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The Holocaust

The Holocaust Resource Center

Isolation and Ghettoization

The outbreak of World War II and the German occupation of extensive territories that were home to millions of Jews had a direct impact on the fate of European Jewry. In September 1939 the Germans invaded Poland, thus subjecting around two million Polish Jews, to violence, humiliation, dispossession, and arbitrary kidnappings for forced labor. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the first months of the occupation.

Immediately after invading Poland, the Germans began setting up Judenrat (Jewish councils) as instruments for implementing Nazi policy regarding the Jews. The Judenrat were responsible for complying with German demands and attending to internal Jewish affairs. Shortly after the occupation, the Germans began to confine the Jews to specific residential neighborhoods in the cities, which became known as ghettos. In addition to cutting the Jews off almost totally from their surroundings, confinement to the ghetto meant impossible living conditions such as overcrowding, forced labor and in many cases starvation. These conditions were deliberate acts causing the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews in ghettos. This was the start of the annihilation of European Jewry.

The German invasion of the USSR and areas of Eastern Poland, in the summer of 1941, saw a wave of mass murders of Jews in these areas. The remaining Jews there were forced into ghettos, similar to Jews in Western Poland.

In the ghettos the Jews lived day by day under the shadow of the systematic mass murders and deportations to the death camps. Circumstances differed from one place to another, but in all of occupied Europe the Jews suffered from a policy of discrimination, humiliation and isolation. For example, all over Europe the Jews were forced to wear a distinguishing mark, usually a yellow badge in the shape of the Star of David.

This topic includes sources, which deal with the Jews' lives under Nazi occupation in various European countries from the outbreak of the war until their deportations to extermination camps. The typical standard of life for Eastern European Jewry during this period was the ghetto, the model for which was established in Poland.

Total Sources (by media type):

Artifact Collection 47
Diaries and Letters 99
Documents 95
Lexicon Entries 105
Maps and Charts 3
Photographs 273
Research 16
Testimonies 47
Works of Art 4
Total Sources 689
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