What is a ghetto?

Ghetto Map 1939-1944

Map credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Ghettos were walled-in areas of the city built to keep the Jews away from the rest of society. They were created in 1940 in Poland to separate, segregate, and control the Jews. Jews were forced to live there and unable to bring many possessions with them. Jews were cut off from their sources of income and food. Eighty percent of the food in ghettos was smuggled in and even with that, there was not enough. Forced to live in ghettos, Jews died from starvation, overcrowding, forced labor, and disease. 

Within each ghetto, a Judenräte (Jewish Council) was established to implement German policies. Initially, Jewish Council leaders tried to organize sanitation, schooling, and the allotment of resources. Jewish police forces were also established. But, council leaders quickly understood that the ghetto would not get adequate food and other necessities and that the ghetto was a holding place until Jews could be deported to death camps.