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Natan, the son of Carola and Israel Abbe, grew up in Lodz, Poland. His father owned a haberdashery store, where he sold hats, gloves, and other accessories. He had two sisters and a younger brother. A large, fairly liberal city, Lodz was home to over 233,000 Jews. It was a major center of the textile industry. Its diverse population of Jews, Poles and Germans lived together in relative peace.
When the Germans occupied Lodz in September 1939, Natan was a fifteen year-old schoolboy. Anti-Jewish restrictions were immediately enacted. Jews were forbidden to congregate for religious services, they were subject to curfew, their radios were confiscated, and they were forced to wear the yellow star. In addition, Jews were barred from most professions, and all Jewish communal institutions were ordered to disband.
On February 8, 1940, all the Jews were forced to live in a run-down part of the city. On May 1, 1940, the overcrowded ghetto was closed off.
Living conditions were horrendous. There was no heat, little food or medicine, and inadequate sanitation. People fell dead in the street from starvation, disease and exposure. Still, the basic appearance of normal inner-city life was maintained. Schools and hospitals still functioned.
The Germans constantly harassed the Jewish residents of the ghetto, randomly seizing people on the streets, raiding their apartments, and subjecting them to horrendous indignities. People were shot for the slightest reason. Young children often became the sole support of their families. They would smuggle themselves out of the ghetto in order to find food and bring it back to their starving parents, brothers and sisters.
Natan was shot to death in late 1940 by a German soldier at the ghetto gate. He was sixteen years old.