Looking after the needs of those in hiding was difficult. Food, clothing, and heating fuel were rationed on account of the war and could only be obtained with ration coupons. Those in hiding had to either get food on the black market or rely on others to share their limited rations. Many went hungry and suffered from the poor hygienic conditions. Newborn babies and the sick could hardly be cared for because medicines were not available or no doctor could be found who was willing to treat them in secret. If anyone living underground died, the body had to somehow be removed from the hiding place.

Smuggling Food into the Ghetto

In the sealed-off ghettos of eastern Europe, Jews lived under inhuman conditions. The food allotments were far too meager. Consequently, starvation quickly became a problem, especially in the larger Warsaw, Lemberg, and Litzmannstadt ghettos. A growing number of people fell ill, and many died of undernourishment, sometimes on the open street. For many, the widespread smuggling of additional food into the ghetto was their only chance for survival.

Procuring Food

People in hiding did not receive food ration cards because they were not officially registered, so helpers had to share their already insufficient food rations. Because there was not enough food for everyone, goods, often overpriced, had to be bought on the black market. There was also increasing trade with stolen or forged ration coupons and food ration cards.

Death by Food Poisoning

The four Polish-Jewish Pakman siblings were hidden in an apartment in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. In late September of 1943, they suffered serious food poisoning from food bought on the black market. With no medical care available to him, Wiktor Pakman died from the poisoning. In order to protect his siblings, his death had to be kept secret and the body could not be buried. His sisters wrapped the corpse in a blanket and two friends secretly left it at the Landwehr Canal.