Illegal radios in the ghetto

As part of the Nazi strategy to control Jews in the ghettos, they were denied access to all forms of media. However some of the Lodz Jews, working in the resistance, decided to build their own radios and listen to them illegally. The news from abroad gave them hope.

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An 'illegal' radio made by Viktor Rundbaken in the Lodz Ghetto for the Weksler family, courtesy of Ghetto Fighters' House, Israel

Brochure for the mass-produced German radio broadcasting Nazi propaganda throughout Germany from 1933

Interior of the German Volksempfanger radio

The way they did this was to take parts from the German radio that the Nazis had mass produced when they came to power in 1933, which was their way of spreading their propaganda throughout Germany cheaply and effectively. This radio was known as the Volksempfanger. One Jew in particular, an electrical engineer called Viktor Rundbaken, worked for the German Criminal Police (the Kripo) repairing their radio equipment. While doing this work he began stealing parts and secretly building radios for the underground. Unlike the German radio which was designed to only receive German broadcasts, Viktor designed the illegal radios to pick up the BBC and also SWIT (meaning ‘dawn’), the radio station of the Polish Government-in-Exile, broadcasting from London.

Many of the Jews were caught on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day. The Jews heard about the D-Day Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on their radios and the news spread rapidly through the ghetto. This prompted the Germans to wonder how they were aware of information that was not yet publicised in Germany. They invaded the ghetto looking for radios and found several and arrested and murdered a number of Jews.