“This [bowl] was your lifeline … Without that you died: you couldn’t eat, it was never replaced; it was for coffee, soup, sometimes for your bodily functions…mine had a hole and it hung from a string. I slept with it…”
-Jack Sittsamer, survivor of six concentration camps.
Conditions varied from camp to camp, but generally Jewish prisoners suffered forced labor, starvation rations and horrific daily lineups. Prisoners would sleep on three-tiered bunks on straw mattresses, with multiple prisoners per bunk. Facilities were usually well above intended capacity, and conditions were unsanitary. The daily routine generally consisted of an early wakeup, a lineup to be counted (or “appel”), marching to labor, forced labor, march back to camp for another lineup, then return to barracks.
The days were long and exhausting, and the calories were not sufficient. The daily ration consisted of a bowl of a bitter beverage similar to coffee for breakfast, a dish of thin soup made from rotten vegetables or meat at midday and a crust of bread and a little portion of margarine before going to bed. The last in the distribution queue often did not receive food at all, and the SS would sometimes arbitrarily punish the inmates by depriving them of their ration. Death from starvation was common.