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Wartime Germany 1939 45 Notes

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What was life like in wartime Germany, 1939­45?
Events of the war (background): Broadly, 1939­41 was a period of success for Germany in the war. They had control of much of
Europe and were launching a Russian invasion. Late 1941­43, the tide turned + Germany started
struggling. Defeated in North Africa + massively at Stalingrad in Russia, the Red Army started
advancing instead. 1944­5, D­Day + the Russian advance led to German defeat.

• Sep 1939, Poland invaded by Germany

• By end of 1940, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway + Luxembourg had been invaded
+ defeated

• Only Britain managed to hold out, defeating the Luftwaffe in 1940 Battle of Britain

• Germany invaded Russia June 1941, Operation Barbarossa on 3 fronts

• Initial rapid progress, but unprepared for extreme weather, and defeat at Stalingrad in 1943 an
important turning point

Allied forces captured Rome June 1944 US + UK invaded France June 1944 'Operation Overlord', outnumbering Germans Paris liberated August, then Brussels and Antwerp in September Battle of the Bulge + German advance halted, Allied advance resumed US troops crossed Rhine March 1945 + 320,000 German troops surrendered Soviets drove back Germans + Western Russia liberated by July 1945 Soviets invaded Berlin + Hitler committed suicide Germany surrendered in May 1945

Morale on the Home Front (HF): Consumer on HF:

• V.few Germans wanted war, but still a considerable bedrock of Nazi support in 1939

• Nazis v.sensitive to issues of rationing + shortages on HF + wanted to avoid widespread
shortages + unrest that had occurred in WWI

• Rationing system introduced in 1939, but considerable sacrifices not made by consumers until

• Rationing 1939­42 generally fair + sufficient + above minimum calorie levels needed, although
quality admittedly declined

• Greater rationing flexibility in Germany than GB w/extra rations for those undertaking strenuous
tasks + Christmas bonuses for everyone to boost morale

• Most serious ration reduction in April 1942 when meat ration cut to 300 grammes/person,
considerable disquiet caused

• By 1942, shortages of soap + permits introduced for furniture in Aug 1942 + for household
goods in Jan 1943

• In comparison to WWI, hardship or inflation levels not nearly as severe though. Until even early
1944, rations about 10% above minimum calorific standard, adequately fed population, although diet boring + restricted. War + concerns:

• War against USSR caused concern + failure to win outright victory led many to question Nazi
leadership + ideology for 1st time

• Despite bleak military fortunes (notably after huge Stalingrad defeat), propaganda could exploit
+ inspire patriotic defiance, EG Goebbels' 'total war' speech in Feb 1943 rallied many to fight
war to the end

• German defeats in North Africa, USSR, Atlantic + Italy increased contempt + discontent with

• Difficult working conditions, long hours + particularly the increased double burden for women
increased discontent + lowered morale.

• BUT, majority remained silent + loyal still (so maybe discontented but not openly disloyal +
vocally critical in vast majority of cases), although Stalingrad a turning point in morale Bombing:

• Bombing campaign by RAF + USAF aimed to destroy German war industry + undermine morale on the HF

• Caused widespread destruction, EG 305,000 killed + 2M homes destroyed + EG particularly
brutal bombings in Hamburg + Dresden killed 80,000 between them + EG 20% of total German
housing destroyed

• But 'Blitz' spirit + morale still sustained among many, although by 1943, populations of heavily
bombed areas like Rhineland had been demoralised

• Goebbels fairly effectively offered hope with promises of a secret weapon or calls for

• After became clear V1+V2 bombs at London not going to have required impact, morale sank
further to a low ebb

• Goebbels continued to use propaganda to attempt to raise morale w/blockbuster escapist films,
EG 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen' or EG 'Kolberg' but they had a v.minimal impact on
popular mood

• As defeat edged closer, propaganda became less effective, reality of war overrode propaganda

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