A Polish Academic Information Center Exhibit         
Warsaw: Life and Death in the Ghetto which the Germans established there during WWII

July 22, 1942. The Nazis decree and immediately implement a massive resettlement program. 60,000 are to be relocated to the East. 10,000 persons are transported daily. People are asked to volunteer, but failing to do so they are rounded up and entrained forcibly, entrained in cattle cars, with enough room only for standing upright. Whole blocks are rounded up by the Jewish ghetto police under German orders. Then, all who have no employment are deemed to be living in the ghetto illegally and subject to deportation. At one point, all who volunteer for resettlement, that is all who came to the entrainment point, the Umschlagplatz, are promised six pounds of bread and two pounds of jam. For some who are in the throes of severe starvation, the smell of freshly baked bread but a few yards down the street proves irresistible. At a later time, the Germans give the Jewish Judenrat or Jewish council, 40,000 cards, each with a number and a rubber stamp, for appropriate distribution. Those deemed in some way important enough receive a number to wear on their left breast, the others become again subject to deportation. Cyanide pills become a treasured possession.

Throughout, the Nazis work at making the "resettlement" seem real. Thus, those who are ill, or in some way crippled are not entrained, but instead are carried back from the Umschlagplatz to their homes, for "healthy workers are needed." Also, the Nazis prevail on some Jews working in the ghetto under their command to write pretend letters from those supposedly resettled, and these are circulated in the ghetto to add verisimilitude to the resettlement fiction. In fact, the transports all go to Treblinka where, under the pretense of having to take a showers during a break in the journey, the transportees are crowded into gas chambers and exterminated. It is only a few days before the first reports of the true fate of the transports make their way back to the ghetto. So unprecedented, so incredible is the inhumanity of it all that the majority of ghetto inhabitants refuse for a while to believe it or to consider it seriously.


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