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Będzin Ghetto or the Bendzin Ghetto was a ghetto established for Jews by Nazi German authorities in occupied Poland during the Holocaust. A major ghetto in East Upper Silesia, it was created in May 1942. Over 20,000 Jews from Będzin (Bendzin), along with another 10,000 Jews who had resettled there after being displaced from other local communities, lived in the ghetto during its short history. Most of them were forced to work in German military factories before being deported to the nearby concentration camp at Auschwitz where they were exterminated by German authorities. The last major deportation of ghetto residents between 1 and 3 August 1943 was marked by an uprising by members of the local Jewish Combat Organization.

File:Bedzin Ghetto (World War II).jpg

Będzin Ghetto during World War II

Background[edit | edit source]

Before the outbreak of World War II, Będzin had a vibrant Jewish community. [1] According to the 1921 census, the town had a Jewish community consisting of 17,298 people, or 62.1 percent of its total population.[1][2] By 1938, the number of Jews had increased to about 22,500.[1]

In early September 1939 during the Invasion of Poland, the German Army (Heer) overran this area, followed by the SS death squads (Einsatzgruppen). On 7 September, persecution of the Jews began, with the instituting of economic sanctions.[1] On 8 September, the Będzin synagogue was burned, and the first massacre of local Jews took place.[1]

On 8 October 1939, Hitler declared that Będzin would be among the Polish territories annexed by Germany.[3] Germans started to resettle Jews from other communities into Będzin; among them were Jews from Zagłębie Dąbrowskie region, as well as from nearby towns of Bohumin, Kielce and Oświęcim (Auschwitz).[1] Overall, about 30,000 Jews would live in Będzin during World War II.[1] By late 1942, Będzin and nearby Sosnowiec (see also Sosnowiec Ghetto), which bordered Będzin, became the only two towns in the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie region that were still inhabited by Jews.[4]

Ghetto[edit | edit source]

Until May 1942, the Jews in Będzin were not restricted to a confined area. The creation of the ghetto in May 1942 was part of the slow but steady process of resettlement undertaken by the German authorities, which eventually created areas in which the Jews could be clearly confined.[3][4]

As was the case in other ghettos, German authorities eventually murdered most of the Jews of Będzin, deporting most of them to Nazi concentration camps (primarily nearby Auschwitz). From October 1940 to May 1942, about 4,000 were deported from Będzin.[1] At that time, the leaders of the Jewish community in Zagłebie (Mojżesz Merin or Moshe Merin) cooperated with the Germans, hoping that the survival of the Jews might be tied to their labour.[4] This eventually proved a false hope. Major deportations took place in 1942: 2,000 in May, 5,000 in August.[1] Another 5,000 were deported between August 1942 and June 1943.[1] The last major deportations took place in 1943: 5,000 were deported on 22 June 1943 and 8,000 around 1–3 August 1943.[1] About 1,000 remaining Jews were deported in the subsequent months; it is estimated that of the 30,000 inhabitants of the ghetto, there were only 2,000 survivors.[1]

Uprising[edit | edit source]

A local chapter of the Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB) was created in Będzin around 1941.[4] During the final major deportation push in August 1943, the ŻOB in Będzin and Sosnowiec staged an uprising against the Germans.[4] The uprising, a final act of defiance of the local population, was unsuccessful; most of the Jews from the ghetto perished.[1][4]

Commemoration[edit | edit source]

In 2004, Będzin City Council decided to dedicate the city square to the heroes of the Jewish ghetto uprising in Będzin.[5] In August 2005 new memorial was unveiled at the site of the Będzin Ghetto.[6]

There are several diaries from survivors and hundreds of written correspondences made to relations from those in the ghetto at the time.[1] Photos of many of the ghetto's deportees to Auschwitz were preserved. A collection of over 2,000 photographs was discovered in October, 1986, including many images of life in Będzin and the ghetto. Some of them have been published in a book[7] or in a video.[8] The Eyes from the Ashes Foundation administers the collection.

Notes[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Jaworski Wojciech, Żydzi będzińscy – dzieje i zagłada, Będzin 1993
  • Zagłada Żydów Zagłębiowskich, red. A. Namysło, Będzin 2004

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