Stephan Lehnstaedt

Jewish Labor in the Smaller Ghettos in the Warthegau Region


Wages for Jews were minimal, as official loans were subject to massive “taxes,” because the fiscal arrangements in the smaller ghettos of the Warthegau region depended at all times on developments in the Litzmannstadt (Łódź; Lodz) ghetto. Financial problems in Łódź hastened the exploitation of the other ghettos, but also accelerated their destruction. Wages for Jews were minimal, as official loans were subject to massive “deductions” for the coffers and pockets of the German administrators, tasked with covering the expenses for the ghettos. Thus, working conditions were harsh and even worse than in the Generalgouvernement; individual workers received little if any money. However, in principle, wages were not an issue; after the autumn of 1940 payment for work performed was provided even in the “labor battalions.” In combination with increased food rations for workers, this was enough incentive for Jews to volunteer. Hard physical and even some skilled labor often seemed the only chance for survival. The Germans welcomed wage payments, because these moneys led to their own personal enrichment and helped them to cut down their expenditures on provisions for the ghettos. Thus, in the first years of the war, the German administration proactively sought to solicit wages for Jewish workers.