28/12/1916 Tensions in Germany

In 1914 German politicians put aside their differences in support of the war effort. This became known as the Burgfrieden, the castle peace. Now though the Burgfrieden is starting to fray. The politicians are still relatively quiescent, apart from a few fringe socialists like Karl Liebknecht and others in the anti-war faction of the Social Democrats. But society at large is no longer displaying the kind of cohesion one would expect in a country united behind the war effort.

Germany is in the grip of a food crisis thanks to the British blockade and agricultural disruption caused by the war. People are referring to this as the Turnip Winter, as the turnip (normally reserved for animal feed) has largely replaced the potato in people’s diets. In an effort to control inflation, the government has imposed price controls on foodstuffs. This however has discouraged production or led to farmers supplying their produce to the black market, exacerbating tensions between the cities and the countryside. Meanwhile crime rates have increased after declining after the war’s start. Ration fraud is particularly widespread, with an audit revealing that the number of people registered to receive rations is higher than Germany’s population.

In the absence of their parents (fathers at the front and women working in factories) and with many schools closed, children and teenagers are now running wild. And industrial workers are increasingly unruly, with the number of strikes soaring as they try to offset inflation by demanding higher wages.

Germany’s armies remain unvanquished in the field, but the home front is Germany’s achilles heel. The country’s leaders fear that the nation cannot endure a second Turnip Winter. They are desperate to find a way to bring the war to a victorious conclusion in 1917.

image source:

mobile soup kitchen, Berlin (Roads to the Great War)

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