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Petition of Meir Halle

Halle, Meir petition 1940
Courtesy of The Head Office of the State Archives, Warsaw
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tags: children & youth family food & hunger ghettos

type: Petition

The Łódź ghetto was the second largest ghetto in German-occupied Poland, following the ghetto in Warsaw. While the Warsaw ghetto was located in the part of occupied Poland known as the Generalgouvernment, Łódź was in a region that was annexed directly by the Third Reich.1 In the spring of 1940, many Poles, Jews, and Roma and Sinti from the region were deported to the Generalgouvernement. This was part of radical Nazi plans to colonize conquered eastern European territories and "Germanize" the annexed territories. Jews and Roma and Sinti were confined to a ghetto. Over the years, the Germans continued to deport Jews and Roma and Sinti from other parts of the Reich to Ghetto Litzmannstadt—as the Łódź ghetto was officially called.2

Over the next four years, starvation and disease killed many people in the ghetto. The German authorities exploited Jewish forced labor, but did not provide adequate food, medical care, or hygienic conditions.3 Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski ran the Judenrat ("Jewish Council"), and he developed a reputation as a heavy-handed ruler who tried to establish a cult of personality around himself.4 In the fall of 1942, German authorities tasked Rumkowski with delivering 20,000 children for deportation from Łódź to what many realized was certain death. Despite pleas and fierce objections from the ghetto inhabitants, Rumkowski's administration oversaw the deportations as ordered.

Prior to the mass deportations of 1942, the ghetto administration functioned as a bureaucracy with different institutions engaged in different spheres of ghetto life. As leader of the ghetto, Rumkowski routinely received petitions from ghetto inhabitants who wanted to improve their situation under the increasingly difficult circumstances.5 At the end of the first year in the ghetto, Meir Halle, a 12-year-old orphan, wrote to Rumkowski to ask for help taking care of two of his brothers. Halle's petition—and the fact that it was preserved in the ghetto archive along with many other similar petitions—provides a valuable insight into ghetto life and its administrative bureaucracy. As a document authored by a child, it represents a rare perspective on these topics—one worth comparing with the children's diaries featured in the related Experiencing History collection, Holocaust Diaries.6

The fate of Meir Halle remains unknown.

The German name for this annexed territory was "Reichsgau Wartheland." A "Reichsgau" was an administrative district of Nazi Germany.

For a history of the Łódź ghetto, see Isaiah Trunk, Łódź Ghetto: A History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2006); and Lucjan Dobroszycki, ed., The Chronicle of the Łódź Ghetto, 1941-1944 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984).

Irene Hauser, a deportee from Vienna, documented the harsh reality of her family's life in the ghetto, filling the pages of her diary with passages about starvation and other hardships. A segment of her diary is featured in Experiencing History. The diary is also excerpted in Jürgen Matthäus, ed., Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume 3, 1941–1942 (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2013), 178–179; and Emil Kerenji, ed., Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume 4, 1942–1943 (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 413–15.

For more on Rumkowski and life in the ghetto, see the related items in Experiencing History, "The Program of the Ghetto Newspaper" and Forty-two Weddings in the Łódź Ghetto.

For more information about everyday life in the ghetto, see Oskar Rosenfeld, In the Beginning Was the Ghetto: Notebooks from Łódź (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 2012). Rosenfeld (1884-1944) was an Austrian Jewish author who kept notes about life in the Łódź ghetto. He was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

For more on children's perspectives on the Łódź ghetto, see the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia.

One of the orphanages in the Łódź ghetto, located in the northeast section of the ghetto known as Marysin. In the early years of the ghetto, Marysin housed several orphanages as well as schools for children, summer camps, and Zionist training camps. Okopowa 119 later became a place where Jews were gathered before deportation.

"Reb" is a Yiddish title or honorific for a Jewish man.

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December 17, 1940 [stamped]

To the respected Elder […] of the Jewish community in Litzmannstadt,

Mr. M. Kh. Rumkowski

M. Halle

6/33[…] Chlodna Street



As one of your "orphaned children" of 119 Okopowa Street,1 12 years old, without a father and mother, I turn to you as a father with the following request. As you are certainly aware, my deceased father was Reb Fishel Halle,2 of blessed memory, a longtime ritual slaughterer for the Łódź Jewish community. He lived on 58 Główna Street and died suddenly last year along with my mother, may we all be spared. We have been left as 5 young orphans, from 10 to 19 years of age. At home I have 3 brothers, 13 to 19 years old, who are dying of hunger and don’t have any other place to go.

Therefore I turn to you as father of the orphans and as a person who holds the fate of orphans without a father and mother close to heart. And I ask you to take my 2 brothers into the "Orphanage"

Shimon Halle, 13 years old
Itsik Halle, 15 years old

—so that my brothers, too, will be able to exist. Our address is: M. Halle 6 Chlodna St., Apt. 33. Hopefully my petition will find your favor.



Yehuda Meir Halle
The orphanage on Okopowa 119

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of The Head Office of the State Archives, Warsaw
RG Number 15.083M
Date Created
December 17, 1940
Author / Creator
Meir Halle
Łódź, Poland
Document Type Petition
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