Problems of Disease in the Warsaw Ghetto
The main factors affecting the lives of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto were overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, inability to earn a living and hunger. Until the ghetto was sealed, most of its inhabitants somehow managed except for refugees forcibly thrust into the ghetto. However, the local Jews fed and clothed them and they survived. Initially diarrhea and typhus were not serious problems. Nervous tension was common especially as conditions in the forced labor camps were brutal and many fell ill and perished. Impressments for work at the Polish Sejm building or the Falenti farm meant harsh conditions under sadistic supervisors and filled the Jews with terror. After the ghetto was sealed off in October-November 1940, conditions deteriorated and disease and hunger were more widespread. Illegal purchase of food kept most inhabitants alive. Exanthematic typhus was the greatest calamity and must have effected over 100,000 people. The population organized passive resistance against the Nazi regulations and hid and treated their afflicted relatives at home. Overall, typhus mortality was 15%. Tuberculosis was less widespread than typhus. Mortality from colitis was 60% and was often associated with starvation disease. The Nazi authorities were to blame for the unchecked spread of disease in the ghetto. During the three-year period from September 1939, over 80,000 died from disease – 18,000 of these of starvation.