The preparations of the Germans to establish the ghetto in Zduńska Wola were underway from the first days of the occupation. The works were preceded by numerous repressions against the Jewish population, ranging from insults, beatings - to cases of deprivation of life. So far, the exact date of the creation of the ghetto has not been established. According to J. Śmiałowski, it was probably in May or June 1940. Based on the accounts of the witnesses interrogated by the District Commission to Investigate Nazi Crimes in Łódź, that district already existed in 1939[1.1].
The border of the ghetto ran as follows: Sieradzka Street (ul. Sieradzka) from number 32 to number 2, the western and southern sides of Liberty Square (Plac Wolności), between M. Nowotki Street (ul. M. Nowotki, now and in 1939 - Juliusz Street, ul. Juliusza) and J. Dąbrowskiego Street (ul. J. Dąbrowskiego), up to the intersection of Szadkowska Street (ul. Szadkowska) and Opiesińska Street (ul.Opiesińska), and then, through the sparsely built-up area of the town, from Opiesińska Street towards the west, along the drainage ditch, crossing Stęszycka Street (ul. Stęszycka, now Getta Żydowskiego Street, ul. Getta Żydowskiego), and then, towards the south, along Narwiańska Street (ul. Narwiańska) to Sieradzka Street (ul. Sieradzka). Five gates led to the ghetto, guarded by the Jewish Order Service from the inside and by Schupo from the outside. As in other ghettos, the Nazi authorities established the Council of Elders in the ghetto in Zduńska Wola. It was managed by dr Jakub Lemberg.
In 1940, he established a farm in the ghetto at Ogrodowa Street (ul. Ogrodowa), which was called "Ackerbaufarm" by the Germans. For the residents of the ghetto, it was a source of many vegetables and milk. Young people, aged 17 to 21, were employed there. In total, there were approximately 50 people working there. Working on the farm was not the only occupation of the prisoners of the "closed quarter". Many of them helped with municipal works, such as cleaning the streets or building a shooting range at the municipal stadium. Some people worked outside the ghetto or even the town, for example, extracting peat in the vicinity of the fern forest.
The liquidation of the ghetto in Zduńska Wola, the largest one - following the getto in Łódź - in the Land of Warta (Wartheland) was preceded by segregation in June 1942. The prisoners were forced by the Germans to come to the building of the Hilfscomittee[1.2]. There, after taking off their clothes, they were marked with an ink stamp with the letter "A" or "B" - on the buttocks, stomach or breasts. Israel Tabacksblatt describes that event as follows:
Stamping lasted three days and it was done in the following order. At noon at lunch time, only men were asked to come to a certain place. They were escorted by the Jewish police to the place where they were stamped. Everyone was standing facing a Gestapo officer. There, an "A" or "B" stamp was taken out and both hands or both breasts were stamped. At the same time, a list was created on sheets of paper - the names and exact addresses were recorded. After lunch, women from the same region were taken away. On the second day, it turned out that stamping people was just the perverted, cynical sadism of the Nazi beasts. Naked, defenseless people were beaten until they were covered with bruises and blood[1.3].
Probably, as a result of that selection, the Germans deported 397 people to the ghetto in Łódź on 26 June 1942. The Jews were aware of the fate awaiting them, as they knew about the mass murders in the forest in Chełm.
For the liquidation action of the ghetto in Zduńska Wola, the Germans mobilised a lot of SS and police forces, which included the Rollkommando special unit and the entire municipal Schupo facility, headed by Lieutenant Herman Funke. Hans Biebow, the head of the management board of the ghetto in Łódź, and Wilhelm Bittel, the head of the ghetto in Zduńska Wola, also took part in that action.
Initial segregation was performed at Stęszycka Street (ul. Stęszycka). There, the Germans murdered the sick, disabled, old people and children. The others were taken down along Stęszycka Street, Narwiańska Street (ul. Narwańska), Mostowa Street (ul. Mostowa) and Sieradzka Street (ul. Sieradzka) to Kacza Street (ul. Kacza), to the Jewish cemetery. Rabbi M. P. Joskowicz recalls those days as follows:
They gathered us in the square in the ghetto at four o'clock in the morning. They gave us no water, the sun was scorching. Those who refused to go to the square were shot in their houses. The Germans shot additional one hundred and fifty people. They carried the bodies of the dead and those still alive to the Jewish cemetery, threw them into a pit and buried them. Those who survived said that the grave was moving for several days[1.4].
The whole event was heard and seen by non-Jewish residents of the town. The roar of gunshots could be heard at the other end of the town.
At the gate of the cemetery, the commission of Hans Biebow and Gestapo officers divided the crowd into two groups: young and able to work, and the sick, children and the elderly. Many people, in desperate acts of distress, when separated from their children and loved ones, chose to die on the spot. For two days in August, the German guards kept their victims without water and food. At night, the cemetery was illuminated with spotlights. From time to time, the Germans shot at the crowd without any reason.
From the memoirs of Israel Tabacksblatt:
This occurred on 25 August 1942, about 12 o'clock midnight, when the entire Jewish population was taken out of their homes and all were forced to assemble in the marketplace. Everyone was forced to stand for the rest of the night. In the morning, the entire population was taken to the cemetery. There were high passages there, and everyone had to pass through. First, small children were let through, and those who were carried by their mothers in their arms were taken away from them and thrown over the fence. At the cemetery, the entire community was divided into two groups. One group consisted of young men, approximately 1,200 to 1,300 people, the rest of the population was squeezed into a very small area. This was the beginning of the massacre. A large group of SS men, headed by Biebow, got into the crowd and began shooting right and left. This caused terrible havoc and everyone started running in different directions. That was what the murderers were waiting for. Another group, previously prepared, began to fire at the helpless people from all directions, using automatic weapon that was brought to the cemetery for that purpose. That short moment resulted in several hundred dead or mortally wounded. SS men forced the Jews to dig graves and bury the dead. When night came, all those still alive were forced to lie down on the ground, face down and stay in that position until morning[1.5].
The list of Jews murdered during the liquidation of the ghetto in Zduńska Wola has not been completed until today. Only 119 names of the murdered were established. Over the following two days, the Germans transported in special cars nearly 9,000 people to the extermination camp in Chełmno nad Nerem. During that time, many people died due to no access to fresh air. Approximately 1,000 people were transported by rail to the ghetto in Łódź.
- Chrzanowski J., Zduńskowolscy wyznawcy Mojżesza, "Na sieradzkich szlakach” 1993, no. 3/31.
- Galiński A., Getto w Zduńskiej Woli, "Biuletyn Głównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu" 1993.
- Joskowicz M.P., Opowieść o radości i cierpieniu, Warszawa 1996.
- Tabacksblatt I., The liquidation of the Jewish Community in Zdunska-Wola, [in:] Zdunska Wola, ed. E. Ehrlich, L. Kaye-Klin, Tel Awiw 1968.
- Zdunska Wola, ed. E. Ehrlich, L. Kaye-Klin, Tel Awiw 1968.
- [1.1] Galiński A., Getto w Zduńskiej Woli, "Biuletyn Głównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu” 1993, pp. 144–145.
- [1.2] Galiński A., Getto w Zduńskiej Woli, "Biuletyn Głównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu" 1993, p. 147.
- [1.3] Tabacksblatt I., The liquidation of the Jewish Community in Zdunska-Wola, [in:] Zdunska Wola, ed. E. Ehrlich, L. Kaye-Klin, Tel Awiw 1968, p. 44.
- [1.4] Joskowicz M.P., Opowieść o radości i cierpieniu, Warszawa 1996, p. 50.
- [1.5] Tabacksblatt I., The liquidation of the Jewish Community in Zdunska-Wola, [in:] Zdunska Wola, ed. E. Ehrlich, L. Kaye-Klin, Tel Awiw 1968, p. 45.