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Ghettos in occupied Poland (marked with red-gold stars)

The Lemberg Ghetto (also known as Lwów Ghetto and Lvov Ghetto, Polish: getto lwowskie) was a ghetto in the city of Lwów, in German-occupied Poland (now Lviv in Ukraine), one of the largest ghettos established for Jews by German Nazi authorities in the General Government created in 1939 on the territory of the Second Polish Republic. Once holding over 120,000 Jews, killings and deportations to death camps had reduced the Jewish population of the city to a few hundreds by the end of the war.


Before the war

On the eve of World War II, the city of Lwów had the third-largest Jewish population in Poland, after Warsaw and Łódź, 99,600 in 1931 (32%) by confession criteria (percent of people of Jewish faith) and numbering 75,300 (24%) by language criteria (percent of people speaking Yiddish or Hebrew as their mother tongue), according to Polish official census.[1] Assimilated Jews, those who perceived themselves as Poles of Jewish faith, constitute the discrepancy between those numbers. By 1939, those numbers were, respectively, several thousand greater. Jews were notably involved in the city's renowned textile industry and had established a thriving center of education and culture, with a wide range of religious and secular political activity including parties and youth movements of the orthodox and Hasidim, Zionists, the Labour Bund, and communists. Assimilated Jews constituted a significant part of Lwów's Polish intelligentsia and academical elites, including such notable ones as Marian Auerbach, Maurycy Allerhand and many others, and greatly contributed to Lwów's cultural center status.

WWII begins: Under Soviet control

Three weeks after the outbreak of the war, the city, along with the rest of eastern Galicia, was annexed by the Soviet Union under the terms of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Under the Soviets, Lwów's Jewish population swelled further to about 200,000 individuals, as it absorbed an influx of refugees fleeing eastward from the Nazi-occupied part of Poland (Stefan Szende gives the number of 180,000 Jews[2]). Under Soviet rule some of Lwów's Jews were repressed along with the rest of population. Those residents deported deep into the USSR were almost the only ones to survive the Holocaust.

The German conquest and Nazi pogroms

As part of the Operation Barbarossa campaign against the USSR, the German army entered Lwów on June 30, 1941.

Immediately after the Germans entered the city, Einsatzgruppen and civilian collaborators organized the pogrom in retaliation for the retreating NKVD's mass-murder of approximately 2000 [3] prisoners (including Polish and Ukrainian intellectuals, political activists, and convicted common criminals) at Lwów's three prisons (Brygidki prison, Łąckiego street prison and Zamarstynowska street prison). According to Ukrainian scholars 75-80% of these victims were Ukrainian[3]. Although Jews had also been among the victims of the NKVD, they were collectively accused as a group by the Nazis and Ukrainians of having somehow been responsible for the massacre.

Some authors refer to the civilian rioters as "Ukrainian nationalists". Jewish witnesses who survived the Holocaust in Lemberg describe the pogromists as "Ukrainians" or members of an ad hoc "Ukrainian militia" that was formed for the specific purpose of killing Jews - possibly with a view toward establishing an ethnically clensed Ukrainian state with the blessings of the Nazis or possibly to vent centuries of pent-up religious hatred. And although their actual political orientation and relation to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists may be subject to some debate, there is no doubt that the mass murder of the Jews was instigated by the Nazis and perpetrated by Ukrainian pogromists, preportedly as retribution for the alleged massacre of Ukrainian "political prisoners," at the various prisons in Lemberg. During the three-day pogrom from the end of June to early July, 1941, an estimated 7,000 Jews were murdered.

See: Controversy regarding the Nachtigall Battalion


Petlura days

A second pogrom took place in the last days of July 1941 and was named the "Petlura Days" after the assassinated Ukrainian leader Symon Petlura[4][5]. This pogrom was organized by the Nazis as a prologue towards the total annihilation of the Jewish population of Lwów. Some 5000 Jews died as a result of this pogrom, perpetrated by Ukrainian nationalists and police.[6] In addition, some 3,000 persons, mostly Jews, were executed in the municipal stadium by the German military.[6]

The Ghetto

On November 8, 1941, the Germans established a ghetto which they called Jüdisches Wohnbezirk in the northern part of Lwów. All of the city's Jews were ordered to move there by December 15, 1941 and all Poles and Ukrainian were to move out. Vicinity which was designated to form the Jewish quarter was Zamarstynów (today Ukrainian: Замарстинів). Before the war it was one of the poorest and pitiable built suburbs of Lwów. German police also began a series of "selections" in an operation called "Action under the bridge" - 5,000 elderly and sick Jews were selected and shot as they crossed under the rail bridge on Pełtewna Street (which was called bridge of death by Jews), while they were moving into the ghetto. By December, between 110,000 and 120,000 Jews were living in the Lemberg Ghetto. The living conditions in the overcrowded ghetto were extremely poor. For example provided food rations were estimated to equal 10% of German and 50% of Ukrainian or Polish rations.[7]

The Germans established a Jewish police force called the Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst Lemberg wearing dark blue Polish police uniforms but with the Polish insignia replaced by a Magen David and the letters J.O.L. in various positions on their uniform. They were given rubber truncheons. Their ranks numbered from 500 to 750 policemen[7]. The Jewish police force answered to the Jewish National city council known as the Judenrat, which in turn answered to the Gestapo.

The Lemberg Ghetto was one of the first to have Jews transported to the death camps as part of Aktion Reinhard. Between March 16 and April 1, 1942, 15,000 Jews were taken to the Kleparów railway station and deported to the Belzec extermination camp. Following these initial deportations, and death by disease and random shootings, around 86,000 Jews officially remained in the ghetto, though there were many more not recorded. During this period, many Jews were also forced to work for the Wehrmacht and the ghetto's German administration, especially in the nearby Janowska labor camp. On June 24–25, 1942, 2,000 Jews were taken to the labor camp; only 120 were used for forced labor, and all of the others were shot.

Between August 10–31, 1942, the "Great Aktion" was carried out, where between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews were rounded up, gathered at transit point placed in Janowska camp and then deported to Belzec. Many who were not deported, including local orphans and hospital inpatients, were shot. On September 1, 1942, the Gestapo hanged the head of Lwów’s Judenrat and members of the ghetto's Jewish police force on balconies of Judenrat's building at Łokietka street and Hermana street corner. Around 65,000 Jews remained while winter approached with no heating or sanitation, leading to an outbreak of typhus.

Between January 5–7, 1943, another 15,000-20,000 Jews, including the last members of the Judenrat, were shot outside of the town. After this aktion in January 1943 Judenrat was dissolved, that what remained of the ghetto was renamed Judenlager Lemberg (Jewish Camp Lwów), thus formally redesigned as labour camp with about 12.000 legal Jews, able to work in German war industry and several thousands illegal Jews (mainly women, children and elderly) hiding in it.[7]

In the beginning of June 1943 Germans decided to finally end the existence of the Jewish quarter and its inhabitants. As Nazis entered the Ghetto they met some sporadic acts of armed resistance, but most of the Jews where trying to hide themselves in earlier prepared hideouts (so called bunkers). In effect many buildings were suffused with gasoline and burned in order to "flush out" Jews from their hiding places. Some Jews managed to escape or to conceal themselves in the sewer system.

By the time that the Soviet Red Army entered Lwów on July 26, 1944, only a few hundred Jews remained in the city. Number varies from 200 to 900 (823 according to data of Jewish Provisional Committee in Lwów, Polish: Tymczasowy Komitet Żydowski we Lwowie from 1945).

Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal was one of the best-known Jewish inhabitants of Lemberg Ghetto to survive the war, though he was transported to a concentration camp, rather than remaining in the ghetto.


  1. ^ Mały Rocznik Statystyczny 1939 (Polish statistical yearbook of 1939), GUS, Warsaw, 1939
  2. ^ Stefan Szende, The Promise Hitler Kept, London 1945, p. 124
  3. ^ a b Nakonechnyj Ye. Shoa u Lvovi - Lviv 2006 p. 99
  4. ^ "Lwów". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2006. 
  5. ^ "July 25: Pogrom in Lwów". Chronology of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem. 2004. Retrieved 2006. 
  6. ^ a b Richard Breitman. Himmler and the 'Terrible Secret' among the Executioners. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 26, No. 3/4, The Impact of Western Nationalisms: Essays Dedicated to Walter Z. Laqueur on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday (Sep., 1991), pp. 431-451
  7. ^ a b c Filip Friedman, Zagłada Żydów lwowskich (Extermination of the Jews of Lwów)


Further reading

  • Marek Herman, From the Alps to the Red Sea. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishers and Beit Lohamei Haghetaot, 1985. pp. 14–60
  • David Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. ISBN 0-87023-726-8 (Published in Hebrew as Yoman getto Lvov, Jerusalem:Yad Vashem, 1978)

External links

Coordinates: 49°50′22″N 24°1′58″E / 49.83944°N 24.03278°E / 49.83944; 24.03278


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