A Policy of Deliberate Starvation
Adapted from an essay written
I. The Belsen Camp
Over and over, Jeff Roberts (Jeff@stumpy.demon.co.uk) has told us that the Third Reich had "no deliberate policy of starvation," "still no evidence of a deliberate policy," etc. Many other "revisionists" believe this as well.
This despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The Belsen camp, at the time of its capture, was filled with 60,000 inmates at the brink of death from starvation. Meanwhile, the Wehrmacht was hoarding hundreds of tons of food a mere two miles away. (Belsen was the first camp discovered by the Western Allies; if you've seen movies of bulldozers pushing emaciated corpses into mass graves, they were probably taken at Belsen.)
When confronted with this fact, Mr. Roberts responded that the inmates:
So far, Mr. Roberts is being pretty disingenuous. It's common knowledge that poor nutrition lowers one's immune system, and starvation drastically so. Whether an inmate managed to resist disease long enough to die from sheer weakness is an issue only to those who will seize upon any excuse to defend the Nazis.
And such flawed argumentation is not unique to Mr. Roberts. More recently, another "revisionist" pooh-poohed the idea that starvation was to blame for the hideous death toll, and issued this callous challenge:
The argument, boiled down to its essense, is that typhus is an act of God. Because inmate deaths were "a side effect" of this, the Nazis -- who had imprisoned them in a filthy, overcrowded camp with little food or medicine -- are not culpable. This is an apologetic of the worst kind.
But Mr. Roberts, unlike his colleague, was at least honest enough to allow how withholding food might reduce resistance to disease:
This is correct. The problem was that 60,000 people were fed insufficiently, and this problem manifested itself with a variety of symptoms: from emaciation, to lowered immunity, to typhus, to death.
We must not let the varying symptoms blind us to the root causes. One of the major problems was the lack of sufficient food. Others were the overcrowding and the lack of sanitation.
All these problems were caused by the Nazis' policy of forcing innocent people, far too many people, into too-small camps, with too-little attention paid to their care. There is no denying this. This is the real crime of the Nazis; exactly how the victims died is a detail.
II. The Food Store
But specifically regarding starvation, we turn to the large supply of food found outside the Belsen camp. Even if the food was only one week's supply, the question is: why was it not given to the inmates? The Nazi soldiers found in the area were not starving. There is a famous photograph of the plump SS women who were captured at Belsen.
To be sure, food was not plentiful, but the hoard that was discovered was excess food, food that was not eaten by the German army or civilians. It was not part of the stream of food that flowed from croplands into people's mouths; it was just sitting in a huge storehouse, not being eaten.
Even if would have prolonged life for everyone at Belsen by just one week -- that week would have been enough time to save many lives.
But would it have been just a week? Perhaps Mr. Roberts thinks so. Mr. Roberts, however, has not done research into the caloric content of the various foods in that storehouse. I have.
My figures below come from Margo Feiden's The Calorie Factor, by Margo Feiden, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1989. I've done all the arithmetic to convert tons to pounds etc., and I've divided the results by 60,000, the number of people in the camp at liberation. All figures given, if they err, err conservatively -- I'm taking into account the poor quality of nutrition available in central Europe in early-mid '45.
There were 600 tons of potatoes, which would have provided 5180 calories per person.
The 120 tons of tinned meat would have provided 4140. I'm using a figure for standard-grade beef, unboned, on the theory that the tinned meat was deboned but that the tins weighed about as much as the bones would.
The 30 tons of sugar, 1680 calories per person.
The 20 tons of powdered milk, 850.
The bakery could produce 60,000 loaves daily, and a small loaf of bread is about 800 calories -- I'm unsure whether to include that, because a source of grain for the bakery was listed as being in the store, but not quantified. We know Kramer got 10,000 loaves a week, which is 150 calories per person per week. Note that the 10,000 loaves a week was nowhere near the full production of the bakery. I'm assuming that the remaining 97.6% production capacity of the bakery was not fully usable due to lack of flour. I actually do not believe this is true, since that same bakery was feeding the Wehrmacht. I suspect that more that 2.4% of the capacity could have been siphoned off to the camp, if it had been a priority.
Of course it was not a priority, because the Untermenschen in the Belsen camp could not receive food before the racially-pure German people in the Wehrmacht and in the nearby towns and villages.
I won't count the unquantified "cocoa, grain, wheat and other foodstuffs," though cocoa powder ranges from 28 to 46 calories per inmate per ton, depending on its fat content. Each twenty tons of cocoa powder would have been another day of life for 60,000 people.
That's a total of 11,850 calories per person, excluding the meager weekly bread supply.
Generally speaking, the number of calories per person per day, counting only the supplies found in the store and the known output of the bakery (which is 40 times under its capacity), are 21+11850/d where d is the number of days the food is spread out.
Mr. Roberts notes that the inmates' food supply had been reduced to 600 calories per day. It's also worth noting that Hans Frank's diary mentions that figure as the caloric allotment for the Poles which was leaving them open for disease:
The last line could be a premonition of what would happen in Belsen and other Nazi camps a few years later:
So using 600 calories per day -- starvation rations -- we solve for d and get 20.5 days.
Three weeks' worth of food for 60,000 people was locked up two miles away from Belsen. Horrible. At least three weeks of food, because it doesn't include the cocoa, grain, wheat, or the remaining bakery production capacity.
If this is not de facto evidence for a policy of starvation, I don't know what is. The camp commandant talked about sending out five trucks to pick up food, but being denied because it was reserved for the Wehrmacht. But even without the commandant's testimony, it's obvious that only orders from above could have prevented a camp official with a heart from simply taking the trucks and delivering food to the camp. Or, if the Nazis cared about the inmates at all, they could have released a few hundred healthy prisoners under guard, and had them carry food to the rest.
III. The Policy
But if the aim is to prove Nazi intent to starve undesirables, we do not need to rely on the facts in evidence when the camps were freed. The Nazis' own documentation makes the case against them.
The case is laid out in other entries of Hans Frank's diary, as cited above. Italics appear in NCA, but boldface is my emphasis.
The General Gouvernement was Nazi-occupied Poland.
I point out incidentally that the document ends with very explicit reference to the Final Solution:
As conclusion, I'd like to read from Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, Collier Books, New York, 1993, p. 74. From chapter 7, "A Good Day."
Last modified: October 12, 1999