A look inside the Nazi-controlled ghetto of Lodz

The Lodz ghetto became the second largest ghetto created by the Nazis after their invasion of Poland – despite not being all that well known. The ghetto was only originally intended to a be a temporary feature, but the sheer number of people involved meant that it quickly became a permanent feature of Lodz until late 1944. During August 1944, the remaining Jews were transported to Auschwitz.

During spring 1940, the Lodz ghetto was sealed from the rest of the world by a wooden fence surrounded by additional barbed-wire fences. The Jews were packed into the ghetto with no electricity or water. Disease, starvation and mass panic rapidly diminished their livelihood. The total number of Jews held within the Lodz ghetto is unkown, but experts believe it was in the region of 164,000 – A staggering amount.

Any contact with others outside the ghetto in Lodz was strictly forbidden. A law was passed that any Jew caught outside of the ghetto could be shot on sight. To ensure that the Nazis had no excuse for further punitive action against the Jews in the ghetto, the ghetto population created a police force to stop any escape across or under the wire. Any commercial transactions carried out between those outside the ghetto walls and the Jews in it were also strictly forbidden; again, on pain of death. The Warsaw Ghetto developed a reasonably sophisticated system of smuggling to bring in food and medical supplies from the outside.

These pictures shown on this article are taken by Henryk Ross who worked as a news and sports photographer in the city of Lodz. Once in the city’s ghetto, he was employed by the Department of Statistics to shoot identification photos and propaganda images of the factories which used Jewish slave labor to produce supplies for the German Army. When not on the job, he documented the horrific realities of the ghetto, at tremendous personal risk. Peeking his lens through holes in walls, cracked doorways, and the folds of his overcoat, he captured scenes of starvation, disease, and executions.

As the ghetto was being liquidated in the fall of 1944, Ross buried his photos and negatives in a box, hoping they might survive as a historical record. He was able to dig up the box in January 1945, after the Red Army liberated Poland. Much of his material was damaged or destroyed by water; still, about half of his 6,000 images survived.

Henryk photographing Jews

Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards – 1940.
Synagogue ruins

A group of women with sacks and pails, walking past synagogue ruins.
Man saving the Torah

A man who saved the Torah from the rubble of the synagogue .
A performance of ‘Shoemaker of Marysin’ in the factory

A performance of ‘Shoemaker of Marysin’ in the factory.
Wedding within the Lodz ghetto

A wedding within the Lodz ghetto.
Young boy searching for food

A young boy searching for food.
Soup for lunch

“Soup for lunch”
A sick or injured man, laying on the ground
A sick or injured man, laying on the ground.
Residents being deported

Deportation in winter.
Residents being deported

A mass deportation of ghetto residents – 1944.
Food pails

Food pails and dishes left behind by ghetto residents who had been deported to death camps – 1944.