Resources for Loss

The Warsaw Ghetto Hunger Study, contributed by Nadav Asraf (TF, 2023)

The Warsaw Ghetto Hunger Study was an observational study on the physiological and psychological effects of hunger on the human body that was conducted by Jewish doctors, nurses, and students imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. In light of the abject conditions of hunger that were part of daily life in the ghetto, the Jewish doctors decided to utilize this situation for the benefit of humankind by conducting a first-of-its-kind, large-scale study of how hunger affects the human body. This study was done in secret, seeing that Jews were prohibited by the Germans from scientific work.

The study began In February 1942 and lasted for 5 months until the beginning of the deportation and mass murder of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto, which started on July 22. The results of the study were hidden away and smuggled out of the ghetto. After the war they were published in Polish and in French, and nowadays they are also available in English (“Hunger Disease: Studies by the Jewish Physicians in the Warsaw Ghetto,” published in 1979).

The introduction to the study, written by Dr. Israel Milejkowski, the head of the research group, in October 1942, when 250,000 of the ghetto’s inhabitants had already been murdered, ends with the words:

“A last few words to honor you, the Jewish doctors. What can I tell you, my beloved colleagues and companions in misery. You are a part of all of us. Slavery, hunger, deportation, those death figures in our ghetto were also your legacy. And you by your work could give the henchman the answer Non omnis moriar (Horace, Odes, 3.30.6), “I shall not wholly die.”

The Latin quote that in the original Roman poem expresses the poet’s confidence that his poetry will continue to live even after his death is utilized in this new context to express the wish of the Jewish victims to leave something behind after their death, a scientific study displaying their humanity in the face of unspeakable evil.

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