannsee Conference

At the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942 in Wannsee, a Berlin suburb, the details of the "Final Solution" were worked out. The meeting was convened by Reinhard Heydrich, who was the head of the S.S. main office and S.S. Chief Heinrich Himmler's top aide. The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate the Nazi bureaucracy required to carry out the "Final Solution," which provided for: 

1. Deportation of Jews to killing centers.
2. Immediate death for those who were unable to work: the very young, the old, and the weak. 
3. Segregation by gender of the remaining Jews.
4. Decimation through forced labor with insufficient nourishment. 
5. Eventual death for the remnant.


Vichy France and the Jews

France's division also stimulated a mass exodus of Frenchmen from the north. Some ten million Frenchmen would flee the Nazi occupied northern region. The slogan to guide Vichy policy, however, should have foretold of a new type of French government. In place of Liberty, Egalite, Fraternity came the nazistic Country, Family, Work. In October 1940, the Nuremberg Race laws were extended to France. Contrary to other occupied areas, however, no ghettoes were established. Rather, Nazi emphases fell on non-French or foreign Jews in French territory (an idea also applied to Bulgaria). Some 25,000 non-French Jews were, consequently, sent to the camps before January 1941.

Vichy's Commissariat for Jewish Questions

Established in March 1941 in place of the traditional Jewish ghetto, the Commissariat assumed responsibility for implementing the French government's policies towards the Jews. Its first head, Xavier Vallat, is described by Yahuda Bauer as a "veteran antisemitic politician." More recent interpretations (Richard Cohen), indicate that Vallat felt that by keeping the "Jewish Question" in French hands that the damage could be minimized. Bauer made the same comment about Vallat's successor, Darquier de Pellepoix ("a more rabid antisemite"). Again, more recent interpretations tend towards perceiving in Pellepoix a traditional European/French anti-Semite without the racial component typical of Nazi anti-Semitism.

Antisemitic policies did find their way into Vichy and Algeria. After the extension of the Nuremberg laws to France in 1940, Jews were forced to register with local authorities in 1941. In November, the French Jewish Council (Judenrat) came into being. Known as the Union Géneral des Israélites de France (UGIF), it pulled into its ranks almost all Jewish organizations. The UGIF met with resistance from the Consistoire Central, the traditional representative of the Jews, on grounds that French Jews were French citizens first and deserved to be treated as such.

Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France

Extensive research is now being done in France on "collaboration" with the German occupants during World War II, and the issue elicits hot public debate, particularly fed by the last spate of trials involving some of the actors of the time. After the Klaus Barbie trial, which shed light on direct Nazi coercion, and the Paul Touvier trial, with its emphasis on how "collaborationnists" - those French people who served the occupying forces - participated in their enterprise, there is now the Maurice Papon trial, which has just started in October 1997, focusing on State collaboration with the participation of French civil servants under allegiance to the Vichy government in the Nazi enterprise. The latter should normally have been preceded by the trial of one of the main actors in these events, Rene Bousquet, former Vichy chief of police, assassinated by a publicity-crazed mentally disturbed person a few weeks before his scheduled appearance at court. He had been cleared at the Liberation, had turned to the business world and had led a brilliant career there. (6)

Although Papon was not as important a protagonist, the fact that he will be judged clearly illustrates the change in the French perception of the Vichy regime over the last twenty-five years. Papon was the former secretary general of the Gironde regional prefecture, and as such he organized convoys of deported Jews, after which he was not only cleared at the Liberation for services rendered to the Resistance, but actually led an outstanding career in the prefectoral administration and was even named minister in the early 1970s. So the man who presently faces a jury trial in Bordeaux for crimes against humanity is in fact a prominent Fifth Republic official. (7)

Today, then, the question of State collaboration is under the floodlights, but the responsibility of the nation in the doings of the "de facto authority known as the 'government of the French State,'" in the official legal terminology designating the regime that ran the country from 1940 to 1944, was not acknowledged by the highest authority until Jacques Chirac became president in 1995. Previous to that, in fact, the different chiefs of State, from De Gaulle to Mitterand, felt that the Republic was in no way accountable for the Vichy regime, whose juridical non-existence had been proclaimed by the August 8, 1944 ordonnance. For a long time, the conclusion drawn was that the Republic had no reason to commemorate the Great Vel d'Hiv round-up by the French police in July 1942, any more than Vichy's other antisemitic misdeeds, although all were committed in the name of France. (8)

This view of the Vichy regime as a "puppet State" serving the Nazis and devoid of any legitimacy of its own was not conducive to detailed analysis of how it functioned nor to any real thought on the continuity of both the institutions and the government personnel before, during, and after the war (clearly illustrated by the Papon case). This historiographic stance is now antiquated, thanks, to a large extent, to Robert Paxton and Michael Marrus, (9) who have stressed the autonomy enjoyed by the Petain regime with respect to Nazi Germany, and the indigenous character of its antisemitism. Recent writings on the functioning of the regime, many of which are particularly concerned with its legal and judicial institutions, are in line with this view, which is now definitely the dominant paradigm. (10)

The book written by R.H. Weisberg is clearly part of the same trend: it comes as a complement to the work published by the periodical Le genre humain, (11) the subject of which is also broached, although in a more limited perspective, in R. Badinter's recent work on the elimination of Jewish lawyers from the Bar. (12)

Weisberg's project is ambitious, in that it aims at drawing a complete picture of how antisemitic law was drafted and implemented in all domains by looking at the action of the government, the administration, the courts, civil servants, judges and other professionals involved in the judicial process. The result is a book teeming with information, one that delves into a number of previously relatively unexplored fields, but that would have been better served by a more solid construction. (13)

The leitmotif of this ten-chapter book is the idea that the participation of Vichy in the extermination of the Jews, viewed from a legal standpoint, is not reducible to the doings of a minority of collaborators, but actually involved the French legal system as a whole. Following the defeat, the latter, which had remained more or less intact, had no difficulty in absorbing the new racial and religious measures adopted by the regime without the slightest pressure from the Germans and had applied all of its technical proficiency to rationalising the premise on which they were predicated, which was that the Jews are, allegedly, intrinsically different. The author's point is, explicitly, to indict French jurists, guilty of having made very one-sided use of their talents, without questioning the legitimacy of the new law they were bent on establishing, analysing or implementing, at the very time when they were much more pugnacious in defending the principles of republican law in other fields.

This was the case, for instance, in the Riom trial (February-April 1942), through which Petain intended to highlight the responsibilities of the main officials of the Third Republic, and which Weisberg chose as the opening piece for his book. He views this trial, and especially the way it dealt with Leon Blum, as exemplary of the contradictions of the regime and of the ambiguities of some jurists: its goal is actually the symbolic eviction from the French community of the person (Blum) who represents everything the regime abhors (parliamentary democracy, socialism, Judaism). And yet, the trial, held before a special court, remains respectful of the law, by and large, and antisemitism only surfaces occasionally (p. 15). Above all, he points out that it was feasible, even under those circumstances, to defend a case on political grounds, without making any ideological concessions to the regime, and nonetheless without exposing oneself to retaliation. And when Petain, exasperated by the turn the trial is taking, attempts to short-circuit the court, we see Jacques Charpentier, the president of the French Bar, intervene forcibly, he who had accepted the antisemitic measures affecting the Bar without a murmur (p. 22).

The following chapters are devoted to a presentation of the antisemitic laws (Chapter Two), and to their implementation against Jewish lawyers, judges and other legal professionals. Specifically, Weisberg describes the differences of interpretation between the ministry of Justice, the courts and the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions (CGQJ) (Chapter 3). Chapter Four is devoted to the personality of Joseph Bartelemy, second minister of Justice under Vichy, whose past history as a liberal jurist under the Third Republic did not seem to predispose him for the position.

Chapters Five to Seven contain a detailed analysis of the technical difficulties encountered in implementing the antisemitic legislation: Chapter Five dwells on the burden of proof for establishing jewishness, and on disagreements between the CGQJ and the courts as to the competence of the various types of courts; Chapter Six deals with the difficulties in implementing the legal criteria for jewishness; Chapter Seven examines the property problems arising from the antisemitic laws, and especially, the questions tied to the aryanization of property.

These chapters devoted to the implementation of the antisemitic laws raise complex technical questions that are clearly explained by the author; they are particularly interesting in that, rather than confining themselves to the published jurisprudence, as is the case for their counterparts among the contributions to Le droit antisemite de Vichy, they are based on a study of the archives. They also show how this new corpus of law produced intense juridical and court activity, and how profoundly legalistic all of that activity was: exclusion and spoliation, yes indeed, but in proper form! They also highlight the in-fighting between the different branches of the State apparatus - the CGQJ, judiciary and administrative courts - for the control of this corpus of law. Further research should concentrate specifically on the comparison of the two sources so that, in each field, the reality of the caseload may be compared with that portion of the latter which, through some circuitous process, became the object of learned comment and was published, thus necessarily having repercussions on how other cases were judged.

Chapter Eight contains a detailed study of the situation of lawyers. Weisberg's analysis of the eviction of Jewish lawyers and of the role played by the Bar and its officials, nominally, in that enterprise is corroborated by Badinter, which is not surprising since their sources (14) are the same, but here too, Weisberg innovates. This is also true in the third part of the chapter, devoted to how non-Jewish lawyers handled cases involving the antisemitic laws, which definitely should be looked into in depth, using a larger documentation. (15)

Chapter Nine is somewhat of a catch-all, with its discussion of the CGQJ's vain attempts, in 1943, to have the scope of denaturalizations extended so that more people could be deported; a second section deals with various judiciary reforms, irrespective of whether they were successful, and in particular with the "sections speciales," which questions are only marginally relevant to the subject of the book; the third section addresses the special case of children born out of wedlock, who were protected from investigation of their jewishness since French law of the time outlawed any investigation whatsoever of affiliation.

Each of these chapters is interesting in its own right, but the whole looks more like a hastily put-together collection of articles than like a rationally constructed work, and this shortcoming obscures the author's point. The same questions are discussed repeatedly, sometimes in very different chapters, for no apparent reason, making for a highly repetitious text, full of references to other parts of the book, in which it is difficult to achieve an overview of the subjects broached. Antisemitic legislation is presented in Chapter Two, but its precursor, the September 1940 law against aliens, is not mentioned until Chapter Eight. Questions pertaining to civil status, which one would like to see discussed in a single section, are dealt with in Chapters Two, Five, Six and Nine. (16) Property is discussed in Chapters Six (D), Seven and Eight (C). The fate of the legal professions, and the numerous clauses for Jewish lawyers in particular, first comes up in Chapter Three, then again in Chapter Eight. The ideological facets of the question, with the importance of the Christian bias against Judaism in particular, are dealt with in Chapters One, Four and Ten.

The reader is assumed to have a very good knowledge of the history of the period, then, as well as familiarity with the structure of the court system and of the various legal professions; a short preliminary presentation of all of these subjects would perhaps have been in order.

At bottom, Weisberg's general conclusion hardly differs from Lochak's 1989 findings: by acting as pure technicians of the law, albeit antisemitic law, the majority of jurists helped to make discrimination, exclusion and spoliation commonplace, unreal and finally, legitimate. It is in his explanation of this attitude that Weisberg departs from Lochak, who viewed this as an outcome of the legal positivism with which jurists are imbued, and he suggests another interpretation in Chapter Ten. His thesis may be grossly summarized as follows:

The existence of discriminatory laws does not suffice to explain why Vichy's juridical establishment treated Jews as it did, since the existence of similar laws, in Italy, for example, did not entail their enforcement.

The decisive factor is what the author terms the Vichy hermeneutics, which rapidly impregnated all of legal practice, and resulted in the exclusion of Jews from the legal protection afforded "true French people." This hermeneutics consists of a frame of analysis for legal situations characterized by the flexible interpretation of what remained of the old constitutional principles (such as the concept of equality), combined with a strict, purely technical interpretation of the new laws (p. 389).

There is a combination of the rereading of the constitutional principles (along lines suggestive of the deconstructionist theses of French inspiration so popular in the U.S. nowadays and above all reminiscent of the original Christian rereading of the Old Testament) and of a shortsighted Cartesianism that pushes the antisemitic legislation to its most extreme consequences instead of using the resources offered by legal technique and rhetoric to combat that legislation (p. 389).

In the last analysis, according to the author, it is a way of thinking peculiar to French Catholicism that made the legal culture open to the Vichy ideology, to which it should in theory have been recalcitrant (p. 389). This explains why the legal comments on the antisemitic laws are more religious than racial in their views, and leads the author to speak of religious laws rather than racial laws governing the status of Jews. French jurists seem to have been predominantly influenced by the old Christian antijudaism, more so than by Nazi racism. They read the law very much like traditional Catholics read the Old Testament, which reading led to the eviction of the Jews from the Bible.

There is no doubt that France had its own antisemitic tradition, distinct from the biological racism of the Nazis: one that was strongly tinged with Catholic antijudaism. In fact, Xavier Vallat did not hesitate to point this out to Dannecker, and thus lost his seat on the CSQJ. (17) It is also a known fact that the Catholic Church welcomed the arrival of the new regime as a "divine surprise." But Weisberg's assertion that this collective failure of jurists--now universally admitted, and which did not exclude honorable individual action, as mentioned repeatedly throughout the work--was due to the fact that the French legal mentality was imbued with an anti-Jewish Catholic tradition is not convincing.

It is not within our province to discuss Weisberg's interpretation of the Catholic exegesis of the Pentateuch, but we may point out that his parallel is partially based on a misconception: while it is true that in the first case, the Catholic exegesis, the goal is to read the Jews out of the Bible, the same certainly does not hold for Vichy law, all to the contrary! As shown by the regime's frenzied law-making (168 discriminatory texts on Jews in four years (18)), the idea was to inject the Jews, so to speak, into every branch of a legal system grounded in a republican tradition that absolutely refused to recognize such an entity. From then on, the word "Jew" cropped up, so to speak, in every paragraph of the law; not only is it impossible to overlook this new legal category when interpreting the law, but the latter must be entirely reread in this new light. Whence the proliferation of litigations, sometimes particularly absurd, in unexpected fields, such as the discussion of whether some sect or another is Jewish, or of whether children of unknown parentage are Jewish. Or again, the intense efforts of jurists to make new problems square with the familiar legal framework, thus concealing the hateful character and tragic consequences of that legislation. (19)

There is also the question of how jurists as a group, who received their training in a political context marked by a persistent conflict with the Church, would have incorporated that Catholic tradition. At the very least, one would have to distinguish between the various types of legal professionals, which Weisberg tends to amalgamate under the designation of "lawyers." Attorneys, judges, jurists working within the administration, members of the Conseil d'Etat and law school professors have neither the same social origins, nor the same interests, professional traditions (especially in their relations with the State) or, most probably, the same ideas, even if we postulate that these professional categories are homogeneous. In the same vein, any judgement on the way in which members of each of these categories did or did not participate in the Vichy enterprise should consider the constraints specific to each profession: judges should be assessed on the basis of the judgements they passed, inasmuch as they did not resign and were obliged to pronounce judgements; one cannot accuse lawyers with engaging a battle of wits with the prevailing law, inasmuch as they were requested to do so by their persecuted clients; as for professors of law, they were under no obligation to be accomplices to that law. (20)

Perhaps there is no need to go so far back to account for the indifference of jurists: the period immediately preceding the war had definitely laid the ground, and prepared people mentally for xenophobia and antisemitism. Strangely, Weisberg hardly refers to that period, as opposed to Marrus and Paxton, who stressed the deep underlying continuity between the 1930s and Vichy. (21) He does not even mention the July 19, 1934 law, enacted with no discussion, through which the Bar succeeded in closing the profession of lawyer to aliens and people who had gained citizenship within the last ten years. (22) According to Badinter, the Paris Bar, the largest in France, was traditionally antisemitic and made sure that Jewish lawyers would not be given any honorific position or responsibility within it. (23)

In the last analysis, the question of the participation of the legal professions in the Vichy regime probably should not be formulated in very different terms from those regarding other categories of the population, the majority of whom did not regret the Third Republic, at least at first, and did not care much about the antisemitic legislation. One would certainly have liked to see people in the "Homeland of Human Rights" take a better stance, and the retrospective disappointment with this dismal reality, common to people who have in one way or another devoted their life to law, is clearly visible in Weisberg's book (the same being true of Badinter's work).

Northern Zone (Occupied France)

Northern France suffered the immediate brunt of Nazi occupation policies. Supervised by the German Foreign Office's ambassador in Paris, Otto Abetz, and the Himmler's SS, antisemitic policies were implemented in September 1940 through pseudo-legal measures followed by the deportation of non-French Jews in May-August 1941. While the relative numbers were small compared with other areas of Europe, it is French assistance in the deportations procedures which most haunts France today. By July 1944, 77,911 Jews had been deported to camps in Poland. The vast majority perished.

Summer 1942

On July 16, 1942, mass deportations from Paris of French Jews began in earnest. Over the course of 1940-1944 roughly 80,000 of France's 350,000 Jews perished in Nazi hands. Compared with other countries, a rather small percentage of French Jews perished than their counterparts in other Nazi occupied regions. The answer why (after 1942 at least) can be partially answered through public outcries and those of the church against these policies.

Time Line

April 30, 1940 The ghetto at Lodz, Poland, was sealed off. 

June 4, 1940 Germany invaded Holland, Belgium, and France. 

June 29, 1940 Marshal Petain surrenders France to the Germans. 

September 27, 1940 The Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis was established. 

September 27, 1940 The Warsaw Ghetto was sealed off, making thousands of Jews inside virtual prisoners under house arrest. 

June 22, 1941 Germany invaded Greece and Yugoslavia. 

June 22, 1941 The Germans attacked and declared war on the Soviet Union. 

July 8, 1941 Wearing of the Jewish Star was decreed in the German-occupied Baltic states. 

July 31, 1941 S.S. Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was appointed by Göring to carry out the "Final Solution", the murder of all the Jews in Europe.

September 1, 1941 Wearing of the Jewish "Star of David" was decreed throughout the Greater Reich. 

October 1, 1941 All Jewish emigration was halted. 

October 14, 1941 Mass deportation to concentration camps of Jews from all over Nazi-controlled Europe. 

Recommended Reading

Adelson, Alan and Robert Lapides (ed.). Lodz Ghetto (1989).
Cobban, Alfred. A History of Modern France, vol. III (1965).
Colton, Joel. Léon Blum: Humanist in Politics (1966).
Greene, Nathanael. From Versailles to Vichy, 1919-1940 (1970).
Harr, Karl G. The Genesis and Effect of the Popular Front in France (1987).
Kitchen, Martin. Europe Between the Wars: A Political History (1988).
Sierakowiak, Dawid. The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak (1996).
Web, Marek (ed.). The Documents of the Lodz Ghetto (1988).
Yahil, Leni. The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry. New York, 1991.
Wright, Gordon. France in Modern Times (4th ed., 1987).

Internet Resources


1. History of the Jews in Poland by Ph. D. M. Rosenzweig.

2. Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, "Speech on October 14, 1941," in Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege (New York, 1989), pg. 173.

3. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust ©1990 Macmillan Publishing Company.

4. Helga Hirsch, "Eine Vergangenheit, die schmerzt," Die Zeit Nr. 25, 17 June 1994.

5. The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus K. Shapira by Nehemia Polen. This book presents and analyzes the Warsaw Ghetto writings, known as Esh Kodesh (The Holy Fire) of the hasidic master Rabbi Kalonymus Shapira (1889-1943). These discourses discuss faith in times of catastrophe, the destiny of the Jewish people, the meaning of suffering, the transmutation of evil into good, the pain and weeping of God, and the all-embracing power of compassion. ISBN 0-87668-842-3.

6. Richard H. Weisberg. Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France. Published for the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemetism (SICSA), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; foreword by Michael R. Marrus. New York: New York University Press, 1996. xxiii + 447 pp. Appendix, notes, bibliography, and index. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-8147-9302-9. Reviewed for H-Law by Rene Levy <>, CNRS (Centre de recherches sociologiques sur le droit et les institutions penales, CESDIP, France). Translation by Helen Arnold.For the controversies around the Vichy regime, see Rousso (H.), Le syndròme de Vichy de 1944 nos jours, Paris: Seuil, 1990 (1st ed. 1987; English language edition: The Vichy syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1991); Conan (E.), Rousso (H.), Vichy, un passe qui ne passe pas, Paris: Fayard, 1994; Azema (J.P.), Bedarida (F.), eds., Vichy et les français, Paris: Fayard, 1992. A recent bibliography on the period may be found in Farcy (J.C.), Rousso (H.), Justice, repression et persecution en France (fin des annees 1930 - debut des annees 1950). Essai bibliographique, les Cahiers de l'IHTP, 1993, n. 24. Copyright (c) 1997 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact

7. He was, in particular, prefect of police for Paris, one of the highest positions in the French administration, at a particularly difficult, troubled time: the close of the Algerian war. As such he was responsible for the massacre perpetrated on October 17, 1961 by the Paris police on Algerian demonstrators favoring independence for Algeria; the number of victims is presently estimated at two hundred, but at the time the official figure was less than ten, and no charges were brought for those acts (On these events, see Einaudi (J.L.), La bataille de Paris, 17 octobre 1961, Paris: Seuil, 1991; Levine (M.), Les ratonnades d'octobre, un meurtre collectif Paris en 1961, Paris: Ramsay, 1985).

8. For the legal inconsistency of this conception, see Rousseau (D.), "Vichy a-t-il existe?" in Juger sous Vichy, Paris, Seuil (Le genre humain), 1994, pp. 97-106.

9. Paxton (R.O.), Vichy France, Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944, New York: Columbia U.P., 1972; Marrus (M.R.), Paxton (R.O.), Vichy France and the Jews, New York: Basic Books, 1981.

10. On the Vichy administration, the reference work is now Baruch (M.O.), Servir l=EDEtat français: Le'administration en France de 1940-1944, Paris: Fayard, 1997 (Unfortunately this book came out too late to be referred to in detail in this review). On Vichy law and the errings of jurists, see the invaluable articles by D. Lochak: Lochak (D.), "La doctrine sous Vichy ou les mesaventures du positivisme," in Les usages sociaux du droit, Paris: PUF, 1989, pp. 252-285; see, too, the comments by Michel Troper, "La doctrine et le positivisme" (remarks on an article by D. Lochak), Ibid., pp. 286-292; and also, Lochak (D.), "Ecrire, s= e taire... Reflexions sur l'attitude de la doctrine française," in Le droit antisemite de Vichy, 1996, pp. 432-462.

11. Juger sous Vichy, Paris: Seuil (Le genre humain), 1994; Le droit antisemite de Vichy, Paris: Seuil (Le genre humain), 1996.

12. Badinter (R.), Un antisemitisme ordinaire: Vichy et les avocats juifs (1940-1944), Paris: Fayard, 1997.

13. There are a few minor defects, that might have been corrected by close rereading. We mention them here, once and for all: Dominique Gros is referenced either as Gros (D.) or as Dominique-Gros (see p. 55, note 61 and p. 432); Henri Amouroux becomes Amoureux (pp. 371 and 431). The author does not hesitate to use some irritating cliches such as "almost Germanic sense of precision" (p. 304) or "a gritty Gallic perspicacity" (p. 313).

14. Badinter is occasionally more specific than Weisberg as to specific events; for instance, on how some antisemitic lawyers approached the Germans to obtain the release of some prominent Jewish lawyers detained in Drancy (see Badinter, p. 145 ff.; Weisberg, p. 92); conversely, Weisberg reveals the people's names, which Badinter omits.

15. Part of this chapter, devoted to the analysis of the archives of the famous lawyer Maurice Garçon, was published in Le droit antisemite de Vichy.

16. In Chapter Two, pp. 66 ff. deal with the same questions as sections A and B of Chapter Five. The question of children born out of wedlock, broached on pp. 150-152, comes up again on pp. 380-385.

17. Badinter (1997, 172).

18. Gros (D.), "Peut-on parler d'un droit antisemite"? in Le droit antisemite de Vichy, Paris: Seuil (Le genre humain),1996, p. 41, n. 37.

19. Lochak (1989), pp. 260-265.

20. On this point, see Lochak (D.), "Le juge doit-il appliquer une loi iniques?" in Juger sous Vichy, pp. 29-40; Lochak (D.) "Ecrire, se taire...," in Le droit antisemite, pp.433-462 (especially n.25, p.460). On judges, see Bancaud (A.), "La magistrature et la repression politique de Vichy ou l'histoire d'un demi-echec," Droit et Societe, 1996, 34, pp. 557-574.

21. Marrus, Paxton (1981, p. 45).

22. The same text actually covered all civil servants and ministerial positions: Laval-Reviglio (M.C.), "Parlementaires xenophobes et antisemites sous la IIIe Republique," in Le droit antisemite de Vichy, pp.85-114. Restrictive measures of the same type were enacted for the medical profession, as well as for trade and craftspeople. See, also, Bonnet (J.-Ch.), Les pouvoirs publics français et l'immigration dans l'entre-deux-guerres, Lyon: Centre d'histoire economique et sociale de la region lyonnaise, 1976.

23. Badinter (1997, pp. 20-21), who also points out that the Conseil de l'ordre of Paris lawyers applied the 1934 law retroactively (p. 29).