Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Extraordinary curtailment of massive typhus epidemic in the Warsaw Ghetto

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  24 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 30, eabc0927
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc0927
  • Fig. 1 Typhus epidemics in Warsaw Ghetto.

    The number of new monthly “reported” typhus cases indicates a minor epidemic beginning in the winter of 1939 and a major typhus epidemic outbreak beginning in January to March 1941, for a total of 20,160 reported cases. Data from (17). The true number of new cases is likely to be greater by a factor of 4 to 5 (see the main text). The larger epidemic suddenly terminated at the beginning of the winter of 1941 (late October), just when typhus spread was expected to increase most of all. Numbers of monthly cases indicated in thousands.

  • Fig. 2 Mortality rates.

    Official monthly reported or “registered deaths” (blue line) in Warsaw Ghetto from (31). The red line shows month-to-month changes in food ration cards (i.e., −ΔFoodCards), for available monthly data. This should be a good proxy for monthly deaths. Note that monthly “registered reported deaths” (blue line) are far smaller than changes in monthly numbers of food ration cards (red), our suggested proxy for death rate. Numbers of monthly cases given in thousands.

  • Fig. 3 Epidemic simulations.

    Stochastic simulations of monthly reported typhus infectives for the major epidemic in 1941–1942, assuming a constant reproductive number R0. Actual reported cases (black line), estimated constant transmission rate R0 (blue circles), median of reported cases for 1000 simulations (red line), and envelope of simulations (gray area). Inset: Maximum Log Likelihood (MLL) selection of the best fitting but unrealistic reporting rate at ρ = 0.067.

  • Fig. 4 Epidemic simulations.

    Stochastic simulations of monthly reported typhus infectives for the major outbreak in 1941–1942. (A) Actual reported cases of curtailed epidemic (black line), estimated transmission rate R0(t) (blue circles), median of 1000 simulations (red line) with reported cases plotted, and envelope of simulations (gray area). (B) Simulation of the “hypothetical” massive epidemic that would have ensued in the absence of antiepidemic activities. Same as (A) except that the transmission rate R0(t) was fixed roughly to a constant after July 1941. Inset: Maximum Log Likelihood (MLL) selection of the best fitting reporting rate at ρ = 0.26.

  • Fig. 5 The intertwined relationship between mortality and the typhus epidemic.

    (A) Monthly reported new typhus cases magnified by a factor of three for purposes of illustration (red; left-hand side axis scale). As explained in text, the true number of cases was even larger (a factor of four to five times larger than reported cases). The major epidemic peaks in October 1941. The blue line gives the monthly number of food ration cards—a proxy for population numbers, peaking at 445,000 cards [right-hand side (RHS) blue axis scale varies from 355,000 to 445,000 cards]. The huge increase in food card numbers in January to March 1941 is attributed to the 60,000 to 70,000 refugees that entered the ghetto. (B) Blue curve is a proxy for monthly changes in the numbers of deaths as determined by monthly differences in food ration cards (RHS axis scale).

  • Fig. 6 Maths of food ration cards.

    Anonymous note found in one of the cases of the Ringelblum Oneg Shabat Archive (reproduced courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute Warsaw, signature Ring II/195) dug out from under the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. The note shows calculations of presumably the Jewish Council’s Statistical Division with 355,514 being the number of food ration cards estimated in July 1942 on the eve of deportations to Treblinka. The (controversial) 8% refers to the allowance by the statisticians for the “departed souls” whose cards mysteriously remained in use (see section SM6). This would leave an estimated 327,023 inmates remaining on the eve of deportation.

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

    Extraordinary curtailment of massive typhus epidemic in the Warsaw Ghetto

    Lewi Stone, Daihai He, Stephan Lehnstaedt, Yael Artzy-Randrup

    Download Supplement

    This PDF file includes:

    • Sections SM1 to SM7
    • Figs. S1 to S7
    • Tables S1 and S2
    • References

    Files in this Data Supplement:

Stay Connected to Science Advances

Navigate This Article