Jewish Ghettos Essay
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Jewish ghettos: The basic history of the formation of the Jewish ghettos, including the everyday life and economic hardships faced by the communities.
By definition, a ghetto is an area, usually characterized by poverty and poor living conditions, which houses many people of a similar religion, race or nationality. They served to confine these groups of people and isolate them from the rest of the community because of political or social differences. However, the Jewish ghettos established throughout Europe were more than just a way for the Germans to isolate the Jewish community. They were the first step in making Hitler’s final solution possible. The ghettos were the means of organizing all of the Jews…show more content…
However, there was no real uniformity to these ghettos. The ghettos usually varied with respect to the size of the city in which they were located. The ghettos in small towns were generally not sealed off, which was often a temporary measure used until the Jewish occupants could be sent to a bigger ghetto. Larger cities had closed ghettos, with brick or stone walls, wooden fences, and barbed wire defining the boundaries. In the larger ghettos, guards were strategically placed at gateways and other boundary openings for policing the area. In these larger ghettos, Jews were not allowed to leave the Jewish residential districts (Holocaust),under penalty of severe punishment, often including death. As mentioned earlier, all of the ghettos had the most appalling, inhuman living conditions. The smallest ghetto housed about 3,000 Jews. Warsaw, probably the largest ghetto, held close to 400,000 people. Lodz, the second largest, held about 160,000 (Phillips 304-12). Other areas (mainly Poland) with large Jewish ghettos included Bialystok, Czestochowa, Kielce, Krakow, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, and Vilna(a history 170). Many of the ghetto dwellers were from the local area; others were from neighboring villages. In October 1941, general deportations began from Germany to major ghettos in Poland and further east. Also, Jews from Austria and the
The Benefits and Pitfalls of an Encyclopedic Approach
Robert Jan Van Pelt
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945 Volume II (Parts A and B): Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe. Edited by Geoffrey P. Megargee (General Editor) and Martin Dean (Volume Editor). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012. Pp. li + 2,036. Cloth $295.00. ISBN 978-0253355997.
The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust. Edited by Guy Miron and Shlomit Shulhani. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009. Pp. lxxvi + 1,065. Cloth $199.00. ISBN 978-9653083455.
Der Ort des Terrors. Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. Edited by Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel. 9 vols. Munich: C.H. Beck, 2005–2009. Pp. 5300. Cloth. €459.10. ISBN 978-3406529603.
Almost twenty years ago—seven years before Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia—Umberto Eco foretold at a conference on the future of the book that “new technologies will render obsolete many kinds of books, like encyclopedias and manuals.” He noted that encyclopedias occupied many meters of shelves in his own personal library, but that if a couple of CD-ROMs could do the same job, “there will be no reason to lament their disappearance.”1 In the spring of 2012 the publisher of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the oldest and most famous encyclopedia still in print, announced that it would cease to publish its print edition. Most commentators felt that this was an unavoidable development and that the age of the printed encyclopedia had clearly passed. At the same time, Indiana University Press and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) announced the publication of the twotome, 2,000-page second volume of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. This vast enterprise first saw the light of day in 2009 with the publication of the 1,700-page first volume, which focused mainly on Nazi concentration camps. Produced by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the USHMM, which has an immense library of Holocaust-related material, including extensive microfilm copies of archival material from all over Europe, the encyclopedia is scheduled for completion in 2025, when it will encompass seven volumes, bound in thirteen tomes containing 12,000 pages. Each of these seven volumes will stand [End Page 149] alone as a separate handbook on a given topic. Volume Two (under review here) covers the 1,150 ghettos of German-occupied Eastern Europe.
The entire encyclopedia aims to describe, as General Editor Geoffrey P. Megargee wrote in the introduction to Volume One, what was “perhaps the most pervasive collection of detention sites that any society ever created” (xxxiii). Megargee did not try in 2009 to estimate the total number of places to be included. But when he and Martin Dean, the editor of Volume Two, suggested a number surpassing 42,500 at an academic forum held in early 2013 at the German Historical Institute in Washington, that revelation suddenly became news. “The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking,” the New York Times duly reported on March 3:
When the research began in 2000, Dr. Megargee said he expected to find perhaps 7,000 Nazi camps and ghettos, based on postwar estimates. But the numbers kept climbing—first to 11,500, then 20,000, then 30,000, and now 42,500.
The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners, or transporting victims to killing centers.
In Berlin alone, researchers have documented some 3,000 camps and so-called Jew houses, while Hamburg held 1,300 sites.2
German newspapers immediately picked up the story, which contained all the elements of a sensational headline: new, more, larger—and, of course, Nazis. They asked German historians for their comments. Die Zeit approached Wolfgang Benz, the recently retired head of the Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung (ZfA) at the Technische Universität Berlin and the editor (with Barbara Distel) of the nine-volume, more than 5,300-page long Der Ort des...