Issues of Hunger

Gloria p. 13

The effects of hunger as I remember it, it makes you feel as though you are drunk. I have never been drunk, but I supposed this is what it must feel like. You are weak, and you are dazed. You almost can't care anymore. It's very easy to give up. If you have that little sparkle in you that I had it just kept you going until the very end.

I think I just had to do this for my mother. Still I was wrestling with that throughout my camp life. I was still hoping to see my mother again. I always felt that she is alive and that I am the one who is in danger. Of course I didn't know she was in danger until the end as well and so was my sister. It's just the way it seemed at the time to this - by this time - 15-year old that I was.

It feels as though you are going to faint anytime. Your stomach is totally in and it feels as though it is going to stick to your ribs or to your backbone. It feels as though when your tongue is parched and that it is going to stick to the roof of your mouth. And how am I going to get it down. It is a very strange feeling. You have no control over anything. You make gestures that you didn't want to make, and you feel stiff, almost like you're automated. I can't remember it all, but I remember these helpless feelings. And your stomach grumbles all the time. It feels as though you can just topple any minute and never get up unless you get some help. That's the best I can do.

Lucille p. 10

People were fighting over food. People were stealing food. If you lived in the same room your food on the shelf got less and less even though you weren't home. People when they were going without food, they were swelling up. They accumulated liquid or water. They could not walk, they could not put on a shoe, and ultimately they died from hunger. People who had talked before the war of medicine, literature or engineering, their conversation now was only about food. And that is so demeaning. It is so basic it's like an animal instinct.

Lucille p. 4

No, my mother died of hunger. And when you withdraw from food completely over a long period of time you swell, and it is all water. And this swelling goes to a degree, and then you just die. You could see in the morning on the way to work, people that were on the street, and had just died of hunger. And my mother died of hunger.

Lucille p. 5

You ate whatever was available, and if you had a friend who would give a bag of potato peels you would wash them at the pump until they were clean, and you would grind them up with a meat grinder. And then you would sort of make a hamburger out of it and you would eat it. Don't ask me what it tastes like. You ate what you had, and if you didn't have anything you didn't eat. So people died of hunger.

I think it was during the first or second months in the ghetto when we found out that there were no stores where you could buy food. That you got a ration that had to last until the next ration, which could of been two weeks or four weeks. You had no apple, no pear, no milk, no meat, no egg. It was a totally different diet. And I remember having a loaf of bread, and telling myself I can only eat an eighth of that bread, so it would last me eight days. And I kept on slicing, and it was much more than an eighth, so the rest of the time I went hungry. I promised myself I would never do it again, but I did. It's just an impulse you can't resist.

Hunger is not to be described, there are no words for it. You wake up with it, you go to bed with it. You go to an office and the office has twenty employees. All of them in previous lives were either teachers, professors, lawyers, educated people. The conversation for ten hours was about food. Food now, food before the war, food after the war, if there is an after the war. All these people could talk about was food. It is very very difficult to understand what hunger does to a human being. I think we become worse than an animal.

If I had food, I could not control how much of it I would eat, and how much I would leave for tomorrow. It was beyond control, beyond reason. The only hunger I had ever known was on Yom Kippur when you didn't eat for a day, and that didn't compare at all.

Bill p. 13

Oh, I don't know what it was like. We didn't have food, and like I said, people died of hunger. I felt very strong that I had to preserve, I didn't eat the bread all at one time, it was about a piece like this, everyday if you're lucky. We had soup bowls, they put some soup in there which had sometimes some potato peels and some potatoes even. I was probably spoiled as a child because I had good food at home and I was a little chubby when I was arrested. I was healthy.

Max p. 7

After a few weeks there one night I just burst out crying because now I realized what I was in for. And a person came up to me – probably a man a little bit older than myself, probably in his mid-twenties, I don't recall at this juncture still what language he spoke to me in, I don't know whether it was partially French, German, Polish, whatever – and he made it clear to me that if I wanted to survive all this, if I wanted to live, there were some things I had to do. These things were, number one, I had no parents, I had no sister, I didn't come from Amsterdam, I didn't come from Holland, I actually fell out of the sky into this place. He said. "If you could do that, you're one step closer." He said, "Also you will not talk about any of the foods that you remember eating as a child." He said, "And it is very important that you learn how to use the number on your arm, the tattooed number, that you can listen for it in German, hundert neununddreissig acht neunundzwanzig [139829] and that you be able to say it in German to whoever is calling you, ich bin, hundert neununddreissig acht neunundzwanzig [I am 139829]." And he said, "And if you can, learn it also in Polish."

Issues of Hunger

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