The Grossaktion

In the spring of 1942, the Germans commenced Operation Reinhard. They started off by liquidating the ghetto in the Podzamcze district of Lublin in mid-March.

In the summer of the same year, as part of these activities, the Germans organized the first liquidation action in the Warsaw Ghetto. On 22 July, they began the Grossaktion Warsaw, which lasted two months and ended on 21 September 1942. On the hot days of July and August, several thousand people – often without food or water – were deported daily on crowded trains running from the Umschlagplatz at Stawki Street. It is estimated that during this period more than 260,000 Jews were removed from the Warsaw Ghetto to the extermination camp of Treblinka, where they were duly murdered. In addition, approximately 11,000 thousand were transported to labour camps, and nearly 10,000 liquidated on the spot. The Umschlagplatz, from which the trains left, became a symbol of this immense crime.

Following the deportation, the area of the ghetto was significantly reduced, which is why the term “residual ghetto” is used to distinguish it from the original enclave. From the end of September 1942, there were approximately 35,000 people legally residing in the closed district of Warsaw; they were employed mainly in the “sheds”, that is, in the workshops engaged in manufacture for the Germans. Whereas the number of those hiding in the ghetto is estimated at nearly 20–30,000, with a further 8–10,000 concealed beyond its borders, on the so-called Aryan side.

It is also worth noting that until the Grossaktion, there were more women in the ghetto than men. Even at the beginning of 1942, there were 134 women to every 100 men. But by the autumn of 1942, there were only 78 women to every 100 men. This was due to the fact that during the Grossaktion, pregnant women, women with small children, children (including orphans), as well as the sick and elderly – considered by the Germans as “unproductive” – were the first to be sent to Treblinka extermination camp.

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