One of the lesser-known moments in the history of the Litzmannstadt ghetto was the tragic fate of 19 953 Jews from Western Europe, brought to the ghetto in the autumn of 1941. They came from middle-class circles in Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Emden, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Luxembourg. The deportation was the result of the Nazi policy of "cleansing" the Third Reich and occupied territories of Jews. The reason for that action was an attempt to hide the cruelty committed against Jews from the German people.
It is our honor to invite you to a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Shoah.
In October 2011, 70 years will have passed since the deportation of the Jews from Western Europe to the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. In the autumn of 1941, the Nazi Third Reich authorities orderes a transport of 20 thousand Jews from German, Austrian, Cheh and Luxembourg cities into the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, where 160 thousands Polish Jews had already been forced to live. Among them were many scholars, doctors, writers and artists from Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Frankfurt, etc., including Paul Kornfeld, one of the most promising authors of Europe at the time; in the Prague transport Germans brought to Łódź two sisters of Franz Kafka; professor Wilhelm Caspari, a renowned specialist in the field of cancer research, arrived from Frankfurt. The conditions in which those arriving from Europe, as well as the other ghetto inhabitants, were forced to live were indeed gruesome. Many people died in the first weeks of despair, illness and starvation, many committed suicide, some by jumping from a bridge over Zgierska street. Several months later, a large number of people who had been brought to Litzmannstadt were deported to the extermination camp at Chelmno on the Ner (Kulmhof) and, in the 1944, to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Few of them survived the war.
We would like to commemotare the tragic fate which brought together the Jews of Łódź and their brethren from the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg.
October 25th, 2011
The Arthur Rubinstein Łódź Philharmonic (Narutowicza 20/22)
CONCERT FROM THE PAST
Repertoire based on archival programs performed during concerts in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto in 1941-1943
Piotr Kościk - piano
Vlastimil Kobrle - violin
Wojciech Rodek - conductor
The Łódź Philharmonic Orchestra
October 26th, 2011
Commemoration at the Jewish Cemetery and the Radegast station
Instytut Europejski (Piotrkowska 258/260)
SEMINAR: Western Jews in the Litzmannstadt Ghetto
with scholars from Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Germany
The ruling forcing Jews from the West to be transported to the ghetto in Lodz was made in mid-September 1941 in the Reich Security Main Office. That decision was met with strong opposition from the Nazi authorities of Lodz as they were aware of the extreme conditions in the Lodz ghetto, and thus feared that its production capacity would be reduced. However, their opinion was not taken into account. Transports came to Lodz between 16th October and 3rd November 1941. A vast majority of Jews transported as a result of this decision were elderly people, suffering from various ailments. These transports, therefore, were meant as a method of concentrating population before the planned extermination. This is evidenced by the construction and establishing of the extermination camp at Chełmno on Ner (Kulmhof) at that time.
Bringing twenty thousand Jews to the overpopulated Litzmannstadt ghetto caused inevitable worsening of the already severe housing conditions, increasing the strict standards of density to three persons per square meter. This situation forced the ghetto authorities to close down the thus far functioning schools and kindergartens and to transform them into the so-called “residential collectives”. For people who had been accustomed to comfort, or even luxury, living conditions in the ghetto were a shock. The process of adaptation of newcomers to the conditions of the ghetto and assimilation with the local population was very difficult. A vast majority of them had long since lost any connection to their Jewish heritage, many were Christians, both Catholics and Protestants. Age, health status, language and occupational structure did not facilitate their employment. This group consisted primarily of representatives of the intelligentsia, such as one of the most interesting writers of modern Europe, Paul Kornfeld, world-class chemists Jakob Speyer and Hugo Dietz, mathematician Ludwig Berwald, Franz Kafka’s two sisters, musician Berthard Silberstein or a prominent oncologist Wilhelm Caspari, as well as many, many others.
The arrival of such a numerous group of people caused the crash of the financial equilibrium of the ghetto and shook its social structure. Living conditions, namely filth, starvation, lack of space and cold resulted in a sharp increase in the incidence of dysentery, typhoid and spotted typhus, thus dramatically increasing the mortality rate. In May 1942, Jews from Western Europe were the target of the so-called forced "displacement", that is extermination. First to be deported were the "collectives" from Vienna, Prague and Berli, followed by others over the subsequent days. Between 4th and 15th May, 12 transports were sent to Chelmno and 10 498 people were murdered. Some of the sick, elderly and underage who had survived the first wave of "displacement", died in September 1942, during the so-called Allgemeine Gehsperre (general curfew). Those who survived found employment and their fate was temporarily stabilized, gaining relative improvement. This lasted until the year of 1944, when the Germans began to liquidate the Litzmannstadt ghetto, and its inhabitants, including 7196 people from the West, were once again transported to the death camps at Chelmno and Auschwitz.
This was the tragic end of nearly twenty thousand people, uprooted from their homes, towns and communities and thrown into the "hell" of the Litzmannstadt ghetto.