Theoretically, each prisoner was entitled to a daily ration of 350 grams of bread, half a liter of ersatz coffee for breakfast, and one liter of turnip and potato potato soup for lunch. Also, four times a week each prisoner was to receive a soup ration of 20 grams of meat, but in practice soup rarely reached the bowls from which the prisoners ate. The official daily value of food for prisoners employed in light work stood at 1,700 calories and for prisoners doing strenuous work, 2,150 calories. An analysis done after the war of the actual food content ranged from 1,300 calories for light-work prisoners to 1,700 calories for prisoners performing hard labor. The difference was caused by plunder of food by SS personnel and functionary-prisoners. Inequality pervaded the food distribution system. The kapo, or the prisoner entrusted with ladling out the soup, made sure that the thicker, more nourishing contents from the bottom would reach "proper" prisoners, whereas the others had to content themselves with a watery substance from the top of the pot...

Under these conditions, supplementary food was tantamount to survival... The bread ration thus served as a currency of sorts. The functionaries, who made up perhaps 3 to 5 percent of the prisoner population, exchanged their supplementary bread and soup for higher-quality and tastier victuals.

Prisoners condemned to subsist on the official ration lost weight rapidly, and their survival odds diminished accordingly.

Anatomy, pp. 24-25.

During an air-raid

Near the kitchen, two cauldrons of steaming hot soup had been left, half full. Two cauldrons of soup, right in the middle of the path, with no one guarding them!...

Suddenly, we saw the door of Block 37 open imperceptibly. A man appeared, crawling like a worm in the direction of the cauldrons.

Hundreds of eyes followed his movements. Hundreds of men crawled with him, scraping their knees with his on the gravel. Every heart trembled, but with envy above all. This man had dared.

He reached the first cauldron. Hearts raced: he had succeeded. Jealousy consumed us, burned us up like straw. We never thought for a moment of admiring him. Poor hero, committing suicide for a ration of soup! In our thoughts, we were murdering him.

Stretched out by the cauldron, he was now trying to raise himself up to the edge. Either from weakness or fear, he stayed there, trying, no doubt, to muster up the last of his strength. At last he succeeded in hoisting himself onto the edge of the pot. For a moment, he seemed to be looking at himself, seeking his ghostlike reflection in the soup. Then, for no apparent reason, he let out a terrible cry, a rattle such as I had never heard before, and, his mouth open, thrust his head toward the still steaming liquid. We jumped at the explosion. Falling back onto the ground, his face stained with soup, the man writhed for a few seconds at the foot of the cauldron, then he moved no more.

Wiesel, pp. 56-57.

We have learnt the value of food; now we also diligently scrape the bottom of the bowl after the ration and we hold it under our chins when we eat bread so as not to lose the crumbs. We, too, know it is not the same thing to be given a ladlefull of soup from the top or from the bottom of the vat, and we are already able to judge, according to the capacity of the various vats, what is the most suitable place to try and reach in the queue when we line up...

Here I am, then, on the bottom. One learns quickly enough to wipe out the past and the future when one is forced to. A fortnight after my arrival I already had the prescribed hunger, that chronic hunger unknown to free men, which makes one dream at night, and settles in all the limbs of one's body...

The Market is always very active...Here scores of prisoners driven desperate by hunger prowl around, with lips half-open and eyes gleaming, lured by a deceptive instinct to where the merchandise shown makes the gnawing of their stomachs more acute and their salvation more assiduous. In the best cases they possess a miserable half-ration of bread which, with painful effort, they have saved since the morning, in the senseless hope of a chance to make an advantageous bargain with some ingenuous person, unaware of the prices of the moment. Some of these, with savage patience, acquire with their half-ration two pints of soup which, once in their possession, they subject to a methodical examination with a view to extracting the few pieces of potato lying at the bottom; this done, they exchange it for bread, and the bread for another two pints to denaturalize, and so on, until their nerves are exhausted, or until some victim, catching them in the act, inflicts on them a severe lesson, exposing them to public derision.

Levi, Survival, pp. 33, 36-37, 78.

(T)he average diet in Auschwitz permitted a prisoner to remain alive no more than three months, after which time symptoms of emaciation and "hunger disease" set in; and the early hospital blocks served as places "where the people suffering from the hunger disease could spend the time from the beginning of the sickness until their death."

Lifton, p. 187.