The term "ghetto" originated from the name of the Jewish quarter in Venice, established in 1516, in which the Venetian authorities forced the city's Jews to live. During the Holocaust, ghettos were a central step in the Nazi process of control, dehumanization, and mass murder of the Jews. Ghettos were city districts (often enclosed) in which the Germans concentrated the Jewish population and forced them to live under miserable conditions. The Germans established at least 1,000 ghettos in German-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union alone. German authorities established the first ghetto in Poland in Piotrków Trybunalski in October 1939. In many places ghettoization lasted a relatively short time. Some ghettos existed for only a few days, others for months or years. With the implementation of the "Final Solution" (the plan to murder all European Jews) beginning in late 1941, the Germans systematically destroyed the ghettos. The Germans and their auxiliaries either shot ghetto residents in mass graves located nearby or deported them, usually by train, to killing centers where they were murdered.
The largest ghetto in Poland was the Warsaw ghetto, where over 400,000 Jewish people were crowded into an area of 1.3 square miles. Tens of thousands of western European Jews were also deported to ghettos in the east. The Germans ordered Jews residing in ghettos to wear identifying badges or armbands and also required many Jews to perform forced labor. Ghetto residents frequently engaged in so-called illegal activities, such as smuggling food, medicine, weapons, or intelligence across the ghetto walls. The Germans generally forbade any form of consistent schooling or education in the ghettos. In some ghettos, members of Jewish resistance movements staged armed uprisings. The largest of these was the Warsaw ghetto uprising in spring 1943. In August 1944, German SS and police completed the destruction of the last major ghetto, in Lodz, Poland.