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The term “ghetto” originated from the name of the Jewish quarter in Venice, Italy, which was established in 1516. Ghettos were implemented in other cities in the 16th and 17th centuries to segregate Jews from the rest of the population.

During World War II, the SS and other German occupation authorities resumed the practice of forcing Jews into ghettos. The Germans established at least 1,143 ghettos in the occupied eastern territories. The Germans saw the ghettos as a provisional measure to control and segregate Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated upon options for the removal of the Jewish population. With the implementation of the “Final Solution” beginning in late 1941, the Germans systematically destroyed the ghettos.

Life in the ghettos was miserable, crowded, and unsanitary. Food was scarce, there was little to no running water or sewage, and disease was rampant. Tens of thousands died in the ghettos from illness, starvation, or cold. Hard labor, overcrowding, and starvation were the dominant features of life. 

There were many examples of resistance, as people sneaked in and out of the ghetto with great risk to get resources for those who were trapped within. The most famous example of resistance in the Ghettos is the Warsaw Uprising. 

On April 19, 1943, the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto began their final act of armed resistance against the Germans. This act of resistance came to be known as the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and was the largest uprising by Jews during World War II. It began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants; Jewish insurgents inside the ghetto resisted these efforts for 27 days before finally being defeated. The Jewish resistance in Warsaw was the first urban uprising in German-occupied Europe, and inspired uprisings in other ghettos such as in Bialystok and Minsk.