MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Nutrition

Prisoners received three meals per day. In the morning, they received only half a liter of “coffee,” or rather boiled water with a grain-based coffee substitute added, or “tea”—a herbal brew. These beverages were usually unsweetened. The noon meal consisted of about a liter of soup, the main ingredients of which were potatoes, rutabaga, and small amounts of groats, rye flour, and Avo food extract. The soup was unappetizing, and newly arrived prisoners were often unable to eat it, or could do so only in disgust. Supper consisted of about 300 grams of black bread, served with about 25 grams of sausage, or margarine, or a tablespoon of marmalade or cheese. The bread served in the evening was supposed to cover the needs of the following morning as well, although the famished prisoners usually consumed the whole portion at once. The low nutritional value of these meals should be noted.

The combination of insufficient nutrition with hard labor contributed to the destruction of the organism, which gradually used up its stores of fat, muscle mass, and the tissues of the internal organs. This led to emaciation and starvation sickness, the cause of a significant number of deaths in the camp. A prisoner suffering from starvation sickness was referred to as a “Musselman,” and could easily fall victim to selection for the gas chambers.

Prisoner nutrition improved to a certain degree in the second half of 1942, when the camp authorities permitted the receipt of food parcels. Jews and Soviet POWs, however, did not share this privilege.