Civilian living conditions, Germany post war.

#1
Yesterday I heard Shirley Williams describing a visit to Germany in May 1948. ( 1948, just "listened again...").

She was saying that the only usable currency was cigarettes, that she saw girls trading sex for chocolate and a train-load of Czechs being handed back to "the East".

Was this still happening in 1948 ?? I'd have thought that 3 years after the war ended life would have been rough but not "chocolate for sex" rough ?
 
#2
Before my time, mate. (born in 1951) I would tend to take her word about conditions post war in Germany if she was actually there.
 
#3
Quite a while later, I know, but cigarettes would still smooth the way for lots of deals even as late as 1957.

Funny thing that struck me on arrival in Germany, was how much further ahead the bomb damage clearance was compared with London.
 
#4
I have a German friend who turned 16 back in 1945. I see him twice a week on average when we have lunch and a chin wag.
Cigarettes where the Currency of his youth.
Matters of a sexual nature don't come up often but some of the most embarrassing/painful conversations I have had with him where over The Rape of German women, by the Russian Armed forces at end of war.
He was in Berlin at war end and when the Yanks took over the sector in which he lived.
You may find this hard to believe, but he has more 'Tolerance' for Ivan at Private soldier level then for GI Joe.
He will tell how Ivan would stop women with babies and Beg to be allow to hold them. Then cry their hearts out. Young children where almost 'Sacred' to Ivan and he says the ordinary Russian soldier would often share their rations with Kids.
I have been present when he and other German friends have discussed this era and wars end and for years after where not pleasant times.
GI Joe and Tom become well spoken of during the Berlin Airlift.
john
 
#6
Try and get a copy of "To the Victor the Spoils" by Sean Longdon its about the behaviour of the British troops with the local population Sex,burglary, and looting
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
I read somewhere (I'll try and find it) that after the British Army occupied Hamburg a delegation approached about a year later to complian that the amount of rations and conditions had got worse under the British than the Nazis

When the British pointed out that the ration they were issuing was the same as Britain survived on (remember sweets and other goods here were still rationed until the mid '50's) the Germans looked at them as if they were daft and strongly protested for an increase

It reminded me of similer compliants from Iraq in 2003/4
 
#8
the_boy_syrup said:
I read somewhere (I'll try and find it) that after the British Army occupied Hamburg a delegation approached about a year later to complian that the amount of rations and conditions had got worse under the British than the Nazis

When the British pointed out that the ration they were issuing was the same as Britain survived on.
It's a little reported fact that running a Sector in Germany, placed a massive strain upon Britain's limited resources post-war. It was the principal reason why Britain and America merged their Sectors for admin purposes. France eventually agreed to join-in and that was the birth of West Germany (the concept of which was not planned).

I was born in post-war Germany. My father was a corporal but conditions were such that we had German household 'staff' that he could pay from his wages.
 
#9
Am not sure where I read it (might have been in a book written by an ex-Them who participated in covert int.gathering missions in East Germany during 1970's-'80's ('BRIXMIS'?) that a great many of the buildings in East Berlin still bore the battle damage from 1945. I assume that the buildings were still lived in, which can't have been much fun, especially in winter.
 
#10
Cpl_Clot said:
I was born in post-war Germany. My father was a corporal but conditions were such that we had German household 'staff' that he could pay from his wages.
Same here and for what my parents told me the main currency was coffee as the Germans were still drinking the 'Ersatz' acorn stuff. They (my parents) too had staff and they bought a pedigree Dachshund using of course coffee. My dad also told me the Germans would do anything to get their hands on some coffee, something he never experienced but he knew of plenty who did.

I think to see what conditions were like you only have to look at films of the period. There was a thread on here waxing lyrical about the old films that showed post war London. Emil and the Detectives was released in 1964 so probably filmed (approx.) 1963 and that was filmed in and around Berlin (from Templehof studios). They still managed to find bomb damaged housing as late as that. And when I say around, they couldn't go too far as the Berlin Wall was already up.

A friend of mine was in that film, as for extras, the studio raided the nearest childrens home. For a three nanosecond shot of him getting off a tram, he was paid in chocolate.
 
#11
Theres some good books on the subject, such as "Ruins of the Reich" and "Endgame"... however for a "military" history of the immediate post war period in the British sector try "A strange and Enemy people" where you will discover British troops torturing suspects to death and an airmarshall being investigated for whole sale looting of art.

Interestingly a german interviewee says that in the west the French were vindictive and the Americans plainly out of their depth whilst the Brits walked in like running someone elses country was the most natural thing in the world... which to them it was.

Trotsky
 
#13
mistersoft said:
Cpl_Clot said:
I was born in post-war Germany. My father was a corporal but conditions were such that we had German household 'staff' that he could pay from his wages.
Same here and for what my parents told me the main currency was coffee as the Germans were still drinking the 'Ersatz' acorn stuff. They (my parents) too had staff and they bought a pedigree Dachshund using of course coffee. My dad also told me the Germans would do anything to get their hands on some coffee, something he never experienced but he knew of plenty who did.
Same here, that makes 3 of us. Ciggies were still a form of currency as far as I remember.
 
#14
I arrived in Germany in 1968 where cigarettes would get you almost everything, While on exercise I would make a collection of cigarettes coffee and the odd ´box of Compo drive to one of the farms in the area and barter for fresh food even managed to get half a pig for 200 embassy once, and I managed to have a Sh+g for a bottle of Johny Walker.
cigarettes, Whisky, coffee, Vodka and condensed milk carnation tins of could get you ANYTHING.!.

War damage in Berlin
I was in Berlin in 2004 and could still see where fighting had taken place , IE buildings with bullet holes, most of the older bridges had some sort of war damage, I even stayed at a rather cheap hotel near American Embassy where the Hotel was built from "War rubble" doors and fittings did not match and walls made from rubble picket up from the area after ww2.

I own a block of flats that still have railway rails stolen from an ammunition dump near Hanover in 1946,used as a door lentil, The door lentil should be about 1.5 meter long but as the steal rail is over five meter long and they had no way to cut it up, It was just built in using whole length.

 
#15
There was still plent of war damage in the 80's if you looked around. Anyone remember that tower (it may have been a windmill once) in the middle of the autobahn junction near Duisburg. It was still peppered with rounds and splash damage in 88!
 
#16
Am I correct in thinking that one German city (Dresden?) piled its war rubble into a giant heap, as a kind of (anti) war memorial which -suitably landscaped- still stands today?
 
#17
saladin said:
Yesterday I heard Shirley Williams describing a visit to Germany in May 1948. ( 1948, just "listened again...").

She was saying that the only usable currency was cigarettes, that she saw girls trading sex for chocolate and a train-load of Czechs being handed back to "the East".

Was this still happening in 1948 ?? I'd have thought that 3 years after the war ended life would have been rough but not "chocolate for sex" rough ?
A couple of years ago, I met a elderly German lady (yes in NW Indiana of all places!), who had lived in Berlin during and after the war. I was more than a little curious and approached this in as academic a manner as possible (we actually spent 5-6 hours talking about the wartime and immediate post-war era).

She had a photo of her, deceased, husband, in LW desert uniform, which is how we got chatting about that period. Well over an hour in to the conversation she revealed her FIRST husband had been in SS LSAH, wounded near Leningrad and went on to be an aid to the Poison Dwarf himself!! (He ferried news real footage back from the Eastern Front)
But I digress.

She was very DEFINITE, that working for the British Army garrison in Berlin saved her and her family's lives (as she was able to 'borrow' food and cigarettes) and she did not get this job until 1947. The food was obviously eaten, although there was enough left for her to trade. The cigarettes, she is a life long non-smoker, were the "currency" of the era. I verified that specific point with her. She went on to say, that cigarettes were still "currency" for some time after the post-war Reich Mark, D Mark split took place.
She clearly recalled that the situation in Berlin was still chaotic as late as 1949 when she left the city.

As to sexual matters, her given her age (well in to her 90's now) discretion/ good taste did not mean we went down this road.
However, in passing she told the story of how she got the job that saved her family. Which may, by inference, cast some light on this issue.

Late one night she was walking through the city. A British Soldier started to follow her (He was it turned out a WO2 in the AIC). Well she felt that the man was following her, for as she put it, "the usual reasons". (implying that this was a "norm" in Berlin at the time)
At this time, she did not have a good command of the English language. In fact what she "knew" were a few phrases she had "learned" from Toms and GI's.
Feeling harassed, she eventually stopped, turned round and told the WO2 to "go away" in the most huaty tone she could command. She then tried to walk off.
In "perfect" Hoch Duetsch [sic?] the WO2 hailed her and asked her if she knew what she had actually said?
He explained that she had (he translated) told him to "Oh, F uck off!"
The WO2 may have been trawling, I got the definite impression that she had reason to think he would have been in 9 cases out of 10. However in this case he was not.
Suffice to say, in this particular case he was "most proper", got her the job ad the rest as they say is history.

On a side point, she was VERY emphatic, that GI's for well over a year would not even allow civilians to gain access to even their mess hall scraps (she demonstrated the way the leared at the children as they poured their trash can contents straight in the sewer). That scraps would have been desireable, speaks volumes to the state of food security, or otherwise, of German civilians at this time.
This had a strong ring of truth to it, given that this conversation was taking place in the USA after all

This lady spoke at great length on this era. She was highly candid about the Nazi and post-war periods. On issues relating to my dissertation, I know she was a highly accurate witness to events she spoke of.
 
#18
auscam said:
Am I correct in thinking that one German city (Dresden?) piled its war rubble into a giant heap, as a kind of (anti) war memorial which -suitably landscaped- still stands today?
Berlin too, has several "hills" made of rubble.
 
#19
Berlin Express & The Big Lift both show Berlin post war. The Good German tries but for some reason is just not the same.
 
#20
IndianaDel said:
On a side point, she was VERY emphatic, that GI's for well over a year would not even allow civilians to gain access to even their mess hall scraps (she demonstrated the way the leared at the children as they poured their trash can contents straight in the sewer). That scraps would have been desireable, speaks volumes to the state of food security, or otherwise, of German civilians at this time.
There was a rather nice story related by an (by then) elderly German in one of the documentaries like 'World at War'.

He was on the tram and opposite him was a British soldier smoking, The German and the guy next to him were gazing tranfixed at the ciggie wait for the moment when the dog-end would be thrown and they could dive on the floor for it.

The British soldier was obviously aware of that so when he was about to get off the tram, he dropped the dog-end on the floor and slowly and deliberately ground the butt out with his heel, redering it useless for a 'twos-up', to the absolute dismay of the poised Germans.

They obviously assumed that the soldier was being utterly vindictive but to their complete surprise, as he stood up he slipped the two Germans a complete packet of fags each and went on his way.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads