Telegraph news

The horrors of the Holocaust were once thought to have inflicted a deadly legacy on the health of survivors.

Torture, prolonged malnutrition and the daily grind of living in unhygienic, cold and damp concentration camps left victims suffering a range of chronic illnesses decades after they were liberated.

But a new study suggests that those who survived the Holocaust actually lived longer than others from the same era who were spared the atrocities.

Err, yes, 6 years ago:

Surviving Holocaust contributed to longevity, study finds
Analysis of 55,220 Polish immigrants to Israel finds men who experienced the Shoah lived on average 14 months longer than those who arrived before 1939

Note what the study’s about. It’s not surviving the death camps – the ones where off the rain, into the showers, die and be burnt down within hours. Very, very, few did survive those.

No, the work camps. So, why? Well, if you can survive those work camps you are, already and by definition, “fitter” than those who didn’t. One definition of fit at least.

26 comments on “Telegraph news

  1. I can’t remember the references now – but British military doctors often expressed surprise at how quickly camp survivors recovered. They were given a mixture of rice and sugar to wean them back onto proper food. Even those catching typhus after liberation stood a good chance of survival with proper care.
    If one had survived Auschwitz and then a death march hundreds of miles into the west to Belsen, then one was obviously made of sterner stuff.

    What is really interesting was how poorly survivors were treated in Israel. They were viewed as somehow complicit and often shunned by their new compatriots.

  2. Yes, my immediate reaction too.
    The people who would be the most likely to die off young if they hadn’t been in a brutal work camp were probably the first to die if they had been.
    Leaving only the stronger inmates to survive and probably live longer than the average.

    This seemed instantly obvious to me, but then I’m not a journalist.working for a once-prestigious broadsheet.

  3. This logic would possibly help explain why African Americans and sportsmen and women from the Caribbean dominate their fields. Almost Darwinian hothousing creating superhumans.

  4. “Weaning back onto proper food…” Father-in-law was fed months of stodge post-Auschwitz before he was allowed to return home.

  5. This logic would possibly help explain why African Americans and sportsmen and women from the Caribbean dominate their fields.

    You’re saying they belong in fields, eh? Raciss.

    Anyway, you could be right, tho bear in mind that a lot of top African athletes come from Africa directly, so while their ancestors were probably also slaves (most people are descended from slaves or serfs), they wouldn’t have been part of the colonial slave economy, which placed a premium on hardy buck negroes.

    So it may be more about the differential selection pressures posed by the last Ice Age and geography in general as man left behind the plains of Africa. (Running probably wasn’t as useful to an Alpine chap such as Otzi the Iceman as it would have been to his savannah-dwelling distant cousin M’weng’we).

    Still doesn’t explain why Andy Murray is the only Scot who knows how to use a tennis racket, or why Welsh babies instinctively know how to convert a try.

  6. ‘The horrors of the Holocaust were once thought to have inflicted a deadly legacy on the health of survivors.’

    By whom? Or did our fine Science Editor just make that up? Clue: she is a journalist.

  7. If one had survived Auschwitz and then a death march hundreds of miles into the west to Belsen, then one was obviously made of sterner stuff.

    Indeed. Amazing that this did not occur to the writer of the article. Mind you, it is the Telegraph…

    bear in mind that a lot of top African athletes come from Africa directly

    Without Western aid, life in Africa is often pretty Darwinian. There are many alive in Europe who would not make it out of early childhood in Africa.

    There are also factors that make black athletes better at certain events. I read something once suggesting an East/West divide between sprinters and distance runners. Something to do with muscle fibres and tendons.

  8. “Still doesn’t explain why Andy Murray is the only Scot who knows how to use a tennis racket, or why Welsh babies instinctively know how to convert a try.”

    The big hint here is that his brother, Jamie Murray is also a professional, and Andy’s double partner and at the age of 13 was ranked 2nd in the world. Their mother was a good player and coached them.

    You’ve got some genetics in there plus they probably spent a lot of spare time from when they could hold a racket learning to play tennis. That’s the big thing in tennis – kids spending every waking hour playing.

  9. BoM4 – Yeah, but Monty Python were right.

    PJF – I reckon the hardcore Zionists who settled Israel/Palestine originally had a sense of themselves as being tougher and more aggressive than Diaspora Jews. And they undoubtedly were – you’re not gonna be able to break Abdul’s legs and steal his land if you’re a nebbish accountant or hand-wringing academic type, are you?

    There may have been a large element of transferred anger involved, the Nazis were utterly destroyed but the pain remained. Blaming the victims is always disgusting but also a very human reaction.

    To this day, Israelis come across as having noticeably more swagger than the kind of Jews you meet in, say, London. Part self-selection, part environment. The IDF also does wonders for keeping Israeli youngsters lean and fit – I didn’t see any fat girls in Haifa.

  10. “Israelis come across as having noticeably more swagger… “

    Must admit I was taken aback when despatched to Tel Aviv on a job some years ago. All the lads I met were a foot taller than yours truly and in pretty good shape. Cocky lot too but good enough company. Surprised how many travelled to UK on a regular basis to follow Man Utd, Liverpool or AN Other Premiership Club.

  11. “I reckon the hardcore Zionists who settled Israel/Palestine originally had a sense of themselves as being tougher and more aggressive than Diaspora Jews. And they undoubtedly were – you’re not gonna be able to break Abdul’s legs and steal his land if you’re a nebbish accountant or hand-wringing academic type, are you?”

    They’re the people who decided they wouldn’t keep running when anti-semitism came to town. The people who came to London after WW2 were doing what Jews had always done – run to the next safe country.

    Look at what they did with Eichmann and Black September. If someone brutally murdered a dozen British athletes we’d have a candlelit vigil and tough speeches in Parliament and sternly worded letters. I was really enjoying the film Munich as various Palestinian bastards were executed by Mossad, until Spielberg ruined it all with some hippy bullshit.

  12. The IDF also does wonders for keeping Israeli youngsters lean and fit – I didn’t see any fat girls in Haifa.

    Very true. The French used to have a lot of swagger too, until they scrapped national service (for anyone born from 1980).

  13. Bernie – I was yugely impressed with Israel in general. Place had a great vibe to it, a sunshiney feeling of confidence and youthful energy. This was the 90’s, I hope it hasn’t changed too much.

    Doesn’t hurt that they have the best looking women on their side of the Med either. Obvs the place is very far from being a Utopia, but it astonishes me how some people who’ve never set foot in the Holy Land have such strong opinions about the place.

    BoM4 – If someone brutally murdered a dozen British athletes we’d have a candlelit vigil and tough speeches in Parliament and sternly worded letters

    “Muslim community fears Islamophobic backlash as Theresa May announces new sports control initiative”

    I wonder how many more kids we’re going to scrape off our streets before we go Full Netanyahu?

  14. @ MC
    Yes, minor racial differences between West African sprinters and East African distance runners magnified by the conditions under which they live – having to run six miles to school as a kid does help the long-distance running muscles develop. Rich East African kids who get a lift to school don’t develop into top-class long-distance runners.
    Last year I read an impressive book (called, I think, “The Sporting Gene”) which described how the combination/interaction of inherited (“natural”) ability and environment – plus, of course, training, worked to produce a fairly wide selection of superstars.

  15. @ Steve
    Most of the kids killed are black, sometimes innocent victims sometimes casualties of gang warfare. Despite there still being far more white than black kids in London, very few of the innocent vuctims are white because they less likely to be mistaken for a gang member. Muslims are not the main problem in teenage murders – that is drugs.

  16. I think that this thread needs to close down before it is used by Corbyn and his chums to argue that a new Holocaust would be a good thing.

  17. Couple of things – my sources are German: the story about the rehabilitation of the prisoners comes from my monthly history magazine Damals an issue of which dealt with the liberation of Belsen. The rice and sugar diet was devised for the victims of the Bengal famine in 1943. The Israel story is based on some documentaries about the history of Israel and interviews with displaced persons including harrowing accounts of their ships being turned away and having to return to Germany. (rights and wrongs of which I shall not disuss here). I wouldn’t call it a slur, BC, those discriminating against the DPs indeed were the indigenous Zionists and pre-war immigrants as PJF mentions. They saw themselves as being tougher and smarter.

    Afro Americans/Caribbeans and running. This was explained to me by a doc who was looking at my busted ankle many years ago. West Africans (in generis) have very short tendons which makes them very good at explosive events.The downside is that they cannot retain much oxygen in their system, which is why it is rare to see them do long distances, they are very prone to injury and due to subsequent buoyancy issues many have difficulty swimming.

    The East Africans that we see sweeping everyone away in distance events live in mountains and they can survive on much less oxygen. They don’t have the same muscle density as the Westerners but can still turn on the speed in bursts, whereas caucasian athletes have to train themselves to run at a constant rate.

  18. Logically, this would also apply to prisoners of war who survived. Have Burma Road survivors tended to live longer?

  19. Tommydog, I have one data point for you.
    My grandmother was a POW in Japan.
    Came out skin and bones.
    Died at 92.
    But I wouldn’t describe her post POW life as being in good health.

  20. It was sometimes said amongst the knights of St John that if a knight was captured and sent to the galleys and survived to be rescued, that they were seasoned like old timbers and tended to live a long life. La Valette (Grand Master during the Great Siege in 1565) was one such, died in his late 80’s while out hawking.

    Same principle, a hardiness filter that allows mostly only the most fit to survive. Random as awell, a very “fit” individual could of course die – there were many opportunities to be killed, but on average if you survived you were undoubtedly tougher than average.

  21. Or as Nietsche said, “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.”

    In summary, surviving rough ordeals can turn the already hardy into tough old bastards.

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