Disturbing Photos Captured Inside The Jewish Ghettos Of The Holocaust

Published February 7, 2018
Updated July 28, 2020

Before the concentration camps, the Nazis' victims endured another kind of hell inside the walls of the Jewish ghettos.

Jewish Ghettos Warsaw
Warsaw Ghetto Children Begging
Climbing The Ghetto Wall
Jewish Ghettos Boy With Sign
Disturbing Photos Captured Inside The Jewish Ghettos Of The Holocaust
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"There is no justice in the world," one young girl wrote in her diary, struggling through starvation and imprisonment under Nazi rule, "not to mention in the ghetto."

Life in the Jewish ghettos of the Holocaust was indeed torture. After their invasion of Poland in 1939, the Nazis began setting up Jewish ghettos both in that country and across Europe. Jewish civilians were branded and forcibly deported into small, cramped quarters, often segregated from the rest of the city with walls or barbed wire. There they waited, hoped, and prayed, most unaware that this was nothing more than the first step in the Nazi plot for the systematic eradication of Europe's Jewish population.

Before they could even be sent to concentration camps, however, many prisoners of the Jewish ghettos were starved out. They were given little to nothing to eat, leaving them to suffer through painful fits of hunger. Some died of starvation, and many more from the diseases that were allowed to spread wildly inside of the ghetto walls.

And there was little anyone could do to stop it. The people on the other side of the walls were strictly forbidden from smuggling food into the Jewish ghettos — on penalty of death.

Still, most ghetto dwellers just did their best to survive. They had little idea what horrors the Nazis were preparing them for, and many could only resolve themselves to struggle through the hard times and pray the Nazis would lose the war and someone would come and liberate them.

That freedom, though, came too late. By 1942, the Nazis had begun the next phase of their plan: systemically exterminating every person inside those ghetto walls. Some ghettos, especially inside captured portions of the USSR, were simply turned into "extermination ghettos," where the people would be dragged out into the woods and shot. In other ghettos, the people would be sent off to death camps like Auschwitz to be gassed and incinerated.

When the people in the Jewish ghettos began to realize that death was imminent, some started fighting back. There were uprisings in ghettos across the continent, with Jewish resistance fighters grabbing anything they could find and desperately trying to fend off the Nazis that had stolen their homes. The most famous revolt was the Warsaw ghetto uprising, where Jews and Poles worked together to try to stop the SS from dragging their families off to the death camps.

As hard as they fought, though, a few resistance fighters couldn't hold off the Nazi war machine forever. The SS simply struck back harder. Much of the Warsaw ghetto was burned to the ground, the people were dragged out of hiding, and the men and women were rounded up and sent to Treblinka, one of The Holocaust's most brutal death camps.

In time, however, liberation finally came. In late 1944 into 1945, the Allied armies marched through Europe, fighting off the Nazi forces and freeing the people who had suffered through it all. For millions, though, help came too late.

Millions of prisoners of the Jewish ghettos died at the hands of the Nazis — but the photos survive; a warning, showing us what life looks like at the start of a genocide.

After this look inside the Jewish ghettos of World War II, see some of the most powerful Holocaust photos ever taken. Then, read up on the infamous Nazi experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Oliver, Mark. "Disturbing Photos Captured Inside The Jewish Ghettos Of The Holocaust." AllThatsInteresting.com, February 7, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/jewish-ghettos-photos. Accessed June 24, 2024.