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Hans Biebow

Hans Biebow
Hans Biebow chief of German Administration of the Lódz Ghetto in Poland.

Hans Biebow (1902 - April 24, 1947) was the chief of German Administration of the Lódz Ghetto in Poland. Before becoming the overseer of the Ghetto he was a coffee importer in Bremen.

Under his administration, the 164,000 Jews of Poland's second largest city were crammed into a small area of the city. Communication between the Ghetto inhabitants and the outside world was completely cut off and the supply of food was severely limited, ensuring that many of the inhabitants of the Ghetto would slowly starve. Over the course of its existence, the population of the Ghetto swelled to 204,000 with more Jews from Central Europe being sent there. The Ghetto Administration remained in operation from April of 1940 until the summer of 1944, but there were transports out of the Ghetto to death camps beginning at the end of 1941.

Biebow exercised his control in part through a Jewish administration headed by Chaim Rumkowski. Rumkowski believed that the Jews could survive if they produced cheap, essential goods for the Nazis. Biebow profited substantially from the sale of the products of Jewish labour as well as from the seized properties of Jews. He is also said to have provided less food to Ghetto inhabitants than was paid for, pocketing the difference.

The Ghetto factories produced products such as boots for German soldiers and were profitable for the Germans because the Jews, cut off from all resources, worked for wages that consisted only of bread, soup, and other essentials. The Nazi profits from the Jewish factories have been estimated at $14,000,000 and the productivity of the Ghetto was a factor in its comparatively long survival. The inhabitants endured four years of starvation, illness and overcrowding before being sent to the extermination camps of Chelmno and Auschwitz. Of the 204,000 inhabitants, approximately 10,000 survived.

Among the Nazi hierarchy, Hans Biebow was an early exponent of using the Jews as cheap labor rather than killing them, but he readily adapted to the extermination policy. Survivors report his encouraging the last surviving Jews of the Ghetto in the summer of 1944 to board the trains to Auschwitz with a speech that began "My Jews..." and promised work in the West.

After the war Biebow was tried by a Lódz-based Polish court and executed on April 24, 1947.

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