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Going Over The Top: Ersatz cooking - German food shortages during WWI

Max Sinister

Active member
Yeah, it's no coincidence that "Ersatz" became a common word in this time. I don't have the source right now, but during the war, hundreds of kinds of ersatz whatever were invented, and thousands of ersatz drinks. Even Konrad Adenauer (yes, that one) got a patent for such a bread, which included rice, maize, topinambur, and pearl barley.
 

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
That's definitely an aspect of WW1 that receives too little attention. One just has to count how many Central Power victory TLs out there simply assume that the German population will sustain itself on thin air until their army defeats the Entente. It seems that French mutinies are always on the verge of causing a general collapse of the Entente's will to fight, while starvation on the German home front is just something that can be handwaved away.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
Yeah, it's no coincidence that "Ersatz" became a common word in this time. I don't have the source right now, but during the war, hundreds of kinds of ersatz whatever were invented, and thousands of ersatz drinks. Even Konrad Adenauer (yes, that one) got a patent for such a bread, which included rice, maize, topinambur, and pearl barley.
I do find it ironic that, just as everyone had finished trying to remove German names from English because of war jingoism, 'ersatz' entered the English language as a neologism.
 

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
I do find it ironic that, just as everyone had finished trying to remove German names from English because of war jingoism, 'ersatz' entered the English language as a neologism.
It also entered the French lexicon at the same time. I'd like to know how many other European languages picked it up.
 

Max Sinister

Active member
That's definitely an aspect of WW1 that receives too little attention. One just has to count how many Central Power victory TLs out there simply assume that the German population will sustain itself on thin air until their army defeats the Entente. It seems that French mutinies are always on the verge of causing a general collapse of the Entente's will to fight, while starvation on the German home front is just something that can be handwaved away.
I still wonder whether an Eastern strategy would have helped the CPs regarding that. Ukrainian grain and all that.

Many people talk about the German chauvinism, few about the horrible incompetence. Schlieffen himself said that his plan only worked if Britain stayed neutral, no diplomat (or someone else) seemed to care about that. Germany had to import food, had few in stock, but nobody minded. But after all, the war would be over when the leaves fall. - The Brits were more honest about how badly the war was fought, see "Blackadder Goes Forth".

I do find it ironic that, just as everyone had finished trying to remove German names from English because of war jingoism, 'ersatz' entered the English language as a neologism.
Well, it's a pejorative word.
 

Hendryk

Nothing ever ends
Published by SLP
Location
France
I still wonder whether an Eastern strategy would have helped the CPs regarding that. Ukrainian grain and all that.
About that, would you happen to know how much grain and other foodstuffs the Germans were able to seize in the territories they gained with Brest-Litovsk?
 

Max Sinister

Active member
About that, would you happen to know how much grain and other foodstuffs the Germans were able to seize in the territories they gained with Brest-Litovsk?
Not really, although I thought so... they do produce lots of grain, and the German army also took something when they got there in WW1, but I don't know details. The logistics might be the biggest problem, as usual.
 

Redolegna

Champagne Socialist
Moderator
Published by SLP
Location
Paris
Pronouns
he/him
I think it's probably instructive for the prosecution of WWII as well: in Wages of Destruction, Tooze makes the quite cogent point that a lot of Nazi officials had served as infantry and hated having to attack with less than sufficient shell barrages simply because there were ammunition shortages (something which plagued all WWI states at various points) and that they made extra sure shells were not lacking in the first years of WWII by allocating their production some extra resources. Similarly, the reminder of the Turnip Winter and the collapse in both Tsarist Russia and Imperial Germany (and Austria-Hungary had a similar story as well, but piled various nationalisms on top) is probably a good explanation as to why until the Sportpalast Speech, there was no putting Nazi Germany on complete total war footing. Which in turn meant looting every conquered country of its foodstuffs as well as their coal, machines and manpower.

And it's also probably instructive that while they had access to the world market, the democracies paid much more attention to this issue and took serious and competent steps to alleviate hunger.
 
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The Red

Well-known member
Published by SLP
I think it's probably instructive for the prosecution of WWII as well: in Wages of Destruction, Tooze makes the quite cogent point that a lot of Nazi officials had served as infantry and hated having to attack with less than sufficient shell barrages simply because there were ammunition shortages (something which plagued all WWI states at various points) and that they made extra sure shells were not lacking in the first years of WWII by allocating their production some extra resources. Similarly, the reminder of the Turnip Winter and the collapse in both Tsarist Russia and Imperial Germany (and Austria-Hungary had a similar story as well, but piled various nationalisms on top) is probably a good explanation as to why until the Sportpalast Speech, there was no putting Nazi Germany on complete total war footing. Which in turn meant looting every conquered country of its foodstuffs as well as their coal, machines and manpower.

And it's also probably instructive that while they had access to the world market, the democracies paid much more attention to this issue and took serious and competent steps to alleviate hunger.
The Nazis, Hitler especially, were terrified of another 1918 where public outrage over an already lost war led to a quicker end with less casualties. Even though in this case most Germans ate better than they did in 1918 by late 1944 malnutrition was widespread and by the end of the war the WAllies found they had a typhoid epidemic on their hands.

“Totalen kreig” was yet another example of the discordance within the Nazi regime that revealed personal fiefdoms were more important than saving their own necks. Let alone civilians.
 
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