Victims of Lodz Ghetto Holocaust

The Jews of the Lodz Ghetto lived through a very unique set of circumstances for the duration of the war: economically, socially and even culturally, Lodz was simply different than elsewhere. Even the destiny of the inhabitants of the Ghetto as the potential or actual victims of Nazi genocide was experienced differently from elsewhere. Using three or more relevant sources of any kind – primary or secondary, textual or visual – write a paper that takes on one or more aspect of this “distinctive” history.

Length: 4- 6 pages

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Essentially, I am asking you to find a single aspect of the Lodz Ghetto and write about it. What could that aspect be? You could use what you already know: Rumkowski’s speech and the infamous Shperre of 1942. You could even reuse the material from the Discussion forum (Rumkowski’s speech, Zelkowitz’s reportage, David S’s diary) and write an expanded version of what you have already begun to argue there, including that historical measure expressed by Zelkowitz involving, “the sensation of disbelief”.

But here are a couple of other ideas to help you get started and I am obviously by no means exhausting the possibilities.

You could write an excellent paper, for example, involving a description of Rumkowski’s “economic” strategy for governance of the Nazi run Lodz Ghetto – the “rescue through labour” tactic. This is or was a highly controversial topic, as we discussed in class. Engaging with it will take you as always into Primo Levi’s “grey zone” , that is to say, into the world of impossible dilemmas created for Jews living under the terrorizing grip of Nazi occupation. You could ask, for example, if this strategy turns Rumkowski into the saviour or the “quisling” of the local Jews? You could also side step the whole issue of historical “judgement” and present the complex ways in which this economic plan played out, both for Rumkowski and for the ghetto population. Essential reading for this kind of approach: Gutman, Horwitz and David. After Spring break, I will see if the library can digitize and even stream the documentary you saw before COVID, as well as more of the secondary material such as David Sierakowiak’s Diary.

A related but different way to approach an analysis of the Lodz ghetto could involve setting out the mechanics of power (remember my rubrics: who had it? how exercised? and with what purpose?). You could talk about how the Germans “outsourced” their own brutal exercise of power by talking about the structures of German and local authority under Nazi Occupation (Hilberg/Trunk/Gutman). You could piece together an analysis about “shades” of vulnerability within the brutal dynamics of German power from top (Rumkowski, for example) to bottom (women or the poor and “unconnected” within the Lodz Ghetto). Such an approach could integrate many or all your secondary and primary sources, but take its guiding mechanism from Horwitz and the pages of David S’s diary, for example. (You could use Trunk/Gutman to frame the economics issue in this way too. )

Finally, as I’ve said all along, you can ignore every single suggestion above and go your own way! The only requirement is that you root your analysis about this particular topic in the assigned sources. I would point out that the Gutman article about the “distinctiveness” of the Lodz Ghetto is essential to this paper, but the rest, as always, is up to you

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