Litzmannstadt Ghetto, Ghetto Lodz

The Community Center 3 Krawiecka St. (Schneidergasse)

The arts carried on within the confines of the ghetto, and a big part of that cultural life took place in this small building. Concerts, theater performances, exhibitions and poetry readings were held here. Magnificent artists reflected the aesthetic trends in Europe at that time.

Before the war, this building on Krawiecka Street housed a cinema, but reportedly it was also the office of the Lodz branch of Narodowa Demokracja, a Polish right-wing party. The cinema held 400 seats and a stage, where a symphony orchestra or a troupe of actors could perform. During the occupation, the building functioned both as a music hall and a theater.

The Community Center was officially opened on March 1, 1941, although theater performances and concerts had already been going on here for some time. But a regular program of events became routine after that date. Invitations were given to the employees of various labor departments, mainly that of the administration, and, of course, to ghetto officials. They escaped to a soothing moment of classical music or to a light repertoire, performed mainly in Yiddish. In that first year of official programming, 85 shows were staged. The troupe consisted of outstanding talent from the pre-war era: Mosze Pulawer of the Ararat Theater and dancer Halina Krukowska, among other well-known performers; the orchestra was conducted by Dawid Bajgelman, a big-name composer; the stage sets were designed by Pinchas Schwarz. People led discussions on art, recited poetry and organized painting exhibition. The music scene included Bronislawa Rotsztatowna, who was connected with the Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra both before and after the war.

The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto reports that in the first year an estimated 70,000 people attended the cultural events at the Community Center. Among the performances, special events for children were held as well. One was organized by the Schools Department during Purim; another called "The Summer Festival" was put on by Marysin officials. Other events held for the youth included a ceremony for the graduates of the ghetto secondary schools.

After the deportees from other European countries started to come in, the Krawiecka Street became an even bigger arts feast. Great virtuosos of the music world performed here. Among the newly arrived were Dawid Birkenfeld, a pianist from Vienna, and Rudolf Bandler, an opera singer from Prague. The musical and theatrical soirees were also an occasion for Rumkowski to give speeches. Beginning in autumn 1942, when the ghetto was transformed into a much more intensified labor camp, the Community Center rarely housed artistic events.

The cultural life moved to the labor departments. In the summer of 1943, the building was turned into the blankets and quilts department. Sometimes Rumkowski would conduct marriage ceremonies here. And sometimes music was still heard.

After the war, the building was utilized in various ways. The Halka cinema was located at this site for years. Today, it is a medium-sized food market.

Following the order by Mr. Chairman, the Community Center is registering the musicians and painters who arrived in the ghetto recently. As of today, approximately 60 musicians, singers and actors, as well as 10 painters, are registered. A famous portrait painter, Gutman from Prague, is worth mentioning among the latter. Gutman has already gained popularity in the ghetto, thanks to his unique style, resembling the figures from Montparnasse [a famed Paris quarter inhabited by artists].
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, December 6, 1941, Vol. 1, p. 297.

The Community Center celebrated the end of 1941 with its 1OOth concert! This jubilee concert took place on the last day of the year. It was d violin recital by Bronislawa Rotsztatowna, accompanied by maestro Ryder. The program included Bach, Glazunow and Mozart.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, Bulletin, December 29- 31, 1941, Vol. 1, p.345.

On January 4, the hall of the Community Center was filled with an unusual audience: 85 graduates of the secondary schools supervised by the Eldest of the Jews, their parents, representatives of the teachers, members of the school authorities. Mr. Chairman took a seat behind the honorary table placed on the modest, but tastefully decorated stage.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, Bulletin, January 10-13, 1942, Vol. 1, p. 388.

The audience, consisting mainly of young people and even children, is watching the acrobatics of four dancers with their mouths open. The daily worries are pushed aside. The psychosis of the ghetto cannot be felt here. It is evidence of the indestructible Jewish existence, of the power of the internal faith, which reveals itself even in a common revue show.
Oskar Rozenfeld, Notebook 4, pp. 4-6.

The future reader, given so much information about the cultural events and other forms of social life in the ghetto, will shake his head in doubt and will start considering it in his heart that the situation of the ghetto inhabitants might not have been so tragic when they led such a rich and bursting social life... Already now, there are many people in the ghetto who reject this pleasure, claiming that such shallow entertainment does not suit the circumstances. But if we buried this only source of vitality and affirmation of life, we would be the ones who suppress the basic life instinct in people in trouble. Being able to sit in a theater hall, far from the hopeless reality, to go out to the corridor during the intermission, to gossip, to flirt, to show off a new dress or a hairdo - these luxuries should not be taken away from the people living in a cultural center of the utmost importance, which Lodz used to be before the war. The chronicler of the ghetto wishes, therefore, to approach this issue with understanding and to tell the future reader that the suffering in the ghetto was no less only because someone could experience a few hours of joy there.
The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, June 9, 1943.