Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eric Rosenow - August 5, 1982

Food and Sickness in the Ghetto

Okay um, those people less fortunate than you were--I know that that the conditions, the sub-tropic conditions...

Yes, yes, yes.

...differ um, how did the government handle those people? How--did uh, try to make it better for them or they just, they just died and that was it?

No, no, we had uh, we had hospitals in the ghetto where people uh, could go when they got sick. You had a lot of doctors in, in the ghetto. Even if uh, something went wrong, they came to your house and uh, don't forget we didn't have penicillin that time.

Sulfa drugs still?

I don't remember, but anyway uh, I was undernourished. With all my goodies, with all my jobs, and with all my eating, I was undernourished. I weighed at about uh, 98 pounds. I had uh, what you call sprue. Sprue is a sub-tropical disease, whatever you eat turns into diarrhea. Sounds very bad now, but it's the truth and uh, I was very low on, on uh, calcium up to the very date today, I'm low on calcium.


Yes, yes and I had uh, I was anemic. What means anemic? The red blood copuls turning into white ones. So uh, I was eating a lot of liver, just putting in a pan for one second or two seconds and it's still bleeding, the liver, that's very healthy. It has the biggest vitamin uh, what the, the normal body needs...

Iron I would imagine.

...something like this, yes, and I remember I had--two, three times a week, I had uh, vitamin shots and the people who couldn't afford it uh, went to the hospital, got it free. It was, it was, it was very organized. It was very well organized if uh, if uh, you're in need. It wasn't enough--I remember I was uh, standing in line uh, they call it kitchen ???, kitchen ???--I was standing in line uh, to get food for my parents and for my brothers. They didn't work. They were not fortunate--but I had this profession. But uh, the food was not so aye, aye, aye, but of course uh, we didn't get steaks or ham and eggs or whatever, we uh, got the soup, or we got banana, we got a piece of bread, you know.

Was there any kosher food available?

Uh kosher food, I believe there was some provision made of kosher food, yes. But uh, I didn't eat the kosher food because uh, first we were not kosher at home, so we didn't care one way or the other, we cared only that we had enough to eat; what it is, we didn't care.

Did you hear any either stories or friends talking to you, those people who did keep kosher and here they came to the ghetto and perhaps it wasn't as available, did you find that those people were forced to change their uh, observance? Did they, did they die--choose to die instead?

Well, well we had a lot of people, they uh, were very religious. Let me put this very blunt to you: we had very--we had lot of Jewish people--they were very religious and they kept it up. And one of the uh, very religious Jews were once of the first ones who could immigrate to America. They were uh, they uh, Hasidic Jews. And I know many of them here in, in Detroit; some of them are still friends. They became ??? here at some of the catering places. But uh, a lot of people turned away from religion. They thought if this happened to us--why, why isn't God protecting us? A lot of people turned to a different religion, for one or the other reason.

Local religions even?

Yes. They, they give up their, their, Jewish religion and turn to Christianity or Catholic. Why? It has a reason: they offered them food, they offered them clothes. But I understand when the war was out, they turned back. Now I understand this, you know uh, you do a lot of things for surviving and that's what happened.

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