Prior to the Second World War, Warsaw’s Jewish population—approximately 375,000—was second only to New York’s, making it an unrivaled engine of Jewish life and culture. Warsaw fell to the Nazis on Sept 28, 1939. Oppressive restrictions were immediately placed on all Poles, with specific anti-Jewish decrees beginning in November of 1939. A Jewish Council was established in October with Adam Czerniaków at its head. A year later a walled ghetto, the largest in Europe, was established and more than 400,000 were imprisoned, many of whom lived in squalid conditions on starvation rations. Several thousand ghetto residents died each month from starvation, exposure, and disease. Mass deportations to Treblinka from July 22 to September 12, reduced the number of Jews in the ghetto to 70-80,000. Czerniaków committed suicide the day after the deportations began. Among the August victims were Janusz Korczak and his 200 orphans. The Germans met significant armed resistance when they attempt to resume deportations in January of 1943. The ghetto was completely destroyed and the final deportation trains departed in May.
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising is memorialized by a number of small monuments, as well as by Natan Rappaport’s icon Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. Several statues honor Janusz Korczak, and there is a moving monument at the rail deportation site, the Umschlagplatz.