Prisoner’s Bowl

Concentration Camp Prisoner’s Bowl
Nazi-occupied Europe
1939-1945
Metal coated with enamel*

On permanent loan from the Friedman family – Edward, Judith, Benjamin, and Jacob

*Please note this material is correct, rather than that noted on the physical label

“This [bowl] was your lifeline … Without that, you died: you couldn’t eat, it was never replaced; it was for coffee, soup, sometimes for your bodily functions…mine had a hole and it hung from a string. I slept with it…” 

-Jack Sittsamer, survivor of six concentration camps. 

Conditions varied from camp to camp. Generally, Jewish prisoners suffered forced labor, starvation rations, and horrific daily lineups. Prisoners would sleep on three-tiered bunks on straw mattresses, with multiple prisoners per bunk. Facilities were usually well above intended capacity, and conditions were unsanitary. The daily routine generally consisted of an early wakeup, a lineup to be counted (or “appel”), marching to labor, forced labor, marching back to camp for another lineup, then returning to barracks. 

The days were long and exhausting, and the calories were not sufficient. The daily ration consisted of a bowl of a bitter coffee-like beverage for breakfast; a dish of thin soup made from rotten vegetables or meat at midday; and a crust of bread and a little portion of margarine before going to bed. The last in the distribution line often did not receive food at all. The SS would sometimes randomly punish the inmates by depriving them of their ration. Death from starvation was common.

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