Jewish Brzeziny during the Second World War

The Nazi German Army entered the town on the first days of war, in September 1939. It had been decided that Brzeziny, together with the western part of Poland, would be incorporated to the Third Reich, whereas the areas east of the town were to become a part of the so-called General Government ( the name given to the German-occupied Poland ). The border between the two countries was located in the vicinity of Brzeziny, thus, for the first years of war, many Polish and Polish Jewish town residents became engaged in smuggling.

The nearest big city, Łódź, became known as Litzmannstadt, whereas the name of Brzeziny was changed to Lowenstadt. Even the local street names were changed – Kościuszki ( Litzmannstaedter ) Lasockich ( Deutsche ), Staszica (Mittelstrasse), Św. Anny (Apothekestrasse),

The persecution of both Polish and Jewish citizens started straight after the end of Blitzkrieg. The oldest Catholic church was turned into a garage, beautiful synagogue located at Joselewicza Str was burned down and the local 80-years-old rabbi was cynically accused of setting the fire.

The crucial date in the history of Brzeziner
was the 28th of April 1940, when Germans decided to separate the Jewish population from Germans and Poles that lived the town. In the spring of 1940 the whole Judaic population was herded into the ghetto set up in the central part of the town. The only personal belongings to be taken were bedclothes and underwear. The Loewenstadt ghetto was supervised by « experienced » German guards from a nearby Litzmannstadt Ghetto Verwaltung.

In the course of war, people were used as a free workforce and nearly all of numerous Brzeziner tailors were commissioned to sew uniforms for Wehrmacht army (workshop at Mickiewicza Str 22). More than 90 thousand uniforms were produced monthly.

The nutitional situation in the ghetto was getting worse with every month and only the great solidarity among the community prevented the outbreak of hunger. The food rationed by the German local administration proved unsufficient. People would smuggle victuals into the ghetto in many different ways (the Jewish area was not walled off). For that purpose it was common to use an empty caravan ( the Jewish cemetery lies outside of the former ghetto area ).

The living and work standards in the Brzeziner ghetto were very poor – about 20 % of the ghetto population died before its liquidation beacause of tuberculosis, a very common illness among the tailors at that time.

There is not much photographic evidence of Brzeziny during the war, but one can watch a unique film made by the Nazis that a.o. shows a public execution on ten local

The execution was a prologue to the final solution to the local Jewish question – several months later, between 15th and 20th of May ’42, the Jewish chapter of Brzeziny history came to an end. The ghetto was liquidated – all children below the age of 10 were sent from Gałkówek station to Chełmno (Kulmhof) death camp where most of them were gassed in gas vans. All other people were dispatched to Litzmannstadt ghetto, where life was even harder then in the wartime Brzeziny. The ghetto in Łódź (Litzmannstadt) was the last one to be liquidated, so some of its inmates were exterminated only in the summer of 1944. The last time that their names appear is on the transport lists to Kulmhof camp.

Jakub Czupryński, basing on Lata okupacji hitlerowskiej w Brzezinach by Cezary Jabłoński [in : Brzeziny. Dzieje Miasta 1997]