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Lodz: A Topography of Life and Death in the Ghetto 70 Years After Its Liquidation - December 2014

Shalom and welcome to the 32nd issue of Teaching the Legacy. 
This year marks 70 years since the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto. As such, we have dedicated this newsletter to life and death in that ghetto, 70 years after its liquidation. The Lodz ghetto was unique because it was one of the first ghettos to be established and it was created to be temporary, yet it existed longer than any other ghetto in Europe. It was the very last ghetto to be liquidated, in the summer of 1944. At that point, the Soviet Army had already liberated much of Poland. The ghetto was still supplying much-needed manpower for the German armaments and other industries. And yet, against all logic, the Nazis' antisemitic ideology trumped practicality, and the Germans wiped out a working ghetto that they had left alone and undisturbed for more than one and one-half years.
We have included articles that describe the talent and culture that was lost: one piece in the newsletter is devoted to two Jewish poets, both of them boys; another article is devoted to the Legend of the Lodz Ghetto, a creation of talented artists and writers in one of the ghetto factories. The newsletter deals with the tension felt in the ghetto during its last moments, when the ghetto inhabitants still dared to hope that the ghetto would not be liquidated. We have included an article on Henryk Ross, a Jewish photographer who photographed some controversial pictures of ghetto life that have rarely been exhibited in the past 70 years. Looking back 70 years later, we feature an interview with an expert on the Lodz ghetto, Dr. Michal Unger. The newsletter includes a book review and an artifact.

As always, the newsletter features new publications and updates on recent and upcoming activities at the International School for Holocaust Studies and across Yad Vashem. We hope you find this issue interesting and resourceful and we look forward to your feedback.

Lodz, Poland. A psalm on a wall plaque in a destroyed synagogue

The Lodz Ghetto – Historical Background

Lodz, southwest of Warsaw, was the second largest city in Poland before the war. On the eve of World War II, it maintained a population of 665,000, 34% (about 233,000) of whom were Jewish. Lodz also had a sizable German minority, amounting to 10% of the overall population. Lodz was Poland's textile center and many Jews worked within this industry.On September 8, 1939, the Germans occupied Lodz. They annexed it to the Reich and renamed it Litzmannstadt (after the German General Karl Litzmann, who had captured the city in World War I). Persecution of Jews began immediately after the...
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Dr. Michal Unger

Interview with Dr. Michal Unger, Historian

The following are excerpts from a wide-ranging discussion with one of the leading researchers of the Lodz ghetto, Dr. Michal Unger, held in October, 2014.The year 2014 marks seventy years since the Lodz ghetto was finally liquidated by the Germans late in 1944. The liquidation came in the final gasps of the Nazi dream of establishing the German Reich of a thousand years. Since Lodz had the second biggest Jewish population to be incarcerated in a ghetto, it provides a veritable laboratory situation in which the behavior of masses of people living in extreme duress can be examined over a period of...
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The Final Days of the Lodz Ghetto

The Final Days of the Lodz Ghetto

In the summer of 1944, seventy years ago, there were still more than 77,000 Jews alive in the Lodz ghetto. When put into context, this number is particularly striking. The Jews of Poland had already been decimated. Lodz, which was originally intended to be a temporary ghetto,1 was actually the very last ghetto left in existence in Poland. The Jews in the Lodz ghetto could practically hear the thunder of the Russian artillery from the approaching front.The Jews of the ghetto had been working as slave laborers for the Germans for four years. Busy supplying the German war machine with equipment...
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The Jewish Photographer Henryk Ross

The Jewish Photographer Henryk Ross

One of the most impressive picture collections that survived WWII was created clandestinely by the Jewish photographer Henryk Ross. Ross was born in 1910. Before the war he had been a sports photographer for a Warsaw newspaper.When the Lodz Ghetto was sealed by the Germans in May 1940, Ross was forced to move into the ghetto. He managed to get a job as one of the official photographers in the ghetto. Along with his colleague Mendel Grossman, Ross was in charge of producing identity and propaganda photographs for the Department of Statistics in the Lodz Ghetto. Due to his task, Ross had access...
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Children playing in the Lodz ghetto 1941

The Legend of the Lodz Ghetto Children

It was the beginning of 1942. In the Lodz ghetto, thousands of Jews1 were spirited off to the unknown on trains. The unknown turned out to be Chelmno, the very first death camp, where 55,000 Jews of the ghetto were murdered between January and May, 1942. Many of the deported Jews were young children and the elderly, those who did not work and consequently were considered "unproductive" by the Germans. In the ghetto, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the head of the Jewish leadership, believed that the only way to keep the Jews of the ghetto alive was to open factories and workshops...
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Coping With Reality: Two Teenage Poets in the Lodz Ghetto

Coping With Reality: Two Teenage Poets in the Lodz Ghetto

The Lodz ghetto by all accounts embodied one of the worst cases of human suffering in an enclosed virtual prison for an extended period of time. It was the longest standing ghetto, from 1940 until its final denouement in the autumn of 1944. The fact of its total isolation from the rest of the city multiplied the effect of the near-total lack of all necessities for maintaining life.Within this reality, we find the human spirit reacting in every possible variant from paralyzing depression to the writing of poetry.We present in this article two examples of this extraordinary human quality that display...
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Artifact - Small Mementos from the Lodz Ghetto

Artifact - Small Mementos from the Lodz Ghetto

In the Lodz ghetto, these small mementos were created by ghetto inhabitants to express some sense of freedom....
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