Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin

By Belinda J. Davis | Go to book overview

10
GERMANY FROM WAR TO PEACE?

The year 1918 opened to a mass strike in Berlin. But for much of the following months, Berlin and other German cities saw little of the sustained street-based protest that had marked the previous years of war. It is perhaps on this basis that historians have drawn the connections from the April 1917 strikes through the January 1918 unrest to the revolution of November 1918 that overthrew the Wilhelmine regime, attending little to the long-standing protest in the marketplace. But if the popular demands of the April and January strike shel pedpave the way for the October reforms, pushing for change within the system, in many ways, the ongoing mass consumerbased activity was key to the November revolution, above all through its resolution by 1918 that the existing regime was unreformable.

The change in strategy by women in the streets reflected their virtually complete lack of faith in the efficacy of the prevailing governmental structures and in the good intentions of the men who filled the positions. Although poorer women continued to attack the government verbally on a daily basis, they no longer focused on imploring officials to fulfill their promises. Instead they committed themselves to a policy of self-help, eschewing their own part in the compact broken by the government. Theft and attacks on property spiked in the last year of the war, as the moribund official economy left many no choice and no interest in pretending otherwise. As poorer women left off their demands, officials worried about their potential to overthrow the regime. Authorities' own recognition of their inability to provide for Germans' basic needs was an important part of the government's retreat from authority in October 1918.


FIRST ONE MUST FEED ONE'S FACE, THEN COME THE MORALS

The year 1918 opened to popular incredulity and despair at the depths of officials' perceived treachery, in the form of the Neukölln exposé (the aftermath of which dragged on for months) and other scandals in and around the country. 1 These scandals symbolized the Wilhelmine regime's total irre-

-219-

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Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations *
  • Maps & Figures *
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Home Fires Burning 15
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Germany from Peace to War 9
  • 2 - Bread, Cake, and Just Deserts 24
  • 3 - Women of Lesser Means 48
  • 4 - Battles over Butter 76
  • 5 - One View of How Politics Worked in World War I Berlin 93
  • 6 - A Food Dictatorship 114
  • 7 - Soup, Stew, and Eating German 137
  • 8 - Food for the Weak, Food for the Strong 159
  • 9 - The End of Faith 190
  • 10 - Germany from War to Peace? 219
  • Conclusion 237
  • Notes 247
  • Bibliography 307
  • Index 343
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