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War and its impact on life in Germany, 1939-1947


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How was life affected during the war years?

Life in the early years, 1939–41

The initial effect

This was the successful period of the war for Germany:

  • Military success – the Blitzkrieg tactics pushed the army forward to Poland in 1939, and Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway and France in 1940
Germany's Blitzkrieg campaigns

Germany's Blitzkrieg campaigns

  • No effect on the civilan population
Two men and a dog standing in a street in Berlin, 1939

Berlin, 1939

  • Germany takes resources from the lands of the countries that they occupied.
  • Foreign workers in their factories.

But remember, not everyone supported the war, as they remembered the atrocities of the First World War.


  • Food rationing – ensuring that everyone ate a balanced diet. Many ate even better during the war. Artificial goods were used, eg ersatzkaffee - a coffee made from acorn and barley seeds.
  • November 1939 - started to ration clothes.
  • People were only allowed to use warm water twice a week – as a way of saving fuel.
  • Soap rationing
  • No toilet paper

The result of rationing was that a flourishing black market developed, to exchange goods.

In September 1940, arrangements were made to move children from Berlin because of air raids by the Allies. This wasn't very successful, as many stayed in Berlin.

The change in the role of women

The Nazis tried to:

  • Increase the birth rate, but without much success
  • Encourage women to go out to work, but without much success

The propaganda of the 1930s had been a success. Women wanted to stay at home. Therefore, a new propaganda campaign had to be organised.

Women’s health suffered during the war

  • Food shortage
  • Bombings
  • They were worried about their children and their husbands who were in battle

1943 – The Nazis tried to force 3 million women aged 17–45 to work. Only 1 million went in to work. This was one of the reasons why they lost the war. Foreign workers represented 21 per cent of Germany's workforce.

The use of propaganda on the home front

The purpose of propaganda was to keep people's spirits up and maintain their support for the war. It was announced that Germans had contributed 1.5 million items of fur and 67 million items of wool to ensure a sufficient supply of warm clothes for the soldiers on the Eastern front. The propaganda played on the Germans' fear of Communism.

The propaganda also persuaded the people to:

  • to save fuel
  • to work harder


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