In commemoration of the liquidation of its ghetto in 1944, the Polish city of Łódź, its local Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel, held a ceremony to mark the occasion.

The day’s events began with a prayer at the city’s Jewish cemetery followed by a memorial march culminating at Radegast Station, where the official ceremonies took place. Dignitaries included Rabbi David Szychowski, Shavei Israel’s emissary to Łódź , who serves as the Jewish community’s chief rabbi; Jewish communal leaders; Łódź municipal officials, including the mayor; local residents; and Holocaust survivors.

Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund said that the organization was determined to keep the memory of Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, alive. “Despite the ravages of the past, it is a testament to the inextinguishable Jewish spirit that young Poles with Jewish roots are rediscovering their heritage and returning to our people. Our emissary Rabbi David Szychowski’s work in Łódź underlines both the power of Jewish memory and the pull of Jewish destiny,” he added.

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Rabbi Szychowski said that Łódź – located in central Poland and the country’s third-largest city – was built by both Jews and Polish citizens. He remarked that it was important for the city’s current citizens to come together and remember the tragic events of the past, but to also look forward to the future.

It is estimated that there are approximately 4,000 Jews officially registered as living in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Poles with Jewish roots whose families, to this day, are either hiding their identities or are unaware of their Jewish heritage. Shavei Israel has been active in Poland for over a decade, working closely with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

Jews comprised more than 30% of the total population of Łódź – approximately 223,000 out of 665,000 people – when the German army invaded Poland in September, 1939.

In early 1940, the Nazis forced more than 164,000 Jews to live within the confines of the Łódź Ghetto, which was surrounded by barbed-wire and a fence and had no running water or electricity. It was the second-largest ghetto, after that of Warsaw, established by the Germans during the Holocaust. The Nazis began deportations from the ghetto in 1942, until they finally liquidated it between August 9-28, 1944. By the war’s end, only about 900 of the Jews of the Łódź Ghetto had survived.

Source: Israel in the News