Lodz Ghetto: Transport of the Children to the Chelmo Death Camp/Allgemeine Gehsperre (September 5-13, 1942)


Figure 1.--The NAZIs began deportatiuon from the Lodz Ghetto in December 1941. The ordered the deportation of the sick, elderly, and children under 10 years of age in Septembedr 1942. Here are some of the children. They were transported to Chelmo where they were gassed in specially prepared vans. U.S. Holocaust Museum

The procedure of having the Jewish authorities to prepare lists of deportees for transport gradually became less effective as more and more Ghetto residents realized what was happening. The NAZIs were thus forced to begin roundups to fill the quotas. German security personnel entered the Ghetto to conduct these roundups. In the process they shot and killed hundreds of Jew. The NAZIs made the most apauling demand of all in the history of the Lodz Ghetto. The NAZI authorities demanded that Getto authorities turn over all those who were not working (September 1942). This was the notorious Allgemeine Gehsperre. This demand included the sick, eldely and the younger children. All children under 10 years of age had to be turned over for transport. There could be no doubt ewhat the German intentions were. Many parents refused to hand over their children. Some may have deluded themselves that the earlier transport were to work camps. Transports of the sick, elderly, and young children could be for only one purose--the killing of non-productive individuals. Finally as parents refused to comply, the German security forces entered the Ghetto and conducted a search for the children. This action defies human imagination. Here we see some of the children (figure 1). They are sttill in the Ghetto, walking toward the holding area where they will be trasported to the Chelmo death camp.

Deportee Transports

The NAZI began deporting Jews from the Lodz Ghetto as soon as the Chelmo Death Camp was operational (December 1941). It was the first death camp to open, in part because the Sonderkomando there used a prreviously developed systemp of mobile gas vans. Most of the other death camps took longer to open because they built carefully enginnered high-capacity gas chambers. The NAZI camp authorities gave the Jewish internal Ghetto administration a quota. It was up to Rumkowski and his group to select the individuals to be delivered.

Problems

The procedure of having the Jewish authorities to prepare lists of deportees for transport gradually became lessThe Jews were told they were being deported to work assignments in the East. The NAZIs by this time has seized vast tracts in the Soviet Union, making the story plausible. As time went on, however, rumors began to spread about what was happening. In addition, nothing was ever heard again from the deporetees. Thus it began increasingly difficult t get the deportees selected to show up for transport.

Roundups

The NAZIs were thus forced to begin roundups to fill the quotas. German security personnel entered the Ghetto to conduct these roundups. In the process they shot and killed hundreds of Jew. The NAZIs made the most apauling demand of all in the history of the Lodz Ghetto.

Ghetto Hospitals (September 1)

The camp authorities next struck at a non-mobile group--hospitalized patients. Military trucks entered the Ghetto and stopped in front of the hospitals. SS troops stormred into the hospitals. They shot some of the patients, presumably any one who resisted. The dead and dieing were loaded onto the trucks.

Non-workers (September 2)

All to soon it became clear what the NAZIs were doing. The NAZI authorities demanded that Getto authorities turn over all those who were not working (September 1942). This was the notorious Allgemeine Gehsperre. This demand included the sick, eldely and the younger children. The NAZIs ordered the Ghetto authorities to prepare 20,000 people for deportation to include the sick, elderly, and children. The plan was to turn Lodz into a working ghetto. The NAZI authorities did not demand all of the children. They wanted the younger non-workers. Many children were employed in the Ghetto facories. The NAZIs orrdered all of the children under 10 years of age had to be turned over for transport. There could be no doubt what the German intentions were. Many parents refused to hand over their children. Here tere is no clear indication as to who actually complied. Apparently very few. Some of the Lodz Jews deluded themselves that the earlier transport were to work camps. Transports of the sick, elderly, and young children could be for only one purose--the killing of non-productive individuals.

Rumkowski's Speech (September 4)

Rumkowski commonly delivered speeches on important issues. He delivered them on Market Square, Zachodnia St. This was surely his most emotional speech. Rumkowski spoke to the Ghetto at about 4:00 in the afternoon (September 4). '=]ďA grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They are asking us to give up the best we possess -- the children and the elderly. I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg. Brothers and sisters: Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!" It is difficult to understand how he could have spoke these words. Surely suiside at the very least would have been the course of an honorable man. But who can know how he would have reacted not being in Rumkowski's position. He justified the request on the basis that the NAZI reaction to refusal would have been even more hidious. What he really thought, no one knows. What followed defiies human imagination.

Szpera/Allgemeine Gehsperre (September 5)

Tne NAZI camp authorities declared a general curfew -- allgemeine Gehsperre or Szpera. This kept the Ghetto Jews confined to their homes for 8 days. It also meant no food entered the Ghetto. The German security forces entered the Ghetto and conducted a search for the younger children and other non-workers. The German police assisted by SS troops assisted by the Jewish ghetto police and firemen began the seaerch. They methodically went from building to building. They pulled out the elderly, ill, and children under age 10 who were selected for deportation. Homes and apartments were searched for anyone being hidden. Anyone who attempted to flee was simply shot. An estimate 500 people were killed inside the Ghetto during the Allgemeine Gehsperre. The scene was horific. Parents clung to their children. There were shrieks and tearful laments. The emotions that would have been involved are unimaginable. We certainly cannot begoin to describe the action. One survivor tries to describe the emotions, "But when you returned to your apartment, when your senses slowly disengagef from their death spasms, whn you opened your eyes and suddenly comprehended that you returned without your son, whose hand you had just been holding ... what could you do but cry? But did you cry? Did you cry like a human being, with human tears? You howled, roared, lowed, sibbed, whimpered. You issued tones in all those timbres: barking of dogs, howling of wolves, wailing of jackals, roaring of lions--the whole cacophany of wild beast sounds. After all, your pain was not a human painto which you could respond with human teas. Human beings are not able to endure such agonies. Animals maybe. So you did not cry. Your neighbor left a young daughtef in the courtyard in a pool of blood because, not understanding German, the child presented her labor permit before she was asked to do so. Tour neighbor he did not cry either. He howled savagely .... And your neoghbor's neighbor, from who they took two young sons -- who were like crutches with which, under his frail arms, he propped up his distended legs -- and tossed them into the cart, just so, atop the heap of deportees; he did not cry, either, He roared like an old lion in a hoarse, asthmatic croak." [Zelkowicz, p. 320.] The NAZIs selected 15,000 for transport. This included 6,000 children. Their parents would have knwn this meant death. Many of the children would have been to young to fully appreciate what was happening to them.

Holding and Tranport

There were horse-drawn carts ready to take those selected to holding areas near the railroad line. The children and other selected were confined to these holding areas until the transport trains arrived. Here we see some of the children selected being marched into a holding area (figure 1). They are still in the Ghetto, walking toward the holding area where they will be trasported to the Chelmo death camp. Sara Plagier, a rare survivor of the Lodz Ghetto, who was 16 years old at the time, relates, "I saw two wagons full of little children drive past the open gate. Many of the children were dressed in their holiday best, the little girls with colored ribbons in their hair. In spite of the soldiers in their midst, the children were shrieking at the top of their lungs. They were calling out for their mothers." Available photographs show calmer groups of children. This probably depended on a variety of factors such how recently they had separated from their parents and their age as well as factors with which we are not yet familiar. The children were thus ready for transport when the trains arrived.

Chelmo Death Camp

The transport trains went directly to the nearby Chelmo death camp which was about 50 km from Lodz. The Sonderkamando there trained to describe work, better food, and a shower. Just what they told the children we are not sure. But they must have instructed them to undress. Then they were told to get into the vans for transport to the showers. They were of course the killing vans. One groups of the children were inside, the doors were heremetically sealed. Once the engines wee started, each group of children wouuld have been dead within 5-10 minutes. The Sonderkomando would wait until the screams ceased. The dead bodies were at first uncerimoniously dumped into mass graves. By the time the children were transported, the NAZIs had constructed two crematoria 3 km from from the camp. The ashes from the crematoria were scattered in adjacent fields.

Sources

Zelkowicz, Josef. In Those Terrible Days: Writings from the Lodz Ghetto (Berghahn Books).






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Created: 5:20 AM 11/22/2004
Last updated: 2:05 AM 3/25/2008