Ghetto - Jewish Ghettos

Jewish Ghettos

In the Jewish diaspora, a Jewish quarter is the area of a city traditionally inhabited by Jews. Jewish quarters, like the Jewish ghettos in Europe, were often the outgrowths of segregated ghettos instituted by the surrounding authorities. A Yiddish term for a Jewish quarter or neighborhood is "Di yiddishe gas" (Yiddish: די ייִדדישע גאַס ), or "The Jewish street". Many European and Middle Eastern cities once had a historical Jewish quarter and some still have it.

Jewish ghettos in Europe existed because Jews were viewed as alien due to being a cultural minority and due to their non-Christian beliefs in a Renaissance Christian environment.

As a result, Jews were placed under strict regulations throughout many European cities. The character of ghettos has varied through times. In some cases, the ghetto was a Jewish quarter with a relatively affluent population (for instance the Jewish ghetto in Venice). In other cases, ghettos were places of terrible poverty and during periods of population growth, ghettos (as that of Rome), had narrow streets and tall, crowded houses. Residents had their own justice system.

Around the ghetto stood walls that, during pogroms, were closed from inside to protect the community, but from the outside during Christmas, Pesach, and Easter Week to prevent the Jews from leaving during those times. Starting in the early second millennium Jews became an asset for rulers who regarded them as a reliable and steady source of taxes and fees, as well as a source of economic stimuli stemming from their exemption from Christian and especially Roman Catholic prohibitions against usury. They often went to great lengths to have them settle in their realm, offering protected settlements and endowing them with special "privileges". A first such ghetto was documented by bishop Rüdiger Huzmann of Speyer in 1084.

A mellah (Arabic ملاح, probably from the word ملح, Arabic for "salt") is a walled Jewish quarter of a city in Morocco, an analogue of the European ghetto. Jewish populations were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century. In cities, a mellah was surrounded by a wall with a fortified gateway. Usually, the Jewish quarter was situated near the royal palace or the residence of the governor, in order to protect its inhabitants from recurring riots. In contrast, rural mellahs were separate villages inhabited solely by the Jews.

During World War II, ghettos in occupied Europe 1939-1944 were established by the Nazis to confine Jews and sometimes Gypsies into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe, turning them into de facto concentration camps and death camps in the Holocaust. Though the common usage is ghetto, the Nazis most often referred to these areas in documents and signage at their entrances as Jüdischer Wohnbezirk or Wohngebiet der Juden (German); both translate as Jewish Quarter. These Nazi ghettos used to concentrate Jews before extermination sometimes coincided with traditional Jewish ghettos and Jewish quarters, but not always. Expediency was the key factor for the Nazis in the Final Solution. Nazi ghettos as stepping stones on the road to the extermination of European Jewry existed for varying amounts of time, usually the function of the number of Jews who remained to be killed but also because of the employment of Jews as slave labor by the Wehrmacht and other German institutions, until Heinrich Himmler's decree issued on June 21, 1943, ordering the dissolution of all ghettos in the East and their transformation into concentration camps.

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