Conditions in the hospital
The conditions for patients in the camp hospitals in the early phase were an affront to every known concept of caring for the sick. The prisoners, most of them extremely exhausted, often unconscious or in agony, lay in overcrowded rooms, in shirts darkened with filth or, often naked, on paper pads soaked with excrement, urine, and pus.
Fleas and lice filled the hospital premises. In addition to this, rats prowled the Birkenau hospitals. At night, they gnawed the limbs of the dead women and attacked the unconscious or weakest prisoners. Patients received smaller food rations than prisoners with work assignments. All of them, but especially those with fever, suffered torments of thirst.
In connection with the increasing labor requirements of the German wartime economy, the SS began taking various steps in the second half of 1942 to decrease the death rate. Generally, these were superficial measures. In this second phase, however, the SS assigned the camp hospitals the role of reducing the prisoner death rate—in relation to prisoners who seemed likely to return to labor in a short time. For the gravely ill, the camp hospitals continued to be instruments of annihilation.