Report on Lodz Ghetto Workshop at USHMM #poland #lodz


Dear Fellow Lodz Area Researchers,

One of our members, Marvin Engel of the Washington, D. C. area, attended the
recent workshop on the Lodz ghetto, held at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum. Here is his summary of the two-hour public workshop, posted with his
permission. Many thanks to Marvin for being our "eyes and ears" at this event
and for taking the time to write a detailed summary.

Shirley Rotbein Flaum
Houston, Texas
Workshop on the Lodz Ghetto, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
August 23, 2002

There were nine academic researchers on the dais who had met for two weeks
prior to the public session. The leader was Dr. Robert Moses Shapiro. The
two-hour public session gave each only a few minutes to summarize his/her
work, followed by a question period for the approximately 35 people in the

Among the matters touched on:

1) "Lodzher geto: a historishe un sotsyologishe shtudye" (Lodz Ghetto: A
Historical and Sociological Study), Isaiah Trunk's 1962 monograph on the Lodz

ghetto, is being translated into English.

2) Consideration of the disparate interests of the perpetrators and the
victims in reading the primary documents. The German documents dealt with
calories and other quantifiable measures, ignoring hunger, pain and
suffering. Many of these government documents are in poor physical condition,
decaying carbon copies, and require quick action for preservation. There was
a general statement that scanning would not be good enough because of the
poor condition of the documents. Conventional color photography was mentioned
as being more permanent than digital techniques, but nothing is actually off
the ground regarding preservation.

3) Evaluation of the food distribution system: collection, entitlement
(uneven distribution), quality, the effect of hunger (physical,
psychological, dehumanizing), using rations as a carrot or stick to stimulate

4) Analysis of Grossman's photographs -- contradictory, hidden messages.
[Refer to: Grossman, Mendel. "With a Camera in the Ghetto." New York:
Schocken Books, 1972, 1977.]

5) The albums are also susceptible to multiple, contradictory levels of

6) The possibility of preserving and restoring the existing surviving
buildings and identifying their function in the ghetto. There was mention of
the recent discovery of the Umschlagplatz. What entity/organization would
take on the task of building
preservation? Private financing would be the most likely source, not
governmental. Nothing has really started. The few slides that were shown of
remaining remnants showed mainly decaying and boarded up buildings without
any identifying plaques or labels. The point was made that the current
residents in the areas abutting these buildings knew nothing about their
history. There are apartment buildings built on top of the Old Jewish
Cemetery. There are no current plans to tear down these buildings.

7) The entire Lodz ghetto chronicle is being translated into English and
other languages. [refer to: "The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, 1941-1944,"
which is the abridged version edited by Lucjan Dobrzynski and published in
English in 1984.]

8) Specific differences between different ghettos. The Lodz ghetto
industries were commercially insured by the Germans.

9) There are vast archives of much variety. Testimony can be distorted
concerning both the Jewish leaders and the Germans.

10) Issue of when Rumkovsky and the rest of the ghetto leadership became
aware of the killing camps.

11) There was some dispute concerning the extent to which the Jews were
bilingual (Yiddish/Polish) in view of a general agreement that the Jewish
leaders spoke Polish among themselves.

It was stimulating regarding the work that still lies in the future, and
reassuring that there are competent people working on it.

Marvin Engel

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