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Guy Miron with Shlomit Shulhani

This encyclopedia is the first attempt at a systematic presentation for scholars

and lay people of historical information on the ghettos in which the Jews were
confined—and from which most were sent to their deaths—in the parts of Eu-
rope occupied by Nazi Germany and its allies during the Holocaust. The informa-
tion is based on testimonies collected and on previous publications and research
literature on various aspects of the Holocaust, produced by Yad Vashem and
others in Israel and abroad.
As stated in the historical introduction, the authorities of the Third Reich
never actually defined the term ghetto. We have used an extremely broad
working definition, not based on prior theoretical study of the term and not
even on the way the Nazis used it; in other words, we have not called places
“ghettos” just because the Nazis referred to them as such in their orders.
Instead, we have defined the term phenomenologically, i.e., by constantly ex-
amining the historical material on the lives of the Jews in a wide variety of
places occupied by the Nazis and characterizing the fundamental elements
accordingly.1 As a result, the encyclopedia contains more than a thousand
entries, but it may turn out that certain places also known to some as ghettos
were not included in it.

GHETTOS: A TYPOLOGY Definition and Preliminary Discussion

OF A MULTIFACETED We have chosen to define the term ghetto based on the actual conditions in
PHENOMENON which the Jews lived. Therefore, we have defined as a ghetto any part of a pre-
existing settlement occupied by Nazi Germany where Jews were forcibly con-
fined for at least a few weeks.
In this respect ghettos differed from camps (concentration camps and labor
camps alike), which were generally outside the town or city limits. Whereas in
the camps everyday life was totally cut off from urban life, in the ghettos, which
were located within towns, the separation was not total.
Each entry describes the history of the Jews in a particular locality through-
out the Holocaust, not only during the ghetto period. In the vast majority of
cases, although not all, Jews had lived in a given locality even before it was
ghettoized and were now confined in a particular part of it. The best-known
type of ghetto, which included the largest ones, such as Warsaw, Łódź, and Cra-
cow, was established in a particular residential section of the city and was then
fenced in or surrounded by a wall. Many of the smaller ghettos were also sealed
or, in several cases, located next to a natural barrier: the Lyakhovtsy ghetto in
the Kamenets-Podolsk district of Ukraine (in the USSR), for instance, was sur-
rounded by a barbed-wire fence, and the one in Ludza, in the Kurzeme district
of Latvia, consisted of several streets adjacent to a lake. In the district capital
Kamenets-Podolsk, several thousand Jews were housed on an island surrounded
by the Smotrich River in the oldest part of town, and the entire island was de-
clared a ghetto. Other ghettos—especially in smaller places, such as Adamów

1 It is important to note that the definition of the term ghetto, as discussed below, and our decisions
regarding which places to include or not include in the encyclopedia, are meant for research, study, and
documentation purposes only. They should not be viewed as binding, one way or the other, in legal mat-
ters and especially not with respect to reparations for Holocaust survivors.


and Puławy in the Lublin district of Poland—were in open areas with no wall or
fence around them.2 In some larger communities, too, the Jews lived in open
ghettos. In Berdichev, Ukraine, for instance, more than 10,000 Jews were held
in an open ghetto situated in the poor part of city and were never fenced in.

Urban-Geographical Features
Although most cities and towns had no more than one ghetto, there were quite
a few towns with several; sometimes they were clearly separate and were
governed by different German policies, while in other cases the separation
was merely due to lack of space. In general, wherever Jews from a single town
were split up into several ghettos, local conditions and German policy dictated
different restrictions on movement between the ghettos. This phenomenon ap-
peared in almost all the German occupied territories. For example, in the city of
Radom, Poland, 32,000 Jews were forced into two ghettos several kilometers
apart in the spring of 1941—most of them in the one in the center of city, with
a minority in a ghetto in one of the poor suburbs. Although the smaller ghetto
was less crowded, the Jews preferred to live in the larger one, where all the
Judenrat institutions were located. A large proportion of the inhabitants of the
small ghetto were murdered before the inhabitants of the large ghetto, but in
the end the small ghetto was turned into a labor camp where the remaining
Jews of Radom were held after the liquidation of the large ghetto. In Tarnów,
located in the Cracow district of Poland, one ghetto was initially established,
but after the first murderous operations, the Germans divided up the inhabit-
ants into two ghettos and banned transit between them: Ghetto A was for peo-
ple employed in the ghetto factories and was organized as a labor camp with
separate living quarters for women and men; Ghetto B was for the rest of the
population. In Vilna, the Jews who worked for the German authorities were con-
fined in Ghetto no. 1, along with any family members who had permits (Schein);
the others were confined in Ghetto no. 2, which was liquidated within a few
weeks. In Riga, the capital of Latvia, the Jews were confined in two ghettos—
the “large” one and the “small” one. At some point the large ghetto became
the “German ghetto,” housing Jews who had been deported from the Reich; the
institutional system there was separate from that of the small ghetto, where
the remaining local Jews lived. In Bar, in the district of Vinnitsa, Ukraine, the
Jews were confined in three blocks of ruined buildings about a kilometer apart
from each other; for a while these functioned as three separate ghettos, al-
though Jews could move from one to another. One of the three ghettos in Bar
was only for Jewish skilled craftsmen and their families. In 1943, the Jews in
Salonika, Greece, were forced into three fenced-in ghettos in different parts of
city; transit between them was forbidden. One of these ghettos, located next
to the railroad, was also surrounded by a wooden wall and became a transit
camp where the Jews were held prior to deportation. An interesting case in
this context was Kassa, the main city in the district of Abaúj-Torna, Hungary
(today Slovakia). At that location, about 1,000 of the 9,000 Jews living in
the city when Germany took over in the spring of 1944 were permitted to live
outside the main ghetto, where they were confined in a different ghetto. Such
permission was given to several groups: doctors and others with essential oc-
cupations, people with political connections, and men who had been decorated
by the Hungarian Army in World War I. In the end, being in different ghettos did

2 The Polish districts referred to in the introduction are the prewar Polish ones and not the districts into
which the Germans divided the country during the occupation.


not prevent them from being deported to Auschwitz on the same trains as the
inhabitants of the main ghetto. Additional examples of multiple ghettos may be
found in many other places, especially in certain zones of Eastern Poland (see
below the discussion about Nowogródek, Polesye, and Volhynia Districts).
In some cases a ghetto was established not in a neighborhood but in buildings
that could be sealed or at some other site that could be enclosed: synagogues
(as in Jekabpils, Latvia, where the Jews were held in three synagogues), factories
(e.g., in the district capital of Kharkov, Ukraine, where they were kept in twenty-
six shacks in the “tractor factory” industrial area, and in Békés, Hungary, where
they were held in a textile factory and in several adjacent private homes), or a
prison camp (in Belaya Tserkov, in the Kiev district of Ukraine). In Wyśmierzyce, in
the Kielce district of Poland, the Jews were held in a large courtyard, many being
forced to live in pits dug in the ground. Some of the inhabitants of the Velizh ghetto
in the Smolensk district of Russian Republic (in the USSR) were incarcerated by
the Germans in two pigsties on the outskirts of town.
In many cases, especially in smaller localities, the Jews were confined to a
single building; this occurred particularly in areas where the ghettos were short-
lived, such as Lithuania, the USSR (especially the eastern parts of the Nazi-occu-
pied territory), and Hungary. They were held in local synagogues (e.g., Pyatka, in
the Zhitomir district of Ukraine, and Kamajai, in Rokiškis County, Lithuania); in a
barn on the outskirts of town or on a nearby rural estate (e.g., Tryškiai in Šiauliai
County and Kražiai in Raseiniai County, both in Lithuania); in a lumberyard (in
the village of Endrőd, in the Békés district of Hungary); in a brickyard (in several
ghettos in Hungary); or in a jail (e.g., Mglin, in the Orel district, in the Russian
Republic). All these places fall somewhere between ghettos and concentration
sites (see the discussion of "Jewish Houses in Germany" in the appendix).
An exception was the town of Szydłowiec, in the Kielce district of Poland,
where the heads of the Judenrat bribed influential Nazis in the area and their
associates, thus preventing the removal of the local Jews (who accounted for
80–90 percent of the town’s population) into a crowded ghetto. Instead, the
entire town was turned into an open ghetto, with the exception of two streets.
The town of Skrzynno, in the Łódź district of Poland, was emptied of all non-Jews
and declared a ghetto in its entirety. These places became separate “Jewish
towns”—an option mentioned by Göring at a meeting on November 12, 1938
(see "The Jewish Ghettos Under the Nazis and Their Allies," pp. XIII–XXXIX).
Although usually all the Jews in a town were confined to the ghetto, there
were cases in which some Jews were permitted to live outside it, at least for a
while. For instance, in Wieruszów, in the Łódź district of Poland, most of the Jews
were forced into a ghetto surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, but the Germans
let several Jewish experts in required occupations continue living in the Polish
part of town. In Kołomyja, in the Stanisławów district, Poland (today Ukraine),
several Jewish doctors who treated Germans were allowed to live outside the
ghetto. In Daugavpils (Dvinsk, Latvia), the Germans allowed a few dozen profes-
sionals and skilled workers and their families to live outside the ghetto, where
dietary and housing conditions were better. A different sort of case could be
found in Wisznice, in the Lublin district of Poland, where such a great number of
Jewish refugees poured into the town that the German authorities there realized
they would not all fit in the ghetto; they therefore allowed a significant number
of Jews to live outside the ghetto for a while.
Many of the ghettos had an organized system of Jewish labor. Though meant
to serve German economic interests and sometimes those of the local residents


as well, the labor system also bolstered the economic subsistence of the ghetto
inhabitants and in some cases even temporarily protected the workers from de-
portation to their deaths. In some of the “working ghettos,” the work was done
mostly within the ghetto, where factories and workshops were established. The
best-known ghetto of this sort was Łódź, where hardly any residents left the
ghetto on a daily basis for work (except for those sent to labor camps for ex-
tended periods of time). In other worker ghettos, many of the inhabitants worked
outside the ghetto and returned at night, or sometimes returned only once every
few days or weeks. For instance, in Białystok, even though there were about
twenty workshops and branches of German factories in the ghetto in the sum-
mer of 1942, more than 2,000 Jews were leaving the ghetto daily to work in
German factories and workshops. Various work arrangements outside the ghetto
could be found in medium-sized and even small ghettos, too. For instance, in
the Augustów ghetto in the Białystok district of Poland, some of the men were
employed as mechanics in German army units, while groups of women were put
to work on the nearby railroad. In the Rokiškis ghetto in northeastern Lithuania,
the Jewish men were taken every day to work for local farmers.
A unique kind of ghetto was the “restored ghetto,” one which had already
been liquidated once but was used again to hold more Jews. In late 1942 the
Germans established such ghettos in Ujazd, in the Łódź district, and in Piaski
Luterskie, in the Lublin district of Poland. Here they tried to confine the remain-
ing Jews from the area as well as additional Jews brought in from elsewhere after
mass murder operations that took place that year. They used various tactics to
convince Jews to come out of hiding and go to the “restored ghetto” of their own
free will, promising that they would not be harmed if they did so. Many Jews, in
dire straits in their hiding places, chose to go to these ghettos. In fact, these
ghettos served as temporary transit camps, and their inhabitants were deported
a while later to death camps or murdered in other ways.

Ghettos versus Camps

Thus far we have discussed characteristics that distinguished the ghetto from a
previous pre-ghetto situation (or non-ghetto situation, in many places during the
Holocaust) in which the Jews were not restricted to living in a particular part of
town. We now turn to a second facet: the distinction between the ghetto and
another forced pattern of existence for Jews during the Holocaust: the camp.
Whereas forced geographical restrictions applied in both ghetto and camp, there
were, of course, many differences between them. In most cases, though not all,
moving to a camp was a more radical territorial displacement than moving to
the ghetto: while the move to the ghetto was a transition from living anywhere
in a particular town to living in a limited (and sometimes fenced-off) part of it,
the move to the camp generally meant being totally uprooted from one’s original
place of residence. The camp, as opposed to the ghetto, was usually located far
from their homes, in an environment that was completely foreign to the prisoners
and often even outside their country.
Nevertheless, we have not adhered absolutely to this distinction. In some
cases we have chosen to define as ghettos and include in the encyclopedia sites
where no Jews had lived previously and where the Jews were taken en masse after
having been forced out of their original places of residence, provided that these
sites were in pre-existing towns or cities. For instance, the Germans established a
“rural ghetto” in Grodziec, in the Łódź district of Poland, where no Jews had lived
before the Holocaust, and they confined Jews from various towns in the vicinity


there. In October 1940, a rural ghetto was established in the village of Bugaj, in
the Łódź district; it was essentially a Jewish agricultural colony housing 200 Jew-
ish families, most of them from the town of Koło. Another site where Jews were
held in an area that had not had a Jewish community before was Fort Solipse, in
the Warsaw district of Poland, an unsettled area with horribly unhygienic condi-
tions to which Jews from several communities in the region were transferred.
Another fundamental distinction between ghettos and camps that guided us in
this encyclopedia concerns patterns of community and family life. The restrictions
imposed on the ghetto inhabitants detracted from their community life, but they
did not destroy it entirely. Often the Jews had some influence on the selection of
their leaders (usually the Judenrat); in any case, the leadership did not only follow
German instructions but also tried to meet the needs of the Jewish community in
various respects—nutrition, sanitation, education, culture, etc. In the camps the
Jewish community frameworks were dismantled and the Jews were subjected to
a German (or other) command staff; there was no autonomous institutional life of
any sort. Positions such as “block elder” and “kapo” were meant almost exclu-
sively to enforce German orders, and they were not unique to the Jews. Unlike the
ghetto inhabitants, prisoners in the camps were subjected to a rigid daily schedule
determined by the camp commanders to ensure methodical work, to enforce ex-
treme discipline, and sometimes even explicitly to bring about their slow deaths.
Camp life—in concentration camps and labor camps alike—was therefore
based on the total destruction of the previous family and community frameworks.
The separation of the sexes in most of the camps led to the disintegration of
family structure. In the ghettos, on the other hand, though living conditions un-
dermined Jewish family life and many families were broken up for various reasons
(such as when the men were sent to a labor camp) and many others were forced
to live among strangers in extremely crowded conditions, nonetheless, it cannot
be said that conditions in the ghettos led to a total breakdown of family life.
Another difference between camps and ghettos was that the Jewish popula-
tion in the concentration camps included almost no “unproductive elements”
such as the elderly, children, and sick people, who were an integral part of the
Jewish community in the ghetto.
Nevertheless, even these distinctions are not absolute, as some ghettos
gradually, in certain senses, took on the character of camps, and some even be-
came actual labor camps. For instance, the Łódź ghetto increasingly turned into
a sort of labor camp, after the unproductive segments of the population were
murdered in 1941 and 1942. Another such case is the Kaunas ghetto, which
beginning in January 1942 had various workshops benefiting the German army.
Increasingly, however, this ghetto took on the characteristics of a labor camp, to
the point that the Germans decided to officially turn it into a concentration camp
in the summer of 1943. At that time they transferred it from the civil administra-
tion to the SS, after dispersing some of its inhabitants to labor camps.
Ghettos or parts thereof in some smaller localities were turned into camps
when, after several murder operations marked by large-scale slaughter, the Ger-
mans separated the “productive” Jews from those who were considered unproduc-
tive. Thus they divided the Bochnia ghetto in the Cracow district of Poland into two
after perpetrating a murder operation there: Ghetto A had the character of a labor
camp and its inhabitants were given tags and numbers based on their place of
work; Ghetto B was for the unemployed. Elsewhere, several hundred Jews from the
Skałat ghetto in the Tarnopol district of Poland (currently Ukraine) were confined
in late 1942 in a labor camp in the town, while the rest of the community was left
in the ghetto. Something similar occurred around the same time in Bolechów, in


the Stanisławów district of Poland (also currently in Ukraine), and, with variations,
in scores of other ghettos. In general, such conversions of ghettos or parts thereof
into labor camps or transfers of the “productive” ghetto inhabitants to a labor
camp elsewhere in the same town did not fundamentally change the fate of the
Jews there. In the end, almost all of them were murdered, despite the Germans’
temporary recognition of the Jews’ contribution to their war economy.
Another example of the difficulty of making a clear-cut distinction between
ghettos and camps can be seen in Theresienstadt, which German documents
sometimes referred to as a ghetto (especially in its initial stages) and at other
times as a camp (particularly in its latter phase). We decided to include There-
sienstadt in the encyclopedia even though at a certain point the sexes were
separated and from then on men and women lived separately. But even then
family members—men, women, and children—could meet freely after work hours
and before the nighttime curfew.
Although thus far no systematic study has been done of the gender structure
of the Jewish population in the ghettos, we know that in general there was a
“gender anomaly”—an imbalance between men and women, with 60 percent or
more of the population of many ghettos consisting of women. This came about
for various reasons in different regions, but overall it was the cumulative effect
of these important factors: the conscription of the men into the armies fighting
the Germans before the occupation (especially the Polish army and the Red
Army); the seizure of men for forced labor camps; escape by young men; a higher
mortality rate among men in the ghettos; and in some places (especially those
occupied by the Germans in 1941) the fact that the men were murdered before
the women. The gender anomaly was the most extreme in several Lithuanian
towns where almost all the men were murdered, mainly by Einsatzgruppe A,
shortly after the Germans took over. As a result, in the county capital Telšiai, in
Virbalis in the Vilkaviškis district, in Krekenava in Panevėžys County, and in Vid-
uklé in Raseiniai County, there were ghettos in which almost all the young and
middle-aged adults were women, although there were also children and some-
times elderly people of both sexes. Whereas for other ghettos this was true for
only a few weeks until the women, children, and elderly were also murdered, the
women’s ghetto in Telšiai functioned for more than four months and produced—
under extremely harsh conditions—an active women’s leadership, relief organi-
zations, and even Jewish religious life led by women. In all these cases, however,
the undermining of the family and community structure never reached the point
of a total breakdown as it did in the concentration camps, and therefore in our
opinion we can still consider them ghettos. It can thus be said that whereas
ghetto life distorted the Jews’ family and community frameworks, the concen-
tration camps broke them down completely. This is the fundamental difference
between the two.

REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS The length of time in which the Jews were incarcerated in ghettos, the patterns
OF THE GHETTOS of self-government in the ghettos, and the process whereby the Jews in the ghet-
tos were murdered differed greatly from country to country and from region to
region. The composition of the Jewish population in the different regions, the
historical conditions that had molded the Jewish communities in the decades
preceding the Holocaust, the topography, the proximity to or distance from the
front, and other factors had a decisive impact on the fate of the Jews in the ghet-
tos. Below we survey the various regions in which there were ghettos and briefly
describe the process and characteristics of ghettoization in each region.


Western and Central Poland

Poland became an independent country once again after World War I. It was
home to 3.3 million Jews—most of whom had previously lived under the rule of
Czarist Russia; others had lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while a smaller
minority came from the German Empire. In the two decades before the Holo-
caust, the Jews of independent Poland enjoyed greater freedom than they had
under Czarist oppression, but they suffered from dire poverty and antisemitism,
the latter of which increased greatly in the late 1930s. Between the world wars,
the Polish Jews—75 percent of whom lived in cities and towns—were one of
several large national minorities in Poland at that time. The Jews had an ac-
tive, vibrant political life, with various Zionist parties, the socialist-Yiddishist
Bund, and the Orthodox Agudath Israel being the most prominent movements.
The communities, political parties, and other Jewish organizations provided so-
cial services and maintained an active community life. In western and central
Poland, where there was a solid ethnic Polish majority, the Jews’ language and
culture underwent a gradual process of Polish assimilation, and some groups
even developed a Polish national consciousness.
The Jews in western and central Poland were the first to fall victim to the Nazi
ghettoization policy. In occupied western Poland (the Wartheland), central Po-
land (the four districts of the General Gouvernement occupied by the Germans in
1939—Warsaw, Radom, Cracow, and Lublin), and the Zichenau district, hundreds
of ghettos were established as early as 1940. The first ghettos were formed in
1939, long before the decision was made to implement the Final Solution. Many
of them lasted for a relatively long time, some for as long as two years. The first
ghetto was created in October 1939 in Piotrków Trybunalski, a county seat in the
Łódź district; it was fully established by January 1940. Additional ghettos, such
as Radomsko in the Łódź district and Puławy in the Lublin district, were also set
up in late 1939 (the Puławy ghetto existed for only two months, after which the
inhabitants were deported to a different ghetto, still in 1939).

The Wartheland (Western Poland)

The first of the large ghettos was in Łódź. Its establishment began with a deci-
sion by the German occupation authorities in the Wartheland, under Arthur Grei-
ser, as early as December 1939, when it became clear that the plan to deport all
the Jews in the region (which had been annexed to Germany) to occupied areas
farther to the east could not be carried out quickly. The Łódź ghetto, which was
finally sealed in the spring of 1940, became the first major arena in which the
new German-imposed pattern of life for the Jews was explored, both from the
German perspective and from the internal Jewish perspective. The hardships that
the Jews underwent in this ghetto and the transformation of their lives compelled
the Germans to redefine and even formalize their policy regarding the ghetto. To
a large extent it became the model after which the Germans patterned, or at
least tried to pattern, the ghettos in other areas as an “interim solution” to the
Jewish problem. The Łódź ghetto also became a hub for concentrating many
Jews from localities in the vicinity.
As in Łódź, the vast majority of the nearly sixty ghettos in peripheral towns
in the Wartheland were established in 1940. The liquidation of these ghettos,
most of whose inhabitants were murdered in the Chelmno (Kulmhof) death camp,
began in December 1941 and ended in September 1942. After that, the Łódź
ghetto was the only ghetto left in the Wartheland until it, too, was liquidated in
August 1944.


The General Gouvernement (Central Poland)

In occupied central Poland—the General Gouvernement—ghettoization began
later and was at first less systematic than in the Wartheland. This relative late-
ness was due in part to the different form of German government in this region
and the absence (at that point) of a concrete policy to deport all the Jews in the
region (unlike in the Wartheland). The Warsaw ghetto, the largest in the region,
was sealed only in November 1940, and it took about half a year to organize the
ghetto’s internal life, as well as the economic infrastructure that would enable it
to survive in the interim. At the same time, in the autumn of 1940, the ghettoiza-
tion of the Jews in the Warsaw district began, as ghettos were formed in periph-
eral towns such as Osie˛ciny and Piaseczno. Altogether, about sixty-five ghettos
were established in the Warsaw district. A few months later, in the spring of
1941, the Germans started forcing the Jews in the other districts of the General
Gouvernement into ghettos as well.
A quick comparative look at the two historical capitals of Poland—Warsaw and
Cracow—demonstrates the absence of a solid, central German policy regarding
the ghettoization of the Jews of the General Gouvernement at this stage. The Jew-
ish population of Warsaw, already the largest in Poland, swelled even more when
tens of thousands of Jews deported from peripheral towns in the district gradually
moved into the Warsaw ghetto. Implementation of this policy began earlier than in
the small ghettos in the western portion of the Warsaw district; those lasted only
a short time, between a few weeks and three to four months, until almost all their
inhabitants—more than 60,000 altogether—were moved to the Warsaw ghetto.
As a result of this process, which took place afterwards in the other parts of the
district, the Jewish population of the Warsaw ghetto reached a peak of more than
460,000 in March 1941. In contrast, in Cracow, the capital of the General Gou-
vernement, which had a large German presence, the German district authorities
under Hans Frank strove to reduce the Jewish population as much as possible. In
the spring of 1940 they began to expel Jewish refugees and migrants who had not
lived in the city previously and either transfer them elsewhere or return them to
the peripheral towns from which they had come. Consequently, the Cracow ghetto
was fairly small; by the time it was established in the spring of 1941, only 12,000
Jews remained of the 70,000–80,000 Jews, including refugees, who had lived in
the city when the Germans took over (according to various estimates). That num-
ber rose to 18,000 by late 1941. Jews from the ghettos of Radom and Lublin were
also deported in several waves to ghettos in the nearby periphery in an effort to
reduce the Jewish population of these district capitals, but illegal infiltration by
many Jews and even the deportation of Jews from peripheral communities into
the ghetto balanced out this trend and prevented a substantial drop in the Jew-
ish population of these ghettos until they were liquidated. Other major ghettos in
these regions—such as Kielce and Cze˛stochowa—were also established in the
spring of 1941. Still others were formed later.
In terms of the ghettoization policy for the Jews of the periphery in these
parts of Poland, the Lublin district was unique in that there were relatively few
ghettos (about fifty), and they were established later (in late 1941, and some
even the first few months of 1942). Some examples are Annopol-Rachów, Kurów,
Wa˛wolnica, and Skaryszew. Most of the ghettos in the district were open, at
least at first. Even more exceptional was the city of Mie˛dzyrzec Podlaski in this
district, where the Jews were only forced into a ghetto in late August–early Sep-
tember 1942, after a big murder operation in which 11,000 Jews were deported
to Treblinka (the order of occurrence is highly reminiscent of the ghettoization
process in areas occupied by the Germans in the summer of 1941 following


the invasion of the USSR). In contrast to the Warsaw district of the General
Gouvernement, the Lublin district thus represented a process in which the dis-
placement of the Jewish population was not necessarily manifested in the con-
centration of their numbers, at least not in the first two years of the occupation.
The Radom district of the General Gouvernement, where some seventy ghettos
were established, and the Cracow district, where there were about sixty ghet-
tos, were intermediate types in this regard: although the trend in those districts
in the first two years was toward a more concentrated occupation than in the
Lublin district, it did not reach the level of the Warsaw district.
Many ghettos in the General Gouvernement, open and closed alike, had official
autonomous systems such as Judenräte (often they were founded even before the
ghetto). A relatively stable routine was in place in these ghettos for a fairly long
time, until the beginning of the murder operations to liquidate all the ghettos. In
some cases the Judenrat was a direct continuation, either entirely or in part, of
the pre-Holocaust Jewish community leadership and of the ramified community
infrastructure that characterized Jewish life in Poland between the world wars. For
instance, the Judenräte in Warsaw, Cracow, and other ghettos were composed of
people from the community establishment, many of them previously in the middle
and lower echelons (a large proportion of the higher echelon of the community
leadership had fled eastward when the Germans moved in). Later, especially just
before or during the liquidation of the ghettos, the Germans purged and usually
killed the original Judenrat leadership and installed other Jews instead, sometimes
refugees from elsewhere, who were foreign to the social fabric of the local com-
munity and were therefore, at least partially, more controllable by the Germans.
This occurred, for instance, in Radom and Cracow.
In contrast to the diversity in the ghettoization of the Jews in different districts
of the General Gouvernement in 1940–1941, the liquidation of these ghettos—
the objective of Operation Reinhard—was much more uniform. The extermina-
tion of the Jews in this region, which began in March 1942 with the deportation
of the Jews of the Lublin district to the Bełżec death camp and continued in the
months that followed with murderous operations and deportation to the Sobibór
and Treblinka death camps, put an end to the vast majority of the ghettos in the
General Gouvernement by the end of 1942. Indeed, to a large extent Himmler’s
July 1942 order that the entire Jewish population of the General Gouvernement
be liquidated by December 1942 was actually carried out. Only some of the
larger ghettos, including Warsaw (where the big murder operation was stopped
in September 1942), Cze˛stochowa, Radom, Kielce, Cracow, and Mie˛dzyrzec Pod-
laski, and a few of the smaller ones, such as Bochnia and Tuchów in the Cracow
district, remained in the region after the beginning of 1943, and all of them were
liquidated in the course of that year.

The Zichenau District

The Zichenau district, where 80,000 Jews had lived before the war, was removed
in October 1939 from the Warsaw district of Poland and annexed to the Ger-
man Reich (Eastern Prussia). The German authorities in the region, headed by
Gauleiter Erich Koch, took steps to implement the “resettlement” policy, evict-
ing Poles and Jews in order to settle ethnic Germans in their place. Some of the
Jews were deported to the General Gouvernement, but others were forced into
twelve ghettos within the district. The first was established in Sierpc in the win-
ter or spring of 1940. Others were established later, the last of them—Strzegowo
and Nowe Miasto—only in November 1941. Salient in the anti-Jewish policy in


this district were frequent population transfers from one ghetto to another. The
ghettos in the district were liquidated by the Germans by the end of 1942; most
of their inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz.

Eastern Upper Silesia

This was another part of Poland occupied by Germany in 1939 and annexed to
the Reich. Unlike other annexed regions, it had a distinctly Polish character (with
Poles constituting more than 90 percent of the population) and was annexed due
to the potential of its mines and factories. Because the Germans needed skilled
workers to exploit the region, the policy of mass deportation of Poles from the
area was not implemented, and the ghettoization and deportation of the Jews
were postponed. Although the Jews in a few towns in this region were forced into
ghettos in 1940 and 1941, ghettoization in the two largest Jewish population
centers in the region—Be˛dzin and Sosnowiec, each of which was home to 25,000
Jews in 1941—was slower and more gradual than in the other parts of Poland that
had been occupied in 1939. Even the pattern of Jewish leadership in this region
was different: here there was a regional Judenrat—the Zentrale der Judischen
Ältestenräte in Ostoberschlesien (Central Office of the Jewish Council of Elders in
Eastern Upper Silesia), headed by Moshe Merin—which was authorized to oversee
the local Judenräte. Although the Germans carried out murder operations among
the Jews of Be˛dzin and Sosnowiec as early as May and August 1942 and deported
thousands of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau, ghettoization was completed there only
in the spring of 1943. Until then, the remaining Jewish inhabitants continued to
move, albeit with various restrictions, between the different parts of the city and
sometimes even outside it. The ghettos were sealed for only a few months—es-
sentially as preparation for their complete liquidation by means of deportations to
Auschwitz in the murder operations in the summer of 1943.

Eastern Poland (1939 Borders) and the Baltic States

In eastern Poland (that part captured by the Germans from the Soviets in the
summer of 1941), the Baltic states, and parts of the USSR (Ukraine, Belarus
in its 1939 borders, and western Russia, which were occupied by the Germans
beginning in the autumn of 1941), ghettoization proceeded differently than in
other areas. In this huge region there was a salient distinction between the ter-
ritories that had been governed by the Soviets since 1939 or 1940 (the Baltic
states and parts of eastern Poland that had become western Ukraine and west-
ern Belarus under Soviet rule) and the more internal Soviet land. Bessarabia and
northern Bukovina, which had been annexed by the Soviets in June 1940 and
restored to Romanian rule in the summer of 1941, will be discussed below.
In the eastern border regions of Poland (Kresy Wschodnie), where Poles lived
alongside other significant national groups (chiefly Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and
Belarussians), the Jews found themselves right in the thick of a constant multi-
ethnic conflict between the world wars. In these regions, which tended to be
behind western and central Poland in terms of modernization, there were still
large numbers of strongly traditional Jews who had been much less influenced
by Polonization and more characterized by modern Jewish nationalism. As in Po-
land, ramified Jewish public and political life developed in the Baltic countries—
which had become independent states after World War I—especially Lithuania
and Latvia. The quarter million Jews in these countries even enjoyed national
Jewish autonomy for part of this time, although in the late 1930s they had to
contend with increasing anti-Semitic extremism.


Most of eastern Poland and the Baltic states were occupied by the Germans
in just about ten days—a speed that made it impossible to organize any orderly,
large-scale evacuation or flight. Consequently, unlike in the parts of the USSR
farther to the east, which will be discussed below, only a small percent of the
Jewish population of these regions managed to leave for the east before the Ger-
man occupation—whether by fleeing, being evacuated, or joining the Red Army.
In many towns in these regions the Jews were massacred almost immediately
after the Germans moved in—both by local anti-Semitic groups (in some cases
the pogroms started even before the German army entered) and by German police
and soldiers (especially the Einsatzgruppen and the forces organized by them).
In Lwów, the capital of Eastern Galicia, local Ukrainian antisemites murdered at
least 6,000 Jews with the active encouragement of German police officers from
Einsatzgruppe C during several waves of pogroms in the first month of the German
occupation. In Vilna, German police from Einsatzgruppe B and other units, with the
help of Lithuanian volunteers, murdered 5,000 Jews in July 1941, the vast majority
of them men. Between August 31 and September 3, 1941, another 5,000–8,000
Jews were murdered in Vilna in another large murder operation, and immediately
thereafter the Jews remaining in the city were forced into a ghetto. At this stage,
the Germans and their local allies also perpetrated massacres in hundreds of ad-
ditional localities. From the Germans’ perspective, this was the start of the “Final
Solution of the Jewish Question” in the east, even though there had been no formal
decision yet to impose it throughout Europe. To the Jews, who were not aware of
this plan, the establishment of the ghettos was a constitutive experience of an en-
tirely different nature. In some places, such as Kaunas, they even perceived their
segregation and the establishment of the ghetto as a form of relief: they felt they
had survived the big wave of murder and believed, or hoped, that in the ghetto they
would be protected from the savage violence of the initial period of occupation.
This experience affected the composition of their leadership, as well as everyday
life in the ghetto and patterns of response to implementation of the Final Solution.
Nevertheless, as we shall see below, there were significant regional differences
between ghettos in these areas of response.

Lithuania (including the Vilna region) and Latvia

In Lithuania (1939 borders) and in some nearby areas that until 1939 had
been part of the Vilna district of Poland (which was under the same German
Reichskommissariat), ghettoization followed what may be termed the “Lithu-
anian pattern.” This pattern, which existed in scores of places, was character-
ized by short-lived ghettos that were essentially interim stations before the
complete liquidation of local Jewish settlement. Immediately after the start
of the German occupation, this was the pattern by which the mass murder of
Jews was carried out in many Lithuanian towns, primarily by Lithuanians (as
well as sometimes by local residents, in other cases by policemen or members
of paramilitary militias) with German encouragement. After the first wave of
murders, Jews remaining in small and medium-sized towns in Lithuania were
forced into places such as synagogues, churches, granaries, or rural estates,
which served as ghettos. In some of these cases, for instance in Alytus, Vir-
balis, and Lazdijai, the Lithuanians were conspicuous in taking the initiative
to force the Jews into these ghettos. Elsewhere, especially in small towns
such as Bazilionai, Subačius, and Semeliškės, there seems to have been no
formal ghettoization process in accordance with orderly German instructions
but rather the temporary imprisonment of the Jews in a “quasi-ghetto”; never-


theless, we have included these ghettos in the encyclopedia because they fit
the broad parameters of a ghetto as defined above. In most of these cases, the
Jews were shot to death within a few weeks (or at the most a few months) in
murder operations carried out by Einsatzkommando 3 of Einsatzgruppe A. Un-
der the command of Karl Jäger, Einsatzkommando 3 operated in a particularly
murderous, comprehensive manner with the active assistance of local Lithu-
anian forces. In some Lithuanian ghettos, the men were killed first and only
some time later were the women and children killed, leading to the creation
of several women’s ghettos in the area, as noted above. In a few of the larger
communities in Lithuania (1939 borders), especially Kovno and Šiauliai, as
well as in Vilna, the Germans decided to leave the ghettos in place; a report
by Jäger in late 1941 termed their inhabitants Arbeitsjuden (work Jews). There
were also a few dozen ghettos in the former Polish Wilno (Vilnius) district,
some of which were established after massacres that took place in the summer
of 1941. Most of them were liquidated in murder operations in 1942, when the
Jews were shot to death. About ten of them lasted until 1943, the most promi-
nent being the Vilna ghetto. In Kaunas and Šiauliai the ghettos lasted until the
summer of 1943; they then became concentration camps and remained such
until the summer of 1944.
Something similar occurred in Latvia, where almost all the Jews were mur-
dered in the first months of the occupation by German police in Einsatzgruppe A
together with Latvian auxiliary units. Some of the Latvian Jews had previously
been incarcerated in a few short-lived ghettos, such as Balvi and Vilaka. In early
1942 a few thousand Jews remained in Latvia in only three ghettos: Riga, Liepa-
ja, and Daugavpils (Dvinsk). The first two existed until 1943.

Eastern Poland: The Białystok General District

South of Lithuania, in the Białystok General District, which had been annexed
to Germany, ghettoization began after several massacres in the summer of
1941. The Jews in the region were forced into ghettos, the largest of which
were in the cities of Białystok (where the mass murder of about 7,000 Jews
preceded ghettoization) and Grodno. Most of the ghettos in the region were
established in the autumn of 1941 (the one in Białystok was in place from Au-
gust 1941); a minority were established in the first few months of 1942. In a
series of murder operations that began in November 1942 and ended in Febru-
ary 1943, the Germans deported first the Jews in the smaller ghettos in this
region and finally those in the two large ones; most were sent to Treblinka and
smaller numbers to Auschwitz. After that, only the Białystok ghetto remained.
Although it was particularly productive for the Germans, it, too, was liquidated
in August 1943.

Eastern Poland: The Nowogródek, Polesye, and Volhynia Districts

Ghettoization proceeded differently in these three eastern peripheral districts of
Poland, which lay within the 1939 borders and were among the western parts
of the German-occupied Reichskommissariat Ostland and Reichskommissariat
Ukraine. In many towns here, too, Jews were slaughtered immediately in the
summer of 1941, but for the most part the pogroms were on a smaller scale
than in Lithuania. Only in a fairly small number of places where ghettos were es-
tablished, including Pinsk, Chomsk, and Dawidgródek in the Polesye district and
Nieśwież in the Nowogródek district, were Jews massacred before the ghettos
were set up. Of the more than 120 ghettos in these regions, a few were estab-


lished as early as the summer of 1941, but most were established in late 1941
or in the spring or summer of 1942.
A salient characteristic of many of the ghettos in the Nowogródek, Polesye,
and Volhynia districts was the Germans’ tendency to divide the ghetto into two
or more parts based on the Jews’ productivity. In Włodzimierz Wołyński (Ludmir
in the Volhynia district), the significance of this division was so prominent that
the Jews called the productive ghetto the “living ghetto” and the other the “dead
ghetto.” In the Słonim ghetto in the Nowogródek district, Jews with vital occupa-
tions were housed in an area known as “the Island”—a special quarter separated
from the rest of the ghetto by a stream on both sides. Later, the Słonim ghetto was
divided into several sections based on the residents’ occupations; yellow papers
were issued only to residents of the Island and of one other section of the ghetto.
The Kosów Poleski ghetto in the Polesye district was divided into three parts: one
ghetto, located in the town itself, was home to professionals and skilled workers
and their families; a second ghetto housed the elderly and the “unproductive”; and
a third housed the families of those working in nearby camps.
An interesting phenomenon that was particularly notable in these districts was
that the Germans allowed certain Jews, especially those considered productive, to
live for a while outside the ghetto. For instance, Jewish doctors could live outside
the Kiwerce ghetto in the Volhynia district. In Baranowicze, in the Nowogródek
district, Jewish doctors were permitted to continue living outside the ghetto in its
first few months, as were Jewish women who had married gentiles before the war
and converted to Christianity, several people with needed occupations, and other
privileged persons. In some cases, this benefited the ghetto inhabitants as well:
for instance, the 200 or so Jews who were permitted to live outside the Słonim
ghetto for a few months—doctors, other professionals and skilled workers and a
few Jewish families in whose homes German army officers were quartered—tried
to help the ghetto inhabitants obtain food by trading with farmers.
In the end, the fate of the professionals and the other privileged persons was
no different from that of the rest of the ghetto inhabitants: by the end of 1941,
almost all the ghettos in the Nowogródek, Polesye, and Volhynia districts were
liquidated in shooting massacres held in the vicinity, sometimes after their in-
habitants had been moved to temporary transit camps. There was almost no or-
ganized, orderly deportation of Jews from these areas to the death camps. Only
a few of the ghettos continued to exist in some form until 1943. For instance, in
Wołożyn, in the Nowogródek district, most of the ghetto inhabitants were killed
in the summer of 1942, but people with required occupations and their families
remained there until August 1943. The Nowogródek ghetto essentially became a
labor camp in early 1943 and operated as such for a few months until its prison-
ers escaped in September 1943. In Włodzimierz Wołyński (Ludmir), a restored
ghetto was established, and a few hundred Jews survived in it until 1943.
Another interesting characteristic of the ghettos in these peripheral parts
of eastern Poland had to do with patterns of leadership and uprising. Despite
the Sovietization of these regions between September 1939 and June 1941,
some of the old Jewish leadership infrastructure remained. Owing to the activity
of this leadership there were underground groups and even uprisings in many
of the ghettos in these regions. The existence of such activities could also be
credited to the murderous violence of the Germans at the start of the occupa-
tion, which prevented the birth of any illusions about their intentions; the fact
that the ghettos here lasted a relatively long time (compared with Lithuania, for
instance); and the existence of dense forests in the vicinity, which were conve-


nient bases for underground activity. The Brześ ć on the Bug ghetto in the Pole-
sye district had two underground groups: one composed of Jewish high-school
students, including Zionists, and the other based on Communist Jews and having
active ties with the Soviet underground. In the Kleck ghetto in the Nowogródek
district, members of the underground, in cooperation with the Judenrat, set fire
to their homes during the operation to liquidate the ghetto in the summer of
1942, enabling hundreds of Jews to escape to the nearby forests. In the Lida
and Nowogródek ghettos, the Jewish underground had active ties with partisans
(especially Jewish ones) who operated in the region and eventually managed to
arrange for several hundred Jews to escape to the forests.

Eastern Galicia: the Lwów, Tarnopol, and Stanisławów Districts

South of the Nowogródek, Polesye, and Volhynia districts, in a region that until
1939 had been part of the Lwów, Tarnopol, and Stanisławów districts of Po-
land, ghettoization proceeded differently. As soon as the Germans took over,
large-scale pogroms took place in some towns, including Lwów and Tarnopol.
In August 1941, after this first wave of murders, the region was annexed to the
General Gouvernement and became its fifth district: Galicia. From then on, the
Nazi policy in this new district was a combination of patterns seen in other parts
of eastern Poland and the policy in effect in the other western districts of the
General Gouvernement. Of the sixty or so ghettos in the region, only a few were
established as early as 1941—mainly the largest ones. The first ghetto in the
Galicia district was created in Tarnopol in September 1941. In a few places, the
confinement of the Jews in the ghetto was preceded by shooting massacres,
particularly in Stanisławów, where more than 10,000 Jews were shot to death
even before the ghetto was established. The largest ghetto in the region was
in Lwów, where some 110,000 Jews were confined by December 1941, after a
large operation in which the Germans murdered thousands of Jews.
Most of the ghettos in the Galicia district were set up in 1942. Unlike in the
western districts of the General Gouvernement, where the ghettos were estab-
lished long before deportations to the death camps began and therefore existed
for a fairly long time, in most of the ghettos in the Galicia district the deporta-
tion of the Jews to the Bełżec death camp began shortly after the ghettos were
established and in some cases even before. Thus the creation of these ghettos
took place concurrently with implementation of the Final Solution, although the
ghettos’ establishment was not necessarily part of that general plan. For in-
stance, the Kołomyja ghetto was established in late March 1942, and the first
deportation of Jews from it to Bełżec took place at the beginning of April. The
mass deportation of the Jews in the district to Bełżec was in the early summer of
1942, and some additional ghettos were set up while it was in progress. In an-
other example, the Borysław ghetto was established in the late summer of 1942
after the deportation of several thousand Jews from this city to Bełżec. In Buc-
zacz, in the Tarnopol district, the ghetto was established only in December 1942,
after about half of the local Jews had been deported to Bełżec or murdered.
By December 1942 (when the Bełżec death camp ceased to operate), the
Germans had liquidated most of the ghettos in the Galicia district, thus partially
carrying out Himmler’s instructions to complete the murder of all the Jews in the
General Gouvernement by the end of 1942. The last twenty or so ghettos remain-
ing in the district after the end of 1942 became Arbeitsgettos (work ghettos)
in 1943. These included some—such as Lwów and Tarnopol—that the Germans
referred to as labor camps for Jews (Judenlager, known as Julag for short); they


were put under the direct command of a German staff, and the Jewish leadership
was abolished. All the ghettos in the district were liquidated by the summer of
1943. Some of their inhabitants were shot to death in murder operations, others
were deported to the Sobibór death camp, and a minority were transferred to
labor camps in the region.

THE USSR (1939 BORDERS) East of these regions, different initial conditions led to var ying patterns of
establishment and operation of ghettos. Within the 1939 borders of the Soviet
republics of Belarus and Ukraine, and on the western fringes of the Russian
republic, the Jews’ lives had been influenced by modernization and Sovietiza-
tion in the 1920s and 1930s. The abolition of the Pale of Settlement in 1917
and the permission granted to the Jews to move to the more developed cities
farther in the interior triggered the eastward migration of more than half a mil-
lion Jews the 1920s and 1930s. These highly motivated, mostly young people
moved to locations beyond the regions that were subsequently occupied by
the Germans. The Jews remaining in those regions, many of whom were more
traditional, also under went accelerated urbanization and Russian accultura-
tion under Soviet rule, and many of them even succeeded in climbing the social
ladder under the new regime. In the space of a few years, Sovietization led to
the elimination of the traditional Jewish community structure and of modern
Jewish political parties and organizations, except for those that operated un-
der the auspices of the regime. There was a fundamental difference in the pat-
terns of Jewish leadership between the ghettos in these areas and the western
ones. In eastern Poland and Lithuania, traces of the ramified Jewish-national
political and community structure had managed to sur vive the interim period
of Soviet rule and ser ved as a foundation for the Judenräte in many ghettos. In
the ghettos in the USSR, in contrast, no leadership with a similar profile could
Two other basic characteristics that distinguished the Soviet interior from
the other regions in which ghettos were established (including the areas farther
to the west that had come under Soviet rule in 1939 and 1940) were the number
of people who escaped and, especially, the evacuation of much of the Jewish
population to the east. In the weeks or even months between the start of Op-
eration Barbarossa in June 1941 and the occupation of these areas, many Jews
were conscripted into the Red Army, and large-scale evacuations took place,
especially in the big cities and towns near the railroads. Naturally, the later the
German occupation started, the more of an opportunity individuals and groups
of Jews had to flee of their own initiative or to join state-run evacuations. All in
all, of an estimated Jewish population of slightly more than two million in these
regions on the eve of World War II (in the 1939 borders), about a million reached
the Soviet rear and were mostly saved.
There are several reasons why our information about ghettos in the USSR, and
especially about the internal lives of the Jews in them, is fairly sparse. The Final
Solution in these regions sometimes began immediately upon occupation, and
most of the ghettos existed for a relatively short period of time, preventing the
development of frameworks for internal Jewish life. The two decades of Communist
rule that preceded the Holocaust had already destroyed the traditional framework
of Jewish life, which had served as a foundation for religious, cultural, and public
life in the ghettos farther to the west. In addition, the paucity of documentation on
the ghettos in the USSR is also due to that fact that after the liberation, the Soviet


authorities focused not on the life under the Nazi occupation but on gathering in-
formation on the murders of Soviet citizens, regardless of their nationality.

More than seventy ghettos were established in occupied Belarus, which was
divided between three German occupation zones: Reichskommissariat Ostland,
Reichskommissariat Ukraine, and army-ruled territories. The Germans created
most of these ghettos by the end of 1941; the only exceptions were six ghet-
tos established in the winter or spring of 1942. Some of these ghettos were in
Belarussian regions, which were under the civil administration, but throughout
the occupation, many of them (mostly in the eastern parts of the republic) were
in areas governed by the German army. The Minsk ghetto, the largest in Belarus,
which held approximately 80,000 Jews at its peak (its inhabitants included resi-
dents of the city, the vicinity, and areas farther to the west), was established as
early as July 1941, when the region was under German military administration.
Almost all the ghettos in Belarus had a single compound, but in a few places,
such as Slutsk, in the Minsk district, and Shklov, in the Mogilev district, the lo-
cal Jews were divided among an urban ghetto and another ghetto outside the
town. In Minsk, there was a particularly conspicuous distinction between the
general ghetto and a separate area within the ghetto, where Jews were brought
from the German Reich beginning in November 1941. This “ghetto of the Reich
Jews” had a Judenrat of its own.
In most places in Belarus the creation of ghettos was not preceded by large
pogroms by the locals against the Jews, or even by mass murder operations perpe-
trated by the Germans. Nevertheless, there were more than ten cases of murder-
ous operations before the Jews were confined to the ghettos, including the slaugh-
ter of 2,000–3,000 members of the Jewish intelligentsia in Minsk as early as July
1941. In a few places, including Petrikov in the Mogilev district and Pleshchenitsy
in the Minsk district, only the few who survived such murder operations (chiefly
skilled workers) were forced into the ghetto after the murder of most of the Jews
in town. Eventually, the Jews in almost all the Belarussian ghettos were shot to
death in murder operations near the ghetto, usually in a single murder operation
perpetrated by the Germans, with the help of local Belarussian policemen and aux-
iliary forces (including Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Finns). Most of the
ghettos in Belarus were liquidated relatively early, between the autumn of 1941
and the spring of 1942, and almost all the survivors were killed by the end of the
summer of 1942. The last ghetto remaining in this region was that of Minsk, most
of whose inhabitants were murdered in operations between the autumn of 1941
and the summer of 1942—most by gunfire and some in gas vans at the Maly Tros-
tenets murder site. Nevertheless, thousands of Jews still lived there until October
1943, thanks to a well-organized labor system in which Jewish skilled workers
were employed by the German armaments and railroad industries.

As of September 1, 1941, the Soviet republic of Ukraine, which was mostly occu-
pied by the Germans (Romanian-controlled Transnistria will be discussed below),
was divided into the civilian-ruled Reichskommissariat Ukraine in the west and
the Army-ruled territories in the east. More than 80 ghettos were established in
these German occupied areas, generally in the first few months of the occupa-
tion. Unlike in most of the ghettos in Belarus, there were numerous pogroms and
murder operations in these areas even before the ghettos were established (e.g.,


in the district capital Zhitomir and in Uman, in the Kiev district). In a few smaller
places, including Komsomolskoye in the Vinnitsa district and Novograd-Volynskiy
(Zviahel) in the Zhitomir district, ghettos were created only after most of the
Jews had been murdered. Another difference between the ghettos in Ukraine and
those in Belarus was that in Ukraine there were many more intermediate murder
operations before the final one that brought about the liquidation of the ghetto.
At least in some cases, this was because the Ukrainian ghettos were in more
heavily populated regions. Usually some of the ghetto inhabitants were shot
to death in murder operations; sometimes they were killed in other ways, such
as imprisonment in phosphorus or coal mines in the vicinity. In the summer of
1941, thousands of local Jews (apparently more than 10,000) were forced into
the ghetto in the district capital Kamenets-Podolsk, where they were joined by
11,000 Jewish deportees from Hungary. Although this ghetto continued to exist
until late 1942, most of these Jews were murdered by the Germans, with the aid
of local Hungarian and Ukrainian units, in a huge murder operation in late Au-
gust 1941. Another large ghetto in this region, with 12,000–15,000 inhabitants,
was in the district capital Kharkov; it was liquidated as early as January 1942.
In several places in Ukraine, labor camps were established alongside ghettos,
or sometimes after their liquidation; these camps held Jewish skilled workers
and sometimes their families. In Berdichev in the Zhitomir district, for instance,
most of the ghetto inhabitants were murdered in November 1941, but about 300
skilled workers lived there for another few months until they were transferred
on March 1, 1942, to a labor camp outside the city. In Nemirov, in the Vinnitsa
district, most of the ghetto inhabitants were murdered by June 1942; afterwards
the Germans put 250 able-bodied young people in a labor camp in the local syna-
gogue. This camp existed until May 1943, when the prisoners were murdered.

Approximately thirty ghettos were established east of Ukraine and Belarus, on
the western fringes of the Russian Soviet republic (an area under Wehrmacht
military rule), including Crimea and Caucasus. The fact that these regions in the
USSR were occupied by the Nazis relatively late and were the first to be liber-
ated affected the fate of the Jews there. Naturally, a particularly large number of
Jews from these regions escaped or were evacuated to the east; in fact, the vast
majority were no longer there by the time the Germans entered. For instance, at
least 12,000 of the 15,000 Jews of the district capital Smolensk were evacu-
ated by the Soviets or escaped before the German occupation. Those remain-
ing in these regions included a particularly high percentage of more vulnerable
population groups who had been unable to get away from the town, such as
children, the elderly, and disabled persons who had not been conscripted into
the Red Army.
Most of the ghettos in Russia were established in the summer or autumn of
1941. About a half of these ghettos were not located in historically Jewish neigh-
borhoods because they were outside the Pale of Settlement where most Russian
Jews had lived in the Czarist era. The inhabitants of the Russian ghettos were
employed at forced labor of various sorts related to the war efforts (cleaning, re-
pairing railroads, clearing rubble, and sometimes even clearing away unexploded
shells); no economic infrastructure of any great significance managed to emerge
there. In some ghettos living conditions were particularly harsh.
Due to the relative proximity of the front, military developments had a direct
impact on the fate of the ghetto inhabitants in Russia. Most people in the Kaluga
ghetto in the Tula district, established by the Germans in November 1941, were


liberated as early as December 30, 1941, thanks to the first winter attack by
the Red Army. The more than 1,500 inhabitants of the Velizh ghetto in the Smo-
lensk district were murdered by the Germans in January 1942 as the Red Army
approached. The Germans tried to do the same in the smaller ghettos of Usvyaty
and Ilyino, as well as in the Smolensk district, but the rapid liberation of these
towns by the Red Army in late January 1942 averted a massacre. The proximity
of the front to the Petrovichi ghetto, also in the Smolensk district, enabled an
underground group of about thirty young people to escape just before the ghetto
was liquidated in June 1942 and to join the Soviet troops. Most of the ghettos in
Russia were liquidated by the Germans after just a few months (sometimes with
the help of Russian police forces); the Jews there were shot to death. Almost all
the Russian ghettos were liquidated by the summer of 1942. The last of them,
the small ghetto of Dmitriyev Lgovskiy in the Kursk district, lasted until March
1943, when the Germans murdered most of its Jewish inhabitants, who had tried
to escape toward the approaching Soviet forces.
In the southern border regions of the German occupation zone in Russia, the
Crimean peninsula and the Caucasus, five ghettos were established. Four lasted
only about a month; only one of them—the Mikoyanshakhar ghetto in the Stav-
ropol area—survived for four months. Many of the Jews in these ghettos were
evacuees whom the Soviets had moved there before the occupation from areas
farther to the west. The Crimea and the Caucasus were unique in that the Nazis
were not sure whether certain population groups there were Jewish, such as the
Karaites and Krymchak in Crimea and the Mountain Jews in the Caucasus; some
of them survived as a result. In practice (not necessarily due to deliberate Ger-
man policy), only Ashkenazi Jews were confined to the ghettos.

ROMANIA AND THE The identification of ghettos was most problematic in the regions under Ro-
ROMANIAN OCCUPATION manian rule in World War II—both in Romania proper and in Transnistria (the
ZONE (TRANSNISTRIA) Romanian-occupied area of the USSR). This was due to both the complex, unique
nature of the ghettoization process in these regions and to the absence of any
comprehensive, detailed research on the subject. As a result, the set of encyclo-
pedia entries on ghettos in the Romanian-controlled areas during the Holocaust
is far from complete.
On the eve of the Holocaust, Romanian Jewry was divided into four histori-
cal sectors, each with a different heritage and different linguistic and cultural
patterns. Some of the 265,000 Jews from the Old Kingdom (the Regat), who
had lived under Romanian rule for decades before World War I, had undergone
Romanian acculturation, especially those in the capital, Bucharest. A significant
segment, however, had remained traditional and spoke Yiddish. Bukovina, which
had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the war, was home to more
than 90,000 Jews; some of them were German-speaking and modernized, while
others were Yiddish-speaking, traditional Jews. More than 200,000 Jews lived in
Bessarabia, a particularly backward area that until World War I had been under
the rule of Czarist Russia. Most of these were traditional Eastern European Jews;
only a minority had undergone Russian acculturation. Most of the 41,000 Jews
in southern Transylvania were modernized Hungarian- or German-speakers, but
there was also a traditional segment of the population that spoke Yiddish.
In June 1940, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina were transferred from Roma-
nian rule to the USSR under an agreement between the Germans and the Soviets,
but they were reoccupied by Germany and Romania in late June 1941. At that


time the total Jewish population of these regions was approximately 230,000.
Tens of thousands of Jews were murdered there in pogroms in July and August
1941, mainly by the army and the Romanian gendarmerie, with the participation
of local residents. Concurrently, the Romanians started forcing some of the Jews
into ghettos. The ghetto inhabitants fell victim to numerous acts of robbery and
rape by Romanians. Fewer than ten entries in the encyclopedia concern ghettos
from these regions; most of them existed for a relatively short time, until their in-
habitants were deported to Transnistria, east of the Dniester River, in the autumn
of 1941. The two largest ghettos in the region were in Czernowitz (Cernăuţi) in
Bukovina and Chis˛inâu (Kishinev) in Bessarabia. The ghettoization process in Czer-
nowitz gives a good sense of the uniqueness of this region: more than 50,000 Jews
were incarcerated in a fenced-in ghetto in October 1941. Close to 30,000 of them
were deported to Transnistria by the end of 1941, and a few thousand more in the
first months of 1942. Later, in late 1943, the Romanian authorities lifted some
of the restrictions on the Jews’ movements. Some 15,000 Jews continued living
there until they were liberated by the Soviets in February 1944. It is estimated
that there were ten or even twenty additional places in Bessarabia and northern
Bukovina where the Jews were confined under ghetto conditions, but due to the
absence of research on the subject they are not included in the encyclopedia.
In 1940, Romania was forced to transfer northern Transylvania to Hungary,
after having held it since the end of World War I; southern Transylvania—home to
41,000 Jews, as stated—remained under Romanian rule. In various places in this
region, significant numbers of Jews who had been expelled from their towns and
villages were kept in an impromptu manner for weeks or months. To the best of our
understanding, their living conditions do not unequivocally fit into the encyclope-
dia’s broad definition of a ghetto; some of them functioned as quasi-labor camps.
For this reason, as well as due to the absence of reliable research information, we
have not included localities in southern Transylvania in the encyclopedia.
A similar problem exists with respect to the Romanian interior (the Regat).
Jews were deported from dozens of cities and towns to improvised concentration
sites, where they stayed for weeks or months, after which some of them were
permitted to return to their towns and others were transferred to other towns.
The conditions of internment of these Jews, most of whom were eventually per-
mitted to return home (except for those from the Dorohoi district), did not neces-
sarily qualify as ghetto conditions as we defined them in the encyclopedia.
The most complex Romanian-controlled area in terms of the confinement of
Jews in ghettos was Transnistria, a region in Ukraine between the Dniester and Bug
rivers that had come under Romanian rule. The appendix to the encyclopedia con-
tains a list of more than 180 places mentioned in documentation by the Romanian
gendarmerie as ghettos or camps in Transnistria. The distinction between ghettos
and camps, which was useful in the areas under German occupation, was found to
be much less useful in the Romanian-controlled areas, both because of conditions
there and because of inconsistent use of these terms in Romanian documents.
In some places referred to by the Romanians as ghettos, the Jews did not live in
a manner consistent with our definition of a ghetto. For instance, in a significant
number of towns, although the Jews were confined to villages and small towns and
not permitted to leave them, they could move about freely within those towns, and
there was no forced segregation between them and the non-Jewish residents. We
have therefore not given most of the places on the list entries in the encyclopedia;
only about forty entries relating to this region are included. These ghettos were
unique in terms of their population: they included both local Ukrainian Jews who


had survived the initial wave of slaughter by Einsatzgruppe C and Jews who had
been deported from Romania (mainly Bessarabia and northern Bukovina). The de-
portees were a majority and were dominant due to their organizational ability and
their ties with the Romanian authorities. The inhabitants of these ghettos, espe-
cially the deportees, received aid packages of food and medicine from Jewish orga-
nizations in Romania beginning in late 1942. At the forefront of this activity was the
Autonomous Aid Committee, a Jewish organization in Bucharest that later helped
establish soup kitchens and made sure that orphans in Transnistria were cared for.
Living conditions in some of these ghettos enabled their residents to maintain orga-
nized religious life and underground activity, at least during part of that period.
In most of the ghettos in Transnistria, except in the areas that also had an
active German presence at some point, the Final Solution was not implemented
through mass murder. Nevertheless, huge numbers of Jews died there of epidem-
ics, starvation, and harsh living conditions. The largest ghetto in Transnistria
was in Bershad, in the Vinnitsa district of Ukraine, which at its peak held some
25,000 Jews, most of them deportees. Only 7,000 of them were still alive when
the region was liberated by the Soviets. The Dzhurin ghetto, also in the Vinnitsa
district, had a particularly high survival rate: it is estimated that of the 4,000
Jews who lived there, 500 perished, while the rest survived until liberation. In
many places the death rate was much higher. Transnistria included the city of
Odessa (which was made the regional capital), where close to 200,000 Jews
had lived just before the war. Most of them managed to escape or be evacuated
before the German-Romanian occupation in October 1941, but some 25,000 of
the Jews who remained were confined to the ghetto by the Romanians in ex-
tremely harsh conditions; ultimately, most of them were deported and perished.

HUNGARY The Germans took over Hungary in the spring of 1944, at a late stage in the
implementation of the Final Solution. A special team headed by Adolf Eichmann
had previously been formed to arrange for the quick, efficient deportation of all
of the Jews of Hungary to Auschwitz.
Hungary, which had undergone major territorial changes in the years preced-
ing the Holocaust, was unique in regards to the nature of its Jewish population
and the profile of its ghettos—the timing, the regime, and the process that took
place from the German takeover to ghettoization and extermination. More than
400,000 Jews lived in Hungary in 1938; the vast majority were integrated in the
state and in Hungarian culture, spoke the Hungarian language, and regarded
themselves as Hungarians of the Jewish faith. The internal division of Hungar-
ian Jewry was organized not along political-party lines as in Poland, but along
religious lines. Jewish communities in Hungary were divided into three religious
groups—Neologist (liberal), Orthodox, and a middle group known as Status Quo
Ante—but despite their religious differences, they all took for granted the inte-
gration of the Jews in the Hungarian state. This ideology, which influenced the
reactions of the Hungarian Jews to ghettoization and deportation, was less evi-
dent among the 325,000 other Jews who had come under Hungarian rule a few
years before the German occupation: the Jews of the Felvidék and Carpatho-Rus
(Carpathian Ruthenia) who had been under Czechoslovakian rule until March
1939; the Jews of northern Transylvania, who had been under Romanian rule un-
til August 1940; and the Jews of the Délvidék, who had been under Yugoslavian
rule until April 1941. In those regions, which had been severed from historical
Hungary after World War I, politicization of the Jews had begun between the
world wars, and Jewish political parties were active there.


Unlike Poland, the Baltic states, and the German-occupied parts of the USSR,
where German occupation put an end to the previous regime, Hungary retained
its state institutions. Although several key officials were replaced, from the level
of cabinet and ministers to the level of local government and security forces
(especially the Hungarian police and gendarmerie), Hungary’s institutional bod-
ies remained intact, even after Germany occupied the country on March 19,
1944. Beginning in April 1944, these institutions, in full coordination with the
Germans, forced the Jews of Hungary into ghettos in more than 180 towns and
afterwards oversaw their deportation from Hungary.
From the very first days of the occupation, the Germans took steps to es-
tablish a central Jewish council to which all Jewish communities in Hungary
would be subordinate. Afterwards, once full cooperation had been achieved with
the Hungarian authorities in planning and carrying out the deportation (April 4,
1944), forcing the Jews into ghettos became an important interim stage in the
plan. In April, the Hungarian government promulgated a series of orders to move
the Jews into entrainment centers in ghettos. On April 7, 1944, the first such
order was sent secretly to mayors, police commanders, and the security forces.
Concurrently, the German authorities ordered the central Jewish Council to take
a census of all Jewish communities, probably in order to assess their assets and
to facilitate the deportation of the Jews. The census, taken in the second week
of April 1944 and containing detailed data about 740 Jewish communities in
Hungary right before the commencement of the deportations, is an invaluable
historical source.
On April 28, after the creation of ghettos had actually begun (in the middle
of the month) in Carpatho-Rus and northeastern Hungary, an order was issued
formalizing the matter. Ghettoization in Hungary proceeded methodically and
quickly for the most part: procedures were instituted that required the Jews to
report their property (especially their homes) before moving into the ghetto, and
in most ghettos Jewish councils were formed.
After the promulgation of the order of April 28, every Hungarian county dis-
cussed and decided where to establish ghettos and set a timetable for mov-
ing the Jews into them. Ghettos were established in towns with a total popula-
tion of more than 10,000, and Jews from smaller towns were moved there. The
population of the ghettos consisted mainly of women, children, and the elderly,
since most of the men had been conscripted into forced labor in 1941. The town
leadership was charged with providing the ghetto inhabitants with food, using
confiscated Jewish property to pay for it. The entire process was conducted by
the Hungarian regime and security forces, while the Jewish councils and Jewish
community leaders handled things from the side of the Jewish population. The
Germans served only as advisors.
The placement of the ghettos within the cities was very diverse—sometimes
in the center of town where there was already a large Jewish population, some-
times in poor neighborhoods that did not have a sewer system. Other ghettos
were located in disused factories or in open areas where living conditions were
much worse than in the cities. In the Munkács (Mukachevo) ghetto, the larg-
est in the Carpatho-Rus region, some 14,000 local Jews were confined to the
Jewish section of town, while 14,000 Jews from nearby localities were housed
in a brickyard. The two ghettos were placed under the same Jewish council. In
the Dés (Dej) ghetto in northern Transylvania, close to 8,000 Jews were kept in
extremely harsh conditions in a forest near the town, many of them under the
open sky.


Despite a centralized, uniform policy, there were substantial regional varia-

tions in ghettoization in Hungary, largely due to differing attitudes of governors
and mayors. In Szombathely, the seat of Vas County, the city authorities complied
with the countrywide instructions but refrained from excessive brutality toward
the Jews. During the ghetto period and in the move from the ghetto to the transit
camp, they acceded on several occasions (albeit only to a small extent) to the
Jews’ requests for food. In Nyíregyháza, the seat of Szabolcs County, in contrast,
the move into the ghettos occurred especially early (starting in mid-April 1944)
and was exceptionally brutal due to the active initiative of the city leaders. The
Jews in the city and its vicinity were packed into the ghetto in unbearably crowd-
ed conditions, violent searches were conducted of their property, and conditions
soon led to the outbreak of a typhus epidemic. In the city of Hódmezővásárhely,
in Csongrád county, municipal officials, headed by the deputy mayor, took the op-
posite approach: they adopted a policy of systematic red tape in complying with
the instructions from the Interior Ministry, thus preventing the Jews there from
being confined to a sealed ghetto. As a result, the Jews lived for a while in resi-
dential homes in what amounted to an open ghetto, although unfortunately they
were eventually deported. The Fejér county governor decided not to let Chris-
tians be moved out of their homes for the purpose of ghettoization. He therefore
ordered the Jews in the county, including those in the town of Székesfehérvár, to
live in certain buildings that had previously housed a fairly large number of Jews;
these buildings were marked with a Star of David and a nighttime curfew was
imposed on the residents.
In most parts of Hungary the Jews lived in ghettos for an average of a month
to six weeks. The deportation from the ghettos to transit camps (generally es-
tablished in abandoned industrial zones near railroads) was almost always pre-
ceded by brutal searches by the Hungarian security forces for property that the
Jews were trying to take with them. After a few days of living under inhuman
conditions in the transit camps, the vast majority of the Jews were deported to
Auschwitz, where they were almost all murdered. Only a few thousand were sent
to labor camps, where the chances of survival were greater.
In Budapest, which had the largest and longest-lasting ghetto in all of Hun-
gary, ghettoization followed unique patterns due both to the size of the city’s
Jewish population and to the fact that Budapest was slated to be the last stage
in the deportation plan. When the regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy, decided
in July 1944 to stop the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, the
residents of this city were spared the fate of the deportees, although many of
them were subsequently murdered under other circumstances. Ghettoization
in Budapest started on June 16, 1944, when all residential buildings in the
city in which more than half of the residents were Jews were marked with a
Star of David; the non-Jewish residents were evicted, and all the other Jews
in city were forced to move in. The cancellation of the planned deportation
from these buildings to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944 led to confinement
of the Jews in ghettos toward the end of the year. On November 12, Jews with
foreign passports or letters of protection from foreign embassies moved into
the “international ghetto” (also known as the “small ghetto”); at the beginning
of December the other Jews in the city were forced into the “large ghetto” in
the Jewish section of Pest. Most of the inhabitants of the two ghettos—some
100,000 Jews in all—were liberated by the Soviets on January 18, 1945. The
Budapest ghetto was the last remaining ghetto in occupied Europe, except for


OTHER GHETTOS Two major ghettos outside the regions surveyed here were the Salonika ghetto
in Greece and Theresienstadt in the Protectorate. Each of them was unique in its
region and among the ghettos in general.

An ancient Jewish community that had been home to a large majority (75 per-
cent) of Greek Jewry even before the occupation, Salonika was the only Greek
city in which the Germans imposed a ghettoization policy. The Germans occupied
it in April 1941, but not until February 1943 were the 50,000 Jews remaining
there forced into three ghettos. This was a preliminary step before their deporta-
tion to Auschwitz between March and August 1943. Here too, as in Hungary a
year later, the ghetto was planned from the start as a preliminary step on the
way to deportation and death.

Theresienstadt, which housed close to 59,000 Jews at its peak, was where
Czech Jewry (the Jews from the area that became the Protectorate of Bohemia
and Moravia when the Nazis occupied it in March 1939) and other Jews from
the German Reich were held.3 Established by the Germans as a sort of transit
camp in late 1941 when they started expanding implementation of the Final
Solution, this ghetto was unique in other respects as well: it was located in the
fortified city of Terezin, where previously there had been no Jewish community
(although a few Jewish families had lived there), it covered the entire town, and
it had certain features of a concentration camp, especially separation of the
sexes. The other, better-known aspect that made Theresienstadt unique was
the fact that the Nazis sent German Jews and prominent persons (mainly from
western Europe) there, including former statesmen, world-renowned scientists,
Jews who had provided “special services to the Reich,” and individuals under the
protection of high-ranking Nazi officials. Theresienstadt is even more famous for
having been portrayed by the Nazis as a “model ghetto” for propaganda purposes
beginning in 1943; this function reached its peak during a visit by the Red Cross
in June 1944. It was the last ghetto to survive, until it was liberated by the Red
Army on May 8, 1945.

Because our criteria for inclusion of ghettos in the encyclopedia were concerned
not with what places were called but what they were actually like, we decided
not to have an entry for Amsterdam. Although signs were posted in Amsterdam in
February 1941 declaring the old Jewish part of town the “Jewish Quarter” (Juden-
viertel), i.e., a ghetto, and German documents from the weeks preceding that date
discuss the idea of establishing a full-fledged ghetto in the city, the area was never
fenced in, most of the Jews in the city never lived there, and most of the population
of the area remained non-Jewish; some people have therefore called it an “optical
ghetto.” In the absence of any of the distinctive characteristics of a ghetto as
found elsewhere in Europe, we decided not to include an entry on the subject.

Jewish Houses in Germany

A major question that came up was whether the encyclopedia should include
the Judenhäuser (Jewish houses) in Germany, where Jews were required to live

3 No ghettos were established in Slovakia, which became a satellite state of Nazi Germany.


beginning in the late 1930s. Because the Judenhäuser were sites of forced geo-
graphical concentration of Jews in German cities, they would ostensibly satisfy
our criteria. However, some cities had several Judenhäuser, making it difficult to
define them as ghettos—either in terms of German policy or in terms of their pat-
terns of internal organization. Furthermore, confining the Jews of Germany and
Austria to Judenhäuser was part of German domestic policy, an extreme stage
in the social and economic segregation of German Jewry from German society
that started in 1933, and in Austria in 1938. In this respect the Judenhäuser
differed from the ghettos, which were established and run as part of the German
occupation policy. Moreover, there was hardly any intra-Jewish organizational in-
frastructure in the Judenhäuser as there was in many of the ghettos. With these
considerations in mind, we made an editorial decision to omit the Judenhäuser
in Germany and Austria from the encyclopedia, and to leave systematic research
and the gathering of information on the subject for a future project. A brief intro-
ductory article on the subject is included in the Appendix.


A major part of the information included in the encyclopedia is taken from Yad
Vashem’s Hebrew multi-volume Encyclopedia of the Jewish Communities. The
heavy reliance of the Encyclopedia of the Jewish Communities on survivors’ tes-
timonies, as well as our use of additional testimonies from Yad Vashem archives,
may create methodological problems. We have tried, therefore, to refine and
update the information as much as it was possible, mostly by turning to recent
research literature. Still, the readers should be aware of the fact that not all
the details could be double-checked in this form. Both the growing number of
scholars working in the field and the constant influx of survivors’ testimony and
historical documentation, including newly accessible archival material, may add
more new and sometimes more accurate information in the near future. We hope
scholars and other interested readers find this encyclopedia a useful reference
book and source of up-to-date information and that it will contribute to a system-
atic picture of the ghettos, as further research is conducted at Yad Vashem and
around the world.