The word "ghetto" comes from the name of the Jewish quarter in Venice, Italy. In 1516, Venetian authorities compelled the city's Jews to live in that area. In the 16th and 17th centuries local authorities ordered the creation of ghettos for Jews in Rome, Frankfurt, Prague and other cities.
The SS and German authorities concentrated the Jewish population in ghettos during WW2. A ghetto was often an enclosed area of a town in which Jews were separated from non-Jewish people. Living conditions were miserable and food was scarse and diseases were rampant. The Nazi's established at least 1.100 ghettos across the occupied countries in Eastern Europe.
Yes, the Nazis saw the ghettos as a temporary measure to control and segregate the Jews while their leadership in Berlin debated about the options to achieve the final goal of removing all of the Jewish population. But one can state that there were three different types of ghettos:
Closed ghettos were located primarily in occupied Poland and Soviet Union. Sealed off by walls or by barbed wired fences. Starvation, shortages of food and water, harsh weather conditions, inadequate and unheated housing among others, led to epidemic outbreaks and a high mortality rate. This type of ghetto was the most common of world war 2.
Open ghettos existed in occupied Poland, Soviet Union as well as in Transnistria (province of Ukraine occupied and run by Romanian authorities). These types of ghettos had no walls or fences, but had restrictions for entering or leaving.
Destruction ghettos were tightly sealed off areas and existed about two to six weeks before the German autorities and their collaborators deported or shot the Jewish population living in them. These types of ghettos existed mainly in German occupied Soviet Union (especially in Lithuania and Ukraine) as well as in Hungary.
The first ghetto was located in Piotrków Trybunalski in occupied Poland. German authorities established it in october 1939. The largest ghetto in occupied Poland was the Warsaw ghetto. More than 400.000 Jews were forced to live on a 1.3 square mile area. Lodz, Krakow, Bialystok, Lvov, Lublin, Vilna, Kovno, Czestochowa, and Minsk were other major ghettos . Tens of thousands of Jews from western European were deported to the ghettos in the Eastern Europe.
Jewish councils (or Judenräte), appointed by the Nazis, where in charge ot daily life in the ghettos. A ghetto police force enforced the orders of the German authorities and carried out the orders of the Jewish councils. This included helping with deportations of the Jews to exterminiation camps. Like the Jewish council members, the Jewish police officials were at the beck and call of the German authorities. The Germans also required many Jews to carry out forced labor for the Third Reich.
After the Wannsee Conference in Berlin, on January 20, 1942 where the "Final Solution" (the genocide of the entire Jewish population in Europe) documents were drawn up. German authorities started to liquidate the residents of the ghettos. The inhabitants of the ghettos were either murdered by firing squads and burried in mass graves located nearby the ghetto or they were deported. Jewish people were mostly deported to extermination camps. A small minority of Jews from ghettos (those deemed fit to work) were deported by the SS to forced labor camps and concentration camps.
A Star of David, often yellow, was used by the Nazis to identify Jews. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, there were different local decrees forcing Jews to wear distinct signs (a white armband with a blue Star of David or a yellow badge, in the form of a Star of David, which had to be worn on the left breast and on the back). Punishment for Jews who were found in public without the star, was severe.
Following a decree by Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reichs-sicherheits-hauptamt (RHSA) issued on September 1, 1941, the requirement to wear the Star of David with the word "Jude" was introduced to all Jews over the age of six in the occupied countries of the Third Reich and in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Wearing of the Star was extended to other Nazi occupied countires such as the Netherlands or France. With the word Jude translated into "Jood" or "Juif"
This portion of the website is an ongoing process, more ghettos will added over time.
The SS and German authorities concentrated the Jewish population in ghettos during WW2. A ghetto was often an enclosed area of a town in which Jews and so called 'enemies of the Reich' were separated from the non incarcerated people.
The Nazis saw the ghettos as a temporary measure to control and segregate the Jews while their leadership in Berlin debated over the options to achieve the final goal of removing all of the Jewish population.
Living conditions were miserable and food was scarse. The Nazis established at least 1.100 ghettos across the occupied countries in Eastern Europe.
This website is made out of respect for the victims, the civilians and the veterans of WWII. It generates no financial gain what so ever and it is merely a platform to educate the visitor about WWII.
A big THANK YOU to the United States Army Center of Military History for their help in providing the input for these pages. All pages on this website are constantly being refitted with acurate data and texts and it is an ongoing process.