Lodz is the third-largest city in Poland, located approximately 85 miles south of Warsaw. Jews first began settling in Lodz in the late 18th century.
- 18th-19th Century
- Early 20th Century
- The Holocaust
- Modern Period
- Jewish Sites
& 19th Century
Jews began settling Lodz in the late 1700's. In
1793, there were 11 Jews living in Lodz. This number increased, by
1809 (while under Prussian Rule), to about 100 and to 259 in 1820. At
that time, the Jewish community began to be organized and had built a synagogue. A cemetery was opened
from 1811 until 1892, unfortunately it was destroyed in World
Lodz fell under Russian control in the 1820's.
During this time, Jewish factory owners, merchants, bankers,
industrialists and blue-collar workers played an important role in
developing Lodz's economy, and the city became an important
were placed on settling and owning property in the city, as well as
selling liquor. The restrictions eased when it was announced that in
1827 Jews could buy building sites and could build and own homes in
certain districts. The Jews, who were allowed to live in the city had
to assimilate, i.e., speak Polish, French or German, send their
children to general schools and forgo wearing traditional Jewish
In 1848, the Czar of Russia lifted the limitations
on Jewish settlement in Polish cities. Decrees in 1861 and 1862
abrogated the concept of a separate Jewish Quarter in Lodz. Some Jews
settled throughout the city, although many decided to remain in the
former Jewish quarter, "Alstadt."
An orthodox synagogue, the Alte Shul or the Stara
syagogue, was opened in 1860. Renovations took place in 1897, it was
burned down in 1939 during the Nazi occupation of Lodz.
reform synagogue opened in 1883. The wealthy, Jewish factory owner,
I.K. Posnanski oversaw its construction. At the time, it was the
largest structure in the heart of the city and was known as the
"Great" Synagogue. It too was burned down in 1939 during
the Nazi occupation.
third synagogue, the Vilker Shul, was opened in 1899 and was
demolished in 1939 with the rest of the synagogues.
By 1897, the Jewish population of Lodz numbered
Jews were an integral part of the textile industry
of Lodz, which was known as the "Manchester of Poland."
Jews owned 175 factories by 1914. One of the most well known plants
was the I.K Poznanski plant, which was one of the largest textile
plants in Europe.
World War I devastated the city of Lodz. Many
factories were destroyed. Jewish industrialists were not given
financial support from the government to rebuild.
Anti-Jewish policies were enacted in the inter-war
period; nevertheless, Jews continued to work and prosper. The
ready-made tailoring industry was almost entirely composed of Jewish
tailors. Jews were also active in building and related industries.
Jewish merchants formed a union and other smaller Jewish unions
existed for the tradesmen and retailers. Members of the Jewish trade
unions were approached by the Bund, a Jewish socialist movement, as
well as the Po'alae Zion and Polish Socialist Party for their votes
for the Jewish Community Council of Lodz.
Exhibit on Jewish Lodz, Museum of Lodz
Jews also maintained a vibrant social life in Lodz.
In 1924, the first democratic elections for the Jewish community
council of Lodz were done. The Jewish community was responsible for
maintaining a kosher slaughterhouse, a mikva, and education for the poor and charitable organizations. In the
inter-war period, a soup kitchen was open for the poor, as well as bikur
holim (visiting the sick) societies. B'nai Brith had a lodge in
Lodz in 1926 that supported ORT vocational schools, orphanages and
other cultural institutions.
A diverse educational network was established in
Lodz during this period. A number of yeshivas as well as schools
teaching Polish and Hebrew opened. The Reformed Movement had its own heder (a small school for elementary school children). The first Jewish
gymnasium in Russia was built in Lodz in 1912, by Markus Braude. A
Yiddish school was established in 1918, as well as a Jewish school
for girls in 1924.
A number of famous Jewish artists and writers were
born or lived in Lodz. Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1983), a
world-renowned pianist was born in Lodz, as well as the famous
composer Aleksander Tansman and the poet Julian Tuwim. Poets Itzhak
Katzenelson, David Frischman and Jacob Cohen lived and worked in Lodz.
The city had its own Jewish drama companies and theater and was home
to many famous Yiddish actors.
Zionism spread to
Lodz in the early 1900's, following the first
Zionist Congress in 1897. Zionists were involved in the revival
of the Hebrew language and culture.
Anti-Semitism became prevalent in the 1930's due to Nazi propaganda. Organized
attacks wounded and killed Jews in April 1933, May 1934 and in
September 1935. Wealthy Jews were arrested in 1938 and guards were
placed outside Jewish shops to prevent non-Jewish customers from
to World War II, the Jewish population of Lodz numbered about
233,000, roughly one-third of the citys population and the second
largest Jewish community in Europe. At the outbreak of the War, many
Jews left the city, in fear of persecution, to settle in Warsaw and
other cities in the General Government or to the territories occupied
by the U.S.S.R. The German army entered Lodz on September 8, 1939.
The Germans forced many Jews to leave Lodz and deported them to
cities in the General Government. Between September 30 and May 1,
1940, 70,000 Jews left Lodz.
ghetto was established in February 1940. About 200,000 Jews were
forced to live in the ghetto. On March 1, 1940, bloody Tuesday, the
Germans organized a pogrom to drive more Jews into the ghetto. The
ghetto was officially sealed in May 1940.
A network of 70 factories was built in the ghetto
to produce goods for the Wehrmacht. It is estimated that the Lodz
ghetto factories generated $14 million in profit for the Germans.
A Judenrat was established,
with Mordechai Rumkowsky as its head. It had many departments, such
as the health department, which organized public kitchens in the
factories and schools to feed the workers and students, the
agriculture department, which allotted small garden plots to the
residents. It also had an archives department, which kept official
documents and chronicles of the daily life of the ghetto. Many of
these documents survived the war and were given to the Jewish
Historical Institute in Warsaw.
There was also an education department, which ran 45 primary
religious and secular schools, as well as two high schools and a
vocational school. Secret yeshivas were also organized, along with an
orphanage and a children's summer camp. The ghetto also maintained
its own court and prison system. Political and social groups met
secretly and taught members about their ideology and organized
demonstrations and strikes against the factories.
seemed to continue as normal, despite German deportations of more
than 15,000 Jews from the ghetto to labor camps. The period of
autonomy ended in September 1942, with a set of mass deportations to
death camps at Chelmno. The
"Gehesperre" Aktion was carried out and 16,000 Lodz Jews
were murdered, including children, elderly and the sick. A mass
liquidation campaign was started and the Lodz ghetto became a de
facto labor camp. The Jewish administrative departments ceased to
function. The number of factories increased to 119 and the Germans
took control of all the internal matters.
Approximately 45,000 Jews died in the ghetto of
starvation and disease, including epidemics of typhoid fever,
dysentery, typhus and tuberculosis.
On September 1, 1944, the whole ghetto population
(more than 76,000) was deported to Auschwitz.
The Lodz ghetto was the last ghetto to be liquidated in Poland.
800 Jews, the Aufraeumungskommando (the detachment that
cleaned up the dead, helped with the deportation of Jews and
dismantled the factories) and those in hiding (about 70) remained in
the ghetto when it was liberated by the Soviets in January 1945.
Approximately 5-7,000 Jews from the Lodz ghetto survived the war.
War II and the Present
Within two years after the end of German occupation
of Lodz, the Jewish community was rebuilt to be the second largest in
Poland. More than 50,000 Jews settled in Lodz by the end of 1946, many
of whom lived in the USSR during the Holocaust.
Jewish institutions were rebuilt and operated until 1950, when Poland
fell under complete Soviet control. Half of Lodz's Jewish population
left for Israel by 1950. A second wave of immigration to Israel took
place in 1956-57. Only a few thousand Jews remained, however, most of
them left after an escalation in anti-Semitism following Israel's Six-Day War in 1967. Today only a few hundred Jews live in Lodz.
In 1968, facing criticism and pressure from the government, the only full-time Jewish school in Lodz closed it's doors. For the next 47 years, after the close of the I.L. Peretz school, Jewish youth in Lodz did not have a full-time Jewish education option. The first Jewish day school to open in Lodz since the closure, the Gan Matanel school, welcomed it's first students in September 2015.
Most of Lodz was looted or destroyed during the Holocaust,
including one of its main synagogues, the Alte Shul, which was built
in 1809. Only one synagogue, from the late 18th century, remains and
is functioning; it can be found on Rewolucji St. 1905. The synagogue
survived World War II because of its location, hidden in a corner of
There is also the site of the former Bet Midrash
located on ul. Piotrkowska 114/116. Originally built in 1899, it was
used as a kosher slaughterhouse. It is currently undergoing
new cemetery was founded in 1892 to replace an earlier one, which no
longer exists. Before the war, this new cemetery contained more than
180,000 graves, some of which still remain. It was the largest Jewish
cemetery in Europe. The tombstones are elaborate and contain Judaic
symbols and folk art. There is a mausoleum for the Jewish factory
owner I.K Poznanski, which is as large as a house.
Memorial to the victims of the Lodz
ghetto in the Jewish cemetery
Poznanski mansions are open to the public. His domed mansion on ul
Ogradowa 15 today houses the city's historical museum. Next door is
his factory, which is still in use. Two other Poznanski mansions are
still standing, one on ul Gdanska 32, currently a Musical Academy and
one on ul Wieckowskiego 36, currently housing the Museum of Art.
One can also visit mansions, banks, and textile
factories of other Jewish industrialists from the late 19th century,
including a textile factory belonging to Markus Silberstein, on ul
Piotrkowski 242/248; a former mansion and bank belonging to
Makysymilian Goldeder on ul Piotrokowska 77 and an ornate bank
formerly owned by Wilhem Landau found at 7l Piotrokowska 29.
Memorial to the victims of the Lodz
ghetto in the Jewish cemetery. The plaque written in
Hebrew, Yiddish and Poland reads:
FOR WORLD REMEMBRANCE
OF INNOCENT JEWISH VICTIMS OF LODZ
AND SURROUNDING AREA
MURDERED BY THE NAZIS
IN GHETTOS AND CAMPS
DURING THE YEARS 1939-1945
MAY THEY BE FOREVER REMEMBERED IN OUR HEARTS
Sources: Schulson, Michael. “A Jewish School Opens in Lodz,” Tablet Magazine (September 7, 2015)
Holocaust photos courtesy of Andrew
- The Holocaust site. Photo of the "Great" Synagogue
and Vilker shul are from postcards reprinted with permission of the ShtetLinks
Site for Lodz. Cemetery and memorial photos courtesy of Pawel
Brunon Dorman from The