The German Home Front: Always Hungry

From my novel, An Honorable German:

Berlin, January 1943:

…they had to use ration coupons for only the bread and butter, and for the eggs and sugar that would go into a small cake for dessert. Max had been issued extra ration coupons with his leave papers, so Mareth didn’t need to spend any of hers. The waiter took Max’s large, multi-colored coupon cards – the orange one for rolls, pink for butter and skim milk, green for eggs, white for sugar – and cut off the necessary squares with a pair of scissors. Every waiter in Germany now carried scissors alongside his bottle opener.

In Germany, as in all the major belligerent powers in World War Two, almost everything was rationed, including food. In the earlier years of the war some items weren’t “on the ration” in Germany; those included lobster and other shellfish which came from the coastal waters of German Occupied France. Deep sea fish were impossible to find because most of the German fishing fleet had been seized for use by the Kriegsmarine, often as minesweepers, or sunk by the RAF. Beer was hard to find in German cities and it was expensive but French wines were plentiful and cheap because the Germans stole French wines by the trainload.

5 Day German Ration Stamp/Card

Restaurants catering to the wealthy remained in business although many items could not be had except on the black market. A meal in a top restaurant would cost as much or more than the average weekly wage for a man. (Women were paid less no matter what they did.) If one was courting a young woman and treating her to dinner, the custom was for the man to pay for both of them but for the young woman to use her own ration coupons.

If invited to a dinner at someone’s home, each guest was expected to bring Reichsmarks to reimburse the hostess for the cost of their food and also bring along their ration cards. Rations were calculated with Teutonic thoroughness for various groups of people. Heavy workers, such as coal miners, received the highest rations. Old women received the smallest.

Average Germans received an adequate amount of food but there was little variety. In Assignment to Berlin, CBS Radio News correspondent Harry Flannery, who reported from Germany from October 1940 until October 1941, writes:

Many of them told me they were hungry all the time, but all looked healthy, and the children were surprisingly robust. Rations were gradually cut as the war went on and food became a major preoccupation for most people. In the last weeks of the war, the Nazi Party office in Berlin advised city residents to catch frogs and eat them because they were a good source of protein.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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