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Part III: The Rationing System and the American Embargo   (cont'd.)

Chapter 29: The Results of the Economic Campaign During 1916

The state of the German armies and the German nation in 1916. – Why the condition of the common people deteriorated during the summer and autumn. – The German regimen in Belgium. – Serbian supplies. – Bulgaria during the year 1916. – Turkey during the year 1916. – General conclusions to be drawn from the economic campaign during 1916.

As all the surveys of the enemy's difficulties and privations were prepared for a government waiting anxiously for victory in the field, it was inevitable that the question chiefly examined was the question then in everybody's thoughts: In what measure was the enemy's strength in war diminished by the stopping of their overseas trade? This, having long since been settled, is no longer a matter of interest, but it is still a matter both interesting and pertinent to discover, as far as it can be discovered, whether the economic campaign, when it was being waged with all the resources of the entente powers (and it was so conducted during the year 1916) advanced against the German defence, or was wholly checked by it. During the year 1916, the economic campaign was no longer directed against Germany, Austria, Hungary and Turkey, but against a federation of powers, whose lands and conquests began in the suburbs of Dunkerque, and ended at Riga, and Baghdad. If it can be established by how much the economic campaign damaged this great federation, and why its combined resources and power proved an insufficient defence, then, the facts established will constitute something that approximates to a standard scale, or measurement, of the military consequences of economic war.


i) The state of the German armies and the German nation in 1916

It should be said, first of all, that, in so far as the German system was intended to keep the armies in the field equipped and supplied, it was very successful. During the first part of the year, the German armies assaulted Verdun, unsuccessfully it is true, but with a tremendous expenditure of ammunition; during the summer and autumn, the Germans defeated our armies on the Somme, after three months of hard fighting; and it does not appear that the German high command were ever hampered in their operations by a lack of food or equipment. Throughout the year, the German troops were given one really good meal, and two smaller ones, in a day; their boots and clothing were still very good, and the men fought with a good spirit wherever they were engaged. For a peculiar reason, this was a great disappointment to us. According to expert calculations, it had been thought certain, that the German supplies of manganese would be exhausted by the end of the year 1915; furthermore, our ordnance experts were confident, that, when the German factories could get no more manganese, they would be unable to manufacture guns of a good quality, as manganese was considered irreplaceable as a hardening substance for steel. In a small circle of experts, therefore, it was confidently hoped the shortage would be evident in the spring of the year, and would be decisive soon afterwards. Now the German supplies of manganese certainly failed, but there were no ill effects; for the German chemists, foreseeing the shortage, invented a new hardening process about which nothing has ever been revealed: all that is known is that a German artillery officer, who was captured on the Somme, stated that the guns made by the new process were very good, and that calcium carbide was much used in it. Certainly the German artillery was neither inaccurate, nor ill supplied, during the great battles of the year. The good condition of the German armies, was, however, only one entry upon the general balance sheet of the whole nation; for the German government had protected their armed forces, by exposing the civil population to the shocks of economic [568] warfare, and by making them a sort of protective barrier to the armies: the success or failure of the economic campaign can, therefore, only be tested by judging whether or not it inflicted progressive suffering upon the German people. [Emphasis added by Scriptorium.]

As has been explained, the German defensive system at the beginning of 1916, consisted of some three thousand ordinances and decrees, whereby: (i) rationing in bread, meat and fats was enforced by local bodies, and (ii) all textiles, leathers, metals, and propellants were so controlled, that only those quantities which were not required for government use were allowed to be put upon the market. Traffic in coal, forages, fruit, sugar, and vegetables was still fairly free, although a section of the government's regulations were enforceable against sugar retailers. It is impossible to state, once and for all, how well, or how ill, the ordinary citizen was faring under this regimen. Nevertheless, it may be said, with fair certainty, that persons with middling incomes, and artisans in work, were being given enough meat for one meal a day, which was sufficient only if the household was well supplied with vegetables and potatoes. Milk, in small quantities, was still available. There was, however, a universal tendency to turn meats into soup; so that all members in one family might share alike; and so that the bones (which were counted in the meat ration) should not be wasted. Also, the bread, which was highly unpalatable owing to the maize and barley in it, tasted better in broths and stews. This new diet naturally increased the demand for vegetables and potatoes, and this new demand became important later. The regulations in Austria-Hungary were roughly the same, though somewhat less complicated, and here also the same consequences were apparent: the population of Vienna was pressed and squeezed, and the municipality were entering upon their long and arduous campaign for securing supplies of milk from the surrounding country: a struggle which was, on the whole, successfully pursued for two whole years. Vienna was slightly better off for meat than Berlin, and Buda-Pesth was slightly better off than Vienna; but it was remarkable that even Buda-Pesth, the capital of a great agricultural country, was already ill supplied.

The defect of the system was that, although it kept the country supplied, it was not powerful enough, or searching enough, to distribute burdens equally. The population in the towns of the industrial west were far worse off than the countrymen a few counties to the east of them; in addition, the people in the two great maritime cities of Kiel and Hamburg were very badly off. All the regulations issued did not, therefore, succeed in supplying these great towns, after their natural sources had been severed; for the Rhineland towns and the maritime cities have always supplied themselves from overseas. The natural differences between living in the town and the country were thus very much accentuated, and these differences must have been very sharp; for the following statements were all made in letters that were written within a single week (16th-23rd January, 1916):

  • Prices are very high and there is almost nothing to be got.
  • Every day we are growing poorer.
  • I have nothing else to tell you except that we are starving.
  • There will soon be nothing more to eat.
  • Lots of people are ill here as everything is so dear.
  • We are getting so thin.
  • In the large towns the distress must be terrible but everything must be kept secret.
  • The doles are very small, the poor get just enough to keep body and soul together.
  • We have nothing to complain of in Germany.
  • There is more money about than ever.
  • We want for nothing, though some things may be scarce and dear.
  • We have food enough, though we have to rely on more vegetables.

There was another striking inequality, the consequences of which were hidden for the time being: the difference that hard times were creating between the rich and all others. This was certainly not because the rich were wicked and callous; for, as far as can be judged, the German nobility were public spirited and unselfish. Princess Blücher and her husband, for instance, were what old-fashioned folk would [569] call good Christian people. They were very rich and very influential, and could have lived at their ease in Silesia; yet both of them took up their quarters in Berlin, where they laboured unwearyingly to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and of the wounded, and Princess Blücher seems to have been a single member of a great company of German ladies who did the same. But let the entries in Princess Blücher's diary be contrasted with a German hausfrau's letter of the same date:

The diary, January, 1916. Our hotel Esplanade represents exactly what it is intended to be: a centre or gathering place for the great world of Berlin...... At present it has become a sort of caravansery for all the homeless exiles of position and influence... Most of us are fully occupied. Our mornings are filled with self-imposed war duties. There is nursing at the hospitals; soup kitchens to be helped; women's guilds and work rooms to be visited...... During luncheon the latest news from the front is discussed.... After lunch we sit until 3 o'clock or some one of us gives a tea in her private rooms for a select few. Dinner is at 8.30, a repetition of lunch followed by the visits of Ministers, Court officials, or, more interesting still, men going to or returning from the front.

The intercepted letter, January, 1916. You have no idea how dear everything is. Dripping is ten kronen a kilog. Of meat we dare not speak. Milk and vegetables are hardly to be obtained at all.

By no fault of their own, therefore, a large number of Germans were following a way of life that made them objects of resentment and hatred: distant rumbles of anger were already reaching their ears. This is a most important matter; for it will be shown, later, that the distresses of the poor people inflamed them with an angry, vindictive hatred against all who were more fortunate than they; and that this was of more military consequence than the shortage of copper and ferro manganese. We hoped, that, by making these metals impossible to obtain, we should make it impossible for the German factories to supply the armies: we miscalculated, but we succeeded in a matter upon which we had made no calculation; for, by setting up a state of affairs in which the distinction between the wealthy and the poor German was as great as the distinction between a feudal baron and his serfs, we infected German society with a poison that corrupted the discipline of the German forces.


ii) Why the condition of the common people deteriorated during the summer and autumn

Being aware that mere rationing had not secured the common people with a sufficient supply, the German, Austrian and Hungarian governments now turned to the old expedient of regulating prices by law. During the first months of the year, a succession of decrees was issued, and the price of bread, meats, vegetables, milk and sugar was regulated. The prices were presumably fixed after the most careful and conscientious enquiries, but they were inevitably fixed at high figures; the first price list ran thus:

Table LXI:
Germany: Fixed prices for meats,
November - December, 1915.

 
per lb.     Price, December, 1914    
Beef 1.49M 1.00M
Veal 1.50M 0.95M
Mutton 1.55M 0.92M
Pork 1.40M 0.87M
Smoked bacon     2.20M 1.13M
Ham 3.00M 1.74M

Pork and its products, upon which the ordinary German depends so much, was therefore twice as dear as it had been two winters previously. The rises in the price of milk and sugar were probably less felt, as not much was obtainable; it is therefore more than doubtful whether these regulations ever gave substantial relief to those sections of society, which they were intended to relieve. It can hardly be [570] doubted, moreover, that the able and conscientious men who fixed these prices, Dr. Delbrück and his advisers, quite well understood that the expedient of maximum prices, which, of necessity, disregards economic laws, is always laden with dangerous consequences. Certainly ill consequences soon followed; for the prices of forages, upon which the meat supplies so much depended, stood at the following figures, a few weeks after the new regimen of legal prices had begun:

Table LXII:
Germany: Fixed prices for forages,
November - December, 1915.

 
Cocoanut cake     36M per 50 kg. Normal price - 7.5M per 50 kg.
Palmnut kernel 37M " 7.8M "
Maize meal 20.5M " 7.9M "
Wheat bran 15.5M " 5M "
Molasses 7M " 4M "
Hay 6M " 2½M "
Carrots 3.2M " 1.4M "

These tremendous rises obviously mean that forages were difficult to obtain, as well as very dear to buy. During January and February, therefore, the farmers realised that they could not maintain their stocks, and sent away a great number of cattle for slaughtering; thereafter, they put a much smaller quantity upon the market: the additional supplies yielded by the first slaughterings were entirely exhausted by mid-April. In Austria and Hungary there were the same consequences, with this exception, that the Hungarian pig raisers resisted the price laws more vigorously than the German, and boycotted the market during the summer months. As there are a number of natural sheep pastures in Austria, upon which flocks may be raised, until they are ready to be slaughtered, there was a fairly good flow of mutton to the towns during the course of the year; but this only partially made good the terrible scarcity of pork and bacon, which very much increased the distress in the two capitals. Dr. Delbrück and his advisers were therefore forced to raise the maximum prices during the course of the year; and as each rise was a compromise between what was expedient to keep the common people quiet, and what sound economy demanded, the result was never satisfactory on either head. During the first months of the year there were disorders at Hamburg, Kiel, Magdeburg and Cologne: not open rioting perhaps, but symptoms of a disease that could only be cured by more supplies of bread, milk, meat and cheese. These additional supplies were certainly not forthcoming; for every rise in the maximum prices was, after all, only evidence of a growing scarcity; and the following figures prove that neither the rationing system, nor the harvest, nor the supplies obtained from the border countries, ever checked the rising deficit.

Germany: Food prices in 1914, 1915 and 1916.

[571] The harvest was indeed a poor one. It had, at first, been hoped that the potato harvest would be good, as a great many potatoes had been sown. Actually, the harvest was one of the worst on record for a number of reasons. When the regimen of maximum prices was first imposed, it was well received by the common people, who imagined that it would be an estoppel to the persons whom they called profiteers, food barons, gulash nobles and the like. As the regimen was imposed for policy, so, more and more articles had to be included in it, and, just before the early potatoes were ready to be dug up, maximum prices were fixed for all vegetables. The potato growers were alarmed, and immediately delivered very great quantities, in order to get the maximum prices. These potatoes were dug in great haste by women and boys, and were loaded up with the damp earth clinging to them, for the spring was a wet one. As the trains were few, transportation to the towns was slow, and a large proportion of the crop was rotten, when it reached the markets of the big towns. This was only the beginning of an even greater disaster. The ground that had been given over to additional potato cultivation had not been properly disinfected; a wet summer made matters worse; and, by the autumn, it was universally admitted that the potato harvest had failed: actually 23,500,000 tons were harvested as against a normal of fifty-two millions. This was accompanied by reductions in the grain and sugar harvests, which made a deficit of nearly eight million tons. If the normal importations of corn stuffs, which were almost entirely lost during the year, are added to this deficit, the total reduction in the essential food supplies of the German people is about fourteen and a half million tons.

Acute shortages were thus inevitable; but it is difficult to say when they began. The German townspeople were not ill-provided in February and March; but they were certainly very pinched a few months later. July and August are probably the months when conditions of life sharply deteriorated; for it was then that the shortage of clothing began to be felt. There must, indeed, have been great disappointment, when it was discovered that the government would be unable to redeem their promise of allowing warm clothing to be put on the market before the winter. Clothing permits had to be obtained before so much as a woollen stocking could be bought, and these permits were so sparingly granted, that, in many families, children spent all their spare time unravelling rags, and pieces of old clothing, which were entirely worn out; when these odd pieces of cloth were unravelled, the women strove to reknit the yarns into clothing. Finally, the authorities were compelled to reduce railway movements so much, in order to make the small supply of lubricants suffice, that there was a terrible coal shortage in Berlin, Leipzig, Kiel, Hamburg, Hanover, Dresden and Vienna.

The winter of 1916 was, therefore, a period of sharp suffering in all the big towns: neither the rationing system, nor the regimen of maximum prices, nor the appointment of an imperial food controller, checked the distresses apparent at the beginning of the year. The rations allowed were not always obtainable, and in many cases rations were no assurance as to quality; the meat meal in the middle of the day, or later, was, by then, a thing of the past; and it is stated, by German authorities who seem anxious to ascertain the truth, that, in Frankfurt and Munich, many thousands of individuals could only be sure of five slices of bread, half a small cutlet, half a tumbler of milk, two thimblefuls of fat, a dozen potatoes, and an egg-cup of sugar in the course of a day. To this the more fortunate could add a precarious, irregular supply of jams, green vegetables, and nuts. These supplies were, however, only obtainable by waiting for long hours in food queues, exposed to the rain, snow, and slush of a German winter; after obtaining them, the women as often as not returned in their soaking clothes to houses that were not heated, or even warmed. Certainly the working people were not suffering what people suffer in a beleaguered city; but at least they were reduced to a condition that no community will endure indefinitely. The majority of them were either cold, or wet, or hungry, for the [572] greater part of the day, and in order to alleviate their condition, they were forced to adopt habits that only aggravated their unhappiness. As a large proportion of the children had no warm clothing, they were kept in bed all day, when the weather was particularly cold: the same was done with the old people. Worse than this, drunkenness became very common in all classes, especially among the women, who often sacrificed their own scanty rations of milk for their children or their husbands, and so, took their places in the food queues with empty stomachs. Even if this want and suffering were inflicted only on the townspeople, it must be reckoned a great achievement; for it is in the towns of all modern countries that political disturbances begin, and the following chronicle of the disorders in the greater towns shows, that, by the end of the year, large sections of the common people were more or less accustomed to participating in riots and streets uproars. When the habit is established, the foundations of public authority are shaken. [Emphasis added by Scriptorium.]

Table LXIV:
Food riots in German towns in the year 1916.

 
Town Kingdom or Province
January Berlin
Chemnitz
Leipzig
Brandenburg
Saxony
Saxony
February Halle
Berlin
Cologne
Hanover
Hanover
Brandenburgh [sic]
Rhineland
Hanover
March Munich
Dusseldorf
Munster
Frankfort on Main
Berlin
Bavaria
Rhineland
Westphalia

Brandenburg
April Berlin
Dresden
Jena
Brandenburg
Saxony
Weimar
June Leipzig
Berlin
Charlottenburg
Brunswick
Magdeburg
Cologne
Coblenz
Aix-la-Chapelle
Duisberg
Breslau
Kiel
Dresden
Chemnitz
Munich
Nuremberg
Essen
Dusseldorf
Saxony
Brandenburg
Brandenburg
Hanover
Magdeburg
Rhineland
Coblenz
Aachen (Rhineland)
Dusseldorf
Silesia
Schleswig-Holstein
Saxony
Saxony
Bavaria
Bavaria
Dusseldorf
Dusseldorf
August Southern Alsace
Berlin
Cologne
Hamburg
Dresden

Brandenburg
Rhineland
Schleswig-Holstein
Saxony
September Hamburg
Hammersbooch
Barnbeck
Messberg
Brunswick
Schleswig-Holstein

Suburban districts of Hamburg

Hanover
[573]
October Kiel
Leipzig
Berlin
Munich (5 occasions)
Stuttgart
Bremen
Schleswig-Holstein
Saxony
Brandenburg
Bavaria
Wurtemburg
Stade
November Hamburg (constant small riots)
Dresden
Schleswig-Holstein
Saxony
December    Kiel
Lubeck
Hamburg
Munich
Posen
Breslau
Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein
Bavaria
Posen
Breslau (Silesia)

It is very difficult to decide how far these sufferings were confined to the towns, and how the countrymen fared during this hard winter. In the summer, the difference between town and country was still extraordinary; for in August, Princess Blücher, whose wealth and position protected her against the worst discomforts of living in Berlin, went on to her husband's estate in Silesia and writes thus of the change:

      It is as if some invisible curtain had fallen, separating us for ever from our nomadic life of unrest in Berlin with all its political perplexities and vexations as to fats and greases or rather the want of them and the constant irritating lack of everyday needs. Here we are living on the fat of the land, as the monks of old most probably did in this very same monastery. We are, in fact, self supporting, which means that my husband, and the keepers supply us with all manner of venison and game, such as wild duck, hares, partridges, and pheasants. We buy no butcher's meat; the farm supplies us with milk and butter, flour and bread, and the garden keeps us in vegetables and fruit......

This was how the owners of a great country house fared in the late summer: it would be interesting to know whether the small farmers, day labourers, and villagers were equally well off, and how the regulations that were issued soon after affected them. A decree of the Bundesrat, dated 17th August, theoretically placed the entire empire on a uniform meat ration, and a further order forbad the slaughter of any animal or fowl without permission. By these orders the new food controller hoped to distribute burdens equally between town and country. The German officials in the country certainly endeavoured to enforce the orders; but it is more than doubtful whether they ever did so. Their instruments of pressure were permits for buying sugar, which they were empowered to withhold from farmers who were suspected of evading the regulations. The German peasants are, however, great bee keepers, and their women folk soon learned to use honey as a sweetener; also, it is not difficult to extract a sweet sauce from beetroots, which were grown all over the German countryside. Presumably, therefore, the consequence of these orders was that the country folk returned to the habits of an earlier age, by living on their produce and vegetables, and by selling small quantities, when they urgently needed ready money; and that the differences between town and country became sharper than ever.

It is obvious from all this, that such supplies as were received in Germany from the border neutrals, did not make good the growing shortages. In Whitehall, the contraband department were much disappointed, when they realised that our endeavour to reduce these supplies had been only partially successful. Seen in retrospect, the set back seems unimportant if it is compared with the successes of the whole operation. It is not, however, obvious, at first sight, why the produce obtainable from Belgium, Serbia, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey, did so little to alleviate the growing shortages. Quite clearly, Germany's worst difficulties would have been overcome, if the government could have secured more forages; for if the [574] stocks of pigs and cattle could only have been maintained, then, all the worst scarcities, fats, greases, milk and meat, would have been much relieved. Now all the countries conquered by Germany, or allied to her, normally export considerable quantities of produce that could be used for feeding livestock; it is, therefore, of some interest to discover why these sources of supply were dried up.


iii) The German regimen in Belgium

Belgium is so covered with farmsteads and small holdings, that a traveller in the country might well assume, that the Belgian peasants and farmers grow enough corn and vegetables for the whole population. This, however, is deceptive; great quantities of corn, fruit and vegetables are certainly grown in Belgium, but the people in the industrial towns do not feed themselves entirely from Belgian produce, and import supplies from overseas: if these are cut off, there will always be serious shortages in the country. When the German armies entered Belgium, the army commanders either fell into the vulgar error of imagining that there was enough food for their armies and for the population, or else made the mistake of assuming that they could famish the country with no ill consequences to themselves; for, as soon as they were fairly established, they requisitioned meat supplies and crops after the manner of an earlier age. After a month of this foolish regimen, therefore, large sections of the Belgian townsmen were near starvation, and the burgomeister of Brussels, Monsieur Max, founded the comité de secours et d'alimentation, and secured a promise of help from America. Temporary relief was given by securing and distributing such supplies, as the German generals had left alone; but the committee represented to the governor-general that there could be no permanent relief, unless they were allowed to import corn from overseas.

By good fortune, the first governor-general of Belgium, von der Goltz, was one of the wisest and most thoughtful officers in the German army - a man who had made the history of warfare his lifelong study, and who had written books upon it, which are universally admired for their judgment and learning.1 Von der Goltz was quick to realise that the German armies in France could never be supplied locally, and that it would be an enormous burden upon him, if Belgium were filled with hungry, desperate men. He therefore encouraged Monsieur Max's committee to complete their arrangements, and persuaded the German government to agree: that goods brought into the country by the Belgian or American representatives of the relief committee should not be requisitioned; and further, that Belgian goods which were similar to those imported by the committee should be exempted from requisition. Von der Goltz was succeeded by General von Bissing, an ignorant, obstinate man, who would willingly have reverted to the first system, and who did, in fact, requisition a fair quantity of vegetables. The original agreement was, however, protected by the American government: having signed it, the German authorities were not free to revoke it at will, and were, in consequence, more or less bound to von der Goltz's plan of treating Belgium as a traffic route, rather than as a source of supply. On receiving news that Bissing was not operating the convention honestly, the British government appealed to all neutral powers, and arranged that a new and more explicit convention should be signed (April, 1916). In this second agreement, the German government undertook that no food or forages, fertilisers or seed should be exported from the country, and that the military authorities should neither requisition them nor purchase them on the open market. Belgian writers state that Bissing and his military colleagues administered this convention very dishonestly; doubtless goods were requisitioned locally after it had been signed. The convention was, however, too well protected for any flagrant disregard of it to be possible; and it may be taken that it virtually kept Belgian supplies of meat and forages within [575] the borders of Belgium during the course of the year. It is an open question whether the Germans would have relieved their own distresses, if they had exercised the old fashioned rights of war against the country, and had drained it of everything useful to them. If statistics are consulted, it would appear as though they might have drawn considerable quantities of meat, forages and vegetables from Belgium: if the concrete case of Serbia is considered, however, it seems doubtful whether anything substantial would have been secured.


iv) Serbian supplies

When the Serbian armies had been driven into Albania, Serbia was temporarily divided into three districts; the Germans administered the north-western part, west of the Morava valley; the Austrians administered the districts to the east of it; the Bulgarians occupied old Serbia. In the first months of the occupation, the Germans set an example that might have been of profit to the governors appointed later, if they had been wise enough to imitate it. The Germans recognised the authority that was granted to the village councils under the Serbian constitution, organised labour battalions to work in the copper mines at Bor, and on the railways, and, in the words of a Serbian historian, showed a real comprehension of the peasants' daily life. The German officers and soldiers, who admired the military virtues of the Serbs, became very friendly with them. The German doctors gave advice on small matters; the battalion farriers and armourers helped the farmers to mend their ploughs and tools; and the common soldiers were often able to give the villagers news of relations who had fled or had been interned. Realising that they had nothing to fear from the German soldiers, the Serbian farmers soon began to bring large quantities of produce to the German camps and to sell it. To quote the Serbian historian again:

      During the three grey years of the occupation, the Serbian peasant thought of the blond men in the pointed helmets (which is what he called the German soldiers) as the sons of a great and civilised people, who are just and compassionate in victory.2

Very little produce was exported during the German occupation; but at least the peasants were working their farmsteads, and bringing supplies to the local market, when the Germans abandoned the administration of the country to the Austrians and Bulgarians (January, 1916).

The Austrians now governed the country vacated by the Germans, and the Bulgarians administered the country to the east of the Morava, and all southern Serbia. The Austrians placed the whole country under military government, and forbad free commerce in all farm produce, meats, fowls, and eggs. Everything stored or grown in the country was declared liable to be requisitioned. The farmers were given certificates of requisition, on which the price fixed by the military authorities was stated; and, in theory, these certificates could be cashed at the local kommandantur [sic].

The Bulgarians regarded the country allotted to them, as country annexed permanently to Bulgaria, and instituted a wiser system. Knowing that the Serbian peasants followed a way of life similar to that of their own farmers, they realised the country would only be productive, if the Serbs were encouraged to bring their supplies freely on to the market: they therefore requisitioned as lightly as possible, and allowed free commerce within the occupied territory. If Bulgarian rule had [576] been mild and generous, like the German, the Bulgarians might have drawn considerable supplies from old Serbia and Macedonia; but the Bulgarian governors, though indolent and easy going in all matters relating to commerce, were oppressive and cruel in whatever related to politics, and treated every person whom they suspected with terrible severity. The consequence of Bulgarian rule, or rather of the terror it inspired was, therefore, that the Serbian peasants produced less, sold less, and left their fields and farmsteads as rarely as possible; in order that they should never be seen in market towns, which they knew to be filled with Bulgarian spies and policemen. Now of all farmers in the world, with the possible exception of the Bulgarian, the Serbian farmer is best able to live upon his own produce. The old habit of evading the Turkish tax gatherer, and of hiding stores from the Turkish soldier, survived after the Turkish domination ended, or rather was converted into a new habit of storing, and keeping the harvest, and of living on it. A Serbian economist, working upon statistics collected by the society for Serbian agriculture, has estimated that it is only rarely that a Serbian farmer sells a quarter of what he produces, and that he generally keeps about eight-tenths of his crops, his honey, his eggs, and his pork for himself and his family.3 Bulgarian Serbia was not therefore afflicted with the famines that ravaged the districts to the west of the Morava; but it was not a country that yielded anything substantial. In addition to all this, the Bulgarians placed customs posts along the boundaries of the countries allotted to them, as a result of which the movements of Serbian goods were thenceforward controlled by the regulations that were issued from Sofia.

The Bulgarians were soon forced to restrict their exports severely; so that the only part of Serbia, which could have been exploited for the relief of the central empires was the part administered by the Austrians. It is doubtful whether so small a country could ever have exported enough produce to make good the rising shortages in the central empires; but relief, if possible, would only have been given by raising the productive forces of the country, and Austrian rule was so oppressive and short-sighted, that the productive forces of the country were almost obliterated. In a few months, the Austrian generals drained the country of draft horses and oxen, and the natural consequence followed: less and less land was cultivated, and the Serbian peasant hid away his grain, which was thus removed from the military authorities and from the towns. Famine and typhus now swept the country. According to Serbian calculations some 365,000 men, women and children died of hunger and disease during the year 1915. According to Austrian calculations, the Serbian population under their rule was reduced by more than a quarter, at the end of the year 1916. It is futile to expect that a country so afflicted will yield its conquerors anything. By the end of the year 1916, therefore, little or nothing was leaving Serbia, although possibly a trickle of produce was flowing to the Austrian camps.

[577]
v) Bulgaria during the year 1916

During the second Balkan war, the Bulgarian armies were not well supplied, and the government of the day was severely criticised as a consequence. In January, 1915, therefore, the authorities in Sofia took steps for ensuring that supplies should be better distributed in future, and passed a law whereby a comité de prévoyance sociale should be given control over all foodstuffs:

      If harvests were particularly bad, during internal troubles, or if mobilisation were ordered.

This committee was, however, only empowered to supply the civil population; the Bulgarian quartermaster-general and his staff were still responsible for army supplies.

The committee made several recommendations to the government during the summer of 1915, and, when mobilisation was ordered, the Bulgarian cabinet had already prohibited the export of a number of foodstuffs. The committee were, however, in favour of allowing the export of home-grown cereals; so that the chief products of Bulgarian agriculture were exported freely during the summer of the year 1915. Mobilisation in countries like Bulgaria and Serbia is, however, of more prejudice to agriculture than in more advanced countries; for the armies are recruited almost entirely from the countryside, and the age limits of men liable to serve are much extended.4 Realising, therefore, that agricultural production was falling fast, and that it was likely to be reduced still further, the committee enlarged their prohibition orders in December, 1915, and forbad the export of maize, vegetables, oats and barley. This order, added to those previously in force, virtually set up a barrier between the central empires, and Bulgaria. Licences to export were certainly granted, because the Bulgarian authorities were anxious to export domestic produce, in order to establish credits in Austria and Germany. Nevertheless, all that produce which Germany needed most was, henceforward, controlled by a committee, whose first duty was to keep their own country supplied. These new regulations, at once brought the committee into conflict with the German purchasing agency; for this powerful body had bought large stocks of cereals, and desired to tranship them, without asking the committee's permission; in this, they were supported by the Bulgarian military authorities, who seem to have been in a sort of alliance with the German agency. The committee were, however, inclined to be hard and unyielding: they knew that the Bulgarian farmers were already beginning to hoard their harvest, and they feared that the inevitable difficulty of getting food put on to the domestic market would be much increased, unless some check were put upon the Einkauffsgesellschaft [sic], and their allies in the army stores department. For the time being, the Einkauffsgesellschaft [sic] were so well supported by the Bulgarian generals, that they defied the committee's regulations successfully. The quarrel was, however, only begun; and it was soon involved in the domestic politics of Bulgaria.

The parties that in this country are called liberal, or advanced, and on the continent, parties of the left and left-centre, were well represented in the Bulgarian Sobranje. They were not powerful enough to prevent a declaration of war against the entente powers; but they disliked it, and were apprehensive lest the king and the military leaders should enlarge their power during the war, and so weaken those parliamentary institutions, which were their own best scaling ladders to positions of influence and power. When, therefore, the managers of these parties learned that the comité de prévoyance was in conflict with the army leaders, they rallied to it, and forced a discussion in parliament. The party leaders were wise enough to leave constitutional questions alone, and to argue, that the bad quality [578] of the bread, and the lack of eggs and of vegetables in Sofia, could easily be remedied, if a parliamentary committee with full powers were appointed to supersede the existing one. After long debates, Monsieur Radoslavoff yielded, and a new committee was appointed; it was a purely parliamentary body composed of eighteen deputies, eleven from the government party, and seven from the opposition; and it was empowered to take all measures necessary for supplying the people and the army (August, 1916). The appointment of this committee was recognised by everybody to be of great political significance, as the military authorities were thereby superseded.

The new committee at once put the people of Sofia on a ration for cereals, and took measures for enforcing their export prohibitions; but their orders and decrees alarmed the German authorities, for in October, 1916, representatives of the German war office visited Sofia, and urged the Bulgarian cabinet to reconsider the whole position. The German representatives argued, that their arrangements for supplying their troops on the Bulgarian front would be gravely prejudiced under the new arrangements, and asked that another committee should be formed with representatives from the Bulgarian and German armies sitting on it. The Bulgarian deputies were very suspicious of these proposals, which they interpreted as:

      Clear evidence of an intention to be free of all control in Bulgaria, and the territories occupied by the German army, in order to supply their own armies, and thereby to be masters of our exports.5

The committee therefore rejected the German proposals altogether, and the Bulgarian government supported them; for the Radoslavoff cabinet were, then, rather alarmed at the discontent of the common people, and at the inflammatory effect of rumours perpetually circulating in the capital: that more cereals were crossing the frontier, and that the Einkauffsgesellschaft [sic] was being allowed to drain the country. The committee's final note to the German authorities was, therefore, a note with a political tint in the paper. They promised to do everything in their power to supply their quartermaster-general's department, which, they reminded the German government, was the only authority responsible for supplying the Bulgarian and the allied armies. They added, that free purchases on the open Bulgarian market, and forced purchases and requisitions in the new territory, the Morava and Macedonia, could not any longer be allowed, as they would be flagrant violations of Bulgarian law. Having thus asserted their authority, and their intention of upholding it, the committee provoked a new conflict with the German authorities, by instituting an exchange system on the German model. This system can, however, only be properly operated by a highly trained and well organised civil service. The Germans resisted stiffly and successfully, for the Bulgarians never succeeded in securing the textiles and drugs, which they tried to obtain in return for their licences to ship grain. Nevertheless, the mere attempt to enforce an exchange system against Germany strengthened the divisions between the two countries, and stiffened the Bulgarians in their resolution to separate their country's economic system from the system of the central empires. After the new Bulgarian committee had assembled, the flow of supplies from Bulgaria to Germany and Austria must have been very much reduced; for, in the autumn of the year the Bulgarian authorities were taking measures to stop a clandestine traffic in butter, eggs and small quantities of meat, which were being sent out of the country in the parcels post. It was soon ascertained that these fraudulent exportations were being organised by the German military authorities in the country, a discovery which still further excited the suspicions and dislikes of the Bulgarian committee, and determined them to hold fast to the powers given them. In this, however, they were not successful. Their secret report, in which the practices of the German authorities were fully exposed, was divulged to the parliament, where it caused a great commotion. The German military authorities, [579] well supported by the Bulgarian staff, now made strong representations, and Monsieur Radoslavoff and the ministry yielded. In April, 1917, the parliamentary committee was dissolved, and a military commission set up in its place. This was certainly a great set back for the parliamentary party; but it will be shown, later, that the disruptive forces that had, by then, been set in motion continued to gain momentum.


vi) Turkey during the year 1916

In a normal year, the Turkish farmers raise about four million tons of farm produce. This is, certainly, more than enough for the population; but if the German authorities, after studying the Turkish statistics of production, ever hoped to draw cereals out of the country they must have realised, quite early, that it would be hopeless to attempt it. As the Turkish railways never sufficed to distribute produce between province and province, the Turkish authorities could only have avoided the difficulties in which they were subsequently involved, by carefully organising the transport of goods to all market towns along the railways, and by keeping a large amount of rolling stock available for carrying supplies to the capital. To do this, it would have been necessary to leave all draft animals, wagons, and carts in the hands of the farmers; but to oblige every landowner, or peasant, in a district to make a specified number of trips to the market towns during a month. It would also have been necessary so to operate the mobilisation orders, that no farm was left without men to work it. The Turkish mobilisation was, however, a general, indiscriminate levy of all men and animals in Anatolia, which at once reduced the production of the country by at least a half.6 After three months of war, the capital was already short of food and the Turkish authorities were, even then, engaged in a struggle to obtain supplies for which their previous training, and their methods of government, ill-fitted them. It is impossible to decide how far the Turkish government succeeded in combating the difficulties; but it can be said with certainty, that the movement of supplies from the provinces to the capital steadily declined; for the orders and decrees of the government are a catalogue of growing difficulties. In November, 1915, Kemal Bey was appointed food dictator, and the military authorities uudertook [sic] to put twenty-three railway wagons at his service, everyday, for carrying wheat to Constantinople. Simultaneously, a committee of ministers was appointed to meet the primary and secondary needs of the provinces. This committee was formed to put some check upon the wholesale requisitions in the country districts. Kemal's dictatorship appears to have been disappointing; for, by the next decree (April, 1916), his special powers were cancelled and conferred on the mayor of Constantinople, who was thereby authorised to seize mills, bakeries, and means of transport. The mayor was, apparently, unable to do what was expected of him, and three months later (23rd July, 1916) a food board was appointed. The minister of the interior was president of the board, and the Turkish army supplies department were represented on it; two German experts were also appointed. According to a Turkish historian7 these experts managed the board; if this expression is even partially accurate, it proves that the German authorities were now entirely [580] concerned in distributing supplies in Turkey, and were not attempting to draw food from the country. On the advice of the board, or of the German experts, the Turkish government now issued a law for increasing agricultural produce: all Turkish citizens not serving with the colours were liable to be conscripted for agricultural work, and the government departments, whose indiscriminate requisitions had caused the decline, were now made responsible for distributing grain free of charge, and even for conducting courses of instruction in practical agriculture.

It is conceivable, that if none of these measures had been taken, the condition of Constantinople would have been worse than it actually became; but all these measures combined did not bring any substantial relief; for at the end of the year prices of food and necessaries had risen to the following figures:

Table LXVII:
Turkey: Food prices at the end of 1916.

 
Sugar             piastres per kilog. 62       normal   3   
Coffee "             "     160       " 12   
Rice "             "     35       "   3   
Potatoes "             "     8       "   1   
Beans "             "     19       "   4   
Onions "             "     6       "   0.5
Olive oil "             "     45       "   8   
Salt "             "     2.5    "   1.5
Cheese "             "     55       " 12   
Mutton "             "     28       "   7   
Eggs "             "     100       "   0.5

In Smyrna prices were at least as high. At the end of the year 1916, therefore, the economic condition of Turkey was roughly what it was for the remainder of the war. The two great towns were centres of suffering and distress; the provinces were tolerably well supplied, although, even in the country districts, many small towns were afflicted. The greatest suffering was, however, being borne by the armies; for the faulty distribution, which was fast isolating the towns from the country, was particularly grievous to them. Thanks to their stoicism, the Turkish troops were still a powerful fighting force; but privations which no army can endure indefinitely were beginning to corrode their fighting spirit.


vii) General conclusions to be drawn from the economic campaign during 1916

From this long survey it will be apparent, that the economic campaign made great advances during the year 1916, and that some of its consequences seem independent of time or place. The first of these is that a real shortage in one important substance will inevitably create shortages in many others. When the economic campaign was fairly started, the only consequence was a clear scarcity of fats and greases. By a succession of cause and effect, which is too complicated to be followed in all its details, this first shortage caused: a tremendous decline in the food available for the German people; a coal famine in the big cities; and a great decline in the goods carried from the country to the towns. These are certainly big results from such small beginnings. It is a matter of doubt whether the shortage of forages, which, in its turn, caused so much distress and suffering, can be attributed entirely to the economic campaign: economic experts are inclined to attribute it to the declining man-power of the German countryside; but at least the loss of nitrates and of artificial fertilisers, for which we were solely responsible, quickened and aggravated the shortage; and if the quantities of fertilisers stopped were set against all the consequences, also expressed quantitively, the comparison would be another example of the multiplying effect of a single scarcity.

More important than this, and apparently equally independent of time and place, is the splitting and dividing effects of economic war: the first shortages incline every unit in the blockaded empire to look to itself, and the tendency grows. In [581] theory, the military federation against which the economic campaign was waged was a self supporting empire: actually it became a collection of governments that were driven, by force of circumstances, to raise barriers against one another, and to check that free motion of goods, which alone could have alleviated the suffering in the afflicted parts. It would seem, moreover, as though this disintegration was inevitable. When Herr Batocki took office, the tendency of each government in Germany to act independently was already apparent; and the Berlin press was filled with recriminations against the federal governments: one editor got a good round of applause by saying: There is plenty of butter in Bavaria but the English won't let it come through. The popular remedy of a dictator with full powers was therefore attempted; but, after two months of work, Herr Batocki virtually admitted that the universal pooling, and the even distribution, which the people had hoped for, were impossible: his later orders were all orders giving more power to local and provincial bodies. The separation of the town from the country, of the federal states from the German empire; of Hungary from Austria; and of Bulgaria from the greater countries in the alliance, appear, therefore, to be the graduated steps of a general and inevitable process. It must be remembered, also, that the process worked in two directions. If the textile and clothing factories in Germany and Austria-Hungary had been put into the service of the whole military federation, it is probable that they would have supplied the Bulgarian and Turkish armies with a tolerable equipment. Actually, the tendency of each unit to look for itself closed the German and Austrian factories against the Bulgarian and Turkish contractors, with the result, that, while the German and Austrian soldiers were still well equipped at the end of the year, the Bulgarian and Turkish soldiers were then badly booted and badly uniformed; desertion was already giving the Turkish authorities great anxiety. Probably this disintegrating effect of economic warfare is its most important consequence; for it is difficult to believe that the German military federation would have dissolved as suddenly as it did two years later, unless the component parts had first been divided, and in a sense isolated, from one another, during their long struggle against the economic campaign.

It may be objected against all this, that, as the German federation resisted the economic campaign successfully for four whole years, its military value is not high. This four years' resistance is, however, incidental to the particular case now being considered; for, if the German nation had seen no prospect of alleviating the condition to which they were reduced, in the winter of 1916, they would hardly have continued their resistance. In October, however, the German generals gained their first victories over the Rumanian army, which had invaded Transylvania a month before; during November, the Austro-German armies forced the passes of the Carpathians and crossed the Danube; and on 5th December, Bukharest surrendered to von Mackensen, the German commander-in-chief. When the population of Berlin and the Rhineland towns were suffering most, therefore, they were saved from desperation, by knowing that one of the granaries of Europe was in German hands. As statistics had throughout proved to be such untrustworthy guides, the German authorities issued very cautious forecasts of the relief that would be forthcoming: it was, however, patent to every German and Austrian citizen, that some relief would be obtained, and this confident belief in an early improvement was the great check, or set back, to the campaign. The German high command, however, who were better able to judge than the common people, acknowledged, by their acts, that the economic campaign was advancing irresistibly, and that German victories in the field were not checking it; for, just when rejoicings over the Rumanian victories were loudest, the German generals and admirals decided upon an adventure, which they themselves acknowledged to be justified only by the desperate straits to which the nation was reduced.







1Krieg und Heerfuhren, and das Volk in Waffen. [sic] ...back...

2Bojidar Nikolayevitch. Sous les allemands, pp. 9-14. Monsieur Nikolayevitch was a professor at the University of Belgrade; Monsieur Yovanovitch, who was employed by the Carnegie Institute to examine the economic consequences of the war in Serbia, states that nobody has ever disputed M. Nikolayevitch's accuracy, or put his honesty in question. ...back...

3Monsieur Avramovitch's most interesting calculations run thus:

Table LXV:
Serbia: Consumption of Crops.

 
Size of the property     Proportion
    consumed by    
the family
Proportion
sold
  1 hectare or less 89% 11%
  1 -  2 hectares 81% 19%
  2 -  5     " 80% 20%
  5 - 10     " 79% 21%
10 - 15     " 78% 22%
15 - 30     " 74% 26%
...back...

4The Serbian mobilisation orders called up all men between 18 and 50 years of age: the Bulgarian orders were probably equally drastic. See, also, the Turkish figures of production before and after mobilisation for an illustration how war reduces domestic production in Balkan countries. ...back...

5Les effets de la Guerre en Bulgarie. George Danailov, p. 254. Carnegie endowment series. ...back...

6The Turkish statistics are certainly incomplete but the total decline in agricultural produce may be estimated from the following figures:

Table LXVI:
Turkey: Decline in agricultural produce in 1916.

 
Article Production in 1915 Normal (approx.)
Silk cocoons 2,500,000 kg.     18,250,000 kg.    
Salt 153,620,000 kg.     350,000,000 kg.    
Tobacco 13,872,000 kg.     55,300,000 kg.    

The decline in other Balkan countries, after mobilisation was ordered, was probably not quite so severe, as the peasant women in Christian countries will do men's work in an emergency. In Mohammedan countries the women do not work in the fields. ...back...

7Ahmed Emin: Turkey in the World War. Carnegie Endowment publication, p. 126. ...back...






A History of the Blockade of Germany
and of the countries associated with her in the Great War:
Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.

by A. C. Bell (Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence).