Surviving in the Warsaw ghetto

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Smuggling

Widespread smuggling of food, medicines and other supplies reduced the death rate to a certain extent. However, the Nazis used brutal punishments to those found guilty of smuggling food and other necessities.

Public and private executions were carried out as a warning to others. As a result, deaths due to starvation, the effects of cold and the spread of infectious diseases increased.

Think!

  • Why did the Nazis provide such meagre rations to those within the ghetto?
  • Why would the Nazis have banned Jewish economic ativity with the outside world?
  • How resourceful were the Jews in attempting to survive within the ghetto?

Overcrowding

With seven persons per room, living conditions within the Warsaw ghetto were atrocious. The severely overcrowded buildings lacked even the most basic of sanitary facilities.

Having been dispossessed of their businesses and employment, the Jews of Warsaw had no regular source of income. Whilst the German Transfer Office regulated the ghetto’s legal economic activity with the outside world, most economic activity conducted by the Jews was illegal.

Rations

Food rations were far from sufficient to sustain life. Hunger and death through starvation was common. Between 1940 and mid-1942, more than 83,000 Jews died from starvation and disease. On 8 May 1941, Czerniaków noted in his diary: “Children starving to death.”

Welfare organisations

As they struggled to survive, ghetto residents also turned to many welfare organisations, including the Jewish Mutual Aid Society, the Federation of Associations in Poland for the Care of Orphans, and the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training