Research paper: Food crisis in Imperial Germany during the First World War

I might have made clear on here a time or two that I’m a history major at UWM. I’m in my last semesters, and on track to graduate either in December of some time in 2010. (The latter would comply with my self-declared Five Year Plan.)

As with many other parts of my life, my historical interests have turned from all things Cold War to all things food and food-growing. For my capstone research paper, I’m researching the food crisis that existed in Imperial Germany and the rest of Europe during the First World War. One thing I’ve recently been pondering was if the Reich ever started a victory garden iniative as did England and America. (Ein Sieg Garten, jeder?) Turns out that they did, although it came much too late. The image below turned up in the book World War I: A History in Documents by Frans Coetzee and Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee.


For those whose German is as bad or worse than mine, the translation says, “War Assistance Day. Exhibition of vegetables and fruits from small garden plots.”

Exactly what we’re talking about doing through community gardens thourhg MUG and the VGI.

Difference is, we’re not in the midst of a huge war that is killing thousands of people every day (anymore) and draining our land of food and resources, as was Germany. Nor are we penned in by a strict embargo, as was Germany; nor are our people starving to death as a result of it, as were Germany’s.

The First World War is responsible for the shape of most everything that followed. The Cold War stemmed from it, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in turn were rooted in the Cold War. To think, if Germany hadn’t sponsored Vladimir Lenin’s trip back to Russia in 1917, the world could have been very different. Of course the Great War was such a horribly complicated turn of events that folded in and back upon itself that to have many things happen differently in it would have changed the world.

Best if it hasn’t happened at all. But it did, which gives us historians a lot to write about.


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.