The Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in Poland, was overrun by the Soviet Red Army on this date in 1945. Of nearly 200,000 Jewish inhabitants squeezed by the Nazis into the ghetto in 1940, fewer than 800 remained. A network of 117 workshops, employing some 95 percent of the adult population, was so productive for the German war effort that Lodz was the last ghetto to be liquidated. Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, formerly the director of an orphanage, was the head of the Nazi-appointed Jewish Council in Lodz. He was a tyrannical leader who controlled life in the ghetto, but whether he was a Nazi collaborator or a sincere if deluded activist on behalf of the Jews of Lodz is still debated among scholars. Rumkowski and his family were killed in Auschwitz on August 28, 1944.
“A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They are asking us to give up the best we possess — the children and the elderly. . . . I’ve lived and breathed with children, I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!” — Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski