Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

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Jon G.
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Jon G. » 11 Aug 2008 08:08

The gray 1940 ration card, above, specifies a choice of either 100 grams of pork, or 80 grams of lean meat on a few of its stamps. Otherwise, the 'meat' category is generic throughout. Note that the ration cards which Vikki posted are valid for a four-week period, as explained upthread each ration period was four weeks.

I'm compiling some more numbers for this thread but won't have the time to post them until later this week. Generally, German ration sizes describe a downward trend as the war went on - the 1940 harvest was very poor, especially fruit and most vegetables (except for potatoes) were in short supply, and rations were reduced as a result. Conversely, the 1942 harvest was very good, which lead to a corresponding increase in civilian rations in October that year, and also a special Christmas bonus ration for 1942. Food imports from occupied Ukraine also reached their peak in 1942, with more than half a million head of cattle exported to Germany in the 4th quarter of 1942.

Vikki, this eyewitness account http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 74#p555974 provides a nice contrast to the outrageous claims made in this thread http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=138476
phylo_roadking wrote:...Here's a question; I'm far more acquainted with British rationing - was tinned meat freely available in Germany on coupon only??? Corned beef etc was available in Britain off the ration.
AFAIK German rationing was total right from the onset - that is, all things food which you had to buy were rationed too, unlike in Britain, where certain items such as fish, bread and some vegetables weren't rationed.

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Vikki
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Vikki » 11 Aug 2008 20:33

A few more ration cards of other items, to comment on what you've said, Jon.

First, a Weihnachts-Sonderkarte from 1943. Unfortunately it's only the stub of the card; the coupons have been cut off and presumably redeemed. But while it doesn't show what the bonus Christmas items would have been, it shows that there was another of those special ration issues for Christmas of '43.

The second and third cards are for marmelade or sugar. While the 1939 card is for the typical period of four weeks, the second one covered a four month (sixteen week) period, from 27 July to 15 November 1942. The 1939 card also shows an alternate way of cancelling the used coupons: by crossing them out rather than cutting them off the card.
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phylo_roadking
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by phylo_roadking » 11 Aug 2008 22:48

The second and third cards are for marmelade or sugar. While the 1939 card is for the typical period of four weeks, the second one covered a four month (sixteen week) period, from 27 July to 15 November 1942.
Interesting. That extended period makes me think that indeed the 1942 harvest WAS a bumper period - and the preseves and beet sugar was simply THERE in enough quantity to allow people to BE permitted to cash in four months' coupons at once if they wanted. Preserves being...well, "preserved"...they would have a LONG storage shelf-life in the pantry...so it made sense to allow people to buy them and stock up, get it out of the shops while there was a surplus.

Here's a question - does anyone know if there was a similar upswing in the availability of fruit and sugar-based foods for the Wehrmacht in the second half of 1942? Thinking of the boiled sweets issued for energy boost, etc..

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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Annelie » 11 Aug 2008 23:01

Couldn't find much on the net but perhaps it maybe found in German rather than English.
Found however an speech by Roosevelt in October 1942
They are compelled to beg their overworked people to rally their weakened production. They even publicly admit, for the first time, that Germany can be fed only at the cost of stealing food from the rest of Europe

Doesn't really say much but it does show how bad things were.

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Roosevelt ... tober_1942

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by phylo_roadking » 11 Aug 2008 23:06

...or rather how bad the Allies thought conditions were. And after a bumper harvest in 1942 I'd doubt their intelligence analysis was entirely correct...yes, cans of Danish ham and butter, tinned French veg etc. MAY have been heading towards Germany by the trainload...but who's to say they weren't heading FURTHER on East to the Wehrmacht??? :wink: There WAS only a given number of canneries etc., just the same as aircraft plants, tank factories etc.

Plus - let's face it - the WWII blockade was leakier than a sieve compared to '14-'18...But FDR is hardly going to say THAT...

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Vikki
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Vikki » 12 Aug 2008 03:58

phylo_roadking wrote:Interesting. That extended period makes me think that indeed the 1942 harvest WAS a bumper period - and the preseves and beet sugar was simply THERE in enough quantity to allow people to BE permitted to cash in four months' coupons at once if they wanted. Preserves being...well, "preserved"...they would have a LONG storage shelf-life in the pantry...so it made sense to allow people to buy them and stock up, get it out of the shops while there was a surplus.
From the appearance of the ration card, I don't think so. Each of the smaller coupons for 250g of marmelade or 125g of sugar is dated with beginning and end dates between which it must be redeemed. The tabs labelled Bestellschein--which I take as a ticket to order or reserve ahead the larger amounts of marmelade (700g) or sugar (350)--also have a dated coupon with a corresponding number and letter which gives the dates between which the coupons had to be used. The dated coupons would prevent a customer from cashing in all four months' worth of coupons at once.

In a larger sense, though, you may have a point. Perhaps the Reichsnährstand knew that there was a large enough supply of preserves and sugar that they could comfortably issue ration cards for these items for as long as four months in advance.

~Vikki

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Simon K
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Simon K » 13 Aug 2008 14:45

See Calvin - German propaganda archives - Goebbels - "An open discussion" 29/03/42 in "Das Reich": For a good contextual view from the German leadership on the spring 1942 ration cuts, cleverly pitched to the average consumer.
Sorry I cant provide the Calvin link but its well worth reading.

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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Simon K » 13 Aug 2008 16:12

Two snapshots of German rationing :
With Christmas approaching, the Berlin papers announced on 19th December 1940 that there would be a special ration allotment for the festive season. Until 9 March in fact, everyone would be able to buy three times the normal weekly ration of eight ounces each of beans, lentils and peas. Extra sugar and marmalade were also available until 12 March, as well as further allowances of cinnamon and cloves to flavour home made cakes -but no extra eggs,butter or flour to make them with. The newspapers, instead, printed recipies telling women how to bake cakes with no eggs and almost no fat
Anthony Read & David Fisher - The Fall of Berlin - Pimlico 1993. P71
That morning (20th April 1945) the newspapers had announced an extra issue of rations in honour of Hitlers birthday. - a pound of meat, half a pound of rice, half a pound of beans peas or lentils, a pound of sugar, three and a half ounces of malt coffee, a tin of fruit and one ounce of real coffee.They also announced that standard rations for the next two weeks would be available in advance - and that up to 1000 Reichmarks could be withdrawn from post office savings accounts without the usual prior notice
Ibid p346

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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Simon K » 13 Aug 2008 21:47

There appears to be a points system of commodities running in parallel with the standard rationing system.
This was copied by the British in 1941. Consumers were initially allowed a figure of 16 points per month. This could buy tinned fruits,tinned meats and other items not covered by day to day coupons.

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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Vikki » 14 Aug 2008 05:30

I wasn't aware of a points system in food rationing, and would be very interested to see information and sources on it. The clothing rationing of the time did run on a point (Punkt) system, with a certain number of points assigned to each article of clothing and a limited number of points available to each person per year.

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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Vikki » 14 Aug 2008 05:50

Simon K wrote:
...as well as further allowances of cinnamon and cloves to flavour home made cakes -but no extra eggs,butter or flour to make them with. The newspapers, instead, printed recipies telling women how to bake cakes with no eggs and almost no fat
Anthony Read & David Fisher - The Fall of Berlin - Pimlico 1993. P71

Reduction of fats available to German civilians had begun in the mid-30s, and levels of most of them continued to be reduced throughout the war. The concept behind Goering’s 1936 “guns instead of butter” speech was already being put into practice well before the war began. But in fact, it wasn’t butter that was most drastically reduced; Richard Grunberger in The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933-1945 (p. 206) indicates that butter allocation remained a relatively constant 9kg per person per year from peacetime throughout the war, although with a ten per cent increase in price, and that the ration was even increased by ten per cent during the period of victories in 1940-41.

But margarine and other fats, typically consumed more often than butter by the lower classes, dropped steadily in both quantity and quality. Grunberger indicates that margarine was largely an imported product, and because of Germany’s policies of self-sufficiency, its consumption had already been reduced by the latter years of the prewar period to around 9kg per capita per year, similar to the allocated amounts of butter. However, its availability fell to around 3½ kg during the first half of the war and was further reduced to less than 3kg by the end of the war. Consumption of fats other than butter and margarine averaged 7kg in 1938, dropped to about three-quarters of that during the early years of the war, to 2¾ kg by the end of the war.

The 1943 Reichsfettkarte below generally bears out the lower late war figures, with a ration of 200g of margarine per four-week period, or 2.6kg per year. 500g of butter was available per four-week ration period, with an additional 500g possible with the Bestellschein, for a total of 6.5 – 13kg per year. (Interestingly, the back of the card has recipes for making soup and porridge from millet—using one form of ersatz to advertise another?)

Added to the reductions in the quantities of most fats available under the rationing system, both nutritional value and taste were undercut with the increasing adulteration of fats with lower quality vegetable products and chemicals. Howard K. Smith, who worked in Berlin for the Columbia Broadcasting System during the last half of 1941, after speaking of the decline in the quantity and quality of meat, comments on fats in his book Last Train from Berlin (pp. 123-4):
It is not as easy to measure other foodstuffs. The quality of fats, for instance, is so elastic that its nutritive value can be reduced by dilution to a great extent before the change becomes perceptible—a device which the food ministry took full advantage of regarding cooking fats, lard, and oil. In the long run this can only be noticed by its bad effect on the health and strength of the people, which eventually made itself visible. But the fact that dilution was occurring became obvious before this effect set in, for the eastern front drained away already scare fats so quickly that swift and large reductions had to be made within a very short period, and the stage of perceptibility was entered early after the beginning of the campaign. I experienced it twice and had to abandon the relatively good meals of the Press Club on its own doorstep a few minutes after I had eaten them. After the second occasion, I began having my meals in my apartment most of the time, eating meat imported from Switzerland and butter from Denmark. On one occasion a German friend who ate this food at my table grew nauseated and ill because, she said, the fat was too rich and plentiful for her constitution after having survived on German fats for two years. The fact is, that the only decent fats in Germany are shipped off to the east for the troops. What civilian food is prepared with is a weak Ersatz, which is made by filtering restaurant rubbish in a special contrivance all restaurants have been forced to install in their kitchens. It is given some sort of flavour by the addition of chemicals.
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Vikki » 14 Aug 2008 05:56

Another rationed item was affected by the low quantity and quality of fats available in wartime Germany: soap. Period accounts perpetually describe the soap available as gritty and drying, and completely incapable of producing a lather, because of the lack of fat or oil in it. As shown by the ration card for February-May 1941 below, each person received one (small) cake of soap for bathing and 250g of washing powder for laundry per month. The debasement in quality and quantity must have started very early in the war, or even before the war. For Lothrop Stoddard, who visited Germany in the fall of 1939 just after the start of the war, had already noticed:
We have already noted how short Germany is in butter, lard, and kindred products. But this shortage goes beyond edible fats. It applies to soap-products as well. Nowhere are Germans more strictly rationed. Each person gets only one cake of toilet soap per month. The precious object is about as large as what we call a guest-cake size, and it has to do the individual not only for face and hands but for the bath as well.
(Into the Darkness: An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War, p. 107.)


Howard K. Smith (p. 126) comments similarly, on the debasement of goods in general and soap in particular:
Lesser amenities of life followed the same pattern of decline: first, dilution of quality, then decreases in quantity, which continued until many commodities disappeared altogether. The little two-by-one-half inch cake of soap one got to keep one’s person clean each month yielded perceptibly less lather each distribution period, a development which was registered not only in the qualities of the soap itself, but also by the increasingly bad odour in crowded subways, trams and in theatres. Cosmetics disappeared. Toothpaste was chalk and water with weak peppermint flavouring, and a tube of it hardened into cement unless used rapidly.
Smith elaborates further (p. 162):
To see Berlin, you take a walk. To see the people you take a subway. You also smell them. There is not enough time nor enough coaches, for coaches to be properly cleaned and ventilated every day, so the odour of stale sweat from bodies that work hard, and have only a cube of soap big as a penny box of matches to wash with for a month, lingers in their interiors and is reinforced quantitatively until it changes for the worse qualitatively as time and war proceed. In summer, it is asphyxiating and this is no figure of speech. Dozens of people, whose stomachs and bodies are not strong anyhow faint in them every day. Sometimes you just have to get out at some station halfway to your destination to take a breath of fresh air between trains.
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Vikki » 14 Aug 2008 05:59

Some of the “odour” noticed by Smith may have been due as much to the poor quality and scarcity of soap for laundry and other cleaning as to that of bath soap. Lothrop Stoddard continues his observations on wartime German bath soap with those on laundry soap:
The same strict rationing applies to laundry soap and powder. Furthermore, the fat content of both is so low that, though it takes the dirt out, the clothes are apt to look a bit gray. And bleaches must be used sparingly, since they tend to wear out clothes. That is why most families have their washing done at home instead of sending it out to commercial laundries. Incidentally, when the washing is done, the sudsy water is not thrown away. It is carefully saved for washing floors or other heavy cleaning.

German housewives must have had much to adapt to in using the wartime version of laundry powder. Below is a Kriegs-Waschfibel or wartime laundry “primer,” a pamphlet published in 1940 with instructions and tips for the German housewife on doing laundry. On the first page is a “cute” little answer to the housewife’s anticipated question of why she, who had been doing laundry for many years, would need a primer on the subject. The housewife must have found the answer especially telling: In wartime, one learns to do many things all over again.
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Adam Carr
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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Adam Carr » 14 Aug 2008 06:27

I recommend to you all Götz Aly's recent book "Hitler's Beneficiaries," in which he describes in great detail how the food situation in Germany was maintained. Hitler remebered vividly the collapse of morale in Germany in 1918 caused by the Allied blockade, and he was determined that even if everyone else in Europe starved, the Germans would not go short. Until 1945 the Germans were the best fed people in Europe, far better than the British, as a result of systematic looting of the rest of Europe. German soldiers in occupied countries, in particular France, Belgium and Denmark, bought up all the food they could find, using the artificially over-valued RM, and sent it home to Germany. In Russia of course they just took what they wanted, but that was mostly for their own consumption. The quality food came from western Europe. There were no restrictions on how much food soldiers could post home or carry with them when they went on leave.

So the formal rationing situation must be seen as only part of the picture. Virtually every family in Germany had relatives in the armed forces or some other capacity in the occupied countries, and they all benefited from the plundering of the rest of Europe. So Germans were able to eat butter, cheese, bacon, ham and citrus fruit long after these things were officially unavailable. That's why it was such a shock to Germans in 1945 when they suddenly had to live on official rations, and why Germany suffered real hardship in the period after the war, when they could no longer plunder other peopel, and also when they no longer had slave labour to work their farms.

I'm curious to know in what year food rationing in West Germany ended. It was probably not until the early 50s. Does anyone know?

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Re: Wartime Rationing in 3rd Reich

Post by Adam Carr » 14 Aug 2008 07:54

To answer my own question: 1950.

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