16/6/1917 Germany’s plague of hamsters

German farmers are being tormented by an army of hamsters. They are not facing a horde of little rodents but city dwellers who come out to the country to look for food. City folk are finding their rations inadequate and so are resorting to trips to the countryside in order to put sufficient food on their tables. These foragers have become known as hamsters because of the way they hide foodstuffs in bags and pockets.

The hamsters are an annoyance to the farmers. Sometimes they seek to buy food at black market prices, but they also steal produce and damage crops. The hamsters can also become violent or threatening when farmers do not wish to sell food to them.

Trading food on the black market does not encourage solidarity between the city and the countryside. Hungry city folk resent the apparent cornucopia of food the farmers have at their disposal while the farmers conclude that the urbanites cannot be as poor as they claim if they are willing to pay such high prices. Mostly though the farmers wish the city folk would go away and leave them be to bring in the harvest.

In Austria the country folk resort to violence against starving Viennese residents seeking food in the countryside. Viennese hamsters are stoned by their rural compatriots and chased away from their farms.

Food shortages therefore continue to undermine the cohesion of German and Austro-Hungarian societies. The authorities note such discord with dismay but hope that the U-boat war will fulfil its promise of ending the war before the winter.

image source:

Postcard of farmers preparing to defend themselves from hamsters arriving by train (Metropostcard: Food and the Great War)

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