Chicken was rationed in WWII


by Karl-Heinz Rothenberger

State of research

The subject of nutrition and the supply crisis after the Second World War - not only in Germany, but also in Europe and around the world - has been the subject of scientific discussion for four decades with varying degrees of intensity and changing research accents. In the forties and fifties a series of medical and agricultural scientific papers appeared on the current food situation, the problems of agricultural productivity and the world food situation. Most of them, however, have rarely exceeded the narrow framework of their own specialist discipline. 1] Only the meritorious work of Justus Rohrbach and Hans Schlange-Schöningen dealt with the problem area of ​​food and agriculture comprehensively after the Second World War, but limited it to the bizone. 2]

In the sixties, Ernst-Günther Schenck's nutritional crisis [ed. 3] in a global context and by Hermann Arnold [note. 4] has been treated from a medical and social hygienic point of view. The latter work in particular provided research with extensive figures on body weights of the population, hunger-related illnesses and mortality. In 1980 the author comprehensively presented post-war nutrition and agricultural productivity using the example of Rhineland-Palatinate. The investigation was extended to the French zone of occupation in 1983. [Note. 5]

Interest in the subject revived in the 1980s. In addition to regional historical studies [note 6] and a study of the importance of the food problem for the politics of the Western Allies by Farquharson [ed. 7], Rainer Hudemann presented the shadow economy and hamstering in his habilitation paper on social policy in the south-west of Germany. 8] The provisional conclusion is the Göttingen habilitation paper by Günter J. Trittel on the nutritional situation and policy in the bizone. 9] It goes well beyond the presentation by Rohrbach / Schlange-Schöningen, but unfortunately the global approach of the forties and fifties to embed the German food situation in the context of a global food crisis is only continued cursory with a few figures.

Women's research in the eighties set some new accents, but these are less important for our topic. 10]


The causes of the supply crisis

Three factors in particular should be emphasized from the network of conditions: the world food crisis, the decline in agricultural productivity and the collapse of infrastructure.

Kinzhuber calculated the decline in food production in Europe in 1946 with 37%, in 1947 with 25% compared to 1938/39. 11] Baade estimated the deficit in Eastern Europe alone due to displacement and land reform at 25 million tons of grain. 12] That was twice the world trade turnover in wheat at the end of the 1930s. The USA and Canada had increased their wheat production significantly during the war, but this was offset by a sharp decline in production in Argentina and Australia. In addition, England has sent part of the Australian wheat to India in order to stabilize the troubled conditions there. The supply load was thus mainly on the USA, but it was not until the record harvest of 1947 that they were able to increase their exports significantly. In view of the tense nutritional situation in most European countries, of which only the Anglo-Saxon countries, Scandinavia and Switzerland reached the level of the pre-war period in 1946/47, there was no reason for them to give priority to Germany or to the same extent with regard to their war guilt until 1947 deliver like the rest of the world.

The domestic economic causes of the food crisis lay mainly in the insufficient supply of agriculture with commercial fertilizer. Due to the diversification of raw materials and specialization, German industry had developed into a conglomerate of supplier industries since the 19th century, whose business connections were now interrupted by the zone boundaries. The French zone had an important production facility for nitrogen fertilizers with BASF, but production was still severely restricted by destruction. The large potash mines were in the Soviet and British-occupied zones, phosphoric acid was extracted in the Ruhr and Saar. When the military government diverted both phosphoric acid from the Saar and nitrogen from BASF in Ludwigshafen for the needs of the mother country, the French zone's need for commercial fertilizer, without which agriculture in Germany was long since no longer viable, was only partially covered . In addition, there was the not to be underestimated loss of the large East German seed breeding establishments and the decline in the number of livestock. This reduced the yield of the soil (lack of manure). For Rhineland-Palatinate in 1945 one can assume a decline in crop yields of a third to a quarter compared to the 1930s. The productivity of the soil continued to decline in the years that followed.

The food industry had not only production problems, but no minor problems of collection and distribution. The destruction of most of the bridges and numerous railway lines, the severe damage to the road network and the lack of motor vehicles and fuel as well as the hindrances in post and telephone traffic did not allow a more or less even distribution of food to the individual parts of the country, cities and districts until 1947. In addition, there was the nutritional egoism of the regions. With the dissolution of the Reichsnährstand, the estate organization of agriculture, which had worked effectively until the end of the war, was also lost. The state officials as inspectors were not a fully-fledged substitute for this. And the threats and measures of punishment by the military government partly fizzled out on the small-scale structure of agriculture, which with its four million towel fields could hardly be effectively controlled. Nothing makes this clearer than the size of the black market. The release of the agricultural market and in particular the prices of agricultural products was out of the question for social reasons. Given the scarcity of food, the poorest would have starved to death.


Hunger as a result of exploitation?

Although the German population was informed at least in outline about the critical food situation in other European countries through the press, they mostly viewed the crisis as the result of a deliberate punitive policy of the occupying power. Theodor Eschenburg described the French zone as an "exploitation colony". In 1983 Werner Abelshauser spoke of a “policy of exploitation for French economic interests”. 13] France has undeniably used the economic potential of its zone for its reconstruction, using open and covert means. What is meant is not the legal reparations, but the sale of the zone's assets below world trade prices and the use of dollars from the zone's import surpluses as French foreign exchange credits. So the situation arose that the French-occupied zone had 19 million dollars in export surpluses and 336 million dollars in foreign exchange profits on the one hand, and the population was starving on the other. 14] Abelshauser did not check whether the world grain market allowed purchases in the amount of these funds. Did the looting also apply to the food sector? Were the "import restrictions ... primarily at the expense of food imports", as Abelshauser states? By Hudemann, I would like to mean that the charge of exploitation cannot simply be transferred to the food sector. The French in the motherland were doing badly themselves. At the end of 1945 hunger riots broke out in Lyon, and until 1949 the bread rations in France were not higher than those in the French zone. On average, the supply of the French in 1946/47 was around 20% less than before the war and deteriorated again by 10% in 1947/48. 15]

It is indisputable that the French occupation troops (end of war: 1 million, January 1946: 200,000, May 1947: 75,000, May 1948: 53,000) as well as the numerous officials and family members, which at times included 40,000 French children looking for relaxation, lived like a paradise in their zone Meat and butter rations. On the whole, however, this minority, from 5% to a decreasing 2% of the population, has only reduced the rations of normal consumers by around 100 daily calories. The negative effect of the French well-being was more in the psychological area.

On the other hand, the great efforts of the military government to secure and evenly distribute food should be mentioned, which was life-sustaining for the German population given the collapsed infrastructure and administration and in view of the lost state authority. There have been "several violent conflicts" between the military government and the headquarters in Paris because Baden-Baden demanded an increase in food rations, but Paris considered this to be too high, not least with regard to the food level in the mother country. 16] This reference by Hudemann should be an impetus to shed more light on the relationship between military government and central government than can be done in this context. Presumably, the image of the military government will brighten up positively afterwards, and instead of the idea of ​​a uniform cooperation between the military government and the headquarters against the German population, a constellation could arise in which the military government appears as a buffer between the population and the central government.


Supplying the population

The facts have been expounded several times and should therefore only be given here briefly. The caloric value of the daily amount of food per head of the population in the French zone was 1,829 calories in 1946/47 and 1,752 calories in 1947/48. These values ​​relate to the total population, including the rural population, which explains the rather high values. If the main group of normal consumers is separated from the complex, the following picture emerges:


Calories spent for general adult consumers

Prov. Rhld.-Hessen / Nassau City of Trier City of Landau
1945 (2nd half of the year) ? 960955

This covered 40-50% of the calorie requirement. The rations of normal young people and children differed only slightly from this. With the high calorie requirement of the adolescents, this led to a requirement coverage of only 30-40%, in contrast to a surplus of 30% for infants.

The food rations consisted mainly of potatoes (12-15 kg / month) and bread (200-250 g / day), as well as 300 g of fat (butter, margarine, oil), 125 g of cheese and 400-500 g of meat, each month . Pasta (200-500 g) was not sold until the beginning of 1947, flour from the end of the same year, until the end of 1947, sugar allocations were only made sporadically 6-8 times a year, milk was only available for small children. The folk joke aptly caricatured the monotony of nutrition in the following dialogue:

Husband: What is there to eat today?
Wife: potatoes.
Husband: What about that?
Wife: forks.

The nutritional situation described in this way conveys the image of a highly egalitarian society in which hardship has made everyone equal. But this contradicts the reality. The image of post-war nutrition, also in the scientific literature, is too strongly influenced by the supply situation of the urban normal consumer and neglects the rural and non-rural population. It also does not adequately capture the considerable nutritional gap within society that has given rise to considerable conflict. In the following it is a matter of nuancing this undifferentiated picture using the example of Rhineland-Palatinate. The result can be generally applied to the entire French zone, and in some cases to other German regions as well.

The population of Rhineland-Palatinate comprised 2.8 million people. Of these, 465,000 (= 16.5%) were fully self-sufficient farmers who covered all their needs for the main foodstuffs themselves. The deputation left to them from their own harvest resulted in a calorie value of more than 2,000 and was about twice as high as the rations of normal consumers.

Rations per capita in 1946/47

Fully self-sufficient exp. Normal consumer
Potatoes275.0 kg150.0 kg
loaf275.0 kg82.5 kg
Whole milk182.5 kg0.0 kg
fat7.2 kg2.4 kg
flesh25.0 kg6.3 kg

In addition, there were black slaughtering of the peasants and evasion of the harvest, so that the group of fully self-sufficient people was essentially not affected by the food crisis.

The situation was not significantly less favorable for the partially self-sufficient people with butter, meat and / or grain, who made up 390,000 people (= 13.9%) of the population. In total, 30.4% of the population were essentially unaffected by the food crisis when it came to staple foods. This is not intended to deny problems with baby food and the widespread lack of sugar, among others.

A good two thirds of the population (1947: 1.9 million people = 69.6%) were normal consumers, of whom a quarter received special allowances. This gain can be disregarded, however, because it has been consumed by difficult work or by the intra-family balance. Another fact is more serious. Rhineland-Palatinate was an agricultural state in which there were only six cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, which in the rural landscape looked like large cities; even the district towns rarely had more than 5,000-7,000 inhabitants. So again we have to differentiate between urban and rural normal consumers. Just under a third of normal consumers (approx. 500,000 = approx. 17% of the population) lived in larger cities. It is they who have been hit hardest by the food crisis. And it is they who have shaped the image of the misery of the time. But this was only a sixth of the population. The overwhelming majority of normal consumers (approx. 1.4 million), almost half of the total population, lived in villages where, in addition to gardening and small-scale livestock farming (green market), there are opportunities to procure additional food from the farmers through work or Exchange resulted.

The post-war consumer society was not overly compliant. The two statistics below show considerable differences, although such punctual recordings should not be overestimated.

According to examinations by the Trier health department, the following health status was found in 6,739 children in the city in May / June 1946:



The wide spread in the weight measurements, which the health department of the city of Landau determined in its examinations in the neighboring municipality of Nussdorf, gives the same impression of a very differently nourished society:

Fully nourished Fully nourished Malnourished Malnourished
Overweight more than 5% Normal weight Underweight 5-15% Underweight more than 15%
Ordinary consumers (locals) 17,2%24,9%31,0%26.8%
Ordinary consumers (refugees) 13,6%27,5%44,4%14.5%

In the case of overweight people, there are certainly also pathological accumulations of water in the body (hunger edema), so this value must not be overestimated.

Even in the individual area, the rationing system did not meet its requirement of needs-based supply. Infants consume 700 calories per day, adults 2,000-3,000, adolescents 3,000-3,800. In contrast, the ration spectrum only ranged from 900 to 1,100 calories, so that the needs of the infants were covered to 130%, that of the adults to 40-50%, that of the male adolescents only 30%. Even if the parents created a certain balance within the families, in view of the low rations there was little scope for doing without. No age group has therefore been hit harder by the supply crisis than young people and adolescents.

The post-war nutrition of the average consumer was not only inadequate in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality. The most serious deficits were the lack of protein and fat. Protein, which is known to be the main source of vitality, was only 25-30 g / day in the diet compared to the norm of 65 g per day set by the League of Nations. The hunger years were not just a hunger for calories, but also for protein. In addition, the fat balance was highly deficient with 12-13 g / day compared to the norm of 55 g / day. Apart from the weakening of physical resistance due to a lack of fat (susceptibility to tuberculosis), fat is the carrier of taste and gives a greater feeling of satiety. Certain dishes cannot be prepared without fat. In their shortage of fat, the housewives rubbed the pans with coffee substitute to prevent the potatoes from burning.

When depicting the years of hunger, the emotional and social consequences of the circumstances are usually neglected.On the other hand, no better reading is recommended than Hilde Thurnwald's excellent contemporary account of the life of Berlin families in the post-war period. 17] The new edition of this now very rare book is a desideratum. Undoubtedly, the plight has increased family solidarity and has greatly revived kinship relationships. For many townspeople this was life-sustaining. But the idyll did not prevail everywhere. Hunger makes you apathetic and sluggish on the one hand, and aggressive, irritable and quarrelsome on the other. It arouses egoism and lets the moral notions that have been acquired into the world recede. After the war it caused a specific starvation crime: e.g. the police officer who breaks in because he can no longer stand hunger. Constant worries and a vital "hunger for life" caused some women to leave their husbands because the acquaintance of a French soldier relieved them of all life worries.

Hunger was only one of the most important concerns of life for many. There was a housing shortage: 5-8 square meters of living space per person in the cities, 10-12 square meters in the districts. For many, years of life in barracks, huts and cellars. The need was exacerbated by the lack of heating material. In extreme situations, some people burned the furniture. Then there was the lack of clothes and shoes. Just a statistical number: based on the annual allocation, every normal consumer in the province of Rhineland-Hesse / Nassau was entitled to a pair of leather shoes with wooden soles every six years and to a pair of shoes with leather soles every fifty years.


The importance of hamsters and the black market

For normal rural consumers, one should not underestimate the size of the green market, i.e. keeping small animals and self-cultivation, even though the conditions were not the same for everyone. A garden plot of 10 x 15 m yields 2-3 quintals of potatoes, the annual ration of a normal consumer. Private chicken keeping was so widespread that when it came to eggs, 45% of the population was designated as self-sufficient by the food authorities. The same can be assumed for rabbits. The keeping of small animals - "cellar pigs", "balcony hens" and "warehouse goats" - was to be found even in the cities.

In view of the rations that only cover 30-50% of the normal requirement, the question of the extent of starvation mortality arises. There is no direct evidence of this in the Rhineland-Palatinate sources. The development of mortality rates in Rhineland-Palatinate could provide information about indirect starvation due to increased susceptibility to infection as a result of a weakened physical condition:

Deaths per 1,000 inhabitants:
     1938 = 11,3
     1946 = 13,1
     1947 = 12,9
     1948 = 11,7
     1949 = 11,1  

For the clear, but not exorbitant increase in the curve, not only malnutrition but also consequential mortality from the effects of war, inadequate medical care and inadequate housing must be taken into account. On the other hand, the demonstrably high mortality rates in closed institutions such as psychiatric clinics, whose patients lived almost exclusively on the official rations, not only confirm the inadequacy of the rations, but also provide an indication of the importance of the black market. In fact, it was of great importance to the survival of many people. However, a second factor should not be underestimated, the body's ability to adapt to deficiency situations.

In my study from 1980 I attached less importance to the first factor and more to the second. Hudemann reversed the weight of the two factors. His methodologically groundbreaking investigation can be agreed with, although it does not explain everything.

In times of need, a life-saving mechanism occurs in the human body, because with weight loss, the basal metabolic rate is reduced at the same time, by more than corresponds to the body weight loss. To put it paradoxically, a starving person not only has less food, he also needs less! For example, a population can endure malnutrition for a long time, provided the subsidence does not occur suddenly. This requirement was met by the slow reduction in rations during the war. Following studies by the Max Planck Institute for Occupational Physiology in Dortmund for the years 1942 to 1947, Hudemann assumes the "maintenance minimum" of around 1,530 calories under normal conditions for adults. By losing weight and restricting exercise, as expressed in absenteeism from the labor market, this "maintenance minimum" was further reduced, so that the between the official rations of 1,000-1,200 calories and the maintenance minimum was considerably reduced. 18] The rations now covered a higher proportion of the requirement than my previous calculations showed.

Accordingly, Hudemann puts the amount of food gain achieved through the hamster system and the black market lower than I do. In 1983, I corrected my assumption of approx. 1,000 calories hamster gain per day and head, estimated in 1980, downwards. Hudemann still considers the 400-500 calories I have now assumed to be "very unlikely", i.e. too high. "Overall, the proportion of food acquired by normal consumers from parallel sources is likely to have decreased from around 20-30% in 1945/46 to around 10-15% in 1947/48 ..." 19] That would correspond to about 200-300 daily calories in 1945/46 and about 100-200 calories in 1947/48.

Some doubts remain. Isn't the size of the green and black market underestimated here? Is absenteeism from work due to weakness and deliberate restrictions on movement, or did it not arise from frequent hamster trips? Why were the trains so overcrowded, where people dragged loads of kilograms with them for hours and days, for which they must have lacked the strength? Post-war society was more mobile and bustling than dull and sedentary!

The French zone resumed sports operations in autumn 1945. How do you plausibly explain that the young men could get through an energy-sapping game like soccer for ninety minutes instead of giving up after just a few minutes due to exhaustion?

In this case too, one should emphasize inequality rather than equality. Some had great hamster successes, which gave them a bearable existence, others were unsuccessful and suffered bitter misery to the limit of existence. This was especially true for the elderly, single people, widows with children and bombed-out have-nots. Necessity does not make people the same, but allows the differences to emerge all the more clearly. The differences in the weight measurements are one more indication of this.

A look at the settlement structure of Rhineland-Palatinate leads us not to underestimate the black market. The cities were surrounded by a thick ring of villages. Within a radius of 30 km were: in Trier 314 villages, in Kaiserslautern 378 villages. Since the 19th century there had been multiple family relationships between town and country due to constant immigration that had remained intact.

But the hoarder's success was due not only to the amount of money and goods he owned, but also to his personal structure. As sure as begging and hamsters are not for everyone, some have been successful. Necessity is the mother of invention!


Life and supply of the urban normal consumer 1945-1948 in fast motion

Transition period

The new beginning took place under more fortunate circumstances than had to be feared in view of the destruction: · The fields had not yet been robbed by the sufficient fertilizer supply during the war - the 1943 harvest was the second best in this century up to then;

  • The Americans brought in 600,000 tons of grain behind the fighting troops to supply the population and to cultivate fields;
  • the occupation took place in March, so that the sowing could take place in time;
  • the German food administration was continued under Allied supervision with the exception of the Reichsnährstand responsible for recording the harvest. In spite of some imperious interventions in the administrative process, the regulations and orders of the French nutrition officers were essentially correct and justifiable. They were implemented by the local nutrition officers with a large internal deductible and considerable technical and organizational effort.

The rations of 500 to 1,000 calories announced by posters in the first weeks after the end of the war are not to be taken seriously. They were often just on paper. In return, the people procured what they needed to survive by plundering Wehrmacht depots and buying from the leftover stocks and unsettled harvest contingents from the farmers. In this way, the supply was essentially ensured. "People's kitchens" were set up in the cities for those who had been bombed out. The main problems were the local lack of drinking water and, above all, the shortage of milk, which together with the lack of porridges contributed significantly to the high infant mortality rate.

Winter 1945/46

Even if the situation had consolidated in the meantime, the food administration did not succeed in distributing the available food nearly evenly over the country. The cause was the destroyed traffic routes and means of communication, but also the French policy of political subdivision of the zone, which allowed no larger administrative unit than the administrative district. Between the districts of the Trier administrative district, the rations fluctuated between 45 and 100% of the ration target in November 1945, and between 80 and 100% in April 1946. In Trier, an average of 759 calories per day were spent in the first half of 1946, in Landau 1,080 calories. As a result of the nutritional gap, bread (and salt) roads from the Moselle to the Rhine and potato roads from the Palatinate to the Hunsrück formed. The black market price for potatoes was then 8 RM / Ztr. (official price: RM 3.50). The military government was able to record the greatest success that the planned storage amount of 3 Ztr. Potatoes per normal consumer was by and large distributed everywhere, which was a stability factor with the strong fluctuations in bread rations. The amount of bread fixed at 300 g per day was reduced to 250 g in February 1946 and to 200 g in April because the necessary imports did not materialize. This sank the calorie level below 1000. Small allotments of 300-400 g meat, 200-300 g fat, 100-200 g cheese and every two to three months 200 g sugar made little difference.

Early summer 1946

Similar to natural societies, post-war nutrition has adapted to the rhythm of nature again. In the autumn months, potatoes were sufficiently available and the bread ration could be increased, but in spring, when supplies were running out, the calories fell by 10%. The months of May and June were the most critical, until the new potatoes, which formed the bridge between the old and the new harvest, had ripened. The June 1946 report of the Landau economic office vividly depicts the first high point of the supply crisis:

"Every day hundreds of people call in at the municipal economic office, pleading with them not to let them starve ... They assure you that they have been without potatoes for weeks and without a piece of bread for days and that they feed on ground lettuce and potato peels that have been treated in the same way . Searching garbage cans for rubbish is a daily occupation of starving children ... "

With a special campaign, the military government forced the farmers to pay a one-off fee of half a hundredweight of potatoes and grain per farm, thus making the connection to the new harvest with great difficulty. On the black market, on which the population now used their savings to a greater extent than before, the price of potatoes rose to 200 RM / Ztr. at. Food donations from Ireland, children's meals in "Swiss Villages" and children's recreation in Switzerland as well as food parcels from the USA (CARE, CRALOG and Private) arrived. In Germany they found out that other countries had become aware of the need.

Winter 1946/47

The weal and woe of the urban population depended on the sufficient allotment of potatoes. While it was largely possible to allocate the announced 3 Ztr. Per normal consumer in the northern part of the country, the allocations in the Palatinate fluctuated strongly from region to region. Ludwigshafen in particular received inadequate supplies, which is why the city became a source of political unrest in the following spring.

In anticipation of American deliveries of wheat, the military government raised the bread ration back to 300 g in September 1946. But the increase had to be withdrawn in mid-November. Hopelessness spread. Decisions of this kind had strong repercussions on the psychological situation of people, fluctuations in supply constantly caused sometimes extreme psychological changes. They were just as well preserved in the memory of contemporaries as hunger.

To counteract the shortage of fat, the population gathered beechnuts in the forests; The official collection points exchanged 1 liter of oil for 6 kg. The mood became depressing when it became clear that no coal allocations were to be expected for this winter either. Bakeries, which were closed due to a lack of coal, indicated the shortage. The people cut the wood assigned to them even in the woods. Then, in December, a winter set in that is one of the toughest of this century. Three months of frost with temperatures down to minus 20 degrees. The Moselle, Nahe and Lahn were frozen over twice, and an ice barrier formed on the Rhine from St. Goar to Mannheim, which shut down shipping. The frost no longer allowed hamster rides. In the damaged houses with their draughty windows, temperatures sank below zero at night. Many a piano wandered through the chimney out of desperation. The mortality curve jumped in these months from 11.4 in November to 17.4 in February, based on 1,000 residents.

The cities set up public heating halls to protect against the cold. Turnips were given out to stretch the potato supplies. More and more people were eating in public kitchens because the house fire was not enough to prepare the meal.

Summer 1947

The summer of 1947 was the low point in post-war nutrition. In March the situation had initially improved when potato transports could be resumed after the end of the frost period and the military government was able to import legumes for the first time, so that the calorie drop was no more than the usual 10 % scam. But then the life-sustaining early potato harvest turned out to be poor due to insufficient seeds. The expected wheat imports did not materialize. The bread was stretched halfway with cornmeal; Germany was popularly known as "Maisopotamia". For the first time in nine months, the calories fell below 1,000, in August 1947 below 900, locally to 600-700 per day. In a resolution, the works councils of Annweiler presented their July ration to the state government: 15 1/2 pounds of bread, 340 g of meat, 125 g of cheese and 200 g of lentils, but no potatoes. That made 594 calories. The price of potatoes on the black market rose to RM 600 per hundredweight.

The 1947 harvest was only 40% of the pre-war harvests because the soils were depleted and the heat and drought of this "tropical" summer, the hottest in a quarter of a century, robbed them of their last strength. The pastures were burned and the potatoes were often only the size of table tennis balls. In January 1948 the harvest would be gone.

The population's threshold of suffering was exceeded, especially after the grueling winter. In July 1947 the quarry workers from Kusel went on a hunger strike, in August people in Ludwigshafen and Kaiserslautern took to the streets. The first signs of a fundamental change in people's mood and self-esteem became apparent, and this continued in the spring of 1948. The tendency towards guilty patience gave way to indignation, protest and threats of violence. Companies in the Palatinate and in Rheinhessen reported absence rates of up to 30% because people thought it was more beneficial to use their forces for hamster trips. Weight measurements in industrial companies showed underweights of up to 10 kg.

The military government took rigorous measures against food evasion by farmers, which reassured the townspeople. Above all, it reduced the cattle pile through mass slaughter. This increased the meat ration of the average consumer, but represented a mortgage for the milk and fat supply in the following year.


Autumn 1947

The record wheat harvest in the USA turned the previous situation. In anticipation of future deliveries, the military government issued an additional 800-1,000 g of flour per average consumer per month from October. As a result of the "pig murder", the potato supply could generally be guaranteed to the extent that it had been before. The calories rose again to 1,200 in winter. But it was clear to the experts that this level could only be maintained until January / February 1948.Everything depended on the timely arrival of American wheat.


Spring 1948

The import expectations were fulfilled. Flour, bread and pasta were available to a greater extent than before, sugar, pulses and fish were now regularly allocated, so that the reduction in meat and fat filtration as a result of the slaughter campaign was offset. Contrary to previous years' experience, the rations no longer decreased in spring, but rose to 1,400 in May and to the record level of 1,600 in June.

All the more surprising that it was at this point in time that the mood of protest reached its climax. On June 7th, the trams stayed in the depot in Ludwigshafen and 15,000 workers and employees went on strike. BASF was still wobbling. If she too went on strike, a nationwide general strike was to be feared. The Altmeier cabinet, in cooperation with the trade unions, has succeeded in averting this.

The reason for people's countercyclical behavior is difficult to interpret. There may be two reasons: On the one hand, the longer it lasted, the more threatening malnutrition was, on the other hand people might have suspected the changed situation in Germany during the Cold War, which turned them from a political object into a subject. A new political sense of self was hidden behind the protests. In June 1948 the state parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate threatened to dissolve itself.

In the course of the currency reform and the changes in the delivery behavior of the farmers in a few weeks, as a result of a better German harvest, a good harvest in the USA and the now flowing Marshall Plan funds, the turning point took place in the summer of 1948. In July 1948, the calories rose to over 2,000. With the exception of sugar and meat, all staple foods were in abundance, and potatoes were even in abundance. However, the sharp rise in food prices, especially for meat, gave cause for concern. This price development was the main reason why the government stuck to the system of allocation by means of ration cards until the beginning of 1950, although reality had passed over it. The food offices finally closed their doors in March 1950 and the average consumer became a historical figure, as shown by Gerd Fröbe in the film.



  1. Above all, we should remember the economic and agricultural science. Writings by Fritz Baade, Hugo Böker, Ferdinand Grünig, Radoslaw Kinzhuber, Friedrich Jerchow and Hans Liebe as well as the medical examinations by Willi Boettcher, Hugo Lohmann and Wilhelm Eugen Lohr; detailed bibliography from Rothenberger (see note 5). Back
  2. Justus Rohrbach: In the shadow of hunger. Documentary on food policy and the food economy in the years 1945-1949, ed. by Hans Schlange-Schöningen, Hamburg and Berlin 1955. The book, which was written by the co-worker Schlange-Schöningen, is mostly cited under the name Schlange-Schöningen. Back
  3. Ernst-Günther Schenck: Human misery in the 20th century. A Pathography of War, Famine and Political Disasters in Europe, Herford 1965. Back
  4. Hermann Arnold: Hunger. Contributions to the social hygiene of chronic malnutrition. Habil. Med. Faculty of Saarbrücken 1970 (Annales Universitatis Saraviensis, Medicine). Back
  5. Karl-Heinz Rothenberger: The famine years after the Second World War. Food and agriculture in Rhineland-Palatinate 1945-1950, Boppard 1980 (publ. By the comm. Of the state parliament for the business of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, vol. 3); ders .: Food and Agriculture in the French Occupation Zone 1945-1950, in: Claus Scharf and Hans-Jürgen Schröder (eds.): Die Deutschlandpolitik Frankreichs und die Französische Zone 1945-1949, Wiesbaden 1983, pp. 185-203. Back
  6. Gabriele Stüber: The fight against hunger 1945-1950. The food situation in the British Zone of Germany, especially in Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, Neumünster 1984; Michael Wildt: The dream of getting full. Hunger and Protest, Black Market and Self-Help in Hamburg 1945-1948, Hamburg 1986; Reinhold Billstein: Strikes and hunger demonstrations in Cologne 1946-1948, in: ders. (Ed.): The other Cologne. Democratic Traditions since the French Revolution, Cologne 1979, pp. 403-445. Back
  7. John E. Farquharson: The Western Allies and the Politics of Food. Agrarian Management in Postwar Germany, Leamington 1985; ders .: Agriculture and nutrition in the politics of the Allies, in: Joseph Foschepoth (ed.): Cold War and German Question, Göttingen 1985. Back
  8. Rainer Hudemann: Social Policy in the German Southwest between Tradition and New Order 1945-1953. Social insurance and provisions for war victims in the context of French occupation policy, Mainz 1988 (Publ. By the Comm. Of the State Parliament for the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, Vol. 10). Back
  9. J. Trittel: Hunger and Politics. The food crisis in the bizone (1945-1949), Frankfurt / New York 1990. Back
  10. Gabriele Stüber: Between rubble and reconstruction 1945-1950. Post-war everyday life from a women's perspective, in: Heide Gieseke and Hans-Jürgen Wünschel (eds.): Woman and History. Ein Reader, Landau 1995, pp. 229-249. Back
  11. Radoslaw Kinzhuber: The interrelationships between the European countries in the field of the food industry with special consideration of the grain exchange before the Second World War and its development tendencies after 1945. Agricultural science. Diss. Hohenheim 1949, pp. 90ff. and 135. Back
  12. Fritz Baade: Bread for all of Europe. Basics and development possibilities of European agriculture, Hamburg / Berlin 1952, p. 131. Back
  13. Werner Abelshauser: Economy and Occupation Policy in the French Zone 1945-1949, in: Scharf / Schröder, Die Deutschland-Politik Frankreichs ... (as note 5), p. 118. Back
  14. Ibid., Pp. 118f. Back
  15. Hudemann (see note 8), p. 62; Rothenberger, Hungerjahre (see note 5), p. 38. Back
  16. Hudemann (see note 8), p. 62. Back
  17. Hilde Thurnwald: Present Problems of Berlin Families, Berlin 1948. Back
  18. Hudemann (see note 8), p. 114ff. Back
  19. Hudemann (see note 8), p. 114ff. Back