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Leon Merrick: Hunger


We got our rations, we got the rations, but the rations were always shrinking, you know. From the beginning we got a loaf of bread for ,uhh, 8 days every 8 days and then we got a loaf of bread for 10 days and so on, so we always got less, less, and less and, uhh, then when you get a portion of bread you just took a slice but you were always hungry, so you went back, don't forget it is supposed to last you for 8 days, so you took another piece of bread but you still hungry and you says well, just a tiny slice and I will be ok. So food was the most important thing in the ghetto. The food was coming into the ghetto in bulk like flour for baking bread come in, come in bulk. And, uh, they had the bakers in the ghetto. Baker is the best job in the ghetto. Used to be to work in the bakery you had to have a lot of pull to be able to work in a bakery because you could eat as much as you wanted while you were working you know. Couldn't take home, but as much as you want you can eat. And some people got sick, for them to get to give to regain their strength to feel better, if you had a pull, you would get a job in a bakery
When you say pull you mean you had to know someone, or you?
Pull I mean you had to pull strings you had to know somebody. They have a special word in Polish, protekcja, you know protection. Somebody had to protect you. Somebody had to protect you somebody had to be on top of you to look to your needs. That's what I mean pull.

Leon Merrick was born in Zgierz, Poland, in 1926, the older of two boys. In 1940, Leon and his family were forced into the Lodz ghetto. In the ghetto, Leon worked in the post office, delivering letters, milk, and ration cards to the ghetto's residents. Four years later he was taken to a forced labor camp in Kielce, Poland, where he worked in an ammunition factory. After three months, Leon was moved twice, first to another forced-labor camp in Poland and then to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. In March 1945, as Allied forces closed in on Germany, Leon was moved to another concentration camp, Flossenbürg, and then forced onto a death march, from which he was liberated in April 1945. Several years after his liberation, Leon immigrated to the United States and served in the US Army during the early 1950s. Today, Leon Merrick lives in the Washington DC metropolitan area with his wife Nina, also a survivor of the Holocaust. He is one of many survivor volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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