Eva Ginzova was fourteen years-old when she was sent to the Terezin Ghetto, also known as Theresienstadt. She arrived in the middle of May in 1944. Her official status under German occupation policy was “mischlinge of the first degree.” This meant that she was half-Jewish. This protected her from Theresienstadt until she was fourteen, but once she arrived she wasn’t treated any differently than any other Jewish prisoner.
Eva didn’t expect to be in Theresienstadt for very long. By the spring and summer of 1944, it was obvious that Germany was losing the war. Unfortunately, she underestimated how long it would take for Germany’s defeat to come. On August 18th, she recorded her disappointment in her diary at marking her third month in captivity. She didn’t realize at the time that it would be almost nine more months until her liberation would come. As her incarceration dragged on, she began to suffer from the physical hardships of her situation. Hunger, forced labor, and lack of sanitary conditions all took their toll on her health.
On August 20th, Eva wrote about one of the health problems she faced. “Today we made our beds here in the room on the floor. We tried in vain to get sleep and regretted that we don’t have a place for lying down in the corridor or in the courtyard. We were bitten by bedbugs and fleas (as were the other girls who had stayed and slept in the room). We caught forty-eight bedbugs on our mattresses, not even counting those we caught on the floor and on ourselves. We had the lights on all night and we hunted bedbugs.”
Considering all of the other problems that Jewish prisoners faced, bedbugs might not seem that significant, but they were actually a great danger. They could carry or spread disease. They also made it impossible to get rest, which was necessary for preserving strength to endure the other ongoing hardships. The poor sanitary conditions inflicted on prisoners in Theresienstadt were one part of the destructive program carried out by the Nazi regime against their Jewish victims.
You may read entries from Eva Ginzova’s diary in by Alexandra Zapruder.
Click here to read a brief history of the Theresienstadt Ghetto. The last paragraph of this article describes the conditions under which the prisoners lived.
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