Trybunalski is a town in central Poland, about 16 miles (26 km)
south of Lodz. In 1939, there were some 18,000 Jews in Piotrkow,
about one-third of the total population, with a vibrant community
was occupied by the Germans on September 5, 1939, four days after
the outbreak of World War II. Anti-Jewish excesses took place at
once: brutal beatings, kidnappings for forced labor, and killings.
Jewish valuables and household effects were plundered in large
quantities. The Germans broke into the main synagogue, famed for its
beauty, robbed it of all its sacred objects, and beat and seized 29
worshipers. When Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) came, 10 days
later, nothing remained of the synagogue except the four walls. Some
2,000 Jews of Piotrkow managed to escape during the initial days of
the occupation, but the number of Jews in the town swelled as
refugees from neighboring towns poured in.
8, 1939, the commander of Piotrkow Trybunalski, Hans Drexler,
created by decree a ghetto for the Jews in this central Polish town.
The Piotrkow Ghetto is the first known ghetto to have been formed in
occupied Poland. However, it took until late January 1940 to force
the Jews to move there. The Judenrat issued several announcements
ordering Jews to make this move, but since they did not have the
desired impact, the Germans eventually evicted the Jews one by one
from the “Aryan” quarter, ordered them to relocate to the
ghetto, and transferred their vacated dwellings to Christians.
Although Christian residents of the ghetto area were also ordered to
leave their homes, many Poles lived or ran businesses there until
the spring of 1942. The ghetto was not fenced and its boundary was
not guarded. Signs proclaiming the area a ghetto, bearing the
likeness of skulls, were posted only near the ghetto boundaries and
the main gate. The Jews were allowed to leave the ghetto without
permits, albeit only at specified times of the day, and were allowed
to spend longer periods of time on several “Aryan” streets.
However, they were not allowed on the main streets. The Jewish
curfew in the ghetto varied from order to order. An influx of
refugees and displaced persons caused the ghetto population to swell
from 10,000 at the beginning of the war to 16,500 in April 1942.