Malnutrition during the Holocaust

The Holocaust was a tragic event that ruined lives and people, the point of this is to learn the history behind Yom Kippur and the survival of prisoners who did not fast during Yom Kippur. During Yom Kippur the prisoners should not fast, throughout the Holocaust, malnutrition was a huge concern and if you did not eat you would not survive. Due to this fasting during Yom Kippur would ultimately lead to your death or if you’re lucky you may survive.

The reasoning behind not fasting for Yom Kippur was staying alive and possibly surviving this horrific event as some people have.

My first reason was the incident for many in the Holocaust, many have been close to death due to the lack of food and a lot of their organs were dying down. Yom Kippur was based on fasting to get rid of their sins, now cannot you wait till the next Yom Kippur to get rid of all your sins? If you do not fast you will more than likely survive due to keeping the food conditions normally.

Without the food you will not be able to work/will die. The SS officers only needed healthy people and if you have malnutrition it was more than likely you were sent to the gas chambers and then killed there. A quote that is a good reason and why I had gotten from the book is, ‘Take care of your son. He is very weak, very dehydrated.

Take care of yourselves, you must avoid selection.

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Eat! Anything, anytime. Eat all you can. The weak don’t last very long around her.’ (Wiesel 59) I researched a lot and found that malnutrition was so common in the Holocaust that basically most men died of starvation. I would think that most of it was from the Yom Kippur because they were fasting. The second reason fasting on Yom Kippur wasn’t necessary to the prisoners was that a lot of Jews started giving up on God and thinking that he may not exist.

This led to a controversy where a lot of people did not fast for Yom Kippur. A quote I have gotten from the book states, “It’s over, God is no longer with us.”(53 Wiesel). I found some resources stating that during the Holocaust many thought that it was a punishment from God. The final reason that is put out there is you had to be over the age of 15. Now, you had to be healthy and strong when they send you places. Every so often they check for sick people and kill them. The ones who survive after to eat and hopefully not get sick. One of the quotes in the book say that, “You must say you are 18, and very healthy.” (34 Wiesel). This means that they are putting weaker people away from the healthier and stronger people because they need the healthier and stronger people for labor work.

Now, the prisoners who do fast would eventually die due to the lack of food and malnutrition. The struggle between not fasting for Yom Kippur and fasting for it is very hard as some may feel guilty as others feel apathy. You would rather want to be alive then be dead, this is a big reason why many people did not fast for Yom Kippur. The 3 reasons being that they needed food to not get selected for death, to fuel their bodies and their health had to be certainly well and age must have been at least above 15 years old.

Works Cited

  1. Wiesel, Elie. Night. Translated by Marion Wiesel, New York, Hill and Wang, 2006.

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Malnutrition during the Holocaust. (2022, Jul 01). Retrieved from

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