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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

type: Petition

The Łódź ghetto was the second largest ghetto in occupied Poland, following Warsaw. While the Warsaw ghetto was located in the Generalgouvernment, Polish territory under German occupation, Łódź was in a region that was annexed directly by the Reich, which the Nazis called Reichsgau Wartheland.1 As part of the German objective to "Germanize" the province, many Poles and Jews were deported to the Generalgouvernement while in Łódź in the spring of 1940 Jews were confined to a ghetto. Over the years, the Germans deported Jews and Roma from other parts of the Reich to Ghetto Litzmannstadt, as the ghetto was officially called.2

Over the next four years, poverty, starvation, and disease ruled the ghetto. The Germans used "free" Jewish labor, but did not care whether individual Jews would survive without enough food, in cramped quarters, and with rampant disease.3 Presiding over the ghetto population was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, an autocrat who ran the Judenrat and the ghetto with an iron fist. In the fall of 1942, in one of the most infamous episodes in the history of the ghetto, Rumkowski's German overlords tasked him with delivering 20,000 children for deportation from Łódź to what many realized was certain death. Despite pleas and fierce objections, the deportations were carried out.

Prior to the mass deportations, the ghetto administration functioned as a bureaucracy with different institutions engaged in different spheres of ghetto life. As a leader of the ghetto, Rumkowski routinely received petitions from ghetto inhabitants who sought to improve their situation under the increasingly difficult circumstances.4 At the end of the first year in the ghetto, Meir Halle, a 12-year-old orphan, wrote to Rumkowski asking that ghetto take 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—is interesting not only as a document we can interrogate from two different vantage points (What was life in the ghetto like? How did the bureaucracy of the Judenrat function?), but also as one authored by a child, which we can compare to the children's diaries featured in the Holocaust diaries collection.

The fate of Meir Halle remains unknown.

"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 disjointed passages about starvation and other hardship. Her diary is excerpted in Jürgen Matthäus, ed., Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume 3, 1941-1942 (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2013), 178-9; and Emil Kerenji, ed., Jewish Responses to Persecution, Volume 4, 1942-1943 (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 413-5.

For a sense of 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.

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

 

Petition

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.

Respectfully,

 

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
Halle, Meir
Language(s)
Yiddish
Location
Łódź, Poland
Document Type Petition
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