Medical treatment for concentration camp survivors

It’s common knowledge that when concentration camps were liberate well meaning Allied troops shared their rations - rich chocolate, jams, foods high in fat - which promptly killed the inmates.

However something I was unaware of is how many survivors the Allies found were ‘too far gone’ - even months after liberation people were still dying as a result, and there were many for who the Allies medical services could do nothing for; apparently if you were an adult whose weight had fallen to 30kg (66lbs) or under you were done for.

What did the Allies do in 1945 in treating the survivors that we’d do differently today? Obviously the rich foods are out - how many more of those who died after liberation would modern medical treatment save (and what would those treatments entail)?

It is?

I meant to slip an ‘almost’ in there - but it did happen; they were called ‘canned goods victims’.

I wonder what role pharmaceuticals would play today. The pharma industry really didn’t exist in 1945. Today we have a variety of drugs that would ideally help people survive or recover from famine. I don’t know what they would be though.

Also did things like TPN exist in the 40s?

There’s stuff like Plumpy’nut available today.

Better antibiotics would be available and sanitation standards would certainly be higher.

It did. And it saved millions of lives.

If there was a defining moment in the history of the pharma industry, it might be when Bayer scientists developed Prontosil in the early 1930s. Before then, bacterial infections were quite often a death sentence, even for the president’s son.

The German scientist’s didn’t understand the mechanism by which Prontosil worked, attributing it to the aniline dyes that they started with (scientists had been intrigued by how dyes can color specific parts of a cell and they thought to capitalize on that feature, borrowing from Germany’s lead in dye chemistry). Scientists at the Pasteur Institute figured out that sulfa was the active ingredient and the drug took off in Europe.

With the saving of yet another president’s son’s life using Prontisil, sulfa based drugs took off in the USA as well.

This drug, and efforts to identify its mechanisms, helped form establish the animal testing procedures used today, as well as to sharpen many other scientific techniques used in the pharma industry.

Finally, the discovery of sulfa set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster in 1937.
That episode, where the Massengill corporation produced a sweet sulfa-based syrup using industrial solvents, resulted in about 100 deaths, mostly children and the poor. This event provided the impetus for sweeping changes in the FDA’s powers, forming the guidelines of the industry that we know today.

From that point forward, pharma companies were eagerly seeking out the next big thing, using the scientific method, animal testing, and proper clinical trials to prove safety and efficacy.

As for the millions of lives? Even though penicillin was discovered before sulfa, it was much more difficult to produce.
Most infections in WWII were treated with sulfa. Millions of injured soldiers owe their lives to the sulfa powder that was poured into their wounds.

refeeding syndrome

A nice summary of what it is and why it can be fatal.

Towards the end of the war, the US was concerned about dealing with malnourished populations.

In 1944, The Minnesota Starvation Experiment was conducted to better understand the psychological and physical issues in people who have been chronically starved, and how to bring them up to weight.

The participants were volunteers, mainly Quakers and others with an ethical dedication to nonviolence.

Previous thread:

Liberated Holocaust survivors dying when given food

I’ve read about the liberated camp prisoners being too far gone to be saved, although I haven’t seen statistics. However, what I’ve read about indicates other reasons as well that they were too far gone.

The prisoners were kept in crowded unsanitary conditions, and contagious diseases were rampant. Typhus in particular is the one I’ve seen mentioned. Many of the prisoners were near death from that when they were liberated, and could not be saved. Perhaps with today’s technology some of them could have been.

I know this is going further off topic, but I read a book on this study and it is absolutely fascinating.

I vaguely remember a story about a British medical officer who threatened to shoot anyone who gave food to the recently liberated survivors of a concentration camp. He took a lot of flak at the time, but his survival rates proved the theory.

Anyone else remember it?

Would long term parasite damage to the intestinal tract also contribute? Making people unable to absorb nutrients? Ulcers etc?