Clinical manifestations of "Hunger Disease" among children in the ghettos during the holocaust

Orit Hercshlag-Elkayam, Lea Even, Shaul M. Shasha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The harsh life in the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, shortage of supplies (e.g. money, sanitation, medications), poor personal hygiene, inclement weather and exhaustion. Under these conditions, morbidity was mainly due to infectious diseases, both endemic and epidemic outbreaks with a high mortality rate. The dominant feature was hunger. Daily caloric allowance was 300-800, and in extreme cases (i.e. Warsaw ghetto) it was only 200 calories. The food was lacking important nutrients (e.g. vitamins, trace elements) leading to protean clinical expression, starvation and death. The clinical manifestations of starvation were referred to as "the Hunger Disease", which became the subject of research by the medical doctors in the ghettos, mainly in the Warsaw ghetto in which a thorough documentation and research were performed. The first victims of hunger were children. First they failed to thrive physically and later mentally. Like their elders, they lost weight, but later growth stopped and their developmental milestones were lost with the loss of curiosity and motivation to play. The mortality rate among babies and infants was 100%, as was described by the ghetto doctors: "when the elder children got sick, the small ones were already dead..." In the last weeks of the ghettos there were no children seen in the streets. In this article the environmental conditions and daily life of children in the ghettos are reviewed, and the manifestations of "Hunger Disease" among them is scrutinized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-349+398
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical manifestations
  • Ghettos
  • Holocaust
  • Hunger disease
  • Morbidity in pediatric group


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical manifestations of "Hunger Disease" among children in the ghettos during the holocaust'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this