During World War II, the Germans set up some 350 ghettos for Jews in Generalgouvernement Poland alone. In doing so, they defined ‘Jewish living quarters’ quite different from what was previously the case. Although initially not part of an extermination plan, they later became gathering centers prior to deportation and genocide. This article discusses how Nazi perceptions and classifications of ghettos changed over time. This is then contrasted with historians’ findings and the discourse on Nazi ghettos after 2002. At that time, German government officials, judges, and Holocaust survivors disputed interpretations because it was relevant for newly introduced German pensions for labor in ghettos. With government and pension funds unwilling to make any payments, historical research became crucial—and controversial as it supported a much more generous understanding of the law. All these definitions of ghettos meet with the memory of Eastern European Jews only coincidentally. For the latter, a specific labelling hardly mattered as much as it did for those analyzing history or dealing with its financial consequences. The concept of Jewish spaces will help one understand these proceedings, as it aims at the difference between mere geographical Jewish places and spaces in which Jewish activities are or were actually performed. In this respect, Nazi ghettos truly are Jewish spaces without Jews.

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