The Litzmannstadt Ghetto was established during World War II to hold up to 230,000 Jews in Łódź – the second largest community of Jews in Europe. Within seven days of the Nazi invasion, Łódź was occupied. The order to establish the Ghetto was passed on 8th November 1940. All those over 14 worked in the factories in horrendous conditions under Rumkowski’s control.
It wasn’t until December 1941 that the Nazis announced the first deportation of Jews. Throughout the length of the Holocaust, as many as 200,000 Jews left from Radegast Station in Łódź. Although a long bus ride out of the city centre, the Museum is worth the visit.
The station has been restored and preserved, along with three original cattle trucks waiting on the tracks. The building houses two permanent exhibitions and you’ll also find several plaques commemorating Jews from Vienna and Luxembourg, who were transported to the death camps via the Łódź Ghetto.
Two stops back on the bus route is the Jewish Łódź Cementary. This is the second Jewish cemetary built, since the first was founded in 1811 and no longer exists except for a statue erected by Dr George Kropiwnicki. This new cemetary was founded in 1892 and hold approximately 160,000 people, including 43,000 victims of the Łódź Ghetto who died from hunger and exhaustion. They are buried in an area called the ‘Ghetto Field’ and sadly, many of their graves are not marked or named.
The next stop on the trail should take you to the Park im Szarych Szeregów, which was created in 1961 on the remains of the Jewish Ghetto. In the middle of the park is the Monument of the Fractured Heart which consists of a heart broken in two with the statue of an emaciated boy inside. This is to commemorate victims of the police camp for Polish Youth, founded in 1942, where hard work, poor sanitary conditions, and brutal treatment lead to the deaths of thousands of children aged 2 – 16 years old. Exact figures are not known since the Nazis destroyed all the documentation.
I finished the day in the Łódź Ghetto Survivors’ Park. Established in 2004, the park lies just outside the boundaries of the Ghetto. On the 68th anniversary of the Ghetto liquidation, 363 trees were planted by Ghetto survivors and a monument, composing of the Star of David and the Polish eagle was unveiled.
I did not follow the full Trail of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, which takes you around 38 sites with commemorate plaques telling the history of the Łódź Jews. Instead, I chose to take my own quiet path of reflection. This gave me time to really think and and remember the victims of the Holocaust.
As most of you will know from my blogs about Auschwitz, I am a firm believer in learning about our past mistakes – about the tragedies and horrors committed not just by the Nazis but by many civilisations throughout history. Only then can we put every ounce of strength into preventing it from happening again.
George Santayan once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”