In his new book focusing on the German Home Front, author Nathan Morley describes how German soldiers occupying France literally gorged on food shopping after enduring years of shortages in Germany. “Actually, what soldiers could not consume was wrapped-up and sent to family back home,” Morley says.
In Hitler’s Home Front: Life in Nazi Germany During World War Two, Morley notes how wives whispered to their soldier husbands ‘not to forget to buy sweets and French perfume…or delicious sausages from Poland and, if things turned out well, a Tweed suit from England’.
“With the fall of France, it really came as no surprise when a sudden glut of French champagne, cognac and perfumes started weighing down shop-shelves in Germany,” Morley says.
The book cites newlywed, Ilse Schier, who was the grateful recipient of presents from her husband Reinhardt, who was serving on the Atlantic coast in France: “He sent Chanel No. 5 perfume and Breton handicrafts,” she recalled. His daily letters home showed his posting was no hardship:
He had participated in the blitzkrieg and fortunately survived everything unscathed. It was an unforgettable tourist experience (for him). They got the opportunity to participate in sailing trips and otherwise get to know life in France, which they really enjoyed.
Another account came from Else Wendel, who remembered the joke at the time being that, “the really clever girls were those who changed their escorts as we conquered each country. A smart girl could have all the luxuries she needed from Norway, Holland, Belgium, France and now onto Greece and Italy.”
Morley says an interesting account of the binge shopping came from American reporter Harry Flannery who took a break in Paris in the summer of 1940 an observed that ‘butter was such an unusual thing that the men bought it everywhere and ate it as they walked along the streets without bread, like ice-cream cones.’ But, there was more: ‘The successful purchaser of a cake of soap is liable to see a German walk out from the same shop with a whole box full’:
Silk stockings, one of the special purchases of the Nazi soldiers, were almost all gone. Those that remained and had cost 25 to 30 francs a pair had risen to 70 and 100 francs a pair.
Hitler’s Home Front: Life in Nazi Germany during World War Two provides a compelling and comprehensive year-by-year account of ordinary life in wartime Germany, chronicling how the population tried to find normality during an unprecedented emergency and is available from Amazon on March 15th.