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Luke Sears
Mrs. Wertz-Orbaugh
UWRT 1102-044
Starvation in the Holocaust: A Research Review
It is easy to say that starvation was pervasive during the Holocaust. The Jews had perhaps
the largest problem with this. Whether it be in the ghettos or the camps the Jews were fed only as
much as the Nazi party could spare, and that amount was minimal. The Nazi party was
attempting to run a massive military machine on a land that had trouble feeding it's people when
they were all working citizens. The Nazi party had trouble feeding its own members, so needless
to say they had trouble feeding the Jews. Even when the allies began liberating Jews the problem
of starvation was not entirely lifted.
Starvation in the camps is perhaps one for the most obvious and most often discussed
problems when not talking in obscenely broad terms. In the camps the primary dietary problem
was not in the calorie count (that is not to say they got anywhere near enough calories) but
instead the lack of protein. This lack caused fatigue, decreased muscle mass, and increased
chance of disease due to a decaying immune system(Young, 4). The Jews were starved for
several reasons. The first of which is the lack of food in Germany. The military machine was
eating up supplies and that left very little food for anyone. The Jews, seen as on the bottom of the
totem pole (so to speak) were last to receive any of this food. The second reason for the
starvation ties back to almost any forced labor throughout history. Persons in forced labor are
traditionally kept weak so as to prevent uprisings from occurring. Starvation has been shown to

make subjects more submissive, Submission is also caused by starvation because the
psychological effects of malnutrition include apathy, the enemy of all organized resistance
(Young, 11). This may be another reason records of resistance from the Jews in the camps are
extremely rare.
Starvation in the ghettos was not as bad as in the camps for some. But the people also had
to work more (thought not in a forced fashion) and for some they received even less food while
in the ghetto. Some of these work loads were things such as coronary work and factory work.
The main problem for food in the ghetto was consistency. In the camps they received their
morning meal imitation coffee or herbal tea. For lunch prisoners would be given a litre of
watery soup.(USHMM) and In the evening prisoners would be given a piece of black bread
weighing 300 grams, together with a tiny piece of sausage, or margarine, marmalade or cheese.
The bread was supposed to last the prisoners for the morning(USHMM). And while this was
far from sufficient it was guaranteed. The human body can adapt to very harsh conditions, so
while it was not enough, the consistency gave the Jews more stability. In the ghettos the Jews
would often not receive food for several days at a time, or be given a loaf of bread and told it was
to last them a week(Kibort). On the flip-side of this was that in the ghettos, the Jews could steal.
Members of the ghettos could slip out into the surrounding city to steal or beg for food.
Starvation in German society was also a reality. The average German, while not starving
to the extent of even a 'well-of' Jew was not receiving enough. The Nazi military machine was
soaking up food like a sponge, and this put a heavy burden on the society around it. The higher
you went in German society the more provided for you were. The German proletariat however
were not in perfect condition. The main thing they gained from being under the Nazi thumb was

financial stability brought by the strict control that the Nazi party held over the big industries of
Germany and the other countries they conquered. A lot of people in Nazi Germany did not have
a problem with a little bit of malnutrition. There was a lot of hatred for other countries. The war
generation of WWI was still around and very angry, and their children grew up with the millions
of walking wounded around them. The financial reparations forced upon them also forced the
entire country into a state of extreme financial regression. This had many down sides. The
financial reparations pushed the German people into a vary bad place and they ran to the Nazi
party (who promised a better future) for governance.
Starvation after the liberation of the camps was also problem, as while conditions can
almost certainly be said to have improved for the Jews and other unfortunates, the supply lines of
the allies were not meant to carry that kind of weight in people. On the Eastern front there was
almost no food to give to the Jews. In almost traditional style the Russian forces were criminally
under supplied, leaving very little to give to the newly liberated Jews. On the Western front it
was slightly better, as the American forces had a lot more in terms of supplies. The only issue
was getting those supplies to the right people, and that was easily overcome (it just took time).
The Psychological Effects of Starvation in the Holocaust was a very good paper on
both the physical and mental effects of starvation on the subject. The physical portion of the
paper is an inclusive look at the direct and indirect effects of starvation. The direct are things
such as muscular dystrophy. The indirect are things such as increased susceptibility to disease.
The portions of this paper is used primarily are the Physical Effects of Starvation(Young, 4)
and the Cognitive Effects of Starvation (Young, 5) sections. This was the only source that I
used that rated it's own break-down.


Works Cited
Young, Kelly. "The Psychological Effects of Starvation in the Holocaust." National Collegiate
Honors Council. March 6, 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.

"Meals" USHMM. n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

USC Shoah Foundation. Jewish Survivor Reva Kibort Testimony Online video testimony.
YouTube. Google. Apr 23, 2012. Web. 4/10/2015