Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Diet in Auschwitz

What kind of food did they give you in the concentration camp for a meal?

In, in Auschwitz it wasn't uh, the beginning it wasn't really bad. It, it actually uh, at all times it was a planned starvation kind of a diet. Uh, uh, all people were--actually the, the way they, the way they uh, uh, were trying to run things was that everybody at one point would become too weak to continue and then they would just take them away and destroy them. They would have these selections. Uh, all of a sudden middle of the night they would uh, announce that everybody must get out from the barracks and we, we would line, we would uh, they would take us uh, not all people, all Jews, because there were also uh, also political prisoners there and some criminals. And uh, they would announce that all Jewish prisoners would have to come out and we would all uh, go to the bathhouse and we would, we would uh, undress. Of course, we would leave the barracks undressed okay and we would go out and they would take us to the bathhouse and you would have to go through a line there, and there would be uh, uh, a couple of the German sergeants and they would uh, and, and Dr. Mengele--and they would select the people that uh, they considered no longer fit to work. And those people, of course, were taken to Birkenau and th...and put through the uh, gas chambers. And they didn't necessarily take the weak ones. If, if, if they didn't like the way you walked through there of, of, of--sometimes they wouldn't even look uh, he would have, he would have a walking cane and he would hold it with uh, you know, with the uh, the wrong way. In other words that the handle would be, would be reaching out and as you walk by he would just hook you on the leg or the arm or some pull you over. And all they would do is just take your number and you go back to sleep with the rest of them. The next day, when we would line up to go to work they would call out these numbers and the numbers would have to step out and they were segregated and taken by truck uh, to the--to Birkenau and, and taken through the gas chambers. So, the food actually was, was uh, planned that way, that eventually you would get too weak to continue. Uh, basically we would uh, in the morning we would get uh, a, a warm tea, nothing else. A warm water, it would taste a little bit like tea. And at the work place, at noon, they would give us a soup. And most of the time it was dried vegetables. And in the evening you would get a portion of bread probably about uh, it would, it was that uh, dark German bread, most of the time it tasted like clay. And you would get a piece of that bread, about maybe two--three inches wide. It was square. And they would give you a cut of uh, of cold cut 'bout maybe an inch thick. And that was your meal for--that was all the food you would get all day. You'd never get any vegetables or fruits or anything like that. And--it, it, it stayed pretty constant like that in Auschwitz, and that was the best food we had. And as we--as the war continued on and as they took us to all these different camps, it progressively became worse until at the end, as I told you, we, we were getting uh, nothing but, but some water with a few potato rinds in it.

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