During the Holocaust, many people know of the unpractical and inhumane living environments that prisoners were forced to face. Both medical ethics and human rights were disregarded during the Holocaust. The standards of public health during this time were basically nonexistent. There are many examples that exploit the sanitation that prisoners had to live with that directly correlate to the proliferation of infections and diseases that spread throughout concentration camps that lead to sickness or death. A couple of reasons why sanitation was poor is as followed. People living in concentration camps were not offered clean cloths, they wore the same articles every day, dirty because the prisoners did not have access to clean water to clean their cloths. Due to the inability to obtain clean cloths, there was a high risk of catching an infection. Also, because the limited amount of water, prisoners were not able to shower. If they did have access to water, the water was dirty and did not help the prisoners get clean. The inability to shower can cause sickness and can cause skin infections.
Due to the over population of prisoners, rooming was not ideal. Beddings consisted of straw and the rooms were crowed with several prisoners. This makes it easy for diseases to be spread along the concentration camps. Typhus, a disease caused by lice is one of the few diseases that contaminated concentration camps. This was caused do to the poor sanitation systems that prisoners encountered. Due to the overcrowding of camps, it was easy to catch typhus, and was very difficult to get rid of.
The image above was taken at the entrance to the Belsen camp. This goes to show how uneducated people were about the spread of infections during this time. Because a lot of people were not educated enough about the disease, it enabled the disease to continue to spread and allowed people to continue getting sick. Today, we cannot change what happened during the Holocaust. However, it is very important for us as healthcare professionals to realize the importance of protecting and educating those who are unable to protect themselves about hygiene and how certain diseases spread, because if we do not do so then the spread of diseases is going to ruin us and threaten our human existence.
Lauren McDonald is a student in “Holocaust and Genocide Studies” in the Fall 2018 semester.