Oral History

Beatrice Stern Pappenheimer describes struggle among prisoners for meager food rations in Gurs camp

Beatrice's family lost their textile business and home when the Nazis barred Jews from owning property. The family was deported to camps. Beatrice, her sister, and their mother were sent to Gurs. The Children's Aid Society (OSE) later placed the girls in homes and convents, where they feared Allied bomb attacks, but escaped the horrors of camp life. Their parents perished.


Everyday they would throw one loaf of bread into the barrack, and they would throw it. The women would go after that loaf of bread. At first it wasn't that bad, but then wh...but then when we became hungrier and hungrier, things became worse and worse. And the reason I'm saying this is that we used to have one person to div...divide up this loaf of bread, and it wasn't very big. It was regular loaf like that. But to divide it up amongst, like I say, twenty-five to thirty people wasn't very easy, and also I never saw any knives, forks, or spoons. So one person was selected and she would try and weigh the bread as closely as possible so everybody would have the same amount. Didn't always work out that way because it was very difficult to do. So if one person would get just a little bit more, the other women would jump on this person and they would have terrible fights. These women who had been ladies turned like into animals almost, just to have a little bit of more bread, but they were starving us, and when you are that hungry it hurts and you will do almost anything, anything to get just a little bit of bread.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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