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The Museum Complex

The Holocaust History Museum

Galleries

The Awful Beginning

World War II and the Beginning of the Destruction of Jewish Life in Poland

The German invasion of Poland marked the start of the war and signaled a new stage in German anti-Jewish policy.

The anti-Jewish policies portrayed in the gallery were characterized by harsh violence, a campaign of abuse and restrictive measures intended to undermine the foundations of Polish Jewry.   The discriminatory decrees are narrated through images and text: The Germans imposed special measures, intended to isolate the Jews from their surroundings, steal their property, limit their ability to earn a living and conscript them for brutal forced labor. They ordered Jews to wear identifying patches with a Star of David on their clothes. They singled out Jews with religious appearance for special abuse. The Germans ordered the creation of Jewish councils - Judenrats - designed to be a Nazi tool to carry out the orders and decrees affecting Jews.

The badge was not only a symbol of absolute separation from the general population but also a means by which Jews were immediately identified for humiliation and eventual deportation.

Selections from the diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a youth from Lodz, accompany visitors through the gallery, providing the human perspective of a young person facing personal, family and community upheaval. The Lodz community is presented as an example of the implications for Jews under occupation.

The gallery ends with the uprooting of Jews from the general population and into Ghettos.  As visitors leave the gallery they see a wagon, typical of those used by Jews forced out of their homes.