Lodz was a prosperous textile town in Poland with a large Jewish population until the Nazis adopted a policy of Germanification. The town itself was officially renamed Litzmannstadt, after a German general, in May 1940. It was one of the first towns where the Jews were forced into a ghetto. On the 8th February 1940 the Chief of Police issued the order for all Jews to reside in the designated ghetto area by the end of the month. A month later many Jews were still hoping to find a way to avoid the order.
However at the beginning of March the Germans entered several large apartment buildings in Jewish districts and ordered all the inhabitants out within 15 minutes. Anyone found inside after the 15 minutes was simply shot. Hundreds of people were killed for being too slow or simply because the Germans wanted to demonstrate their intent. The remaining Jewish citizens of Lodz realised that they had to move into the ghetto. The diary of Irena Liebman was found after the war:
Thursday night’s events were the final signal to abandon our house and move into the ghetto. We rented a cart and dumped our property into it and carrying our rucksacks, we went to our new life, to the ghetto. Starting in the morning more and more people filled the city streets with knapsacks, suitcases, bundles. Everyone was going in the same direction, rushing toward the same goal, the dirtiest, ugliest quarter of the city, a place with no sewers and paved with cobblestones.
The days were warm and the snow was melting. The mud in the streets of the new Jewish quarter splashed as people walked. They tripped on the uneven pavement, dropping clothes and other possessions into the sticky black mud. Their meagre property lay in the street, trampled, crushed, covered with dirt.
Waves of people, one after another, were coming. Old people leaning on sticks, cripples sitting in the carts, blind people led by the hand, babies at their mothers’ breasts, and older children carrying things. Retarded people with strange eyes and unnatural body movements, sick people riding in droshkies, and a great mass of men and women, large and small, attractive and ugly, young and old, bent under the weight of their luggage. Pets of all sizes, brushes, bowls, irons, carpet-beaters, scales, things beyond number. People without faces, their backs curved, their heads hanging low. A caravan of poverty. Grey, weary, miserable.
The ghetto. Tiny, narrow streets. Little houses without conveniences. A well in the backyard. A refuse dump infested with rats. A stinking toilet full of melting snow, impossible to use. A leaking roof, dilapidated walls. One little room and a small kitchen for seven people.