Death rate worsens in the Warsaw ghetto

People were utterly destitute and dying on the streets of Warsaw.

These last shelters for homeless refugees had their own desperate, tragic story. They housed masses of people who had been deprived of their homes and shipped in from outside the city without any possessions or means of support. The agency responsible for their welfare put these people up wherever it could and struggled to keep them alive.

But what kind of life was it, with over a dozen – or even several dozen – people to a room, lacking even the most primitive cots for sleeping, and, worst of all, with no food, no hope for tomorrow, no energy to go on living? A few lucky ones managed to break out and move in with some distant relative, miraculously discovered, where they would add to the poverty already reigning in that household. Some stayed put for as long as it took for a merciful death to bring an end to their suffering. The mortality rate rose.

On average, some four thousand people died each month. As the poverty and hunger worsened, tuberculosis also became epidemic and wrought horrible devasta- tion up to the very end of the ghetto’s existence. It was impossible to fight. Thousands of adults and children died because they were getting no fat, no milk, no sugar. The hospitals were overflowing and the doctors despaired at their powerlessness.

From the anonymous diary of a woman living in the ghetto in 1941, collected in Words to Outlive Us: Eyewitness Accounts from the Warsaw Ghetto

German propaganda photographers visited the ghetto, attempting to portray the divisions in society.

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