How Was the Quality of Life in the Ghettos? by Justin Kim and Thomas Yau

How was the quality of life?

The quality of life inside the ghettos was unbearable. It was overcrowded. One apartment might have a few families living in it. There was no plumbing, and human waste was thrown in the streets along with the garbage. Contagious diseases spread quickly in the cramped, dirty housing.

Housing in the Ghettos

People were always hungry. Germans deliberately starved residents by only allowing them to buy only a small amount of bread, potatoes, and fat. Some had money they could trade for food smuggled into the ghetto; others had to beg or steal to survive. During the long winters, there was almost no heating, and many people did not have adequate clothing.

"I remember the fear, of never feeling safe. You had to hide constantly. And the hunger -- I would sit in our apartment and look out the window, and I would see the Polish children across the street bringing milk back home,It was like watching people in a storybook -- we had no food, no milk..." - Nelly Cesana, Survivor of the Holocaust/ Warsaw Ghetto
Ghetto food ration card for October 1941

People were weakened by hunger and exposure to the cold became easy victims of disease; thousands died in the ghettos from illness, starvation, or cold. Some individuals killed themselves to escape their hopeless lives.

How was education?

Many tried to continue their education in the ghettos by attending school classes organized by adults. Since such classes were usually held secretly, pupils learned to hide books under their clothes when necessary, to avoid being caught.

A classroom in an underground school, Konvo Ghetto

In some ghettos, Jews were allowed to set up schools. For the children, school was a refuge where they could meet, study, play, and sometimes get a little food.

How was law enforcement?

The police force in the Ghettos called the Jewish Ghetto Police was a police force organized by the Nazi occupiers.

Jewish policemen in Węgrów, Poland

The police did not have uniforms, and were identified by an armband, hat and badge. They were not allowed to carry firearms and only could carry batons. They were used by Germans to deport other Jews to concentration camps. Many of the Jewish people in the Ghettos meet up and decided to create a Jewish Resistance. Many of the Jewish Police were assassinated by the Jewish Resistance, and also distributed anti-nazi slogans.


Life in the ghettos was terrible. They were overcrowded and there was not enough food and heat. Most practices were unhygienic leading to the deaths of the already weak people. The education was terrible and the law enforcement was dysfunctional.

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