Ghettos a tool of Nazi racial policy

Krakow ghetto K.7 folder 1605_202 Jews moving to ghetto.jpg
Jews moving to the Krakow ghetto, March 1941.
© 2012 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

By the 28 September 1939, the German army had conquered western Poland.

On 21 September 1939, Reinhard Heydrich ordered that Jews were to be concentrated in separate areas within cities (ghettos). This initial 'short-term' measure to contain and control Jews very soon developed into a long-term policy. The first ghetto in Poland was established in October 1939. Very soon ghettos had been set up all over Poland, with the largest in the capital, Warsaw.

Over the next four years, the Nazis established ghettos in the major cities of many of the countries they invaded. They established over 1,000 ghettos in Poland and the Soviet Union alone.

This section of The Holocaust Explained will discuss why ghettos were established and how they were managed. Separate fact files concerning two significantly different ghettos (Warsaw and Theresienstadt) will then highlight the experiences of those who lived within them.