Starvation on Warsaw’s streets

Starvation meant that the dead and dying were a common sight on the streets of the ghetto by May 1941.

Hunger grew increasingly severe. More and more patients complained to their doctors of swelling due to hunger, and more and more corpses lay on the ghetto streets. Pale, emaciated children with huge, horribly hungry eyes sobbed and moaned and asked for bread. Living skeletons covered in rags became an increasingly common sight.

There was scarcely a night when you didn’t hear the groans of people dying on the street. The typhus spread. Doctors made superhuman efforts to control the disease: daily rounds of assigned buildings, lectures maintaining hygiene, attempts to obtain soap rations and disinfectants, and long hard hours in the hospital. But the epidemic grew, owing to the conditions inside the ghetto.

Hundreds of dirty, starving Jews who had been declared unfit for work in the labor camps were relocated in Warsaw, and even more people were resettled from the provinces. Typhus decimated the population – in private homes, public shelters, children’s boardinghouses, and in the punkty.

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

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