This section of the web site will cover primarily philatelic and other materials pertaining to the ghettos established by the Germans in occupied eastern Europe. In addition, however, this section will also include philatelic and other materials pertaining to Jewish councils or administrations established in Jewish communities in occupied western Europe, countries allied with the Germans including Japan, and Germany, itself.
History of Ghettos Under German Occupation
The earliest communication regarding the creation of ghettos in the German occupied territories was a directive from Reinhard Heydrich, the Chief of the Security police, to the chiefs of the task forces (Einsatzgruppen) in occupied Poland, dated September 21, 1939. This directive indicated that Jews should be concentrated in cities and that, in each community, a Council of Jewish Elders (Judenrats) should be established. More specifically,
"The reason to be given for the concentration of the Jews to the cities is that Jews have most decisively participated in sniper attacks and plundering.... The councils of Elders of the concentration centers are to be made responsible for the proper housing of the Jews to be brought in from the country. The concentration of Jews in the cities for general reasons of security will probably bring about orders to forbid Jews to enter certain wards of the cities altogether, and that in consideration of economic necessity they cannot, for instance, leave the ghetto, they cannot go out after a designated evening hour, etc...."
Notwithstanding this directive, no specific general orders were issued regarding the establishment of ghettos. Accordingly, ghettos were not uniformly established in either time or internal administration. About 400 ghettos were established in occupied Poland. The first was organized at Piotrkow Trybunalski in October, 1939. In 1941, most of the small town ghettos were liquidated and their occupants transferred to ghettos in the larger urban areas. Also, these larger ghettos received many Jews from Germany and other occupied European countries. The liquidation of the ghettos started with the commencement of the "Final Solution" in early 1942. By the time the eastern occupied territories were liberated by the Soviet Union, not a single ghetto was left standing.
The following description of mail service in the ghettos is from the award winning book, Judenrat by Isaiah Trunk (pages 178-80):
"The post office or mail department was another vital organ of the Jewish Councils. It was the only official channel linking the the isolated ghettos with the outer world. Not everywhere, however, did the authorities permit a post office in the ghetto. ...
Taking over mail services was a gradual process. Even before ghettoization, the use of post offices had been denied to individual Jews, and their incoming mail had been delivered in bulk to the councils for distribution. ...
The agreement regarding mail service for the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto ... stated that the Council would handle all outgoing and incoming mail, using persons authorized for this work ... ; that the German post office would arrange a special exchange office ...; and that the Jewish Council would pay for the maintenance of this office while making a cash accounting on a daily basis. With small differences, this agreement was incorporated into the order regulating mail service in the ghettos in the entire area of the Government General. The Councils in the Government General were entitled to a 25% surcharge on postage. ...
The postal stamp on outgoing mail included the word Judenrat, along with the name of the town and the date. ...
The fee for mail service to which the Councils were entitled was a source of income but also of discontent, particularly as some rates... amounted to a surcharge of 100% over the official rate. ...
Mail exchange between the ghettos and the outer world was often disrupted. ... As a rule, mail was not delivered, or was greatly curtailed during 'resettlement' actions."
Many of the surviving postal items sent from Ghettos were postcards sent to RELICO (The Relief Committee for Jewish War Victims) located in Geneva, Switzerland, and to Alfred Schwartzenbaum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Relico was established in September, 1939, by Doctor Abraham Silberschein. Funding was provided by organizations such as the World Jewish Congress and the American Joint Distribution Committee. The following description of Relico's activities is from the Yad Vashem Resource Center:
"In the early days of the war, Silberschein was informed that the Germans were willing to release Polish Jews from Sachsenhausen, Dachau, and Buchenwald if they would leave Germany immediately. With help from a Jewish immigrant organization in America, Silberschein succeeded in getting several groups out of Germany in 1940 and into Bolivia and Palestine. Relico also helped organize the emigration of Jewish refugees from Vilna and Kovno to Japan, Shanghai, and to the Dutch colonies. It also aided Polish refugees in Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Italy, in addition to refugees from the Netherlands, Belgium, and northern France, who had reached the unoccupied (Vichy) zone of France.
In all his refugee activities, Silberschein used the services of various bodies to transmit information and deliver packages of food and medicines; these included the International Red Cross, the Polish, Czechoslovak, and Dutch consuls in Switzerland, representatives of the Vatican, the Protestant Church Council, and the Quakers. Due to its many contacts and its ability to transmit information quickly, Relico was one of the first sources to break the news about the Chelmno and Treblinka extermination camps."
Alfred Schwartzbaum was a wealthy Polish Jew who settled in Lausanne, Switzerland. He provided aid an assistance to Jews in Poland and worked with Relico.
Ghettos and Other Jewish Communities
Bedzin (Bendsburg), Poland
Beuthen (Bytom), Poland
Bielsko (Bielitz), Poland
Borek Falecki, Poland
Brzeziny (Lowenstadt), Poland
Chernovtsy (Czernowitz), Ukraine
Dabrowa Tarnowska, Poland
Dombrowa Gornicza, Poland
Grodno, Poland (Belarus)
Kalusch, Poland (Ukraine)
Klodada (Tonningen), Poland
Koln (Cologne), Germany
Kolo (Muhlental), Poland
Kolomyja (Kolomea), Ukraine
Kosow Lacki, Poland
Kroscienko (II), Poland
Lentschutz (Leczyca), Poland
Lodz (Litzmannstadt), Poland
Lowenstadt (Brzeziny), Poland
Lvov (Lemberg), Poland
Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Poland
Nadworna, Poland (Ukraine)
Nowy Sacz (Neu-Sandez), Poland
Nowy Targ (Neumarkt), Poland
Olomouc (Olmutz), Czech Republic
Pajeczno (Pfeilstett), Poland
Piaski Luterskie, Poland
Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland
Potok Zloty, Poland
Rawa Mazowiecka, Poland
Rohatyn, Poland (Ukraine)
Sokolow Malopolski, Poland
Sokolow Podlaski, Poland
Stanislau (Stanislawow), Poland
Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland
Tschenstochau (Czestochowa), Poland
Wisnicz Nowy, Poland
Zdunska Wola, Poland
Zloczow (Zolochev), Poland (Ukraine)
Isaiah Trunk, Judenrat, Stein and Day Publishers (1977)
Roman Mogilanski, The Ghetto Anthology, American Congress of Jews from Poland and Survivors of Concentration Camps (1985)
Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Macmillan Publishing Company (1990), P.579-82
Gordon, Ghetto Mail to "Relico" and Alfred Schwartzbaum, The Israel Philatelist, April, 1991, P. 6192-96
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