The Allied Naval Blockade of Germany


Key Facts

As soon as war was declared in August 1914 the allied navies prevented ships sailing directly to Germany and those going to neutral ports such as Rotterdam were thoroughly searched for any contraband - anything that could be used for making war including food, the aim was to starve the Germans into surrendering.

Germany had imported a lot of wheat and timber from Russia before the war but that was no longer possible now that Russia was an enemy.

German food production could not keep up with demand since all the fit men and animals were in the army and those left behind were not physically up to the task of feeding Germany.

Also there was a lack of chemical fertiliser since nitrates which were the basis of the fertilisers were also basic to high explosive and the army had first call.

The winter of 1916 - 17 was very bad , the turnip winter. Germany had no access to supplies outside Europe to make up for the lack of food and starvation loomed.

Rationing was enforced and substitutes, Ersatz, were provided such as clover flour and coffee made largely of crushed acorns and chicory but these substitutes were not nutritonal and tasted awful.

Not only was food in short supply but also other strategically important materials such as oil and rubber.The German military organised the economy for war but failed to meet the targets needed to win the war.

Suffering was not seen as being equal. Unlike the British Royal Family who made a point of having ration books, digging for victory and giving up alcohol for the duration, the German Royal Family continued a life of ostentatious privilege and luxury. The Crown Prince had a new palace built for himself.

Workers were tempted by the example of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in November 1917 and in January 1918 there was a wave of strikes in German industrial areas.

Hunger, cold and fatigue were undermining the health of the German population and in 1918 the Spanish Influenza Epidemic struck and killed thousands of Germans. The Germans had reached the end of their tether.

Read page 54 and answer these questions-

What was the purpose of the allied blockade?

Why were the Germans not worried by it?

Why were food supplies very bad by 1917?

According to Source G what did the Germans do to get food?

What were ersatz foods?

According to source I what was used a lot in ersatz foods?

What evidence is there by 1918 of malnutrition in Germany?

What was the impact of this on the health of the Germans?



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