Labor in the clothes workshop, Lodz Ghetto, Poland
The Lodz Ghetto was sealed in April 1940, at which point, 164,000 Jews were incarcerated there. Gradually, more Jews were brought there from the surrounding areas, and then from central and Western Europe, bringing the number of ghetto inhabitants to over 200,000. The German ghetto administration, headed by Hans Biebow, ordered the establishment of production companies inside the ghetto, which were known as “resorts”. The starving Jews of the ghetto were prepared to work in return for extremely meager portions of food. The Aeltestenrat (“Council of Elders”), the Jewish council in the ghetto, headed by Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, organized the labor in the production factories. The Jewish council saw the establishment of factories in the ghetto as the only way of saving the incarcerated population from starvation. Some 120 factories were set up in the ghetto, producing mostly textiles, and over 70,000 Jews worked there. In May 1944, when most of the ghetto population had died of starvation and disease, or been taken away in the 1942 deportations to the death camps, 77,000 Jews remained in the Lodz ghetto, some 90% of whom were employed in the factories. In the period June-August 1944, almost all the remaining Jews in the ghetto were deported to the Chelmno and Auschwitz death camps. The exact number of Lodz Jews who survived the camps is unknown, but it is estimated to be no higher than 7000.
Yad Vashem Photo Archives, 7261/2 – Courtesy of the National German Archive (Bundesarchiv)