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

How was life affected during the war years?

Life during the final years, 1942–1945

June 1941: the start of the Barbarossa campaign - the attack on Russia. The turning point came in 1942 with Germany’s defeat in Stalingrad. This was a shock for the people of Germany, as the war propaganda had said that they were winning.

Preparing for Total War

It was therefore clear that the war wasn't going in Germany’s favour. Every aspect of Germany's economy and society was contributing to the war campaign. As a result, there were no:

  • professional sports
  • magazines
  • sweet shops.

There was no shop opened that didn’t help with the war effort. Exchange centres were opened and more women were working in the factories. Working hours increased.

The Hitler Youth Movement arranged for children to be moved to Austria and Bavaria.

Shortages and the black market

  • 1939: 700 grams of meat for each person per week.
  • 1945: only 250 grams of meat for each person per week.
  • In 1943, the zoo animals were slaughtered!

The effects of Allied bombings

The effects of the bombings by the Allies.

The effects of the bombings by the Allies.

The aim of the Allies' intensive bombing programme in May 1943 was to kill people's spirits and force the war to end. Germany's large cities were bombed:

  • Berlin
Buildings destroyed by the Allied bombings in Berlin, 1943

People and soldiers looking at buildings destroyed by the Allied bombings in Berlin, 1943

  • Köln
  • Hamburg (its ports and industries; on 27 July 1943 45,000 were killed including women, elderly people and children)
  • Dresden (February 1943, 70 per cent of the city's buildings were destroyed, over 150,000 civilians were killed in two nights)
  • Hamburg again (August 1943, 60 per cent of Hamburg’s buildings were destroyed; 60,000 – 100,000 people were killed).

Around 800,000 civilians were killed by Allied bombing raids, despite the fact that they were not very accurate. Around 50 per cent of the bombs fell on residential areas, and 12 per cent on factories and war industries.

The effect of the bombing:

  • Many fled to the safety of the countryside
  • The population of the villages increased quickly
  • People had to share their homes
  • Germans saw that they were losing the war

Therefore, support for the Nazis was weakening in the villages.

The People's Home Guard (Volksstrum)

1944 – the Volksstrum was just propaganda, and its aim was to raise the Germans’ spirits. The members were inexperienced, untrained and were either too old or too ill to join the Wehrmains.

The members' duties:

Boys - working with the fire service, postmen, distributing ration cards, guides during blackouts, collecting metals, bones, kitchen waste, clothes.

Girls - helping out in kindergartens and elderly people's homes, distributing coal and food for homeless people, widows and refugees, singing in choirs to provide entertainment to ill and injured people.

Back to Germany in transition, c.1929-1947 index

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