The market square in Łomża before the two world wars
|Also known as||German: Ghetto Lomza|
|Location||Łomża, German-occupied Poland|
|Incident type||Imprisonment, forced labor, starvation, epidemics, exile|
|Camp||deportations to Auschwitz|
|Victims||10,000 to 18,000 Polish Jews|
The Łomża Ghetto was created by Nazi Germans on 12 August 1941 in the vicinity of the Old Market (Stary Rynek) in Łomża, Poland; following their attack on the Soviet Union. The Jews were ordered to move into it in a single day, resulting in panic at the main entry on ul. Senatorska. The number of Polish Jews compressed in the Ghetto ranged from 10,000 to 18,000. They came from the villages of Jedwabne, Stawiski, Piątnica, Łomża, Wizna, Rotki and others. Often, six families were housed there in a single room. The Ghetto was liquidated a year-and-a-half later on 1 November 1942, when all inhabitants were shipped to Auschwitz for extermination.
History of the Ghetto
In July 1941 Łomża Jews were ordered by the Germans to form a Judenrat. A Jewish Ghetto Police was established with Solomon Herbert named as its Chief of Police. All Jewish inhabitants were ordered to move into the new Ghetto in one day, on 12 August 1941. On 16 August the inmates were assembled at the Green Market to be tallied. The Chairman of Judenrat was handed a list of about two hundred people accused of collaboration with the Soviets from before Operation Barbarossa. They were taken to the Giełczyn forest and killed by a Nazi Einsatzgruppe under SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper. For the rest, work cards were distributed among those with a place of employment. In the following days more Jews were being brought in from surrounding villages such as Piątnica, Jedwabne and Stawiski. The Judenrat requested permission to expand the Ghetto. The Germans agreed on the condition that Jews pay half a million Marks. On 17 September however, before the expansion, the inmates were again ordered to assemble at the Square. The Germans separated those who did not have a work card. Over two thousand men and women were trucked to the Giełczyn and Sławiec forests and exterminated. On that date, the Ghetto was surrounded by barbed-wire with only one exit, requiring a special permit from the Gestapo. A main gate was built with the inscription: "DANGER, DISEASE". Jews who worked outside the Ghetto used that gate twice daily.
Epidemics of dysentery and typhus broke out in the winter of 1941. All infected died. A communal kitchen was set up serving about a thousand meals a day. There were no Jewish schools. Factories for ammunition, soap, leather, boots, and grease were established; some of them on the initiative of the Judenrat. They made products for the Germans such as shoes, garments and furs. On 1 November 1942 the Ghetto was surrounded by the German gendarmerie and the following morning evacuation was ordered. Most of the Jews, 8,000–10,000 were taken to a transit camp in Zambrów and than to the extermination camp in Auschwitz. The remaining ones, went to the Kiełbasin and Wołkowysk camps and to Białystok. Only a few succeeded in escaping. They found refuge with the Catholic Polish families. Dr. Hefner from Judenrat took his own life. Last inmates of the Łomża Ghetto stayed in the Zambrow barracks until 14 to 18 January 1943, when they were sent to Auschwitz.
Notes and references
- Qiryat Tiv'on, "Łomża from its beginnings," translated from Yiddish by Stan Goodman. Original published by Pinkas haKehilot branch of Yad Vashem, Israel
- "Jewish community before 1989: Łomża – History," 2010, Virtual Shtetl; Museum of the History of the Polish Jews (Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich), Warsaw
- (Polish) Thomas Urban, "Poszukiwany Hermann Schaper", Rzeczpospolita, 01.09.01 Nr 204
- Łomża Album including photographs of the Jewish Cemetery and the family history of Dr. Hefner