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A ghetto is an area which people from a given ethnic background or united in a given culture or religion are forced to live in, in a milder or stricter seclusion. The word was historically used in reference to restricted housing zones for Jews; however, it is now commonly used to refer to any poverty-stricken urban area.

The first ghettos were created in Germany, Spain and Portugal, in the 13th century, but some authors use the same word to indicate the destination towns to which the Roman Empire deported Jews from the first to the fourth century CE.

The term comes from Venice's Ghetto in the 14th century. Before this part of the city was reserved for the Jews it was an iron foundry (getto), hence the name ghetto. Other etymologies suggested for the word include the Italian borghetto for "small neighborhood" or the Hebrew word get, literally a "bill of divorce." From the example of the Venice Ghetto the name was then extended to the other ones. In Castile, they were called Juderķa[?] and in Majorca, call[?].

In 1555 Pope Paul IV created the Roman Ghetto[?] and issued a canon (a papal law) to force Jews to live in a specified area. This was the last ghetto to be abolished in Western Europe, in 1883. Pope Pius V recommended that all the bordering states should create ghettos, and at the beginning of the 17th century all the main towns had one (with the only exceptions, in Italy, being Livorno and Pisa).

Living in a Jewish ghetto Since Jews couldn't acquire land outside, during periods of population growth, ghettos had narrow street and tall, crowded houses. Residents had their own justice system. There were walls around the ghetto, that during progroms[?] wer closed from the inside during Easter Week[?] and from the outside during Christmas or Pesach. Often ghetto residents were required to have a pass to go outsides of the bounds of the ghetto.

Ghettos were progressively abolished, and their walls demolished, in the 19th century, following the French Revolution's ideals, but they were rebuilt by Nazis before and during World War II in Eastern Europe. Ironically, there had never been ghettos in Eastern Europe before the Nazis instituted them there.

During World War II ghettos were part of a forced concentration process of the Jewish population, easing the control of that population by the Nazis. The inhabitants of the ghettos of Eastern Europe were among the first to be deported to the extermination camps during the Holocaust. Jews from everywhere in Europe were deported to the ghettos of the East, or directly to the extermination camps.

Famous ghettos include:

African American ghettos in the USA

In the United States between the abolition of slavery and the civil rights laws of the 1960s, discriminatory mores (sometimes codified in law) often forced urban African Americans to live in specific neighborhoods, which also became known as "ghettos". Because African-Americans of all economic levels were required to live in these neighborhoods, such as Bronzeville[?] in Chicago and Harlem in New York City, they were often known as vibrant cultural centers. Paradoxically, when the 1960s civil rights laws allowed wealthier African Americans to emigrate to formerly all-white areas, the economic bases of many ghettos collapsed, leaving them zones of below-average wealth, poorly-maintained housing, and high crime.

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