Warsaw Ghetto

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The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe, located in the territory of General Government in occupied Poland during World War II.



The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German Governor-General Hans Frank on October 16, 1940. Frank ordered Jews in Warsaw and its suburbs rounded up and herded into the Ghetto. At this time, the population in the Ghetto was estimated to be 400,000 people, about 30%[1] of the population of Warsaw; however, the size of the Ghetto was about 2.4%[2] of the size of Warsaw. The ghetto was split into two areas, the "small ghetto", generally inhabited by richer Jews and the "large ghetto", where conditions were more difficult; the two ghettos were linked by a single footbridge. The Nazis then closed the Warsaw Ghetto from the outside world on November 16, 1940, by building a wall, topped with barbed wire, and deploying armed guards.

Administration of the Ghetto

Like all the Ghettos in Poland, the Germans ascribed the administration to a Judenrat (a council of the Jews), led by a "Ältester"(the mayor)[3]. In Warsaw this role was attributed to Adam Czerniaków, who chose a policy of collaboration with the Nazis rather than revolt. Adam Czerniaków confided his harrowing experience in several diaries[4]. He became aware of his own tragic duplicity only shortly before the uprising and committed suicide. Although his personality has remained less infamous than Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the "Altester" of the Lodz Ghetto, Adam Czerniaków's collaboration with the Nazi policy is the paradigm of the attitude of the majority of the European Jews vis à vis Nazism, whose fundamentally evil nature they failed to appreciate. The Jewish collaboration authority was supported by a Jewish Ghetto Police whose infamity has still led to very little studying. According to Lucy S. Dawidowicz, From its inception, the Judenrat was looked upon as a reincarnation of the kehillas. Czerniakow's first draft of October, 1939; for organizing the Warsaw Judenrat, was just a rehash of conventional kehilla departments: chancellery, welfare, education, rabbinate...[5]. But she adds : in performing these functions, the kehilla had operated a "gemeinschaft" instituion... But the Kehilla was an anomalous institution. Thoughout its history in czarist Russia, it served also as an instrument of the state, obligated to carry out the regime's polcies within the Jewish community, even though these policies were frequently oppressive and specifically anti-Jewish...

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