Łódź marks Roma camp liquidation in wartime ghetto

Marek Kliński/PAP

Łódź in central Poland on Tuesday marked the 78th anniversary of the closure of a Roma camp in the city's World War Two Jewish ghetto, better known as the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. Its inhabitants were killed by the Nazis in a death camp in western Poland.

Addressing the ceremony, Łódź Deputy Mayor Malgorzata Moskwa-Wodnicka said that it was essential to preserve the memory of the Łódź Roma and pass it on to future generations.

"If the walls of the buildings in which (the Roma - PAP) were held could talk, we would probably hear the crying of terrified children, the heart-rending screams of their mothers as they cradled their starved, fever- and disease-ridden children. Perhaps we would hear the voices of the men as they desperately tried to save their loved ones. (...) The prisoners knew their fate. From the reminiscences of the survivors we know that inscriptions in German, a shocking testimony of the cruelty and evil committed here by people, remained on the walls of the (ghetto - PAP) lodgings in which they were imprisoned," Moskwa-Wodnicka said.

Opened by the Germans on February 8, 1940, the Litzmannstadt Ghetto was the first Jewish ghetto in German-occupied Poland and the second largest after Warsaw. Initially with a population of around 220,000, the ghetto was a thriving industrial centre, with about a hundred enterprises producing uniforms, footwear and rucksacks for the German army.

On April 30, 1940, the ghetto was completely sealed off from the rest of the city, its then population numbering over 160,000. The inhabitants, also including Roma besides Jews, lived in extreme conditions, around 44,000 perishing from disease and starvation before the ghetto's liquidation in August 1944.

The Roma camp existed for slightly under three months, its inhabitants were crowded into several unheated buildings deprived of any conveniences, where they suffered from starvation and water shortage. Between January 5 and 12 1942 the over 4,000 inmates of the Roma camp were deported to the Chelmno death camp in western Poland, where they were gassed in specially adapted vehicles.