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“Do you know what hunger is?”

Johannes Prassek in a secret message 1942

Do you know, what hunger is? When the stomach grumbles and one has this unpleasant “Hunger” feeling, that still isn’t “Hunger”! Yet: When it stinks from your throat because of the emptiness and putrid remnants of food in one’s gullet or who knows where, when you become aware of – despite all your brushing – a horrible taste of deficiency between the teeth in your mouth, when the gums loosen and the mere touch with your tongue makes the blood flow, when despite all your clothes, despite the summer heat your body does not warm, but fingers to your palms and the toes of your feet are empty of blood and numb, when your arms are cold up to the elbows and your legs up to the knees, when it is like needles pricking with a cold chill all over even the tiniest area of your body, and all night long you turn from one aching side to the other because you cannot get warm and because of that you cannot sleep.

And then there is this grisly, dull feeling in your head as if someone were squeezing it, like a hundredweight, from all sides, and when you rise you first have to steady yourself so as not to fall over for dizziness, and at first everything is turning around and blackening before your eyes, until your blood has settled.

Whatever you’re given to eat you devour. Boiled potatoes in their jacket naturally with their jacket, lest any nutriment be lost, stale and moldy bread you pick out of the waste bin, and the cold boiled, jacketed potatoes lying in the dog’s bowl in the sand, you collect like treasures and wipe them clean on your “clean” trousers and wolf them down. The core of an apple, even when already rotten, is not discarded, and I could kill someone just for a piece of bread.

And added to all this is the awful discontent with oneself, your fellow man and finally God, too. It becomes physically impossible to be anything but discontented – That is hunger, and it has been my companion here for months.


English Translation: Hans-Heinrich Boeker, Wyoming, Australia



Johannes Prassek wrote this secret message to Josefine Gunkel in December 1942, it was smuggled out of  prison.