Jewish Ghettos during World War II
During World War II, the SS and other German occupation authorities concentrated urban and sometimes regional Jewish populations in ghettos. Living conditions were miserable.
Ghettos were often enclosed districts that isolated Jews by separating Jewish communities from the non-Jewish population and from other Jewish communities. The Germans established at least 1,143 ghettos in the occupied eastern territories.
There were three types of ghettos:
German occupation authorities established the first ghetto in occupied Poland in Piotrków Trybunalski in October 1939. The largest ghetto in occupied Poland was the Warsaw ghetto.
In Warsaw, more than 400,000 Jews were crowded into an area of 1.3 square miles. Other major ghettos were established in the cities of Lodz, Krakow, Bialystok, Lvov, Lublin, Vilna, Kovno, Czestochowa, and Minsk.
Tens of thousands of western European Jews were also deported to ghettos in the east. The Germans ordered Jews in the ghettos to wear identifying badges or armbands.
They also required many Jews to carry out forced labor for the German Reich. Nazi-appointed Jewish councils (Judenraete) administered daily life in the ghettos.
A ghetto police force enforced the orders of the German authorities and the ordinances of the Jewish councils. This included facilitating deportations to killing centers.
Jewish police officials, like Jewish council members, served at the whim of the German authorities. The Germans did not hesitate to kill those Jewish policemen who were perceived to have failed to carry out orders.
Ghettos and the "Final Solution"
In many places, ghettoization lasted a short time. Some ghettos existed for only a few days. Others lasted for months or years. The Germans saw the ghettos as a provisional measure to control and segregate Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated upon options for the removal of the Jewish population.