The Decisive Year
As 1916 gave way to 1917, conditions in Germany rapidly deteriorated. Within Germany the winter of 1916-1917 was popularly known as the [Turnip Winter] due to the failure of roughly half of the potato crop of 1916; this left the bulk of the population, those who could not afford the prices of the black market, to rely upon turnips as their staple food. By the end of 1916 the weekly ration of food staples had dropped to: 160-220 grams of flour; 120 grams of fish; 100-250 grams of meat; 60-75 grams of fat; 200 grams of sugar; 270 grams of jam; .7 liters of milk; and one egg.1 In addition, prices for most goods on the black market had reached 10 times their prewar level. The British blockade and German economic mismanagement were beginning to take their toll on German society.2 The first major food riots and strikes also took place that winter. The strikers' main demand was for higher wages and better food, though in some rare instances they also called for an end to the war.3 It was against this backdrop that the fateful conference took place at Pless on 8 January.
At that conference, Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg finally acquiesced in the resumption of the unrestricted submarine campaign. His earlier attempts to float peace proposals in order to garner the goodwill of the United States had come to naught; and he no longer felt able to resist the calls of the navy, backed by the new OHL, to resume the campaign.4 Thus it was that the leaders of Germany came to the decision to play the famous [last card.] That this decision would likely add the United States to the ranks of Germany's enemies was unfortunate but not a major consideration. In the words of the new Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff, [It has to be. We expect war with America and have made all