Back to The Ghettos

The Design of the Ghettos

According to the Nazis, the ghettos were the systematic way of rounding up the Jews to later be transported into the concentration camps. The ghettos were only one step towards the "Final Solution." Most ghettos were built after the German invasion of Poland. After the war began on September 1, 1939, the Nazis suddenly had control of 1,700,000 Polish Jews. Their solution was to place all of the Polish Jews, and later all Eastern European Jews into larger, concentrated areas. Within a city, the ghettos were often the oldest, most run-down sections of the city, or town. The Nazis often had to evict the non-Jewish residents that lived within the selected areas. In some Polish cities like Lodz and Warsaw, trolley lines ran through the ghettos. Instead of re-routing the trolley lines, the German policemen would fence them off and guard them, to keep the Jews from escaping on the trolley cars.
When the Jews first entered the ghettos, the walls were marked off only by barbed wire, but were later to be replaced bricks to encase those inside. Also upon entry, the Jews were forced to remove any valuables that they possessed. Such valuables included jewelry, books, money, and other items, these objects would later be transported to Germany to be used by its citizens. Every person in the ghetto was also required to wear identifying badges or armbands, this would make it easier for the Germans to select Jews to be deported to the death camps.
The Nazis were able to fabricate three types of ghettos. The first type of ghetto was a closed ghetto. These types of ghettos were closed off by walls, or barbed wire fences. German authorities forced many people into this type of ghetto, which caused overcrowd
When the Nazis would deport the remaining population of the ghettos to the camps, they would liqidate the ghetto, by emptying the ghettos and shooting anyone who protested.
ing, unsanitary conditions and starvation. This type of ghetto was mainly located in German-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. The second type of ghetto was an open ghetto, which had no walls or fences. But, there were restrictions upon entering and leaving. These types of ghettos were situated in Poland, the Soviet Union, and a province in Ukraine. The third type of ghetto was a closed ghetto. This type of ghetto was tightly sealed off and existed for a few weeks before the Germans would deport or shoot the ghetto's population. This type of ghetto existed in the occupied Soviet Union, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Hungary.
As the war raged on, more land was conquered by the German army, and more Jews were being sent to the ghettos. Because of this, overcrowding became commonplace. More deaths occcured because of malnutrition, and widespread disease. The weather also contributed to the death toll, because most of the population of the ghettos lacked clothing to survive the harsh temperatures. Some people also became forced laborers, just to recieve an small ration of food. The labor itself was grueling, and often sped up the process of death. In some ghettos, the death toll was so great, that the gravediggers couldn't keep up with the amount of people dying each day. In a testimony of a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, she states that around the mass graves that she saw, she spotted stacks of human carcasses about two stories high. Eventually, in the beginning of 1941, the Germans began to liquidate the ghettos, by either shooting its populations into mass graves, or deporting them to killing centers. The purpose for this, was all a part of the "Final Solution," the extermination of all European Jews.
To earn small extra portions of food, many people, including this boy became forced laborers to at least sustain themselves for the time being.

"I saw some Ukrainians and Lithuanians helping the Nazis. I watched as they took children to the top floor of a building and dropped them out the window to a guard who stood on the street. He then picked them up and knocked their heads against the walls until each child was dead."
- David J. Selznik, a survivor of the Kovno ghetto.