The Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland took the lives of three million Polish Jews, destroying an entire civilization. Poles represented the largest number of people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. To date, 6,135 Poles have been awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel 700 of which received their awards posthumously.
Between October 1939 and July 1942 a system of ghettos was imposed for the confinement of Jews. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in World War 11, with 380,000 people crammed into an area of 1.3 square miles. The Łódź Ghetto held about 160,000. Other Polish cities with large Jewish ghettos included :
Ghettos were also established in hundreds of smaller settlements. Living conditions were terrible with overcrowding, dirt, lice, lethal epidemics such as typhoid and hunger resulted in countless deaths. The ghettos were connected with the formation of highly secretive killing centers built at about the same time and designed exclusively for the rapid elimination of Polish Jews in ghettos.
Six extermination camps were established throughout Poland by 1942.
All were located on the rail network, serving as transit camps, some as forced labor camps and some as death camps. In November 1942 the Germans expelled over 100,000 people from the Zamosc region; many were deported to Auschwitz or Majdanek camps. The Jewish partisan movement in Poland began to take shape in the summer of 1942 at a time of increased deportations to the death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz and Belzec.
- An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jews fought in partisan groups based in the forests of eastern Europe. The formation of a stronger Soviet and Polish resistance in 1943 was too late for the vast majority of Jews in eastern Europe killed in mass shootings and gassings.
- In Warsaw, in December 1942, members of the Polish resistance formed an underground organization called Zegota that saved an estimated 3,000 Jews, many of them children.
- As part of the Polish resistance movement officers of the regular Polish army headed an underground Polish armed force, the “Home Army” Armia Krajowa.
MUSEUM of the HISTORY of POLISH JEWS