MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Sicknesses and epidemics

The overall conditions of camp life ensured that many people fell sick from the very first months, and their numbers rose steadily over time. Physical harassment of the prisoners resulted in numerous broken limbs and suppurating sores on the buttocks, usually after flogging.

The winter, and also late fall and early spring, saw numerous cases of colds, pneumonia, and frostbite which developed not infrequently into gangrene. The dreadful sanitation conditions caused skin diseases, and above all scabies.

Almost all prisoners suffered from boils, rashes, and abscesses that resulted mostly from vitamin deficiency and infections.

1942-1943 (and especially 1942) went down in the history of the camp as a period of raging epidemics, and especially typhus, which claimed the greatest number of lives. Many prisoners suffered from tuberculosis, ague (malaria), meningitis, pemphigus, dysentery, and Durchfall, a disorder of the digestive system caused by improper and inadequate food.

In camp conditions, all these illnesses were highly acute. A characteristic camp illness was starvation sickness. It was usually accompanied by diarrhea (often bloody), swollen legs, impaired vision and hearing, memory loss, nervous breakdown and, above all, exhaustion to the point of collapse. The majority of prisoners suffered from several medical conditions simultaneously.