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עמוד בית
Thu, 25.07.24


IMAJ | volume 26

Journal 4, April 2024
pages: 259-265

The Healthcare System in Theresienstadt: Heroism and Challenges

1 Pediatric Rheumatology Unit, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel 2 Department of Pediatrics, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel 3 Department of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, MD, USA


In this review, I described the development of the healthcare system in Theresienstadt during the Holocaust, from the establishment of the camp in late 1941 through 1945. Despite the horrific conditions, the Jews established a highly organized and relatively efficient system that was able to deliver excellent medical care to those eligible to receive care. The major factors that enabled development of the system included the heroic efforts of the high-level providers, the trust of patients, a public health approach to prevent epidemics and the perceived propaganda value of a good healthcare system to the Nazi oppressor. There were many challenges, particularly an informal triage policy that largely excluded medical care from the elderly (above age 60 years), mentally ill, and disabled. There were often difficult relations between caregivers related to ageism, gender, and national origin of the providers. Despite these adversities and the eventual futility due to the murder of the vast majority of the inhabitants, the Jews in Theresienstadt clung to life and tried their best to conduct a civilized society, in a large part through the delivery of excellent medical care.

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