Lviv Ghetto

Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and belonged until the outbreak of the second world war Poland and was located in the historical region of Galicia. After Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939, Lviv ended up in the Soviet Union. Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and Lviv was occupied by the Germans on 30 June. At that time, about 160,000 Jews lived in the city. When the Soviets evacuated the city, the soviet security service NKVD murdered Ukrainian prisoners who were in prison. The bodies of the murdered were discovered and became the start of violent pogroms that erupted in the city. Jews were forcibly taken from their homes, attacked in the streets, beaten, humiliated, and killed by enraged crowds that drew the equal sign between communism and Judaism. In one month, between 4,000 – 5,000 Jews were murdered. In July, the next pogrom broke out where another 2,000 Jews were murdered. All the pogroms were done with the unspoken support and approval of the Germans.

On November 8, 1941, the German authorities established a ghetto in the northern part of the city. By December 15, all Jews would have moved there. About 5,000 elderly Jews were murdered by German police in connection with the move because they were not considered to be able to work. About 110,000 Jews lived in the ghetto surrounded by barbed wire fences and watchtowers. Only with special shifts was it possible to leave and return to the ghetto. Overcrowding, lack of food and medicines contributed to a mortality beyond the normal. Smuggling and black stock exchange trading became a method for the Jews to survive. Something that was usually punished with death if it was discovered.

In mid-March 1942, the first deportations of Jews were carried out from the ghetto to the recently opened extermination camp Belzec about ten miles north of Lviv. For about two weeks, about 15,000 Jews were deported to Belzec where they were murdered in the gas chamber of the camp. The majority of these were old, women, children and sick people whom the Germans no longer considered could be exploited for slave labour. In August 1942, what was called the great action was carried out when about 50,000 Jews were deported to Belzec where they were murdered. After this action, about 65,000 Jews remained in the ghetto and therefore a smaller ghetto was established.

In 1942, 5,000 Jews were deported to Belzec. In the same month, between 15,000 – 20,000 Jews were murdered at Piaski next to the Janowska concentration camp on the outskirts of Lviv. After these two actions, the surface of the ghetto was further reduced. In January 1943, another 15,000 – 20,000 Jews were murdered at Piaski, this time Jews who had important functions in the ghetto, such as the jewish council or other administrative functions. German police, SS units and Ukrainian relief police searched the ghetto for Jews who were hiding and destroyed the ghetto systematically by setting it on fire. Jews who were discovered were shot on the spot or sent to Piaski where they were shot. What was left of the ghetto after it was dismantled then became a labor camp for the remaining Jews. This labor camp was dismantled and finally destroyed in June 1943 and the last Jews were sent Janowska where it was murdered in november 1943. When Lviv was liberated by the Soviet Red Army in july 1944, there were only between 200 – 300 jews who managed to survive by staying hidden.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished with monument (2009).

Location: 49° 51' 3.71" N 24° 1' 27.77" E (main monument).

Get there: Walk from central Lviv.

My comment:

Old houses from the time of the ghetto are integrated with newer houses. The most famous resident of the ghetto was Simon Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal was sent in August 1942 to Janowska and later to other camps and he was liberated by the americans in Mauthausen in may 1945. Wiesenthal devoted the rest of his life to ”track” up Nazi war criminals and has for this received a variety of awards. But Wiesenthal’s life stories and efforts have been subjected to harsh scrutiny and it has been found that his stories contain so many flaws and inaccuracies that the author Guy Walters in his book, Hunting Evil (2010), calls him a liar. Wiesenthal has to emphasize himself deliberately lied, exaggerated and taken credit for things that demonstrably others deserved. Wiesenthal’s biggest contribution does not lie in his tracking down a lot of Nazis, his greatest contribution is his undeniable commitment (despite the lies) that has given the crimes of Nazism an attention that it might not otherwise have received.

Follow up in books: Arad, Yitzhak: Holocaust in the Soviet union (2009).