During the war, most prisoners were haunted by hunger. Their rations – typically some bread and watery stew – could never fill their stomachs. Official rations were cut again and again, as the Nazi regime diverted supplies to ordinary Germans. Crucially, there was much inequality between prisoners. Some skilled and well-connected inmates received extra food. Meanwhile, sick prisoners and those singled out for special abuse often received much less, and begged for scraps from the others. The following extract from the secret diary of the Norwegian political prisoner Odd Nansen describes the atrocious provisions received in Sachsenhausen.
Wednesday, 3 November 1943
[…] The soup, which is degenerating more and more – it now consists of boiled rutabaga and a little cabbage with potatoes added – gets cold on the way from where it’s dished out to our place under a couple of the thousands of little fir trees that stand in rows as far as the eye can see in every direction. It would be a sight for our families to see us at our “picnic dinner”! Filthy and unshaven as highwaymen, in the most peculiar garments, sitting on the ground with our aluminium dishes on our knees, gulping down that appalling cabbage soup that we should hesitate to give the animals at home. Garlanded round about with famished Ukrainians and Russians, all Muselmen[n], who beg from us our potato peelings and if possible our cigarette butts [for barter].
Source: O. Nansen, From Day to Day (Nashville, 2016), p. 414