By the winter of ’43, there were serious food shortages and ration books were introduced. This meant you could only get so many grams of bread, so many eggs per week, and so on. It also meant spending many hours lining up outside bakeries and grocery stores. Our diet was reduced to the most basic food items: black bread, beans, corn, dry peas, potatoes.
Food had become a major issue and preoccupation for everyone, especially Jews. Our food cards were stamped with big Js to identify us as Jews and entitle us to smaller quantities. Quite often, after the storekeeper looked at our card, he would throw it back and say, “There’s no more food,” and we would be kicked out of the line-up.
Other times, the opposite happened. By 1944, when Jews were only allowed on the street for 2 or 3 hours a day, our butcher and our baker would set aside small portions of food for Jews, knowing that because of the curfew, we would never be able to reach the stores while the food supply lasted. So when 2 o’clock rolled around and we could go to the store, there were scraps for us. So there were some compassionate storekeepers who took the risk and care to help us, but they were very few.
Dinner was usually some unmemorable concoction of watery soup, cooked vegetables and bread. It was all Mother could provide us with. We ate it in silence, never commenting on the quality or quantity of the food. I went to sleep every night hungry, dreaming of some big meal we had had in the past. But after a while, hunger didn’t bother us so much anymore; it was one of the smaller inconveniences we had to adapt to.