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An example: The Martyr's Way of Those Deported From Cologne to the Litzmannstadt Ghetto

The Litzmannstadt Ghetto, established on April 30, 1940, in a district close to the centre of Łódź, was the second largest, after the Warsaw Ghetto, and the longest operating ghetto. In an area covering some four square kilometres which was heavily guarded and fenced with barbed wire about 160,000 Polish Jews lived. In the autumn of 1941, about 20,000 ‘Western Jews’ were brought there from Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Luxembourg, Prague, and Vienna. The living conditions in this forced community, which involved hunger, death, and constant ‘resettlements’ to Kulmhof and Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps, are described in relatively well-preserved accounts of Cologne citizens.

Despite dreadful conditions, the deportees were full of hope and tried to adjust to the life in the ghetto. In the summer of 1942, 1,060 of them fell victim to the mass murder, which had begun at the end of 1941. This took place in Kulmhof/Chełmno, located 55 km to the northeast, in gas vans. In September 1942, during the following murder actions the victims were children and the elderly, including at least 180 people from the Cologne transports.

After these deportation actions, involving unprecedented brutality and round-ups that lasted many days, etched in the memory of the ghetto inhabitants as ‘Allgemeine Gehsperre’, the survivors had to organise their lives once again. Many of them had lost their family and friends by then, and they were on the verge of starvation. In the summer of 1944, right before the liquidation of the ghetto, 140 Cologne citizens were murdered in Kulmhof. The dates of death of nearly 400 deportees from Cologne who died in the ghetto are known, and in many cases the exact cause of death have been established; for example, Max Hertz was hanged on February 21, 1942.

At least another 50 people were deported to Auschwitz in the summer after the liquidation of the ghetto. We have not been able to determine the exact date, place, and circumstances of death of about 200 people. Only 25 men and women of those deported from Cologne to the Lithzmannstadt Ghetto survived. They had been transported to other camps and labour commandos and lived to see the liberation in 1945 in such places as Bergen-Belsen, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen and Groß-Rosen concentration camps or on the infamous death marches.


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