Slideshow Survival and Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto

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  • Warsaw Ghetto

    The Germans established 400 ghettos in German-occupied Poland alone between 1940 and 1942. The ghettos varied widely in size, scope, and living conditions.

    A young boy pulls a wheelbarrow through the ghetto streets / USHMM

  • The Warsaw ghetto was established in October 1940. The ghetto, which occupied only 2.4 percent of the city's land, contained 30 percent of the city's population. At its peak more than 400,000 Jews were confined in Warsaw.

    Selling kindling, Warsaw Ghetto, 1941 / USHMM

  • Ghetto life was one of squalor, hunger, disease and despair. Without smugglers who brought in food, starvation would have been even more rampant.

    A destitute woman on the street in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1941 / USHMM

  • On April 19, 1943 the Germans surrounded the ghetto for the final deportation. The Jews of Warsaw rose in resistance, the first armed resistance in German-occupied Europe.

    SS troops capture two Jewish resistance fighters during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, 1943 / USHMM

  • So fierce was the resistance that the Germans burned the ghetto block by block, building by building. On May 16, 1943, the German commander wrote to his superior: "The Jewish Quarter is no longer."

    Captured Jews are led away from the burning ghetto by SS Guards, 1943 / USHMM

Slideshow Lodz Ghetto and the Jewish Council

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  • Lodz Ghetto

    Lodz was the second largest ghetto in German-occupied Poland. The Lodz ghetto was isolated, separated by barbed wire and open spaces from the rest of the Germanized city.

    German and Jewish police guard one of the entrances to the Lodz Ghetto, 1942 / USHMM

  • The Germans formed a Jewish Council, with Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski as chairman, to keep order among the starving and desperate population. Rumkowski developed what he believed to be a long-term strategy for survival--salvation through work, transforming his ghetto into a productive work camp.

    Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski rides through the Lodz Ghetto in a horse-drawn carriage, 1940-44 / USHMM

  • In early September 1942, the Nazis demanded that all children and old people be surrendered. Rumkowski complied. "The decree cannot be revoked. It can only be slightly lessened by our carrying it our calmly," he said.

    Jews stand in line to get food in the Lodz Ghetto, 1940-44 / USHMM

  • For a while it seemed that Rumkowski's strategy had worked. But even Lodz did not escape the Final Solution. Of the Lodz Jews, 60,000 died in the ghetto and 130,000 were deported to the gas vans of Chelmno and the gas chambers of Auschwitz/Birkenau.

    A Jewish policeman stands guard while Lodz Ghetto residents cross a pedestrian bridge, 1940-44 / USHMM

Slideshow Murder in the Minsk Ghetto

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  • Minsk Ghetto

    Soon after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in the Belarusian capital of Minsk for some 80,000 Jews from the city and surrounding towns and villages. That fall, more than 20,000 additional Jews were sent to Minsk from Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia.

    A warning sign hangs on the barbed wire fence that encloses the Minsk Ghetto, 1941 / USHMM

  • Maly Tostinets, a small village 8 miles to the east of Minsk, became the local killing field for the Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing units. Yet this did not suffice, as mobile gas vans were introduced to facilitate the murders.

    A sign at Maly Trostinets warns that trespassers will be shot without warning, 1944 / USHMM

  • Some 10,000 Jews escaped from Minsk to the forest to fight with partisan units, but most did not survive. The ghetto was destroyed in the fall of 1943-its inhabitants killed in Maly Trostinets or deported to the death camp of Sobibor.

    Minsk Ghetto, 1941 / Yad Vashem

Slideshow Art and Culture in Theresienstadt

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  • Theresienstadt

    Theresienstadt, a Czech town 40 miles north of Prague in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, was a ghetto, a concentration camp, and a way station for western Jews en route to Auschwitz between 1941 and 1945.

    Theresienstadt, 1944 / USHMM

  • Theresienstadt was the home--and the death place--of some of the most prominent Czech, Austrian, and German artists, writers, scientists, jurists, diplomats, musicians, and professors.

    New arrivals on the streets of Theresienstadt, 1944 / USHMM

  • At Theresienstadt, a lending library circulated more than 60,000 books. Symphonic music was performed in concert. Theatrical performances and lectures gave spiritual sustenance to a dying community.

    A performance of the children's opera Brundibar at Theresienstadt / Yad Vashem

  • Fifteen thousand children passed through Theresienstadt. The community provided a rigorous daily routine of classes, athletic activities, and art. The chidlren painted pictures and wrote poetry. By war's end, only 100 of these children survived.

    Page from a children's memory book written in Teresienstadt, 1943 / USHMM

  • Of the 144,000 Jews sent to Theresienstadt, 33,000--almost one in four--died there, and 88,000 were deported to Auschwitz. By the war's end, only 19,000 remained alive.

    A transport of Dutch Jews arriving in Theresienstadt, 1944 / USHMM