By the beginning of the war, Germany's overall selfsufficiency in food had reached a level of approximately 83 per cent., on the peacetime basis of 2,2002,400 calories per person per day. In respect to some types of food, however, the situation was not satisfactory. For example, before the war she produced approximately 73 per cent. of fish requirements, 12 per cent. of corn, 50 per cent. of legumes, and 60 per cent. of fat within her own boundaries. The country could be fed at a reduced level by the produce raised within its own boundaries if food were perfectly controlled and evenly distributed. However, in practice, individual provinces were much less favourably situated in this respect. Western Germany, an area of relatively small and diversified farms, was critically dependent on the eastern provinces for its flour, grain, and potato supplies. It is clear that all German civilians could be fed at a uniform level of adequacy during a war only by control of the country's food supply at the national level and by the continued operation of the new transportation network of the country. For this reason the bombing of rail and inland water transportation facilities became such a serious threat to national uniformity in food distribution. Of the many kinds of centralised food processing industries known in the United States, only a few played an important role in the food supply of German civilians. The principal examples of these were grain milling, sugar production and refining, and the large bakeries of urban areas. The damage or destruction of these facilities, incidental to air attack on other industrial targets, seriously decreased their production capacity. Bombing destroyed the mills for processing 9 per cent. of the German rye output and 35 per cent. of the wheat output. Of the sugar refineries four plants producing 300,000 tons annually, were destroyed. This represents a 38 per cent. decrease in production of sugar. Similarly bombing of chemical plants was largely responsible for the decrease in the supply for fertiliser nitrogen. In 1939, 718,000 tons of fertiliser nitrogen were available, but by 1945 this had decreased to 140,000 tons. The significance of this destruction of facilities vital to the feeding of a country already on a borderline diet is ominous. Reliable estimates indicate that aerial bombings destroyed 35 per cent. of Germany's total approximately 460,000 square metres cold storage capacity. The increased use of cold storage intensified their dependence on transportation and on the continuity of the power supply. Aerial attack, as a result, not only decreased usable cold storage space, but also seriously interfered with the operation of the remaining space by impeding shipments and interrupting sources of power. It was the constantly reiterated opinion of all food officials that the bomb destruction of the transportation network was the largest single factor contributing to the disruption of the food supply. Bulk shipments which had been carried on inland waterways were seriously impeded by the bombing of canals. Aerial attack against railway lines, bridges and terminal facilities caused widespread interruptions in service and destroyed rolling stock, freight en route and handling facilities at terminals. It is not possible at this time to state exactly in what measure the curtailment of the national diet contributed to the ultimate defeat of Germany. The evidence available indicates, however, that it was an important factor. There is in any case no doubt that strategic bombing is the major element contributing to the present shortage of food in Germany. It was not apparent that the Germans considered the vitamin and mineral content of food in determining the ration allowances of the people. Immediately with the beginning of the war, all the principal foods were rationed, so that the lack of recognition of the importance of the vitamin and mineral content of this ration actually was an additional point of vulnerability for the German diet. With a food economy so vulnerable it is not surprising to have found that the basic food rationing programme was abandoned early in 1945 when the destruction of transport and communications by the strategic air offensive attained major proportions. This necessitated falling back on the inadequate system of regional selfsupply. The destruction of large food stocks, processing plants and cold storage plants by bombing also contributed to the general deterioration of the German food supply. There is ample evidence for the conclusion that as a result of the strategic air offensive the nutritional demands for the continued health of the German people could not be met.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 1, 1946
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