|A child dying in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto|
After the invasion of
, the German Nazis established ghettos in which Jews and some Romani were confined, until they were eventually shipped to death camps to be murdered. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest, with 380,000 people, and the Łódź Ghetto the second largest, holding 160,000. They were, in effect, immensely crowded prisons, described by Michael Berenbaum as instruments of "slow, passive murder." Poland
Though the Warsaw Ghetto contained 400,000 people-30% of the population of Warsaw-it occupied only 2.4% of the city's area, averaging 9.2 people per room.
From 1940 through 1942, starvation and disease, especially typhoid, killed hundreds of thousands. Over 43,000 residents of the
ghetto died there in 1941, more than one in ten; in Theresienstadt, more than half the residents died in 1942. Warsaw
Each ghetto was run by a Judenrat (Jewish council) of German-appointed Jewish community leaders, who were responsible for the day-to-day running of the ghetto, including the provision of food, water, heat, medicine, and shelter, and who were also expected to make arrangements for deportations to extermination camps. Heinrich Himmler ordered the start of the deportations on July 19, 1942, and three days later, on July 22, the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto began; over the next 52 days, until September 12, 300,000 people from
alone were transported in freight trains to the Treblinka extermination camp. Many other ghettos were completely depopulated. Warsaw
Berenbaum writes that the defining moment that tested the courage and character of each Judenrat came when they were asked to provide a list of names of the next group to be deported. The Judenrat members went through the tried and tested methods of delay, bribery, stonewalling, pleading, and argumentation, until finally a decision had to be made. Some argued that their responsibility was to save the Jews who could be saved, and that therefore others had to be sacrificed; others argued, following Maimonides, that not a single individual should be handed over who had not committed a capital crime. Judenrat leaders such as Dr. Joseph Parnas in Lviv, who refused to compile a list, were shot. On October 14, 1942, the entire Judenrat of Byaroza committed suicide rather than cooperate with the deportations.
The first ghetto uprising occurred in September 1942 in the small town of Łachwa in southeast
. Though there were armed resistance attempts in the larger ghettos in 1943, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising, in every case they failed against the unmatched Nazi military force, and the remaining Jews were either killed or deported to the death camps, which the Germans euphemistically called "resettlement in the East." Poland