The Jewish ghetto in
Łódź, Poland's second largest city and home to more than 100,000
Jews, was the first to be closed to the outside world, on April 30,
1940. Jews were concentrated in a single continuous area of the
city, surrounded by fences, walls, and barbed wire, and not allowed
to leave. Outsiders were admitted only by special permission. Armed
guards prevented unauthorized entry or escape. The Nazis had renamed
the city Litzmannstadt on April 11, after General Karl Litzmann, who had conquered Łódź for
Germany in World War I, so officially it was the Litzmannstadt
huge Jewish population in ghettos was the first step in their
eventual destruction. Each was governed internally by a Judenrat
(Jewish council) selected by and answering to Nazi officials. Even
before the systematic mass murder of the Holocaust by
transport to death camps began, Jews were gradually denied the
necessities of life. Hundreds of thousands died in the ghettos from
starvation and disease. Hans Frank, the Nazi governor of Poland,
stated in August 1942, "Clearly we are sentencing 1.2 million Jews
to death by starvation; and if they do not die from hunger, we will
have to adopt other anti-Jewish measures."
Deportations to the
Chelmno extermination camp began January 16, 1942; the final
liquidation of the Łódź ghetto occurred in the summer of
1944, with the last transport to the gas chambers of Auschwitz on
August 30. On January 19, 1945, the Red Army liberated about 800
survivors who had escaped and hidden from their tormentors.
The special cancel
on the envelope below reads, "By command of the
this city is named Ghetto Litzmannstadt." On a June 30, 1941, postal
card from Chmielnik to the Jewish Elders Council of Litzmannstadt,
Rose Speiser asked for information about the fate of her daughter,
Gana Milter. She had written with this request several times
previously, but had received no reply.
The manuscript "g"
is a routing mark denoting the ghetto destination. The General
Government post office did not pay for mail delivery in the ghetto,
so fees were collected on delivery. The manuscript "12' probably
reflects the number of cards delivered at one time; the delivery fee
was 10 pfennigs per card.