Correspondent Describes Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw Dispatch
Menu JTA Search

Correspondent Describes Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw Dispatch

Download PDF for this date

The first comprehensive on-the-spot description of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw is given by Demaree Bess in a wirelessed article from the former Polish capital published in the current Saturday Evening Post.

The idea for the ghetto, the dispatch said, originated with Reichsamtsleiter Schoen, who told Bess that its aim was to segregate the Jewish community because of the Nazi contention that Jews were typhus carriers. The process of moving 113,000 Poles out of the Jewish quarter and 138,000 into it from other sections took six weeks. Schoen estimated that the ghetto’s population reached 510,000 by February. The correspondent’s description of the ghetto follows, in part.

“The streets of this Forbidden City look like those of the slum and manufacturing” districts of most other large European cities. Several important streetcar lines traversed the area, but all except one of these have been re-routed, and local lines still serve Jews in the quarter. Cars on the remaining line run through the quarter with locked doors and passengers are forbidden to leave in transit….

“Curfew for Jews is nine o’clock, two hours earlier than for Poles. The inhabitants of the quarter usually go to bed at that hour, since they are living an average of six in a room and fuel has been scarce. After nine o’clock the streets are empty except for the patrols from among the 1600 Jewish policemen employed by the community.

“But in daytime, as when I drove through the district with my escort, the narrow streets are solid masses of humanity. Every man, woman and child wears a white sleeve band, stamped with the star of Judah, which all Jews are compelled by law to wear whenever they appear in public in any part of Poland. Warsaw residents sometimes refer to the Jewish quarter as Hollywood, ‘because every inhabitant is a star’…

“I asked how the community was expected to support itself. Herr Schoen had investigated that question. He estimated that the population of the quarter reached 510,000 in February of this year, whereas the total prewar Jewish population of Warsaw was 400,000. Many Jews have therefore come in from elsewhere. Of this number, Schoen figures that about 200,000 are fit for work, and he is preparing employment inside the quarter for 60,000, including 12,000 skilled workers. They receive four fifths of the Polish wage scale.

“Schoen said that plans were drawn for a large dam on the Vistulla River near Warsaw and he expected to find employment there for 20,000 Jews. According to regulations, every Jew between sixteen and sixty years of age must register for work duty and go wherever he is assigned.

“I asked him whether the Forbidden City was regarded as a temporary or a permanent arrangement, and if similar schemes might be set up in other cities of Poland. He replied that the Warsaw scheme had been devised as an emergency measure and it remained to be seen how it would work out. Thus far the scheme had not been applied anywhere else.”

(Other reports have stated that a ghetto has been established in Cracow.)

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund