Voices from a Beleaguered Society

Diaries and Memoirs from the Jewish Ghettos during World War II
  • Gustavo Corni
Chapter

Abstract

The hundreds of large and small ghettos, created by the German occupying forces and by their ‘satellites’ (Hungary and Romania) all over Eastern Europe during the first phase of the Second World War, constitute a multifaceted microcosm which international historiography has not yet thoroughly analysed.1 There are indeed some monographic studies (a few books and rather more articles and essays) on single ghettos, or on specific regions; the most studied Warsaw. Not only was the ghetto of the Polish capital by far the largest (in the summer 1942 it accounted for between 400,000 and 450,000 inhabitants), but in that ghetto for the first time, between January and April 1943, groups of Jews were able to organize armed resistance against their oppressors. The history of the major ghettos and, more generally, the phase of the so-called ‘ghettoization’, are treated in all fundamental studies of the extermination of European Jewry, in the classic works of Hilberg and Reitlinger2 and in the most recent, by Gilbert3 and Yahil.4 In these works we find scattered references, which in my opinion are not adequate to the importance of the topic. We should not forget that the ghettoization involved the great majority of the more than three million Polish Jews and of the Jewish communities in the Baltic states, as well as a significant proportion of the Jews who originally resided in the Soviet territories of White Russia and Ukraine, occupied by the Germans in 1941–42. A significant proportion of the Romanian and Hungarian Jews also suffered ghettoization, as well as some ten thousands of Reichsjuden, who were deported in the fall of 1941 to the ghettos of Lodz, Minsk and Riga.

Keywords

Jewish Community Black Book Terrible Event Oral Testimony Personal Recollection 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Not far from the truth — although in a trivialized form — is the judgement of Daniel Goldhagen: ‘Concerted study of the Germans controlling ghettos had been wanting, the ghettos remaining the province of memorists and of those who write about the life of their Jewish inhabitants’, Hitler’s Willing Executioners (New York: Knopf, 1996), p.166.Google Scholar
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    Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust. A History of the Jews of Europe during the Second World War (New York: Henry Holt, 1985), divided into short chapters and written with a fresh and lively style, devotes many sections to the history of single ghettos (for example: pp.84–98, 213–240, 241–252, 557–567). These are, however, only some dozens of pages in a 900-page book:. To give another example.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Gustavo Corni

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