Monday 28 March 2016

World War II Aftermath: The Ubiquitous Presence of Hunger

"One of the few things that united Europe during the war was the ubiquitous presence of hunger...The struggle to stave off famine was every bit as important as the military struggle and was taken just as seriously." (Savage Continent:  Europe in the Aftermath of World War II)

When the war ended, while the sailor in Times Square grabbed the woman and gave her a big smooch on the lips and everyone celebrated with a ticker tape parade, the suffering escalated in Europe.  Cities were in ruins, diseases ran rampant, rapes proliferated, revenge killings were common and people were starving.

East Prussia, known for its precision and order, had turned into a land of chaos and disorder once the German Army started to lose the war.  While some East Prussians were killed by bombs, mowed down by Soviet tanks, died at the hands of Red Army massacres (Nemmersdorf, Metgethen) or sunk on German ships torpedoed by Russian submarines, tens of thousands of others were victims of famine.

Rob's Ur Opa and Ur Oma, their farm pillaged by the Russians, starved to death as well as his great aunt, Tante Lisbeth.  The only reason that Rob's Oma survived was that she, along with her children, was constantly on the move , searching for food.  Rob's Onkel Manfred had memories of picking fish bones out of garbage cans.  What saved Rob's great aunt, Tante Doris, was a plant called stinging nettle.  One day, Rob's Oma discovered it growing in patches on her parents' farm, pillaged by the Red Army in January of 1945.  She decided to boil it and make soup for her sister, a decision which restored her sister's strength and saved her life.

Note:  For more information, read Savage Continent:  Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe at

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