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Łódź (Continued)

V. The Jews of L Between the Two Wars

a. The Economic and Social Condition of the Jews of L.

For reasons described above the number of Jewish inhabitants in L fell to 156,155 in 1921 (of these, 17,301 declared themselves in the Census of that year to be Poles of the Mosaic Faith). The Jews thus formed 34.5% of the town's total population. In the next Census, of 1931, their number had risen to 202,497 (of these, 5.4% gave their mother-tongue as Polish, corresponding to their ethnic affiliation as Polish). In the 30s and until 1939 the Jewish population rose again to 230-240,000 (including temporary residents). This increase was due to the migration of Jews from the surrounding towns and townlets, and not to natural increase, which at times was negative (in 1936, for instance, minus 414), while the infant mortality rate in 1934 was 19%. These facts speak for themselves. In view of the advances of modern medicine, the above situation could only arise from the miserable economic condition of the Jews of L, with their constant malnutrition and crowded dwellings.

The war had seriously undermined L, Poland's textile centre, and after the war this industry faced obstacles that were impossible to overcome. The main export markets in Russia were closed, and the sources of credit necessary to restore the industry and give it modern equipment, were non-existent. All this made it extremely difficult to compete in the new markets of Western Europe. The economic and social enfeeblement of Poland also meant a contraction of the domestic market. The upheavals and crisis that overwhelmed the whole country - the war with the Soviet Union in 1920, the inflation of 1922-1924, the currency devaluation of 1925, and the major crisis of 1928-1931 - were drastically reflected in the industrial situation in L. Although industrial production returned in 1927-1928 to its pre-war level, and in 1934 there seemed to be a slight revival in production and marketing - these short periods of economic recovery were inadequate to improve the situation, albeit they halted further deterioration.

In the inter-war period the economic situation of the Jews of L was affected, not only by conditions in general, but also by special circumstances, such as the specific structure of Jewish economic activity. In addition, there was the anti-Jewish policy of the state and the municipality, where the tax system discriminated against the Jewish factory owners, merchants, and home-workers - while supporting their non-Jewish competitors in the cooperatives and factories; and above all, there was the growth of anti-Semitism, particularly after the rise of Hitler to power in Germany.

The anomaly in the employment of Jewish industrial workers and functionaries grew more marked at this time. According to the data of the 1931 Census, 71.3% of the 23,643 Jewish industrial workers were employed in small enterprises of the workshop type. As against this, the percentage of non-Jews employed in such plants was only 20.4. Only 4.6% of Jewish workers were employed in the larger plants, and 23.7% of all Jewish functionaries. It should be noted that the plants run by non-Jews employed virtually no Jews at all. The figures for the home-workers were self-evident: while the Jews formed only a third of all industrial workers in L, they constituted 72.2% of all home-workers.

In fact, the Jews of L were the most productive of all their brothers in Poland (43% of them worked in production units), but most of them earned only enough for the bare essentials. Their work was primitive from a technological point of view and physically strenuous, and they were to be found in plants and workshops of uncertain profitability, with resultant minimum wages. The Jewish worker and home-worker were constantly engaged in a fight for their jobs. In the cotton mills and the finishing plants they were opposed by the authorities, the non-Jewish entrepreneurs, the Christian trade unions - and in many cases - the Jewish employers too. The Jewish worker found employment more easily in the marginal jobs requiring manual work, skills and experience, such as carting, dyeing, setting up the cloth printers, and the like. In this category the Jews were in the majority. The wages and working conditions of the Jewish craftsmen and service workers did not improve. The lowest wages were those of the tailors, the furriers, and the Jewish weavers of fringes - most of them in the clothing industry - and in the “dead seasons” they suffered poverty and even hunger. The refusal to employ Jews and their rejection also by Jewish employers hit hard at the craftsmen too. For example, in 1930 there were in 90 Jewish bakeries in L 270 Jews out of 400 employed in the branch; while in 1931 there was mention of 35 bakeries and only 8 Jews out of 87 bakers. It should be noted that Jews were never employed in bakeries owned by Poles.

Among those employed in the textile industry there was a relatively large number of Jewish experts: engineers and technicians specializing in dyeing, cloth-printing, textile chemicals, and sorting of materials. They formed the elite of the workers and functionaries in the production process, and a few of them reached positions in management and partnership within the plants.

Among the Jewish merchants in L each year saw a decreasing number who acquired trading licenses; and in the inter-war period there was a rise in the number of small shopkeepers, stall-holders, street pedlars and door salesmen. Trade was the occupation that suffered most from anti-Semitic action (boycotts and anti-Jewish riots), which increased in the 30s. The merchants, formerly community-tax payers. now approached the community council for support; and many who received Passover alms for the poor were destitute merchants and craftsmen. Government and municipal offices, and even the departments of services and public works, were in the inter-war years closed to Jewish applicants, both functionaries and workers. Many Jewish intellectuals (mainly graduates in the Humanities) - due either to tradition or to the restrictions on Jewish entry to the more popular faculties - found work only in the Jewish sector, i.e. in private schools, Jewish institutions, the few banks, and some large plants. Many of them barely earned a living from temporary jobs, and if they were unable to emigrate, they joined their like among the lumpenproletariat. The following table shows the economic and material situation of the Jews of L, according to community taxes paid in 1929:

Tax in zloty per yearPercentage of payers
over 10000.4

It will thus be seen that some 80% of the Jews registered were poor or very poor; 13.6% may be said to belong to the middle level; and a mere 1.8% could be described as comfortably off or wealthy. Moreover, in the following years no significant change took place in this distribution. The efforts of the many Jewish social and charitable organizations in L were unable to stem the growing impoverishment of the Jewish masses, nor to alleviate its results. The hospice for the poor spent in 1936 some 6,000 zloty on Passover alms in support of 800 persons - giving each one two kilos of matzot, half a kilo of sugar, a quarter kilo of margarine, two kilos of onions, 20 grams tea, eight eggs, and eight candles; and its kitchen fed 200 people during Passover. In the first three months of 1937 the bread charity comittee provided 50,000 meals or food parcels for the poorest elements. The community expended 100,000 zloty to help thousands of people that year. And thousands received help from other organizations. A sign of the lack of means of thousands of families was the 40,000 zloty allocated by the community for fuel to the poor each year.

The Jewish institutions - two hospitals, old-age homes, orphanages, mental homes, and hospitals for the chronically ill - run by the community and the various fraternities, contributed their share of medical aid to those suffering from malnutrition and overcrowding, lack of sewage (in Baluty) , to children with tuberculosis (many of whom died from it). In 1936 the TOZ (Polish initials for the Jewish Health and Welfare Organization of Poland, established in 1923) opened two clinics for mothers and children in L (in the town centre and in Baluty) and dealt with 800 children a year; and the organization's clinic for pregnant mothers helped 30 such women. The nursery had only room for 35 children; but the kindergarten clinics helped 250; 80 foundlings were cared for in foster families under TOZ supervision; 400 children were treated in the dental and school clinics; 3,500 children in 17 schools were given medical care; TOZ provided entertainment for 3,500 children, and sent 1,300 to summer camps. It should be mentioned, however, that in the same year of 1936 there were some 30,000 schoolchildren. A considerable number only attended a cheder, or attended no educational institution at all. Nor did TOZ's medical services embrace the thousands of youths in workshops, trade - and in particular in peddling and door selling.

b. Anti-Semitism

As in the rest of Poland between the wars, the Jewish population of L lived in a state of constant tension. This was due to the rising wave of anti-Semitism, expressed by the acts of both local and governmental authorities, by the activities of the Polish political parties and rightist groups (at first the Andaks, but from 1934 to some degree by the ruling party). Jews were barred from places of work, were discriminated against in matters of welfare and education, intimidated by anti-Jewish propaganda and street tumult, beaten - and on the eve of the Second World war were subject to attempts to inflict upon them the arianization clause in public institutions and places.

From the very beginning of Polish independence the Jews of L suffered from anti-Semitic violence at the hands of units of General Haller's troops. These incidents reached a climax on July 16th, 1919, when these soldiers assaulted and injured many Jews, and cut off their beards and side locks in the street, on the false pretext that the Jews had fired on soldiers and policemen from their windows. The troops arrested and pummeled tens of passers-by who attempted to defend or help their victims. The anti-Semitic newspaper “Roswoj” published on July 18th, 1919, an article accusing the Jews of “defiling the name of Poland” by arousing public opinion against “imaginary” events. In the view of the paper, it was the Jews who attacked Haller's troops, who were then forced to defend themselves.

Anti-Semitic activity in L increased in the 30s. There were a growing number of attacks on Jews. At the beginning of the academic year the students organized anti-Jewish riots. The youth groups of the Andaks picketed Jewish shops, and even tore down stalls. Anti-Jewish propaganda in the newspaper “Orndownik”, in pamphlets and leaflets assumed by the end of the decade clear Nazi tendencies.

Against the general background in the country the fight against anti-Semitism had to be restricted to protests by the Jewish organizations to the authorities, and to isolated protests by progressive Polish bodies. In July 1919 the Mayor and member of the Polish Socialist Party PPS, Rzewski, condemned in unequivocal terms the attacks by the Haller soldiers on Jews. At the request of the Jewish members of the town council and the PPS councillors the town council in November 1931 condemned the anti-Semitic policies of the institutions of higher learning in Warsaw, Vilna and Lwow, as well as in the L region. In that year too representatives of the textile factory workers adopted a resolution calling upon the Polish working class to combat anti-Semitism. In February 1936, at a meeting of representatives of 17 Polish and 8 Jewish trade unions, it was decided to call upon the workers of L to oppose anti-Semitic action in all its forms. On the initiative of the Jewish organizations a protest meeting against anti-Semitism, boycott, and restrictions was held on February 17th, 1936. At 2 p.m. on that day all the Jewish shops, offices, factories, and schools were closed. In plants employing both Jews and Poles 4,000 workers struck in solidarity. Upon the accession to leadership of the Medical Association of an Andak member in 1937, a new association of doctors was formed, and a considerable number of Polish doctors joined their Jewish colleagues in it. Dr. Wejnckowski, chairman of the League for Human Rights, and known for his fight against racism and anti-Semitism, was elected chairman of this body.

c. The Community and Religious Life

The Polish regime maintained on its inception the status quo of the Jewish communities, as laid down in the German-occupied territories of Poland in 1918. A decree of 1919 defined the legal basis and the sphere of activities of the community, and this system remained until the Second World War. The policy of the authorities was to limit the activities of the community to matters of religion and some of welfare. The electoral law approved by the Government restricted the number of electors: the suffrage was given only to contributors to the communal taxes, and to males of a certain age. These restrictions favoured candidates loyal to the regime. The first elections to the community council were held in 1924; of 34,794 eligible to vote, only 16,975 cast their ballot. The election resulted in the “assimilationists” losing control of the community, and mandates were distributed as follows: Zionists and Mizrachi 6; Agudat Israel 11; Poalei Agudat Israel 1; Alexander Chassidim 7; Bund 3; Left Poalei Zion 2; Craftsmen 2; Folkists 1; Communists 1; and “Assimilationists” 1. A coalition of minor groups was formed against Agudat Israel, and chosen as Chairman of the Executive was the Head of the Zionist group, Dr. Uri Rozenblatt, and as Chairman of the Council the industrialist Shlomo Bodzyner, of the Alexander Chassidim.

Constant friction between the various factions led to frequent crises, votes of no-confidence, and a new election of the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen (in 1927 Binyamin Russ, of the “Non-Party Religious Group” (i.e. the Alexander Chassidim) was elected Chairman of the Executive. In 1931 the authorities appointed an administrative executive; and in the elections of that year, with a reduced number of eligible voters (27,133), the number who actually cast their vote was only 15,571. Agudat Israel achieved an absolute majority with 15 mandates; Zionists 4; Mizrachi 4; Folkists 2; Non-Party Religious, or Alexander Chassidim 2; “Assimilationists 1; Leftist Groups 4. The dominance of Agudat Israel in the community continued until the outbreak of the Second World War. The chairman of the executive in 1931 was the chairman of Agudat Israel in L, Leib Mincberg, Deputy of the Parliamant (Sejm) for the ruling party. Satisfaction with this composition in the community council and its executive was shown in the regime's decree of 1936 postponing the next elections indefinitely - for at the time the Bund, the Zionists (and the Zionist Left) were reaping success in the elections to the large community councils in Poland. With the adoption in 1936 of the community budget of 1,332,247 zloty the regime annulled the sum of 134,000 zloty that was earmarked for support of the workers' schools, evening classes, student grants, opening of a welfare office, of some libraries, vocational training, and the like.

A list of institutions enjoying the community's support in 1925 (similar budgetary allocations were given in the following years) illustrates the widespread activity of the L community. This list included:

1. Welfare: a mental hospital near the old cemetery; the Konsztadt Old-Age Home; the orphanage in Polnocna Street; the orphanage in Zgierska Street; some children' s boarding schools; ORT; hospice for the poor; interest-free loans; aid to the mute; TOZ; district clinics; the Poznanski Hospital; the infant welfare centre; some shelters; etc.

2. Education and Culture: some 20 cheders and large yeshivot; the Borochow and Shalom-Aleichem Schools; the Jarocinski Vocational School; the T.T. Rubin Vocational School; the Tachkemoni Girls' School; the Yavneh Gymnasium; the Borochow Library; the Groser Library, the “Culture League”; and so forth. From1928 on the community published a newsletter on its activities in Hebrew,Yiddish and Polish.

In 1918 the community employed a rabbi and 20 dayanim. In the 30's the rabbinate comprised some 20 persons. After the death of R. Trajstman in 1923 a Chief Rabbi was not appointed. It should be mentioned that in the war years several admorim were resident in L.

d. Parties and Politics.

In the inter-war years there existed in L every conceivable shade of Polish Jewish political parties, as well as the youth organizations affiliated to them. It was a period marked by considerable Zionist influence among the Jews of L. The election of a Zionist deputy - and sometimes two - from L to the Sejm was taken for granted. Of interest was the constant progress of the Zionist Left: in the elections to the Congress in 1937 2,603 votes were cast for the League for Labour Palestine. Within the Zionist ranks an increasing role was played by the Zionist-Revisionist faction (later known as the New Zionist Federation). The Revisionist petition on Palestine to the King of England in 1934 was signed by almost 12,000 persons; and in the elections to the Federation in that same year some 9,000 votes were cast.

During the preparations for the World Jewish Congress in 1936 the Zionists succeeded in assembling a distinguished delegation from among the Jews of L. In the Preparatory Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. A. Tartakower (Federation) there were participants from the following bodies: the General Zionists; Poalei-Zion; Mizrachi; the Federation; Judenstadt (Grossman); the Folkists; the Torah and Labour Movement; the Religion and Labour Movement; the Traders' Association; the Small Traders' Association; the Council of Professional Trade Unions; the Craftsmen's Centre; ORT; and others.

Among the workers the struggle between the Bund and the Left Poalei Zion continued. The influence of the latter decreased in the 30s, when a Rightist Poalei Zion made its appearance, but with little effect (in the elections of 1934 it received but 1,240 votes). The Communists, however, showed considerable strength: of the 53,694 votes cast for this party in the elections to the Sejm in 1930, the majority were those of Jews. Amid the diversified political pattern of the Jews in L note should also be taken of the remnants of the “Assimilationists”, who voted for the ruling PPS party or for Liberal factions. At the other end of the spectrum were the various Chassidim and their courts, particularly those of Alexander, and other representatives of the religious middle class (apart from Agudat Israel), whose political motto was “the law of the Kingdom is the law” - and who tended to support the domestic and local policy of the regime.

In the Town Council of L too the role of the Jewish political parties was problematic. The special structure of the council, determined by the priorities of the opposition (the Fascist Andak) on the one hand, and the PPS and trade union representatives, supporters of the regime, on the other, often involved the Jews in dramatic situations. In a town replete with bitter class friction and discord the Andaks exploited the situation in council meetings with unbridled and poisonous anti-Semitic attacks, that sometimes led to tumult and scuffles. True, the Polish left protested against these actions - but when the influence of the Andaks increased from 1934 on, the leftist politicians feared the loss of popular support through their solidarity with the Jews. This situation was underlined in the elections of 1934, when the Andaks achieved a majority (with 100,00 votes and 39 mandates) over the Leftist bloc of the PPS, the Bund, and the German Socialists (a mere 7 mandates). In 1936, however, the PPS obtained the majority, with 34 seats - but this meant that the 26 Andak members merely intensified their anti-Semitic activity and their hostile attitude towards the Jewish councillors. The latter not only met a blank wall each time they demanded equal rights for the Jews, but often had to suffer insults and foul oaths, and even blows, when making their speeches. When a Jewish councillor spoke, the Andak members interrupted him, shouted to deafen his words, surrounded him, tried to eject him from the podium, threw chairs at him, and so on. The schisms of the Jewish representatives on the Town Council added to their problems. In the municipal elections of 1927 there were six factions: the Bund 5 seats; Agudat Israel 4; Zionists 4; Left Poalei Zion 3; non-Party (Alexander Chassidim) 2; and Folkists 1. In 1936 the distribution of seats was as follows: Jewish Workers' Bloc (Bund and Left Poalei Zion) 6; Zionists 3; United Jewish Bloc (Agudat Israel and other religious groups) 3. In 1938 (the last elections before the war) the following were elected: the Bund - R. Ajchner, Arthur Zygielbaum, S. Milman, M. Mermelsztajn, H. Majzner, Ch. L. Poznanski, Y. Morgenthaler, S. Nutkiewicz, and B. Wirowski; Left Poalei Zion - L. Holenderski and S. Rosenberg; Trade Unions - S. Handelsman; Agudat Israel - R. Dr. Y. Lewin, B.Z. Lipszyc and P. Liberman (all three Gur Chassidim); Zionists - Dr. A. Tartakower, Geulah Kraus, and the lawyer Sztrauch.

e. Education and Culture

The thriving period of education and culture in Jewish life, begun during the German occupation, continued also after the First World War. In 1930 the public elementary schools in L were attended by 15,182 Jewish pupils, and the private schools (mainly cheders, where secular and some vocational subjects were also taught) by 6,232 pupils. Of the 12 secondary schools - most of whose pupils were Jewish - with Polish as the language of instruction, three belonged to the organization for founding Hebrew secondary schools in L. The headmaster of the private gymnasium (600 pupils) was for many years the poet Yitzhak Katzenelson. Despite the formally equal rights in the field of education, the Jews comprised only 2.7% of pupils in the state gymnasia. The Jewish population continued to bear the burden of discrimination. Adjacent to the school of the Yavneh type the Zionists set up the Tachkemoni School, and the Mizrachi Beit Ulpana, with Hebrew as the language of instruction. The predominant role of Agudat Israel in the community facilitated the establishment and financing of a broad network of schools-cum-cheders of the category Yesodei Hatorah for boys and Beit Yaakov for girls. L was also the headquarters of the Beit Yaakov network, the site of its teachers' seminary, and its educational-religious publication of the same name. The Bund (W. Medem Schools) and the Left Poalei Zion (Borochow Schools) opened some kindergartens with Yiddish as the language of instruction - mainly in the poorer quarters. There were a wide variety of vocational and language evening schools in L. The report of the “Tarbut” (Culture) Committee for 1934 speaks of 16 courses that year in Hebrew, Hebrew Literature and Bible, with some 600 pupils. Religious youths continued to attend the yeshivot. In the Alexander Chassidim's “Beit Israel” there were 400 boys. The Batei Midrash and Stieblich (Prayer-Houses) continued to attract young students. Before the war there were some 20 such centres in L. Another important cultural centre was the branch of YIVO, opened in L in 1929. Among the 200 members of this institute was a group conducting research into the problems of Jewish life in L and its environs. It published a report entitled “Łódźer Wissenschaftliche Schriften” (Łódź Scientific Report). The branch of Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, founded in L in 1925, numbered 500 members.

Apart from the daily newspapers published in L prior to 1918, “Neue Volksblatt” began its appearance in 1923. There were also other more short-lived papers, such as “Łódźer Extrablatt”, “Łódźer Volsstimme”, and “Yiddische Courier”. Somewhat irregularly there appeared periodicals on literature, economy, and other subjects (mainly in Yiddish), as well as single issues in Hebrew or Polish, for example newsletters of youth organisations. Although there was no tradition in L for printing and publishing, over the years many hundreds of books in Hebrew and Yiddish appeared - in the spheres of rabbinical literature, exegesis, and Chassidism, as well as poetry and prose collections and books on political subjects.

Despite budgetary difficulties L possessed from the end of the 19th century and until the outbreak of the Second World War several Jewish theatres. In some of them, such as “Groyse Teater” or “Skala” renowned stage personalities made their appearance - names such as Adler, Sandberg, Zaslawski, and Kutner. Prominent among the so-called “Small Theatres” was the theatre of Drzygan and Szumacher, and “Azazel” and “Ararat”, whose Artistic Director for some time was M. Broderson. The puppet theatre “Chad-Gadya” , under the direction of the painter Yitzhak Brauner, enjoyed much success.

Physical culture and sport throve amid Jewish youth in L, despite the difficult circumstances: lack of pitches or sports-halls with the necessary equipment. Almost all sporting branches, both popular and elite, were practised by the Jewish organisations in L. In addition to the Bar-Kochba Club, which had more than a thousand members in the inter-war years, other sporting organisations made their appearance : Hakoach, Chashmonai, Kadimah, “Morgenstern”, Trumpeldor, and Hechalutz Hamerkazi, for instance.

f. Cultural Personalities of the L Jewish Population

Even with no long tradition as a centre of Jewish culture, and in spite of the special conditions of an industrial and commercial city, the more than 200,000 Jews of L produced writers - both native and migrant -who enriched Yiddish and Hebrew literature and journalism.

David Fryzman, born in Zgierz, settled in L in 1872 and lived there for many years. Contemporary with him in L were: Ezra Goldin, a talented novelist; Binyamin Katzenelson, writer and contributor to “Hatsefira” and “Hamelitz”; Meir Puner, dramatist, with the Bible as source material. For many years A. Luboszycki, poet, prosaist and teacher, lived in L; he edited the periodicals “Hakochav” and “Ben Hakochav”, in which many writers first published their works, continuing afterwards in Palestine (Yosef Aricha, Avraham Braudes); and his textbook on Jewish History, based on Dubnow, was widely used in Hebrew schools. Anative of L was the Hebrew-Yiddish writer, Yitzhak Katzenelson, known principally for his epic poem “Iyov” (Job), written in the Warsaw Ghetto, and his poem “Song of the Murdered Jewish People”, a dirge for the destruction of Polish Jewry by the Nazis. Also connected with L is the name of Y. Cohen, poet and historian, authority on Medieval Hebrew Poetry and translator of Yosef ben Mattatyahu to Hebrew. In 1925 A. S. Kaminiecki, one of the editors of Jebraiska Encyclopedia and biblical scholar (he translated the Apocrypha into Hebrew), settled in L. Ch. Y. Bunin, student of and essayist on Chassidism and author of “Mishnat Chabad”, published for a time in L the periodical “Sha'ar Hayishuv”.

A. Lewinsohn translated into Hebrew, amongst other things, Sienkiewicz's “With Fire and Sword”; Dr. Aryeh Tartakower, writer on Sociology, wrote essays in “Hatekufah”, “Haolam”, and “Hapoel Hatzair”; M. Blajsztyft translated into Hebrew Y. Zulawski's “Shabbetai Zwi”; M. D. Bunin, poet and prose writer, wrote the poetic work “Matbeia Mazal” (Coin of Chance); M. Lusternik wrote the epic poem “Sufat Aviv” (Spring Storm). Now and again scientists and journalists contributed in Hebrew and Yiddish to the daily newspapers and to periodicals: Dr. P. Friedman, historian, author of “History of the Jews of L”; Dr. Ch. Urmian, educationalist and lecturer in the Folk University of L; Y. L. Najman, Yiddish journalist; Shoshana Fajnsztajn, translator into Hebrew of “A Thousand and One Nights”; Dr. N. Ek, historian; and many others. Mention should also be made of other prominent journalists, amongst them: Michael Assaf, authority on Arab problems; A. Z. Eszkoli, author of “The L Community”; and Dr. Y. Frankel.

Yankel Lerner is considered the first Yiddish writer in L (in the 1890s). He wrote the celebrated work “Simcha Plechte”. Active at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century was the Yiddish writer and historian, M. Fajnkind. The beginning of the 20th century saw the works in L of the writers and poets Z. Segalowicz, “Herszele” (Danielewicz), and B. Appelbaum. Around 1910 came the prose writers Y. M. Najman and Zwi Kahan, and the journalists Ester Frumkin (later one of the leaders of the “Jivsektsia” in the Soviet Union), and “Wladek” (afterwards Editor of “Vorwarts” and labour leader in the Soviet Union). In 1912-1913 M. Broderson, one of the modernistic Yiddish poets began to write in L, and in 1913 appeared his book of poems “Schwartze Fliterlech” (Black Tinsel ), while between the wars he edited the periodical “Jung Jiddisch”. After the First World War “Hershele” published the literary magazine “Gesangen”, in which there appeared for the first time works by young Yiddish poets: D. Zytman, Ch. L. Fuks, Ch. Krol, Sarah Boim, S. Jakobowicz, Miriam Olynower [Allinever] (editor of the anthology “Volkstimmliche Lieder” - Songs of the People), R. Czenstochowski, and others. In the period between the two wars there were also cultural contributions from the following: Z. Segalowicz (the poem “In Kazimir”); Y. Raben, lyricist and author of the “Baluty” stories and “Die Gass” (The Street) - a graphic picture of Jewish poverty, as well as the poems “Hinter dem Floyt von der Welt” (Beneath the World's Fence) and “Groyer Freilung” (Grey Spring); R. M. Najman, essayist, lyricist and dramatist, author of the dramas “Shabbes Oyvest”, “Der Millionair”, and of mystical-religious poetry; Ch. L. Fuks, poet of joy and optimism, and author of the books “Durschtikker Lemmer” (Thirsty Lambs), and “Sing Mir die Welt” (Sing to Me of the World). Among Yiddish prose writers of the period mention may be made of the shirt story writer B. Szafner, the novelist Ch. Zytnicki, author of the stories “Newelen von Toyt” (Novels of Death) and “Dem Zeidens Haizel” (Grandfather's House); and S. Berlinski, author of two short story collections on working life. In the sphere of Yiddish journalism prominent between the wars were Dr. Mokdoni, editor and critic of “Łódźer Tagblatt”; Y. Gottlieb, editor of this paper, and later editor and publisher of the Warsaw “Moment”; Ch. Y. Brzestowski, editor together with L. Fuks of “Neue Volksblatt”, editor and publisher of “Yiddische Verser” and of the humorous magazine “Tachshit”. Also worthy of mention are A. Langleben, N.Y. Berliner, and A.G. Frydenzon.

Any survey of Jewish litrary contribution must include those who wrote principally in Polish: the poet Julian Tuvim; the poets M. Braun and Krasnianski; and the writer Leo Belmont, author of a novel on Herzl - to name just a few.

There were also those born in or living in L who enriched it with their sculptures or painting: S. Hirszenberg, Ch. Glicensztajn, Maurycy Trebacz, S. Pilichowski, Yankel Adler, Arthur Szyk, Ze'ev Rawicki, Henman, Berman, Spiegel, Rozenthal, Brauner (mentioned above) - and many others.

Many cultural personalities from L were to be found in other cities in Poland and the world at large, among them those who continued to work within a modern Jewish sphere.

VI. The Jews of L in the Second World War

a. The Jews in Occupied L until the Enclosure of the Ghetto (1.9.39 - 30.4.1940).

1. Persecution.

When the German army occupied L on 8-9.9.1939 the local Germans carried out an “act of vengeance” on the second day: in Wolnosci Square they attacked Poles and Jews, and removed or cut the beards and side-locks of the latter. Anti-Jewish decrees quickly made their appearance: on the 18th came an order freezing all Jewish bank accounts and forbidding Jews to hold more than 2,000 zloty. The same day saw a ban on their dealing in textiles, and shortly afterwards commissars were appointed in Jewish plants. These decrees were accompanied by “unofficial” acts of persecution: German functionaries searched Jewish houses, stole their contents, hunted down Jewish males, in the street and at home, and set them to hard and degrading labour. They were ordered to clean railway stations, barracks, offices, the private flats of the Volksdeutschen; to transport goods: and to work in nearby fields. On October 11th, 1939, the authorities directed the Jews to supply daily work-teams (in the region of 200-600 persons) - but the street hunts still continued. At the beginning of November the Jews were forbidden to use the main street - Piotrkowska.

Under these conditions the public services of the Jews collapsed. Terror-stricken, they dared not leave their houses. Supplies were especially hard to come by for the Jews, as the Polish anti-Semites and the Germans drove them from the grocery queues, and robbed and asaulted them.

The incorporation of L into the Reich on November 9th initiated a wave of terror against the Poles (especially bitter, as the Polish National Day fell two days later) and increased persecution of the Jews. On November 10th-11th, as a symbolic act, the statue of the Polish national hero Kosciuszko was blown up. On the 10th more than 20 Jews were killed in Café “Austria”. On the 11th nearly all the members of the Judenrat (see below) were arrested and interned in the concentration camp in the suburb of Radogoszcz. At about the same time some 1,500 Poles and Jews were arrested, and two Poles and a Jew were publicly hanged in Baluty. Within a few days the number of detainees had risen to several thousand. They were mainly members of the intelligentsia and the social and political leaders of the two peoples. The Nazis defined them as hostages, in view of the Polish uprising that was allegedly about to take place. They too were herded into the camp at Radogoszcz, from which they were never set free. Some of them were massacred in the nearby forests of Lucmierz. Among the victims was Dr. Alexander Margolis, Director of the Radogoszcz Hospital and a leader of the Bund, and Yosef Wolczynski, Director of the Poznanski Factory. Some of the prisoners were transferred to other concentration camps, and the remainder to the General Gouvernement. On November 15th-17th the Nazis burned or blew up synagogues in L. All the above acts of terror were accompanied by restrictions against the Jews: a decree ordering them to bear a yellow armband, and afterwards - a yellow Star of David on their chest and back; a ban on leaving home after noon; a ban on using public transport; and ejection from places of work. In December the Nuremberg Laws were implemented in L, as in all of Wartegau. Looting of Jewish property and confiscation of Jewish factories, shops and warehouses increased considerably. At the same time the Germans began to collect from the Jews their tax debts from before the war, on the basis of the lists of the Polish fiscal authorities.

Amid the abundant acts of attack and persecution note should be made of oppression of a religious nature. The shearing of beards and side-locks was a favourite pastime of the German soldiers and policemen, and three of their victims were the renowned Rabbis of L: Trajstman, Lipszyc, and Segal. The authorities forbad the celebration of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, as well as all public prayers, and ordered shops to remain open on the Holy Days. Jews caught praying in basements and other hiding-places were severely beaten, and afterwards made to carry out degrading tasks clad in their talitot (prayer-shawls) and robes. At the beginning of November the Germans commanded that a special festive service be held in the synagogue on Kosciuszko Avenue (The “Synagoga”) or in the Wilker Shul in Zachodnia Street, with the participation of hundreds of Jews in their talitot, a cantor, a choir, and full ceremonial rites. German officers photographed the prayers, then chased the Jews into the streets, beat and jeered at them, ordered them to dance, and to perform similar indignities. Next day, there was a similar “performance” at the abattoir, with the Germans taking pictures of ritual slaughtering. On November 15th to 17th synagogues in L were set on fire - and outside the “Synagoga” the Fire Brigade stood by to make sure the flames did not spread to neighbouring buildings. The day after, the “Altstetlische Shul” and the Great Beit Hamidrash were set on fire, and only the western wall left standing - and this was afterwards blown up by the Germans. Nazi newspapers announced that the Poles had burned these synagogues in revenge for the Jewish destruction of Kosciuszko's statue. At about the same time, the “Woliner Shul” in Wolczanska Street, and the “Wilker Shul” and Beit Midrash in Zachodnia Street were also put to the flame. Before the burning of the “Woliner Shul” the Germans forced Rabbi Segal to put on a talit and tefillin and then to desecrate the Torah rolls of the synagogue. The Germans burned some of the books in these Batei Midrash and some stole. Apparently, other smaller synagogues and Batei Midrash were also destroyed at this time. In the ruins of the “Wahliner” and “Wilker” synagogues the Germans installed stables, and the burnt-out plot of the “Synagoga” was used as a parking place.

The deteriorating situation of the Jews in L led to a wave of flight from the town. In fact, Jewish exit from L had begun during the first days of the war. On September 6th, 1939, large numbers of Polish Jews left immediately upon the relinquishment of Polish rule. During the first week their number was 60,000. And this movement continued in the wake of the persecutions described above. The Jews fled mainly to the General Gouvernement, and rather fewer to various places in Wartegau. Emigration permits for abroad were obtained by a handful of wealthy persons, such as the industrialist Asher Kon and the Oszer family. Most of the refugees were middle-class, intellectuals, social and political workers, and youngsters. Many of them proceeded from the General Gouvernement to the areas occupied by the Soviet Union.

With the annexation of L by the Reich, the authorities began to eject Poles and Jews from their homes and expel them from the town, in order to give accommodation to German settlers, in accordance with the programme of Germanization. In November such evictions were still few. Systematic eviction took place from December 1939 to the Spring of 1940. Without warning the inhabitants of the better houses (mostly Jews) were thrown into the street; there followed such acts in whole quarters of the town. The evicted were only allowed to take with them the fewest of possessions. Most of their property remained for the use of the German settlers. Those evicted were interned in transit camps in L and nearby. Afterwards they were transported in goods wagons to the General Gouvernement. The authorities decided that until the end of February 30,000 Jews would be expelled. On December 12th and 13th the Germans suddenly sent to the General Gouvernement thousands of Jews. In freezing cold they were crammed into the unheated goods wagons, and conveyed to their destination for several days without food or suitable clothing, and en route the rest of their possessions were stolen. After intervention by the Judenrat, the Germans permitted the community to organize the rest of the action. Thus, in December 14th to 18th, 1939, there were no sudden expulsions. People were given more time to prepare for the journey, and were no longer put into goods wagons: the Judenrat did what it could to provide other means of transport, mainly by hiring carts. The Judenrat also gave each deportee 50 marks. Concurrent with this mass deportation, the “spontaneous” exodus increased, and thousands of Jews left the town.

From January 24th, 1940, the authorities began to move the evicted Jews only to other parts of the town or to the Baluty quarter. This date, however, may be considered the beginning of the setting-up of the ghetto. The official document to this end had already been written - this was a secret circular from the District Governor of Kalisz-Łódź, Uebelhoer, dated December 12th, 1939. This document stated, inter alia, that the ghetto was to be established in view of the impossibility of evacuating all the Jews of L in the near future; the ghetto would thus serve as a transit place until the town could be purged of Jews. Nevertheless, the police order giving dates and names of streets did not appear until February 8th, 1940. From then on the process was set on foot en masse. However, the speed of the operation did not satisfy the authorities. On March 1st the Nazis carried out a pogrom against tens of thousands of Jews still outside the ghetto. This pogrom was known as the “fourth or fifth day of blood”; the Germans evicted the Jews from their houses, beat them, fired at them, forbad them to take anything whatever with them, and drove all this crowd into the ghetto. Some of them were brought to the collection points (or transit areas) in Lakowa [Lankowa] and Zakatna Streets; the Jews interned there were deported to the General Gouvernement, and some 160 of them were shot in the forests of Zgierz. This pogrom claimed in all several hundred victims, for in the houses and the streets the Germans also killed more than 200 Jews. After this action all the Jews were within the ghetto area, apart from a few score of workers needed by the Germans, and these were installed in their places of work in the town.

During March and April the ghetto was closed off with a stockade and barbed wire, and on April 30th it was officially sealed. During the establishment of the ghetto (January to April, 1940) “voluntary” exit from the town continued. The number of Jews in the town illustrate this process: on September 1st, 1939 - there were about 233,000; in December 1939 - 219,866; in January 1940 - 199,689; in February 1940 - 186,075; in March 1940 - 170,519; in April 1940 - 162,600; and in May 1940 - 160,811. According to another source, there were in the ghetto after its closure on May 1st, 1940, 163,777 Jews, 6,471 of whom were refugees from other places.

2. A New Community Authority - the Judenrat

Even before the Germans entered the town the Chairman of the Community Executive, Leib Mincberg, and the majority of the important office-holders in the executive and the council, left L. To begin with, the Vice-Chairman, Avrahan Leyzer Plywacki, took over, as well as the members of the executive S. Szwiatlowski and Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. On September 12th, 1939, the executive was reconstituted, with A.L. Plywacki as Chairman and M. Ch. Rumkowski as Vice-Chairman. The daily tasks of the community were undertaken by S. Szwiatlowski and David Sztal. The Executive called upon the Rabbinate, and the social and welfare committees still extant, to resume their normal activities.

On October 13th-14th, 1939, the Germans officially disbanded the community executive and council, and appointed M. Ch. Rumkowski “Doyen of the Jews in L”, i.e. Chairman of the Judenrat (“Altestenrat”, “Beyrat”), and gave him permission to choose its members. The Germans held Rumkowski personally responsible for carrying out all their orders, placed all the institutions of the community, and Jewish institutions in general under him, authorized him to collect taxes from the Jews, and invested him with a few other vestiges of authority.

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski was born in 1877 in Ilino, in the district of Wielka Luki in Russia, to parents of modest means. He was a merchant and manufacturer, but achieved little success: twice he accumulated comfortable assets, and twice lost them. Nor was his personal life blessed : twice he was widowed, and was childless. Between the wars he worked as an insurance agent. He was active in social and welfare circles, administered orphanages in L, including a model institution he set up in Helenowek, near L. Rumkowski was renowned for his energy and organizational ability, but he was uneducated and uncouth. He was choleric and aggressive, and these attributes put a strain on his relationships, made him many enemies, and placed obstacles in the way of a social and political career. Despite all this, he succeeded in obtaining a seat on the council and its executive for the General Zionists, remaining there for several years, and even to act as General Zionist leader of the opposition to Agudat Israel. At the end of the 30s, when the General Zionists demonstratively left the executive, Rumkowski refused to give up his social position, broke discipline with his party and remained in office, together with Agudat Israel.

A few days after his appointment by the Germans Rumkowski (hereafter the “chairman”) chose the members of the Judenrat - 31 persons well-known in L. This council survived but briefly. On October 11th, 1939, during the period of terror described above, the members of the council were arrested and interned in the camp at Radogoszcz. Of the members of this first Judenrat there remained in L (or returned from the camp after vigorous intercession by the chairman) eight members only. Appointment of the second Judenrat took place under the close scrutiny of the Gestapo and was a slow process (December-January). The composition and number of members was not decided upon for some time, as many candidates refused to accept the dangerous posts. Most of these left L.

The chairman and the second Judenrat were subordinate to the strict control of the Gestapo, whose officials even attended its meetings. From November 13th, 1939, the chairman was obliged to deliver daily a report in writing to the Gestapo on the Judenrat's activities. In effect the second Judenrat was a proforma body without influence on Jewish affairs. There were several reasons for this: the marginal persons who were members (the chairman complained often of their torpor); the personal responsibility imposed on the chairman for all Jewish matters, and the fact that the authorities turned only to him; an additional reason was undoubtedly the chairman's aggressive and dominating character, which undermined the initiative of the advisory body.

The enormous range of the chairman's duties and his authority increased in the course of time in tact with the orders of the regime, and in itself changed the conditions of Jewish life during the occupation. The chairman attempted to obtain certain concessions and some he did obtain - for instance, permission to open schools for Jewish children. The letter of appointment of October 13th-14th, 1939 included a general formulation of the rights and duties of the chairman. An additional formulation came in a letter from the Mayor of the town (already known as “Litzmannstadt”) dated April 30th, 1940, regarding the enclosure of the ghetto, and from that moment the tasks of Jewish administration were considerably extended.

In order to fulfill his many duties towards the Jewish population, and to meet the endless demands of the authorities, the chairman appointed a staff of assistants. It should be noted that from November 1939 there were no independent Jewish institutions or organizations in L, as some of them ceased to operate for lack of money in the conditions of occupation, while others were disbanded on the orders of the regime, and ordered to hand over their property and equipment to the chairman. The chairman therefore gathered around him experts in various spheres, capable administrators, and also friends. With their help, he slowly created a network of administrative departments. This administrative structure changed constantly, abandoning its form, or taking on a new form, in the course of the months and the years, in tact with changes in Jewish life and the orders of the Nazi authorities: the Gestapo, Kripo (Criminal Police), Schupo (Security Police); and the Mayor - through his department of food and economy. After the establishment of the ghetto a sub-department dealing with Jews and the ghetto was detached from the latter (“Ernahrung und Wirtschaftstelle Ghetto”) and nominated as its Head in May 1940 Hans Biebow, a merchant from Bremen. In October that year this sub-department was given separate status as “Ghetto Vorwaltung” (Ghetto Administration, abbreviated below to GV) and subordinated to the Mayor, but also connected directly with the Governor of the L District, and also with the main authorities of the Wartegau.

3. Jewish Administration and Organization of Public Life until the Enclosure of the Ghetto

During this period the economic situation of the Jews deteriorated from day to day, owing to the persecutions and plunder described above. The numbers seeking help from the community increased all the time, but the Jewish charitable institutions, as stated, had been abolished. At the same time there were growing difficulties with supplies, especially to the Jews. The community treasury was empty, and the executive, and afterwards the chairman of the Judenrat, made great efforts to acquire money for food and welfare to the poor. Rent was demanded from the tenants of the community's houses; and the taxpayers were pressed to pay taxes. But these appeals helped but little. The chairman asked for loans from the city authorities, and called upon the Jewish retailers to help buy the goods the community needed. He distributed flour to the Jewish bakers, and ordered them to bake gratis. It was essential to activate the welfare institutions that had existed before the war, and to meet the needs of clients of other charities that had been abolished. The wives of Jewish soldiers who had not returned from the war or had fallen into German captivity also had to be provided for. Help was also given to the deportees of December 1939. The homeless required shelter; they were lodged in the hostels of the former kibbutzim (training farms). Wealthy merchants were asked to contribute cloth and planks to bury the poor. Means of existence had to be found for the Jewish internees in Radogoszcz. To this end the chairman established in October 1939 a department of welfare, supply, and health. At the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940 this office was running two orphanages, a baby home, a mental home, an institute for invalids, two soup kitchens from the remnants of the charitable institutions, and some public kitchens for new refugees from the nearby townlets, a shelter, and an old-age home.

An important task was the organization of health services for the poor. At the end of 1939 the chairman came into the possession of some clinics, the property of various institutions. He got them working, and made efforts to equip them. On the basis of an agreement with the chairman the Jewish doctors were obliged to accept patients from the welfare committees against payment from the community. The chairman saw to it that the apothecaries gave out certain medicines each day. Until the end of 1939 the chairman was able to divert patients to the municipal hospitals, on the condition that fees for their treatment were paid in advance. Later these hospitals closed their doors to the Jews, and the chairman had only the Poznanski Hospital and a maternity home at his disposal. At the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940 his health department ran a few clinics, one or two first-aid posts, a laboratory, and a child welfare clinic.

Many further difficulties were caused to the chairman and the Judenrat by the forced labour imposed on the Jews. As stated, the Germans went hunting for workers, and also commanded the chairman to supply them with a quota of labourers, whose number soon rose to 3,000, then to 6,000 a day. The chairman therefore set up a labour department whose task was to organize work groups on the basis of the population register, and to maintain a reserve of paid workers, since many Jews shirked this work. A special charge was made - mainly on the wealthier Jews - to finance these reserve workers. In the course of time there was a growing number of volunteers for these substitute jobs, since this hard labour, which often resulted in invalidity, and even death, was the only means of livelihood for many of the poor.

While the ghetto was being established the Jewish administration (housing committee) made every effort to help those moving into it in the freezing cold and without means of transport - and allocated flats. These were difficult to come by in that neglected quarter, sometimes 10-20 persons had to sleep in one room, and thousands slept in the open under the winter sky. People who did not get flats were lodged in the shelter in 10, Jakuba Street (known as the “collector”). The overcrowding and miserable conditions led in March 1940 to an outbreak of typhus fever, but effective action brought it under control.

b. The Ghetto of L in the “Period of Transition” (May-October 1940)

1. Area and Population Density of the Ghetto

The population of the ghetto, which was sealed off in May 1940, numbered about 164,000 souls, 38% of them already living in the area (Baluty and the Old Town) before the war, 58% uprooted from other quarters, and 4% from outside L. The ghetto measured 4.13 square kilometres, later reduced to 3.82, of which 1.5 was not built-up (fields, and the gardens of Marysin). The population density in June 1940 was 40,105 per km. 2; in December 1941 (after an additional influx of 23,000 refugees) the figure was 42,587; and in June 1942 (after the mass deportations) 26,845. In the autumn of 1941 the density in the built-up part of the ghetto and the factories was 62,000 per km. 2. Six to eight people or more living in one room was a common occurrence.

Sanitary conditions were primitive - and even before the war Baluty and the Old Town were among the most neglected areas of L. The streets were unpaved and unlit; most of the houses were mostly one storey and of wood; there were few large houses, and few of them had central sewage. Many wells were out of order, and in many the water was unfit for drinking (rubbish and toilets were close by).

The ghetto area was divided into three parts by two disecting streets: Limanowskiego and Zgierska, which continued outside the ghetto. Going from one part of the ghetto to another on foot involved crossing three bridges above these arteries - and transport was through three or four gates, opened from time to time for crossing from one section to another.

The isolation of the ghetto was assured by a chain of sentries of the Schupo, who opened fire on anyone who approached the barbed wire from whatever direction. Official contact with the outside world took place in the Baluty market place, where there was a branch of the GV (Ghetto Administration), mentioned above, as well as the central offices of the Jewish administration - the chairman's office, the central secretariat (which correponded with the German authorities), the Jewish post office, and a goods receiving centre. Later on there was also a central office of the ghetto's production units. A second point of contact with the world was the railway siding of Marysin (outside the ghetto limits), the station for Radogoszcz, which was used for the transport of goods and the transport of deportees to and from the ghetto.

2. Living Conditions After the Establishment of the Ghetto, and the Jewish Administrations Efforts to Better Them

The sealing-off of the ghetto brought with it a deterioration in the living conditions of its inhabitants. Being now cut off from their surroundings, the Jews were completely dependent on the German authorities, and on the meagre rations given to them and distributed by the supply department of the Judenrat. For a while there was a stock in the hands of Jewish merchants - but they took advantage of the demand and sold their wares, or the food they received from the Judenrat - at exorbitant prices. Similar behaviour was shown by the few shops of the Judenrat, called “cooperatives”. It became necessary to introduce rationing of many food products. However, because of unemployment, the great majority of people did not have the means to buy these few commodities, rationed though they were and at official prices fixed by the supply department of the Judenrat. Appeals for help from the community multiplied. For example, in April 1940 80,000 Jews received help from the community, i.e. almost half the total population; and in the following months this number grew. In the summer and autumn of 1940 hunger spread, and there were demonstrations against the chairman for work and bread. From September 1940 on therefore, the chairman decided on a monthly allocation of 7 to 16 marks for each of the unemployed or virtually destitute and their families. This programme encompassed 100,000 persons, i.e. two-thirds of the ghetto population. Though the sum provided was very little, the burden on the community funds was unbearable. It had also to maintain the welfare institutions that had been transferred to the ghetto. Even before the ghetto was sealed off the number of orphanages had increased to four, and the number of hospices for the poor to three.

The chairman sought ways of meeting the demands of the community. As early as April 5th, 1940, he suggested to the authorities that they permit the establishment of production units in the ghetto, where Jewish experts (8-10,000 at that time) would be employed. These plants would fulfil the orders of outside institutions and companies, which would supply the necessary raw materials. The wages accruing would be used to pay for food for the ghetto. In the same memorandum the chairman proposed employing several experts in converting scrap-iron and rags - a process in which the Germans were much interested. He likewise asked that the Jews be exempted from forced labour for the Germans, and instead that he be permitted to grant concessions and collect taxes. Were these requests to be met, the chairman hoped to be able to balance the ghetto budget, treat the sick and the needy, forestall illness among the population, and maintain the police force. In another memorandum on May 13th,1940, the chairman informed the authorities of the number of tailors and hosiery manufacturers registered for work, and specified the products that these skilled workers would be able to supply. In a memorandum of June 12th, 1940, he reminded the authorities of the craftsmen in the ghetto, whose work could be of benefit to the Germans, and would enable the ghetto to buy more food. The authorities were in no hurry to accede to the chairman's proposals, since they knew that in a short while the Jews would be removed from L. Nevertheless, very gradually the first workshops were established for tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, metal-workers, weavers, upholsterers, and tanners. Up to the end of September 1940 some 20 production workshops, called “arbeitsressorts” or simply “ressorts”, were set up. At first there was little work : the workshops fulfilled a few private orders from outside the ghetto and the internal needs of the Jewish administration. The craftsmen worked in shifts, in order to share the meagre income. In time, however, orders began to arrive from firms and institutions outside the ghetto and from the German authorities (via the GV). Because of lack of equipment the workshops at first turned to owners of machines and instruments. The chairman issued a general appeal to all owners of machines to present or loan these to the ressorts, in return for employment. When there was no response to this appeal, the chairman on some occasions ordered confiscation of sewing machines, spindles, and other equipment. Permission to do so was given to the chairman by the Mayor in the letter of April 30th, 1940, mentioned above.

In the course of time it became clear that this productive work was the major source of livelihood for the Jews of the ghetto, and formed the basis of the ghetto accounting with the authorities. Income from rents was meagre, owing to the poverty of most people, from concessions against payment (for then private firms disappeared from the ghetto), or from rates, due to general impoverishment or the hoarding of capital by the wealthy.

c. The Ghetto's “Autonomy” Period (October 1940 - September 1942

1. Production and Employment

The municipal authorities believed in the declarations of the central German authority, and hoped that by October 1940 the Jews of L would be transferred elsewhere. These assurances were at first connected with a plan to move the Jews of Poland to a “reservation” in the Lublin district, and later with a plan to settle the Jews of Europe in a “reservation” on Madagascar. As these plans came to nought (the Madgascar project was dropped in August 1940), the local authorities decided that, since the Jews were obliged to support themselves behind the barbed-wire fence, they might as well be exploited systematically. Until September 1940 there were only 17 ressorts (seven of them sewing workshops) in operation in the ghetto, and orders were spasmodic. However, by the end of the year another 19 workshops had been established, and were fulfilling almost exclusively German orders. In July 1941 there were 45 ressorts in the ghetto. The chairman made efforts to find sources of raw materials, and to develop new production units to meet the needs of the ghetto and outside demand - just so that they would provide jobs and income. A major difficulty in developing such ressorts was the lack of equipment, since most of what had belonged to Jewish plants had been stolen even before the establishment of the ghetto. The chairman was even forbidden to use the machinery left in the ghetto by the Germans. However, he appealed to the authorities to let him use this equipment, and to supply him with additional machines. The GV stipulated that the firms and institutions which ordered products from the ghetto had to provide the necessary raw materials and equipment. In the course of time the situation improved, when the metals section of the Judenrat itself assembled from local materials, mainly scrap, a goodly number of machines, even complicated ones, and also tools.

To develop employment in the ghetto the chairman established a growing number of posts, not only in production, but also in public services. In the summer of 1941 he imposed upon persons receiving permanent benefits 15 days of work a month for nothing - and in this way they could earn money and increase their own low income by 50%. But they dodged work or worked in a slovenly manner (it should be remembered that they were hungry and feeble) and the chairman was thus obliged to return to giving them their former low benefits, and to cancel their forced labour. The chairman later often stressed that this unsuccessful scheme had been designed mainly to bolster the list of employees and thus enhance the status of the ghetto in the eyes of the authorities.

Women, old persons, and minors were also introduced into the production process. Most of these worked in factories making nails, carpets, and slippers - and many of them, especially the women, worked at home. Raw materials used in this sector came principally from scrap metal and rags, plentifully available in the ghetto, and added to hugely from 1942 on from the nearby townlets (the belongings and clothes of murdered Jews). To give vocational training to the young, the chairman in the first quarter of 1941 appointed an auxiliary group under the education committee. Thanks to the development of production and employment, the number of people at work in the ghetto in July 1941 - in the ressorts and the offices - were 40,000 out of a population of 146,000. In March 1942 the number of production workers alone was 53,000.

The GV took it upon itself to obtain orders; these came from the German army, and from private firms and institutions. First place was taken by the production of clothes and underwear (uniforms and military and civilian clothing). Other products were: furs (collars and coats); leatherware (wallets, clothing, haberdashery); hosiery; carpentry (boxes, furniture, toys); metalware (from nails to complicated machinery); paper and cardboard; brushes; products from wood-shavings (mattresses, chip boards); upholstery (mattresses, armchairs, sofas); electrical products (telephone instruments, radio valves); footwear (shoes, leather leggings, straw shoes, hobnailed boots). Orders from outside the ghetto were also taken for tanneries, laundries, shoe repairs, jewellery and watches, and sorting of useable waste. Even office work was carried out, and the ghetto produced various questionnaires for the Germans.

Work in the ressorts was exhausting and wages were poor. Time limits for orders were short, and prices low and arbitrary. When urgent orders arrived a 12-hour workday was necessary. Work conditions in the ressorts were bad: small rooms, poor light and ventilation - and unsuitable for the various types of production. Many processes normally done by machines had to be done manually, for lack of equipment. Work quotas for the Jews were extremely heavy for hungry people. Biebow himself wrote in a report to his superiors on April 19th, 1943, that for the Jews, for example, there was fixed a production quota of 300-320 wooden soles a day, whereas Polish workers in L were required to produce only 180-200. This notwithstanding, the food allocation to the Poles was 321 grams of flour and bread a day, whilst the for the Jews it was officially 271, but in fact much less. The soup given to the Jewish workers as a food supplement, according to Biebow, was composed of inferior vegetables, cooked in water and a drop of oil - as there was a general shortage of potatoes and flour in the ghetto. The letter went on to express no surprise that Jews engaged in production collapsed in their workshops from sheer physical weakness.

Yet despite these unfavourable conditions, the inhabitants of the ghetto were usually eager to work in production (apart from the most strenuous tasks, such as making straw shoes). This was especially true in periods of supply shortage (the soup and the temporary extra food for the workers being especially important), and also in the periods of mass deportation (January-April 1942) - since a work card normally meant exemption from deportation.

2. Confiscation of Property

The work of the inhabitants of the ghetto was a rich source of income for the Nazis. A second source was the plundering of Jewish property. A particular form was practised after the sealing off of the ghetto, in the summer of 1940 - and this was currency exchange. Notes and coins having validity only in the ghetto were introduced, and the Jews were deprived of their German and Polish money, and hard currency. The GV accumulated from this campaign a vast sum. However, the confiscated amounts were registered by the GV as a “food supply account” to the ghetto, and the amount of this account determined the volume of supply. The new currency exchange enabled the community coffers to be filled and the wages of the workers, several months overdue, to be paid. When thousands of Jews from Western Europe arrived in the ghetto, the GV confiscated all their money; and likewise looted the jewellery and valuables left by the many dead and those displaced persons sent to the extermination camps. The GV also confiscated all the money sent to the ghetto from Germany (mainly to displaced persons from there) and from other countries; and it cancelled the debts of “Aryans” to the Jews of L. The chairman compensated the owners of confiscated property with ghetto currency, and the GV debited these sums from the “food supply account”.

With the closing off of the ghetto the criminal police (Kripo) went into action, its main duties being to combat smuggling and to confiscate Jewish property (materials and valuables). On October 23rd, 1940, the GV, wishing to acquire for itself all the Jewish property, signed an agreement with the Kripo, by which the latter were empowered to search houses and to confiscate possessions - but these were to be handed over to the GV. In fact, the Kripo stole a considerable part of the property, in spite of this agreement. The Kripo ran a network of secret agents, who pointed out rich Jews and divulged the hiding places of property in the ghetto or outside. “The Red House”, the headquarters of the Kripo in Koscielny Square was known as the house of torture, where many Jews, cross-examined about their property or the property of others, were crippled or killed.

The chairman, for his part, attempted to acquire this property, and called upon the owners to deliver it, in return for amnesty, compensation in ghetto currency, or a place of work. He also set up a special Jewish department (“Sonderabteilung”) dealing with the confiscation of cloth, raw materials, valuables, and reserves of food in the possession of the individual. The institution known as “Bank” also dealt with property collection, and there were purchasing stations for various materials. To these latter the Jews “voluntarily” brought their valuables, and even furniture, tools, and so forth. The property confiscated or bought by the special department was given to the GV, which evaluated it - doubtless at a much reduced price - and then debited the amount from the “food supply account”. Thus to some extent this property provided the population with food. Not so, however, the property that fell into Kripo hands. Raw materials, or semi-finished products, acquired by the Jewish administration in this way, were diverted to the ressorts and formed the basis of their production, and with it increased the employment and means of livelihood of the population.

3. Supply

In 1940 the German authorities allocated to the Jews of L food rations like those of convicts (the value of such a daily portion per person was 40-50 pfenigs). However, the amount of food per person that was actually given was half, and its value in May-December 1940 was a mere 23 pfenigs. So too the portion of food allocated in 1941 was much less than that for a convict. In that year the quantities supplied to the ghetto were not those that were allocated: 107,000 kilos of grits and noodles, 289,000 of meat, 323,000 of sandwich spread, 10,865,000 of potatoes, 503,000 of vegetables, and 151,000 of ersatz coffee. From December 15th, 1941, supplies of grits, noodles and jam to the ghetto were stopped for three months at least. In January 1942 the following monthly allocations to the ghetto did not arrive: 2,872 kilos of meat, 29,380 of ersatz coffee, and 160,000 of sugar. In 1942 and the first quarter of 1943, the ghetto was promised a monthly quantity of oil of 34.8 tons, but only 28.8 tons were supplied - and instead of 69.7 tons of meat only 31.6 tons were forthcoming. Butter, margarine and milk were not supplied in this period at all, and the “milk-powder” brought into the ghetto was not even recognized by the GV as being a substitute for milk. The food supplied was, moreover, of the worst quality. Flour arrived damp, mouldy, or full of maggots. Meat was more or less rotten. The conserves were in a state of fermentation, the potatoes and vegetables either rotten or frozen. All this did not prevent the authorities from regarding these supplies as adequate in quantity and quality, and demanded the full price for them. These facts were confirmed by Biebow himself in reports to his superiors in 1942 and 1943 - and he requested an improvement in supplies for the sake of production for the Germans, since the work potential of the starving Jews was deteriorating daily.

To complete the ghetto supply picture, it is worth adding that the majority of the population could not afford to buy even the miserable rations they were entitled to. A symptom of this was the sale of staple products, available rarely and in tiny amounts - for example, sugar, meat, sausages, and even bread - secretly and at black market prices. With the money thus obtained people bought a larger share of vegetables, which were much cheaper.

Smuggling of food into the ghetto was virtually non-existent. The reason was that the Jews of L were more isolated than those in many other large towns. The Polish population in the quarters encompassing the ghetto had been uprooted in favour of Germanization. The town centre, Julianow, Karolew, Radogoszcz, and Polesie were almost bereft of Poles. They had been expelled from L, or permitted to live only in the southern parts of the town. The ghetto was thus surrounded by Germans - local and settlers. The sentinels of the Szupo were placed around the ghetto at intervals of some tens of metres from one another - and they fired at anyone who approached them. With no Polish hinterland or police protection, smuggling of food was minimal. Moreover, the Kripo were also energetic in combating contraband, and any smugglers caught - Polish or Jewish - were shot in the ghetto itself or in the Gestapo cellars in the town.

The ghetto thus being sealed off, the importance of the food distribution personnel was paramount. At first, in the summer of 1940, the chairman had the portions distributed to the populace on a group basis, through house committees. The rations available and their prices were announced on notice-boards. In addition, a goodly number of distributive shops (“cooperatives”) were opened, where for some time it was possible to buy some commodities without hindrance. But this free trade, in particular of groceries, disappeared with the cutting-off of the sources of supply.

The summer of 1940 saw the start of “public kitchens”, run by the house committees. Meals provided (soup) were very cheap. At the request of the chairman, such kitchens were opened in almost every house from September on. In the course of time, other institutions of public welfare were established.

When the authorities reduced the supply of food at the end of 1940, the chairman was forced to introduce full food rationing. From January 1941 the inhabitants of the ghetto received food only against ration cards, meal vouchers, vegetable vouchers, and special vouchers called “talons”. This system necessitated a further increase in distributive personnel and a uniform system of distribution. The house-committees were abolished, and their kitchens transferred to the supply department. Deterioration in the supply situation meant a corresponding rise in the importance of the public kitchens, for whatever the quality of their soup it was the sole means of nutrition for the masses. There were also so-called “social kitchens”, run by some political parties (Zionists, Bund) for their members; a kitchen for the “intellegentsia”; kosher kitchens for the orthodox; kitchens for workers in certain institutions - the economy department, the health department, the Jewish Police, the Fire Brigade; kitchens too for schoolchildren and for closed welfare institutions. The number of kitchens attached to the ressorts also increased. Most of the public kitchens (apart from those for schoolchildren) supplied soup in exchange for a ration-card coupon. In time, from the summer of 1942, the ressort kitchens began to supply their workers without coupons.

Apart from soup, provided for all the workers in the ressorts and to some of the office personnel, there were also food supplements in exchange for the “talons”. These supplements were fixed, periodic or once-only, their contents varied and so did their price. They were given to various categories of people: managers of institutions and ressorts; persons with particularly arduous tasks, with long hours, or on night duty; doctors; chemists; policemen; dung carters; the sick and the convalescent; pregnant and nursing mothers; and persons favoured by the chairman or other influential persons in the ghetto. Supplement by talon was supplied by special shops, called “diet shops” or “R shops” (Rumkowski). Permanent talon supplements were available to many thousands in the ghetto: in May 1942 they numbered some 1,500; in July 1942 about 5,000. From time to time supplements were also given to a wider range of workers, for example vegetables to certain workers in the ressorts. A system of improved nutrition was also started for particularly enfeebled workers, by sending them to “recreational” work in the bakeries, public kitchens, or sweet factories - where they could eat something while at work.

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