World War II Aftermath in Germany: Food Situation (1945-48)

hunger in Germany after World War II
Figure 1.--These Berlin girls are scavaging from a kitchen cooking food for American servicemen. The American military commanders in the aftermath of the relevations of the horendous attricities commited by the Germans during the War, including starving millions of people, were ordered not to give food to the Germans, even food to be discarded. In actual practice the men actually involved refused to chase hungary children like this away.

The Germans even before launching the War began planning to destroy millions of people by starving them to death. And they did just that, although not nearly as many as they hoped to starve, primarily because the Whermacht failed to destroy the Red Army. At the end of the War, it was the Germans who were hungary. The food situation began to deteriorate in late-1944 before the NAZI collapse and end of the War. The Allies when occupying Germany did not not intend to starve the German people. There was a wide spread conviction, however, that the German people should be made to experience the conditiions that they had imposed on the people they had occupied during the War. This was never entirly done in that the Allis did not seize the German food supply as the Germans had in occupied countries. The Allies fed the occupation forces with imported food shipped into Germany. The allies dud, however, refuse to supply food aid to the Germans. Extensive food aid went to the victims of German aggression, the countries Germany had invadeds and occupied and to Displaced Persons (DPs) in camps throughout Germany, but not to the German people. The United Srates even restricted the mailing of CARE packages to individual Germans. The United States did provide food to the women who began clearing up the piles of rubble that chocked German cities. This helped feed not only the women, but their children as well, but massive food aid to the Germans was prohibited. Along with the collapse of the German economy came the almost total disappearance of consunmer goods. And by far the most serious shorages were food. Germany before the War was not seld suffucent in food, after the War, the situation was far worse. It was not that German farnms were heavily damaged, but the War adversely affected farmers and food production in a varirty of ways. First, the agricultural labor force was substantially reduced. Many farmers and even more so their sons had been drafted. Many have been kulled or wounded in the fighting or held in POW camps. If in Soviet hands, it would be years bfore they would get back to Germany. Production had been maintained during the War by using POWs and foreign slave labor. With the eturn home of these men abd women, there was a severe shortage of farm labor. Second, the destruction of German industry meant that farm equioment was difficult to obtain. Third, workers without jobs did not have the money to buy food. And the situation was made worse by hyperinflation, especially beginning about December 1944. Fourth, while farms were not bady damaged, Germany's food processing industry was. The destruction of grain mills reduced Germany's ability to prcoess grain harvests. The canning industry was also affected. The Allies did not target these industries, but much of these facities were located in the cities whuch were targeted. Fifth, gvernment price controls and an overvalue currency discouraged farmers from producung. Fifth, with the destruction of the transportation network, it was difficult to get food from the countryside into the cities. Most small towns and rural villages had not suffered much damage, the destruction of the transportation system, especially the rail system, left the countryside economically isolated from the cities. Even a year after the War, the rail system was still oerating far below pre-War levels. The barge and canal system was not as throughly destroyed as the rail system And if all of this was not bad enough, the weather affected harvests, especially the year after the War. Summer 1946 had been both hot and dry. Many farnmers experienced drought conditions and the result was an unusually poor harvest. Then suddenly the weather turned unusually cold (November 1946). Temperature sank and Germany experienced one of the most severe winters in living memory. The cold reached minus 30 Celsius. Record cold temperperatures persisted until Spring (March 1947). Rivers froze, including sections of the Rhine. This further restricted trasport of food and coal which had been disrupted by the destruction of the rail system. The result was the German Hunger winter. The Germans called it the 'Weisser Tod'(white death) and the 'Schwarzer Hunger' (black hunger). The situation was especially severe in the cities. People died from the cold and hunger, even thirst. Many perished because they lacked of strength to fight illness. Children and the elderly were particularly vulnerable.


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Created: 2:13 AM 7/31/2013
Last updated: 2:14 AM 7/31/2013