Work within the Lodz Ghetto

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The German administrator Hans Biebow established factories and workshops, using the ghetto inmates as forced labourers to produce goods for the German war effort and make money for the SS.

Rumkowski, the chairman of the Judenrat, believed that he could save lives if the ghetto of Lodz produced huge resources for the German war effort. He very efficiently set up a system of workshops in which thousands of Jews were employed, even young children. Workers were given meagre rations in return for very long days of work. Anyone found to be working against the system was punished. Rumkowski ran the ghetto very harshly.

Because of the appalling working conditions many strikes took place. The Jewish police were responsible for breaking these up; usually the ringleaders were deported.

Lodz became a major place of production for the Germans, with more than 100 factories producing all manner of goods. Workshops were set up, including tailors’ shops producing everything from hats to army uniforms; tanners and cobblers, quilt cover-makers, a marmalade factory, carpet weavers, a sausage factory and workshops making rubber products.

Carpentry workshops would produce new furniture from new timber or often from the furniture that had been taken from Jewish homes. Workers in a fur workshop made new fur coats from the garments taken from Jews.

In fact, it was because of this productivity that some of the able-bodied men and women of the Lodz ghetto managed to survive long after all the other ghettos in occupied Poland had been liquidated and their inhabitants sent to their deaths.