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August 4, 1993

Courage Under Siege: Starvation, Disease, and Death in the Warsaw Ghetto

Author Affiliations

University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston

JAMA. 1993;270(5):649-650. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510050115047

As bombs showered upon Warsaw, Poland, on September 1, 1939, World War II officially began and with it the relentless extermination of millions of Jews and others deemed undesirable by the Third Reich. This potent book systematically analyzes the history of the Warsaw ghetto, from its inception in 1940 until its utter destruction in 1943, focusing upon the medical practitioners, organizations, diseases, and victims of this experience.

The author, a physician-historian from McMaster University in Ontario, has produced both a scholarly and gripping portrayal of this world, in which medical personnel, like their patients, were preordained victims. By November 1940 the Nazis had moved more than 400 000 Jews into the ghetto, less than 400 acres of space. The only realistic escape from this walled and barbed-wired enclave was through death—disease, starvation, murder, or "relocation" to the death camps, primarily at Treblinka. For the Nazis, starvation was the easiest method,