Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maurice Chandler - October 3, 1993

Sanitary Conditions and Food in Ghetto

Um, just a couple more details before we go on with this story. What about things like lice? Was it possible to stay clean when you were in the ghetto?

Not very well, not very well. I mean, there was water. My mother used to scrub us and wash us and wash our hair. But uh, the overall uh, standard of cleanliness was--left a lot to be desired.

Were there lice?

Yes, there were lice and bed bugs, and God only knows what. This was, but uh, that was the least of the uh, you know, of the worries. I remember we bought some, you know, one time, we bought some grain. Just plain grain that some farmers--smugglers brought into the ghetto. I don't know what we traded it for. And I remember my mother proceeded to make soup out of it, you know, with water and salt and tried to boil it down. And it, it wouldn't work. So, I remember we, we bought a little uh, mill, you know, like a coffee mill and we ground it. And it started making a lot of noise and was forbidden by the Germans. Just anything that had to do with food was controlled, you know. There was, there was to be no food other than what was allowed under the uh, rations. And this was like smuggling. We were afraid that people, the neighbors will hear the noise, even though they were all Jews. But, God only knows what--but, I mean everybody's hungry and they hear this goings. I remember I used to be up 'till three o'clock in the morning until everybody was sleeping. And I remember my mother and I would be in the kitchen and would grind this down into like, you know, like coarse um, granule size, you know. And then she put it in hot water with salt and make some kind of a soup. And, you know, she was, whenever, you know, whenever we made that pot of soup, I mean it was nothing--just like clear water. With that she would always feed us and I remember I--we had always asked her, "Did you eat?" She says, "I already ate." I mean, I don't know why these things stick in my mind, but she fed her father. She was so devoted to him--my mother--and us. And that was uh, I remember we'd, we'd give a few grinds and stop and listen if somebody is moving, you know, outside in the hallway or something. And this was the basics. That was a great uh, great deal. We would also grind in potato peelings, you know, just potato peelings to make--just to put something together to hold yourself together.

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