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During the Holocaust, the Umschlagplatz (German: collection point or reloading point) in the Warsaw Ghetto was the square in Warsaw, German occupied Poland, where Jews were gathered for deportation to the Treblinka extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard. It is currently located on Stawki Street. A monument was erected in 1988 to commemorate the deportation victims. During the Grossaktion Warsaw, which began on July 22, 1942, Jews were deported in crowded freight cars to Treblinka. On some days as many as 10,000 Jews were deported. An estimated 300,000 Jews were taken to the Treblinka gas chambers; some sources describe it as the largest killing of any single community in World War II. The deportations ended on September 21, 1942.
The Umschlagplatz was created by fencing off a western part of the Warszawa Gdańska freight train station that was adjacent to the ghetto. The area was surrounded by a wooden fence, later replaced by a concrete wall. Railway buildings and installations on the site, as well as a former homeless shelter and a hospital were converted into a prisoner selection facility. The rest of the train station served its normal function for the rest of the city during the deportations.
History and time period
The railway leading to the square was originally constructed in 1876, as a side rail to the city's main line. Warehouses and other buildings were build between 1921 and 1935. After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, and the occupation of the country, the square came under the administration of a dedicated German institution, the Transferstelle ("Transfer Bureau"). Originally it's purpose was to oversee the flow of goods between the newly established Warsaw Ghetto and the "Aryan Side" of Warsaw. At the time the ghetto's inhabitants referred to the square as "Umschlag". At the end of January 1942 the southern portion of the square was incorporated into the ghetto.
Starting in July of 1942 the buildings located around the square began to be used by the Germans as places of selection. Jews were gathered and held there before deportation to the Treblinka death camp. The headquarters of the SS units responsible for the selections and deportations were located in the building of the old elementary school on Stawki street. Umschlagplatz was divided into two parts. The southern part, which was located within the walled ghetto, was the gathering point where those destined for transport awaited the arrival of trains. The northern part included the rail and station where people were physically loaded onto the trains for Treblinka. Initially the roundups for the Umschlagplatz were supervised by the Jewish Ghetto Police. Houses or entire blocks were cordoned off and then all the inhabitants were forced to gather in a controlled spot, such as a closed off street or a tenement's courtyard. After a check of documents, the individuals were forced, under escort, to proceed to Umschlagplatz. Emptied buildings were searched and those found hiding were either killed on the spot or joined with those proceeding to the square. Some young men were moved to the so called Dulag, an interment camp, from which some were sent to labor camps rather than death camps. The order in which the ghetto's blocks were emptied was organized by the Germans. Beginning in August, German-ran workhouses and factories (szopas) and the offices of the Judenrat were also cordoned off, and the personnel sent to the Umschlagplatz as well. Most of the people arriving in Umschlagplatz were taken there via Zamenhof street.
On 18 April 1988, on the eve of the 45th anniversary of the outbreak of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a stone monument resembling an open freight car was unveiled to mark the Umschlagplatz. The inscription on four commemorative plaques in Polish, Yiddish, English and Hebrew reads:
Along this path of suffering and death over 300 000 Jews were driven in 1942-1943 from the Warsaw Ghetto to the gas chambers of the Nazi extermination camps. 400 most popular Jewish-Polish first names, in alphabetical order from Aba to Żanna, were engraved on the monument, each one commemorating 1,000 victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. The gate is surmounted by a syenite grave stone (donated by the government and society of Sweden) with a motif of shattered forest - a symbol of the extermination of the Jewish nation.
The selection and sequence of colors of the monument (white with the black strip on the front wall) refer to the Jewish ritual clothing. The monument was created by architect Hanna Szmalenberg and sculptor Władysław Klamerus. It replaced a commemorative plaque unveiled in late 1940's. In 2002 the monument site and the adjacent school buildings were listed in the Register of Historic Monuments.