Ghettos of ghosts

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by teachmsa
Last updated 8 years ago

Social Studies
World War II

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Ghettos of ghosts

Ghettos of Ghosts

"It is impossible to put into words what we have been through. One thing is clear,what happened exceeded our boldest dreams...."("The Last Letter from Mordecai Anielewicz").

Many Social Studies classes teach students about the Holocaust during WWII. Most of those students know that the majority of Jewish citizens were exterminated in concentration camps. Very few people know that the Jewish population was crammed into enclosed districts within cities called ghettos. These ghettos were where Jewish families were transported until Hitler decided on the “Final Solution.” One of the largest ghettos in all German and German-occupied countries was the Warsaw Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland. This ghetto reeked with death, starvation, and depression. Rations that were given to the Jewish families were not even 10% of what was supplied to the ghetto. Victims of poor rationing died from starvation, or faced the epidemics that would travel throughout the camp. Many of the ghettos’ inhabitants did not fight back and ultimately submitted to the Germans while other Jews did fight back. Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB) was a Jewish Fighting Union that began to formulate organized uprisings. Most uprisings were led by young Jewish teens; one of these teens was Mordecai Anielewicz. After learning that his ghetto was planned to be liquidated as a present for the Führer; Anielewicz organized a revolt with the help from other teens in the ghetto including Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman. Shortly after the revolt had begun, Anielewicz wrote to Zuckerman about his feelings towards the revolt. “I feel that great things are happening, that what we have undertaken is of tremendous significance…” (John Menzer, “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising”). Together the ZOB managed to delay the liquefaction of the ghetto until May 16, 1943, but sadly German troops marched in, fed up with the revolt, and set fire to the camp. Although the constant barrage of mistreat from the Germans dampened the spirits of many Jews, nothing would deter them from their businesses and smuggling started from the moment the ghetto was occupied. Most smugglers were children ranging from ages five to six years old. These children exited the camps through walls, gates, tunnels, sewers, and houses on the borders. Most often foods and medicines were smuggled in, but sometimes adults would smuggle children out. Irena Sendler was one of these miracle workers. Sendler worked with Z̀egota, an underground resistance organization, and smuggled children out of the ghettos. Sendler worked as a nurse checking citizens for epidemics, and while checking families, she would store young children in the bottom of her toolbox, or sometimes take them out on gurneys. Together Sendler and Z̀egota created 3,000 fake documents for the thousands of Jewish children they set free. She even went as far to keep the documents hidden in empty drink bottles, so families could be reunited after the war. Before her death Sendler was quoted declaring, “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory” (“Irena Sendler”). Every ghetto from World War II was a different experience. Some were more lethal than others in the case of Warsaw. As stated in a quote from Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman, “It is a necessity…an imperative, due to the Historical truth and the legacy that our generation will bequeath to those who will come after us, to speak not only of the loss…but also to reveal, in its fullest scope, the heroic struggle of the days of massacre and at the very epicenters of destruction” (Professor Dina Porat, “Defiance and Remembrance during the Holocaust”).If children were to stop learning about the Holocaust, the lives lost ,and the sacrifices made may be written off as a fairytale that never existed

An exhibit commemorating the deportatino from Warsaw to Treblinka shows what a days ration of food was in the ghetto.

Five children eat what may be their only meal for the day.

Six boys sit on a sidewalk ; like them many other Jews in the ghettos did not know where their next meal was coming from.

Tens of Jewish Ghetto citizens lie dead or injured in the street after an inspection from the Nazis.

"Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory."

Click here to read Mordecai Anielewicz's biography

Click here to read Irena Sendler's biography

Click the flower to read the about the diary of Miriam Watternberg

A flower for the children who died in the ghettos.

Courtney Bulger


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