An auxiliary Jewish police force kept order in the Lodz Ghetto and was was used by the Germans to organise the selection of people for deportation.

During the last few months of 1941 the Lodz Ghetto in Poland had received some 40,000 Jews who had been deported from Germany. Now, in the middle of January 1942, deportations out from the ghetto began. The Germans never made clear why people were being deported – and they never denied the rumours that sprang up about people being sent to work on farms or factories elsewhere in Poland.

Oskar Rosenfeld was keeping a notebook of sketches about life in the ghetto, this undated record was made just after the deportations began:

Face of the Ghetto.

Mucky paths, half-covered with snow, lead between individual houses set here and there, grim and meaningless. Low trees and bushes spread their sparse, trembling branches against the sky. Gangs of scruffy children, their yellow, wrinkled faces looking aged, walk tiredly through the streets. Sometimes one sees a fleeting smile on their faces, hears singing from their bloodless lips. Sometimes they throw a snowball like children elsewhere.

No one can say what will happen tomorrow. What will happen to all of us. What all this is for? Why the ghetto? Will there be a tomorrow? Is it worth thinking about?

We are lepers, outcasts, common thieves, people without music, without earth, without beds, without a world. There is no other city like this in the world. Come here, people from the outside, from over there where there are normal days and holidays, where there are dreams and desire and resistance. Come quickly. For when it is all over, we will be so thinned out and so miserable that we will no longer be able to enjoy the pleasure of seeing you again.

The snow is dirty, no one knows from what. Soot from the chimneys cannot fly over from there to us. A wagon rolls down the street. Instead of a horse, people are harnessed to it.

Evacuation.

Preparation for the evacuation of 10,000 ghetto inhabitants is under way. Whose turn is it? People who have been sentenced, people on welfare, people unwilling to work and other “undesirables.” The sentenced are, for the most part, those who were imprisoned for a few weeks for having sold rations.

This began on December 26th. It was said: they were to go to Polish villages to work the land. But this was only rumor. The only thing the ghetto knew and saw was the expulsion every day of 700 to 800 Jews from their huts and holes and rooms. The police entered the apartments of those who were being deported. Not infrequently they found starved children, old people frozen to death. Fear had seized the ghetto.

See Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege.

It is not hard to imagine that some people thought that they might be better off wherever they were deported to, that, even if they were made to do forced labour, somewhere they might find a way to eke out an existence that was somehow better than that in the ghetto. In this way the deportations proceeded in a relatively orderly manner.

In fact up to 800 people a day were being sent to the new ‘Death Camp’ at Chelmno. The Nazi’s had arrived at the last stage of the ‘Final Solution’ – the mass murder of Jews by gassing. For the moment no-one in the ghetto would guess that this was their ultimate fate.

At Chelmno a fiction was maintained right up until the end. Jews arriving at the camp were told that they were on their way to labour camps in Austria, that they needed to have their clothes disinfected before the journey and to take showers. Their clothes and belongings were collected in numbered baskets, with the number apparently recorded against their name.

Then groups of completely naked victims were directed to the clearly marked ‘Bathhouse’. Only now did the guards become aggressive, forcing them to run along the corridors without pause for thought. The corridors led to ramps, and the ramps led to the backs of lorries. When batches of 35-40 people had filled the lorries, the air tight doors were slammed shut, the exhaust vents were connected to the sealed interiors of the vehicles and the engines were started. Once the group had died from asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning it was a simple matter to drive them to prepared ditches in the nearby woods for mass burial.

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Jan

18

1942

Australians ambush Japanese at the Muar River

18th January 1942: Resistance to the Japanese invasion of Malaya – Australian ambush Japanese at the Muar River

The leading tank was level with the foremost anti-tank gun when the gun sergeant (Thornton) gave a notable exhibition of courage and coolness. Turning his back on the other tanks, he fired high-explosive shells into the first three as they went down the road. When the other tanks entered the battalion perimeter they came under fire of the rear gun also. All were disabled. Although he was wounded in the engagement, Thornton prepared his gun for further action, and soon three more tanks approached the position.

Jan

17

1942

U-Boats move to the U.S. east coast

Fired stern torpedo. Target angle 90°, distance 750 meters. Running time 57 seconds. A very heavy detonation, strong, dark black smoke plume. Hit bridge. The steamer sinks immediately. As the smoke from the detonation cleared, only the masts were still visible above the water, and shortly thereafter sank. Water depth of 45 meters. I depart at maximum speed eastwards because the day is dawning and I need some more water under our keel during the day.

Jan

16

1942

Churchill returns to Britain by air

I thought perhaps I had done a rash thing that there were too many eggs in one basket. I had always regarded an Atlantic flight with awe. But the die was cast. Still, I must admit that if at breakfast, or even before luncheon, they had come to me to report that the weather had changed and we must go by sea, I should have easily reconciled myself to a voyage in the splendid ship which had come all this way to fetch us.

Jan

15

1942

Australians take on Japanese in Malaya

Under this hell of fire we at once dived flat on the ground, as it didn’t seem possible for any human being to escape the blazing fury. A barbed wire fence near us was ringing backwards and forwards from the bullets. But our skipper sang out, “On you feet men; we must take their position.” I, like all the others, expected a bullet at any period, but I had only one thing in mind – to reach the trees and kill every Jap I saw.

Jan

14

1942

“Five aircraft failed to return”

She heard a loud popping sound of a throttled back aero engine at low altitude and rushed outside to see the plane pass low to the south, with flames apparently coming from the rear. Seconds later the plane hit the ground and there was a flash and explosion. The source of the fire is unknown, but possibly an uncontrollable fire in the port Vulture engine would have given the same appearance to a ground observer.

Jan

13

1942

Daylight raid on Lowestoft kills 63

One of the worst raids on Lowestoft took place on the afternoon of 13 January 1942 the day before we were to return to school after the Christmas holiday. Some of our pupils were having tea in a café when four explosive bombs were dropped on the main shopping centre. Three of our pupils were killed including a friend from my class. It was a sad beginning to the term.

Jan

12

1942

‘Conspicious gallantry’ in desperate battles on Bataan

Enemy snipers in trees and foxholes had stopped a counterattack to regain part of position. In hand-to-hand fighting which followed, 2d Lt. Nininger repeatedly forced his way to and into the hostile position. Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in foxholes and enemy snipers.

Jan

11

1942

Long range U Boat hunters over the Atlantic

Fg. Off Peter Cundy the Liberator took off at 04.10 hours for a lengthy patrol over the Bay of Biscay. At 15.20 hours, when about 100 miles off the north-west tip of Spain, the crew saw a Heinkel Hel 15 floatplane below and beneath them. Cundy banked to allow his rear and side gunners to open fire, at a distance of 200-600 yd. They scored numerous hits but the enemy aircraft disappeared in a rain squall.

Jan

10

1942

Rommel remains confident despite retreat

Operations going as planned so far. Our mines and Luftwaffe are making things difficult for the enemy pursuit. To think that we’ve got our force back 300 miles to a good line, without suffering serious harm, and in spite of the fact that the bulk of it is non-motorised! That our “ unemployed ” generals are grousing all the time doesn’t surprise me. Criticism doesn’t cost much.