Germany invaded Poland on the 1 September 1939. On the 3 of September Britain and then France, declared war on Germany. German aggression had been expected, Czechoslovakia had already been sacrificed, now was deemed the time to fight.

An Anglo-Polish mutual assistance agreement, was in existence and "guaranteed" the independence of Poland. Yet this agreement was of no military value to Poland and in the face of the German onslaught assumed minor importance.

The Mololov - Ribbentrop Pact, signed in Moscow on the 23 August 1939, had sealed the fate of Poland. In eight days the Germans advanced on Warsaw. Field Marshall Goering Predicted, "The Polish Army will never emerge again from the German embrace.".

Polish resistance was determined but faced with the new "Blitzkrieg" or "Lightning war" was soon demoralised.

Germany decided to conquer from the air and with the use of artillery. The Polish government retreated. On the 27 September Warsaw, the capital city of Poland capitulated. Nearly 50,000 of its citizens were wounded or killed, over 25 percent of the city’s’ buildings were destroyed.

Two days after the city had fallen, the Germans still did not enter. The reason for this was, the city was at the centre of a diplomatic row over the division of Poland.

Stalin did not want Warsaw, and divided Poland so as two million Jews would fall into Nazi hands.

In the conditions of the surrender of Warsaw the German Wehrmacht, General von Blaskowitz, promised that no harm would come to the Jews. Then as the Germans entered, the rumours of whole scale slaughter began. Rabbis being burnt alive, the village of Pilica had all its Jewish male inhabitants rounded up and murdered. This general repression was entitled the "Schrecklichkeit" meaning "frightfulness".

When the Germans entered Warsaw, the initial contact with the population was one were the Germans provided soup kitchens and food to all non Jews, the Polish citizens were actively encouraged to "expose" Jews.

As the occupation force consolidated its position anti-Semitic became more systematic. The kidnapping of Jews for forced labour, Jewish property confiscated and an increase in intimidation.

Clearly the conflict between the regular army the "Wehrmacht" and the SS for control of German policy in Poland led to contradictory policies. On the 25 November 1939 Hitler abolished the military government and created two distinctive political administrative frameworks. The first in the West and North was annexed to the German Reich. The second, central Poland was proclaimed the "Generalgovernment". The Generalgovernment was further divided into four districts, Cracow, Radom, Warsaw and Lablin.

Dr. Hans Frank, a prominent Nazi, was appointed governor and Cracow was chosen as the capital city. The Generalgovernment included 36,600 square miles, with 11,836,510 people including 1,457,376 Jews.

Five days later, five "Special Operations Formations," or "Einsatzgrappen", with between 1,600 - 2,400 men, were set up under the control of Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. The Einsatzgrappen was set a task, "To abolish the harmful influence of those alien national groups in the population that constitute a danger to the Reich and the German nation."

It seems that on the 20 September 1939, Hitler devised the first stage of Nazi policy regarding the civilian population.

Reinhard Heydrich was given the task of "cleansing" the population. The Polish political leadership, those that were left were to be sent to concentration camps, the intelligentsia were to be imprisoned and the Jews were to be placed in ghettos ready for "re-education".

This marked a major development of the Nazi policy. They could now exploit the war conditions to their full advantage. Dr. Hans Franks first address to the Polish population of the Generalgovernment, on the 26 October 1939, stated; "Under the just regime, every man will be able to earn his living by his labours. But there is no place for agitators, profiteers, or Jewish parasites’ sites in the area that has been placed under German sovereignty.".

Hans Frank went on to say that; "The Poles will become the slaves of the greater German Reich.".

Frank’s first contact with the Jewish population of the Generalgovernment was the establishment of the "Judenrat" or "Jewish councils".

One of the first orders of the Nazis to the Warsaw, Judenrat, was to organise a census. This was conducted on the 28 October 1939. It was found that there were a minimum of 359,827 Jews in Warsaw.

The Nazis had decided that it would consciously deprive Jews of any source of Livelihood, confiscate all Jewish property and exclude Jews from the economy.

The Judenrat became responsible for Jewish "slave labour", under the assumption that this would stop the general harassment. The labour Battalion was set up in October 1939 and for October it averaged 381 Jews each day, in November 999 each day, in December 1,584 each day. This slave labour continued to rise until August 1940 when it reached its peak at 9,000 a day.

The Judenrat organised stewards to locate appropriate labour, these stewards were the seeds of the Jewish Police. In April of 1940 the labour office was set up, "Arbeitsant", this office stopped the shanghai of the stewards but introduced a systematic form of slave labour.

In August of 1940, young Jews were shipped off to distant labour camps, First to the Lubin area, 1,400 a day, the Jews were mostly volunteers, the most destitute first. The Judenrat organised as many Jews into the Labour camps as they could until no more would volunteer.

This initial period was horrific for the Jews of Warsaw. On the 23 November 1939, it was ordered that every Jew twelve years or older had to wear a white arm band with the blue star of David on their right arm, as of the 1 December 1939.

This further segregated Poles and Jews. Jewish shops were to sell goods only to Jews, Jews could not have any dealings with Poles, Jews faced a special curfew, Jewish movement was limited. Jews could not use trains, parks, some streets, even the mail service and telegrams.

The relationship between Jews and Poles in this period is not a simple matter. Yet it can be said that the Germans encouraged acts of "patriotism", that is anti-Semitism.

There were individual attacks on Jews but also organised mass attacks. In one case at Passover 1940, over 1,000 Polish youths took part in a "Pogrom" that lasted for four days. They were paid four zloties a day by the Nazis.

Still there were Poles that resisted, the scale of these attacks was larger than in pre war Poland, when the Polish Socialist Party organised with the Bund to defend Jews, but that did not stop the Bund and individual Polish socialists attacking these groups.

In this period it was uncertainty that governed the Jewish population. The hostility of the German conqueror was assured but in general this was put down to the "excesses" of individual soldiers. This period is now considered that of "little terror".

As each day went on, it was the basic question of survival that became increasingly important. The bitter cold of Winter became life threatening, coal was very expensive and the temperatures were as low as 13 degree’s Fahrenheit. Even basic food stuffs were in short supply, hunger and cold became bitter enemies.

It is in this period that increasingly the very act of existence becomes in and upon itself an act of resistance.

As Adam Czerniakow, the head of the Judenrat, until 1942, became increasingly concerned with the German demands for slave labour, it is the "Kehillah", the Jewish self-help group, a Judenrat associate organisation that becomes increasingly important.

If we contrast the Judenrat with the Jewish "Kehillah", self help, with its cross over of members, the two organisations are still viewed as distinct. The "one gave, one took" simplification, is easily understood.

Then as Emmanuel Ringelblum, wrote in his "The dilemma of Jewish self help" in May 1942: "Relief work doesn’t solve the problem; it only keeps people going a little while. The people have to die anyway. It lengthens suffering but cannot save them; if it [the Jewish Self Help] really wanted to do anything, it would have to have millions of zloty at its disposal every month, and it does not have them. It remains a proven fact that the people fed in the soup kitchens will all die if they eat nothing but the soup supplied and the dry rationed bread. The question thus arises whether it would not serve the purpose better to reserve the available money for selected individuals, for those who are socially productive, for the intellectual elite, etc. But the situation is such that, first of all, the numbers even of such select individuals is quite considerable, and there would not be sufficient even for them. Secondly, the question arises why should one pronounce judgement on artisans, labourers, and other useful persons, who were productive people back in their small towns, and only the ghetto and the war have turned them into non people, into scrap, into human dregs, candidates for mass Graves. There is left a tragic dilemma: What shall one do? Shall one [hand out the food] with little spoons to everybody, and then no one will live, or generous handfuls to just a few ...?"

As the official leadership of the Jews began to come to terms with the struggle for existence and reluctant co-operation. Hans Frank, defined the Jewish area of Warsaw as a, "Seuchensperrgebiet" or "Plague Infected Area".

This, the first step in the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto was made in March 1940. The creation of the Warsaw Ghetto was to take the Nazis fourteen months, from the end of September 1939 until mid November 1940.

The first attempt to create the Warsaw Ghetto was made on the 4 November 1939, seven days after the fall of Warsaw. This attempt was made by the SS and Gestapo, and gave the Jews three days to comply.

At this time the Judenrat was still anew organisation and had not yet been requested to take responsibility for "slave labour", etc. It had not yet compromised itself, Shmuel Zygielbojm, remembers that; "As a representative of the workers [in the Judenrat], I proposed that the community refused to obey the order ... this suggestion was supported by a few members of the council. But the majority felt that they could not adopt this cause, and some argued : What will happen if we ourselves do not carry out the order? Nazi soldiers will turn up at Jewish homes and evict the Jews from their apartments by force. What will they do to our women and children".

As it happens the Judenrat did not have to take stance on this issue. They made a direct appeal to General Von Neuman- Neurode and stated the "logistics" of the situation prevented the demand from being met. As it happens the General did not know about this demand and managed to have it revoked.

The conflict between the SS and Wehrmacht was the instrumental fact in the cancellation of this order. The ghetto was postponed for a year, the new date was set at November 1940.

In response to the "plague" of March 1940 the Judenrat was ordered to build a wall, this was on the 27 March 1940. The signs were to read, "Danger, Epidemic". Posters were spread all over the city saying, "Jew - Louse - Typhus".

In August 1940, came the announcement that the city was to be divided into three "districts", German, Polish, and Jewish.

The official order was received on the 2 October 1940, relocation was to begin immediately. The reaction of the Polish population was mixed, sections of the Polish underground did indeed oppose the ghetto on principle, other sections it seems were less resilient. An example of principled opposition can be seen in this appeal made in September of 1940. "The burden of all walls and subjugation forever falls on the working man regardless of nationality. How degradingly cynical is the fact that the walls of the ghetto are being raised by Polish and Jewish labourers deprived of other work are meant to become a barrier between them, as if different fates awaited them and their aims and purposes were not the same. That is a lie. The German oppression affects both of them alike".

The relocation date of the 31 October 1940 was extended to the 15 November 1940 due to the problems of mass resettlement and actual location of the ghetto.

It was eventually decided that although the ghetto would have to accommodate 30 percent of the population of Warsaw, plus those Jews sent to Warsaw from other parts of Poland and the Reich it would be located in only 2.4 percent of the city. Warsaw had 1,800 streets in the city and only 73 in the ghetto. The average number of people per room was 9.2 per room. The overall boundary was 11 miles long, the walls were 10 feet high with barbed wire and broken glass on the top, paid for by the Judenrat.

Yisreal Gutman states that; "The ghetto covered 2.4 percent of the area of Warsaw, and 30 percent of the city’s population had been crowded into it. The population crammed into a few streets was comparable to that of a small city. According to the official Jewish newspaper "Gazeta Zydowska" 380,740 people were living in the ghetto on 1 January 1941, of whom 378,979 were Jews; 1,718 were Catholics, Protestants and Greek orthodox; and 43 of other religious sects. The ghetto was therefore a concentration of Jews defined by racist criteria".

The Germans forbade the term ghetto and insisted on "Jewish quarter". It was on the 16 November 1940 that the ghetto was closed.