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800 calories for hard work: Thin soup and bread with sawdust and plaster of paris
Linz - During the Nazi era, concentration camp prisoners had to make ends meet with around 800 to 1,000 calories per day. Measured against the hard work that was required of them, 4,200 to 4,400 calories would have been needed for men and 3,200 to 3,300 calories for women. This is shown in the book "Sehnsucht Brot" by nutritionist and historian Christine Stahl, which will be presented on February 28 in Linz.
Based on the accounts of numerous contemporary witnesses, the author scrutinized the menus in the Mauthausen concentration camp and its subcamps. A huge gap between theory and practice emerged: While a document from Berlin in 1943, for example, gives recommendations for "correct and appropriate" prisoner nutrition such as "do not boil warm food to death", "take sufficient breaks after the meal", "bread made from whole grain if possible "or the use of raw food rich in vitamins, the reality was completely different for those affected.
Thin soup and indigestible bread
Most of the time, the prisoners got a thin soup made from beets, leafy vegetables, potatoes or potato peels. Rape blossoms and grass were also often found in it. The bread was also stretched with indigestible additions such as horse chestnut or sawdust and even plaster of paris. Often it was rotten or moldy. Fat and animal protein were almost completely absent, and there were far too small amounts of vegetable. The protein requirement of a healthy adult is 0.8 grams per day and kilo of body weight, Stahl calculates. The prisoners received a maximum of 27 grams, often less.
Often the food contained sand, pebbles, or other dirt. Due to the pulpy consistency, there was hardly any more chewing and you no longer had the feeling of actually eating anything. The prisoners developed regular rituals to distribute the few crumbs of bread fairly among themselves. In search of extra calories, many "ate roots, grass, leaf buds, acorns, rats, cats, dogs, moles, lizards, toads, snails, waste, earth and lignite," as one survivor described. Often the death of a barrack mate was kept secret in order to get his food ration. But many also began to steal from one another.
Hunger regime with method
There was a method behind the hunger regime in the camps: by withholding cutlery from people, you made them feel like animals. The Nazis also tried to use hunger as an incentive. However, this concept was shipwrecked. The already emaciated prisoners were only able to perform better for a short time for higher rations and then dropped out completely due to the long period of malnutrition. When the camps were liberated, the survivors were given food first, often given rice, meat and fat. But for many that was the death sentence. Their starved bodies could no longer process proper meals - and they died in the arms of their rescuers. (APA)
- Christine Stahl, "Longing for Bread - Eating and Starving in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp System"
339 pages, 18.90 euros, ISBN 978-3-902605-19-1
- Book presentation on February 28, 7 p.m. in the Wissensturm, Kärntnerstraße 26, 4020 Linz, event hall EG
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