Kielce Ghetto


About 100 kilometres north of Krakow lies Kielce. When the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, about 24,000 Jews lived in Kielce, which corresponded to a third of Kielce’s population. Already on 4 September, the Germans occupied Kielce and immediately imposed anti-Jewish measures. Jews were plundered, forced into slave labour and sporadic executions occurred. At the end of March 1941, the germans established a ghetto where the city’s jews were forced to move. Former residents of what became the ghetto were forced to leave their homes.

The ghetto was surrounded by barbed wire fences and only with special permission could one leave or enter the ghetto. Most often, it was Jews with shifts who had permission to leave the ghetto because they were working outside the ghetto. A Jewish council was established that governed the ghetto on the basis of German directives. Lack of food, medicines and sanitary facilities allowed the spread of famine and disease. The only way to alleviate hunger and disease was to smuggle in both food and medicines. Those caught with contraband risked not only imprisonment but also the death penalty.

Between 20 and 24 August 1942, the Germans began to dismantle the ghetto. On the pretext that the Jews would be evacuated to other places, they boarded trains that instead brought them to the newly established extermination camp Treblinka about 30 miles northeast of Kielce where they were murdered in the gas chamber of the camp. The Jews were only allowed to bring minimal baggage, and what they were forced to leave behind, the Germans seized. During these days, between 20,000 –,21,000 Jews are deported while about 1,200 Jews are murdered in the ghetto. About 2,000 Jews needed as labour by the Germans escaped deportation and were instead put in a new camp set up. These worked to clean up the ghetto and sort out the Jewish property that had been left behind. In March 1943, this camp was also dismantled and the prisoners were sent to other camps. After the war, about 150 Jews who remained in hiding returned to Kielce.

Current status: Demolished with monument (2019).

Location: 50°52'29.66" N 20°37'40.43" E

Get there: Walk from central Kielce.

My comment:

There is to my knowledge nothing left of the ghetto, and everything is rebuilt/newly built after the war. At the Jewish cemetery there are additional monuments dedicated to the Holocaust. For example a mass grave where Jewish children were shot and buried.

Follow up in books: Gilbert, Martin: The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987).