(A series of stories about something that was always on my father’s mind; food.)
“The Bread Scale”
There was some days when I worked in bread distribution. I had to measure out a certain amount of bread for each barrack. I figured out while the Russian guard was standing in front of the scale, I could put an extra row of bread on the ground and pile it up just high enough to align it with the others on the scale. When the right weight was on the scale the Russian guard would say “enough.” I had done this for a while when one time another prisoner noticed what was going on. I remember that his face turned white and his eyes were large with fear. He stood there watching me, unable to say a word.
This time the guard came closer to the scale with the bread on it. In fear of him finding out what I was doing, I purposely fell over the scale to knock the bread all over the ground. He was very angry and started cursing at me in Russian; by this time I had learned a lot of Russian and knew what he was saying. It was the last time they assigned me to bread distribution.
As always food and finding more of it was always number one on my agenda. My next attempt was with the food stamper. In the wood workers shop I discovered a way to duplicate the stamper. All prisoners were given stamped food cards which were used to get our daily rations and I was stamping extra food cards for myself.
I had a friend who worked in the kitchen and got him to give me some blank food cards in exchange for washing his kitchen aprons. I didn’t have to worry about the kitchen workers noticing me returning for extra portions because of the way the serving line was set up. We couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us due to the size of the opening. There was just enough space for us to show our cards and slip our bowls in to be filled. I would go get my regular rations, eat it, clean out my bowl and return to the line with another card for more.
Even in the kitchen politics played a role. For some reason many Germans worked in the kitchen, so when another German prisoner went to get his food, he would get a little extra. The cook that was serving the food couldn’t see the man, but knew he was German when they started to talk. They always helped each other when they could, at times I felt more like a German prisoner then a Russian one.
The day came that this would also end. The Russians started to notice that they were giving out more rations than prisoners. They instantly assumed someone had stolen a stamper and was stamping extra tickets. The commandant told everyone, if they reveled who was doing it, the person responsible would not be punished. As an extra incentive they would receive extra rations for coming forward. Finally I mustered up enough courage to tell them it was me. At first the commandant couldn’t believe I had done it without their “stamper.” He was so mad he started to scream at me to “go fuck myself,” and shook his head in anger. He told me I could be killed right now for what I did. Luckily, all he did was warn me never to do it again. I never did receive my extra rations.