Very soon the ghetto’s population rose to over 400,000 Jewish inhabitants, due to the influx of Jews from nearby towns who had been forced to move into Warsaw.
At its peak the area housed 445,000 Jews in little more than 1.3 square miles, less than 2.5 per-cent of the total area of Warsaw. Overcrowding was severe with an average of seven persons per room.
The Nazis declared the existing Jewish neighbourhood within Warsaw an ‘Epidemic Quarantine District’.
- How would this have legitimised the establishment of a 'ghetto'?
- How does this fit into the Nazis' racial policies?
- What part would overcrowding in the ghetto play in the Nazis' objectives?
In October 1939, the SS ordered that a Judenrat be established in Warsaw, under the leadership of a Jewish engineer, Adam Czerniakow. Czerniakow and his council were charged with implementing and administering German orders.
In March 1940, the Nazis declared the existing Jewish neighbourhood within Warsaw an ‘Epidemic Quarantine District’. Signs were posted discouraging others from entering. Then, on 27 March 1940, the Judenrat received an order to begin constructing three metre high brick walls topped with barbed wire to mark out the boundary and close off the area. By June 1940, some twenty sections of wall were in place.
Jewish Residential District
On 12 October 1940, the Nazis issued a decree requiring all Jewish residents of Warsaw to move into this designated ‘Jewish Residential District’. Non-Jewish residents were banished as Jews were forced to Jews leave their home, having been permitted to take very few personal items with them.
The ghetto was fully sealed on 16th November 1940. The walls, measuring 18 Km long and with gates to the outside world being heavily guarded on the outside by the SS and Polish police, enclosed just 73 of Warsaw’s 1,800 streets.
Chłodna Street, one of the major streets in Warsaw, divided the ghetto. The area to the south of Chłodna Street was known as ‘Small Ghetto’, with the northern area being ‘Large Ghetto’. Those two parts of the ghetto were connected by Żelazna Street, through which a special gate was built for the Jews to pass through. The Nazis constructed a wooden footbridge so the Jews could more easily pass from one area to the other.