Among the many problems associated with World War I in Germany were shortages of raw materials. These caused strong restrictions to be placed on the supply and distribution of essential goods, rationing, prices, hours of sale, maximum lengths of dresses and the types of meat that could be sold in restaurants on certain days. Two-hundred-and-fifty-eight laws relating to this had been introduced by the end of 1916. The main reason Germany had shortages was that much of the nation's industrial and agricultural production depended on imports of raw materials. British naval blockades made it almost impossible to import materials even when Germany could find overseas suppliers. Resultingly, such necessities as copper, rubber, fertilisers for agriculture and many of the minerals needed for steel production were in short supply. The people who suffered most from the scarcity of raw materials were the civilians at home. Army needs were catered to before the public's, which drove millions of families to the brink of starvation. The quality of all consumer goods such as textiles, foodstuffs and shoes deteriorated, leading to poverty.

Another impact of World War I in Germany, linked to the shortage of essentials, was the decline in health of schoolchildren. In one school 17 per cent of children's nutritional status was deemed unsatisfactory in 1918, compared to 11 per cent two years earlier. In another school, the figure rose more dramatically from 5 per cent to 16 per cent in the same period. Whereas, in 1916, the proportion of children displaying signs of anaemia was one third, by December 1918 it had risen to one half. Tuberculosis was also becoming more prevalent.

Although conscription into the army was traditional and more-or-less accepted in Germany, the large casualty rate and pace at which men were being conscripted resulted in a shortage of labour on the home front. Forced labour from occupied countries had limited success, and so the German government passed a law that said all German men aged 17 to 60 were liable to be called up for labour service. Later, the Hindenburg programme promoted the concept of "total war," which saw all men, women, juveniles, disabled servicemen and prisoners of war being mobilised for labour, universities and training colleges closing down and work being undertaken on Sundays.

Civilians faced severe hardships in the period of 1916 to 1917. The transport system broke down, causing food and coal distributions to also degenerate. Workers became outraged with the continual lowering of income and increases in prices and working hours. Universal compulsory service by men and women aged 16 to 59, passed by the end of 1916, did not help the civilians, and so numerous strikes broke out. The over-burdened German economy had become too much for the people to put up with.


Bibliography

Bollen, J. D. & Cosgrove, J. J. (1992) Two Centuries: A Profile of Modern History. Pitman, Melbourne.

Guest, V., Lawrence, J. & Eshuys, J. (1990) World War I: Causes Course Consequences. Macmillan Education, Melbourne.

O'Brien, C. & Merritt, A. (1996) 1914-1918 The World at War. Rigby Heinemann, Melbourne.

O'Brien, T., Jones, K. & Ingster, S. (1984) From the Source 1. Nelson, Melbourne.

Stewart, D. & Fitzgerald, J. (1987) The Great War. Nelson, Melbourne.

Wall, R. & Winter, J. (1988) The Upheaval of War: Family, Work and Welfare in Europe, 1914-1918. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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