Litzmannstadt Ghetto, Ghetto Lodz

Plac Koscielny (Kirchplatz)

After Balucki Rynek, this is the second most central and characteristic place of the Lodz ghetto. A bridge over the street, immortalized in numerous historical photographs, was located nearby. The church, dedicated to the Assumption of the Holiest Virgin Mary, was turned into a storehouse for stolen Jewish property. A station of the German criminal police was located in the parish house at 8 Koscielna St., and the Jewish police headquarters was situated on the opposite side of the bridge and the street. Many important institutions and offices functioned in the tenement buildings around the square.

The ghetto telephone exchange was located in the back of the corner building. In 1941, there were 120 telephone numbers in the ghetto. They were allotted to the most important district offices, pharmacies, the Health Department institutions and police stations.

At 2/4 Plac Koscielny was housed the Population Records Department, including the Registration Office, the Registry, the Statistics Department and the Archives. Here, in the Statistics Department The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto was compiled, one of the most important documents of the Second World War.

The employees of the Archives gathered everything and anything concerning the operation of the ghetto. The documents include announcements, posters and circulars. Rumkowski's speeches were saved. Passports, identity cards and private letters of deportees were collected. Amazingly, a significant number of those documents survived. Above all, The Chronicle news reports were saved.

The Chronicle was compiled by several people: philosophers, journalists, writers. This group initially consisted of Polish Jews; later it included Jews transported to the ghetto from other parts of Europe. The first manager of the Archives was Stanislaw Cukier-Cerski, a journalist who had worked at the Lodz newspaper Republika prior to the war; beginning in March 1943 the job was taken over by Oskar Singer, a philosopher from Prague.

As of January 12, 1941, the compilation was recorded in Polish and called The Bulletin of the Daily Chronicle (Biuletyn Kroniki Codziennej); from September 1942 to July 30, 1944 it was written in German and called the Tageschronik. This whole compilation of what is now called The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto provides a unique look into the daily life of the ghetto inhabitants. We know the littlest of details such as what the weather was like, what kind of announcements appeared on the streets, how many people died and how many were born. We know how food was rationed and what the prices were on the black market. We know what the people were excited about, what the latest gossip was and where people attended concerts.

The ghetto archives were located in a small, slightly detached secluded room with a separate entrance. There is no doubt, however, that the compilers of The Chronicle did their work under a watchful eye. At any moment, they knew their words could be read by the German authorities, and most certainly by Rumkowski. Thus, the picture of the Lodz ghetto, and in particular, that of its leader, is presented in such a way that is often a contradiction to the accounts of other people, authors of diaries and memoirs, who also went through that ghetto hell Nevertheless, The Chronicle is an invaluable work that cannot be underestimated.

Until 1942, the Rabbinical College directed by Rabbi Szolem Trajstman functioned in the annex to the same tenement building. The duties of the rabbis included decisions on religious matters and performing rituals such as marriages, divorces and circumcisions. In September 1942, the College was dissolved. Some of the rabbis were deported to Chelmno-nad-Nerem; others landed in the ghetto administration. From that time on, marriage ceremonies were performed by Rumkowski himself.

Residents and hosts of various establishments in building No.4 changed often. The pre-war owners of the building, the Fajtlowicz family, lived on the top floor until the final liquidation of the ghetto. Numerous pictures were taken by photographer Mendel Grossman from the windows of this building, mainly from the window of the Statistics Department.

42 marriage ceremonies were performed yesterday in a specially allotted new hall in the building at 4 Plac Koscielny, where the registry and the rabbinic office are located. It should be explained that during the current 49-day period between Easter and Pentecost, marriages can be performed only on two days: the 5th and the 17th. 20 marriages out of the 42 involved exiled couples from the West. Such a high number is justified by the fear of separation during the deportation process action.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, May 6,1942, Vol. 1, p. 511.

The Purchase Headquarters located at 4 Plac Koscielny organized an umbrella factory these days. Already within the first few weeks it produced over 1,000 umbrellas of the most modern design and cut. They are meant to be sold outside of the ghetto. The Purchase Headquarters has also established a garment tailoring workshop at 4 Plac Koscielny, which produces mainly women’s clothing from materials supplied by the Headquarters.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, December 14, 1942,Vol. 2, p. 432.

Mr. H.B. Litwin, a former director of the now-defunct trade committee, was assigned to organize a new labor department named "The Central Depot for Oil and Chemicals" and is to be its manager. The managements office will be located in the old office of the trade committee at 4 Plac Koscielny; the duty of this new institution will be to supply oil to all machines in the ghetto labor departments.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, December 12-13,Vol. 2, p. 429.

I was just going back from Baluty where the stalls still full of clothes and the church square still hard over which the bridge was carrying impatient Jewish souls and threw the bodies down to the cobblestones
Henryk Grynberg, Hamburg Elysee (fragment)