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“The dead body had a piece of bread... (...) I’m taking this piece of bread from this dead body... and I’m taking this one pair of boots and I can sell it. With this I can buy myself a place to live. I can buy myself a place to sleep. With this bread I bought myself a bit of access (to wash). Your bowl was your life, without your bowl you didn’t eat.”
Kitty Hart, “Return to Auschwitz”
(Read the interview with Kitty Hart)

Food in Camps – Instagram Campaign

A sculpture by Mieczysław Stobierski – ‘Głód’ ('The Hunger’)
A sculpture by Mieczysław Stobierski – ‘Głód’ ('The Hunger’)
Photo by Jarosław Fiedor, Auschwitz Study Group member

The food distributed in Auschwitz was variable and often dependent on the mood of the day. When we talk about Auschwitz, we consider not only Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, but also the entire sub camp system and the testimonies that related to the hardships of hunger. 

Certain work details offered prisoners a chance to improve their daily rations, particularly the agricultural areas where growing vegetables or the managing of stored vegetables was a primary function of the job. However, this did not always offer salvation from the starvation the prisoners endured. In the sub camp of Harmeze for example, an agricultural sub camp concerned with the welfare of livestock, testimonies show that prisoners were so far emaciated that they often considered other prisoners as 'food'.


Read our conclusion of our Instagram project about food in Auschwitz camp system.


We have been asked by Auschwitz Study Group member on instagram @anettebjorkman to prepare some posts on the food and nutrition in KL Auschwitz complex. So we will be posting about official food regulations in KL Auschwitz, everyday meals, how SS and functionary prisoners would steal from other prisoners, kitchens both in main camps and in the sub-camps, food parcles, cantines, ways of 'organising' food and detailed descriptions of meals prisoners would get every day.

Read more:

 

The Lager Is Hunger – Conclusion

Ivan, a Soviet POW, who went mad due to the conditions in the camp
A Soviet POW named Ivan, 15 years old who went mad due
to the conditions in the camp. He lost 50% of his weight
during the war because of hunger
Image courtesy of USHMM

The annihilation of the human beings which was carried out in the camps involved both the psychological and the physical demolition of the prisoners and were based on deprivation. An individual was deprived of his or her identity, social coordinates, human relations and customs, at the same time the prisoner was always kept in a condition of starvation which brought about a situation of deprivation of thought as well. Primo Levi wrote:

But how could one imagine not being hungry? The Lager is hunger: we ourselves are hunger, living hunger... hunger.

In all the testimonies memory of the hunger is omnipresent: it was the issue on which the prisoners were always focused, so that their capacity of thinking to other matters was destroyed. Hunger was the costant pivotal key in the treatment of the prisoners for this reason, also in the ghettos. There were of course ways to get extra rations, to organize some food with the few luckier ones who held more prominent positions inside the camp. There were different levels of hunger depending on an individual’s features and abilities but it was always a provisory and temporary solution. What may sound paradoxical is that the exploitation of forced labor didn't affect the mechanism of deprivation of food: slave laborers received rations which were kept at a starvation level since the priority was the annihilation of the prisoners who could be easily substituted though, given the huge number of deportees at Nazis’ disposal.