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Lard, Lice and Longevity

Lard, Lice and Longevity: The Standard of Living in Occupied Denmark and the Netherlands, 1940-1945

Ralf Futselaar
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  • Book Info
    Lard, Lice and Longevity
    Book Description:

    Lard, Lice and Longevityreconstructs economic policies implemented in Denmark and the Netherlands during the German occupation. It clearly shows that the experiences of both these countries during World War I, and during the 1930s equipped them to introduce extensive and intrusive economic controls to ward off a subsistence crisis.

    In spite of the strong similarities between the two countries in terms of policies and economic order, there remains a glaring difference between the two. Throughout the occupation years, the Netherlands suffered a markedly higher level of child mortality than before or after the war, caused by an upsurge of infectious diseases. Child health in Denmark, on the other hand, declined during the occupation years, and infectious diseases rose only marginally there. In spite of similar policies, hence, the outcome in terms of the biological standard of living was dissimilar.

    By closely investigating the impact of various policies on everyday life, and the amounts of goods available to different groups of consumers, this study identifies the causes of this remarkable divergence.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2105-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. v-viii)

    In retrospect, even beginning to write this book was pure folly. When I applied to a position at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation in 2001, I and others were surprised they hired me, an aspiring medievalist, to study the Second World War. I was, and am, very happy with this remarkable decision, but it did mean I embarked on this project, the first book-length academic work of my life, with only a dim knowledge of the period which I was to study. Overcoming this problem would not have been possible without the support and help of the Institute’s knowledgeable...

  2. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Mogens Fog – resistance hero and minister in the immediate post-liberation government of Denmark – had a clear message for his compatriots: while Denmark had survived five years of German occupation relatively unscathed, the Netherlands had been ransacked, and the Danes had a moral obligation to come to their rescue. Apparently, this feeling was widespread in Denmark, as it was in many other countries at the time. In the first year after liberation, the Danish charity Hollands Hjælpen campaigned to raise funds for the impoverished Dutch. Through posters, brochures and exhibitions, it portrayed a nation ravaged by bombardments, its population decimated by...

  3. 2 Small States in a Total War
    (pp. 12-37)

    In 1987, the economic historians Jeffrey Mills and Hugh Rockoff lamented that:

    Economic historians, with some distinguished exceptions, have neglected wars, regarding them as temporary aberrations in which the normal principles of economics no longer apply. This attitude, we believe, is a mistake. It is precisely within these periods of intense economic change and experimentation that one can test economic ideas.¹

    Their complaint was not unjustified. In the late 1980s, over 40 years after the end of the Second World War, knowledge of the economic dimension of the conflict had hardly been developed. Yet more than any other war, the...

  4. 3 The Mystery of the Dying Dutch
    (pp. 38-63)

    The 1945 final report of the Danish Ernærings- og Husholdningsnævne (EHN; nutrition and housekeeping board) resounds with both relief and bewilderment. Public health had suffered significantly during the First World War, in which Denmark had been neutral. The Second World War, by which Denmark seemed more profoundly affected, had turned out not to have had such disastrous consequences. This was a welcome but unexpected outcome: the EHN had been set up in 1939 to monitor the expected decline in Danish health, and its members were understandably surprised when this deterioration did not take place. After five years of intense monitoring...

  5. 4 Feeding the People
    (pp. 64-87)

    ‘The word rationing,’ began a Dutch public radio broadcast in October 1939, ‘has an unpleasant ring to it, especially for those of us who can remember the mobilization period of 1914-18.’ The broadcast continued, the tone slightly lighter now: ‘... current rations no longer impose any grave limitations, as they did during the first weeks, when a mere 500 g of sugar per head were available every two weeks. Since then, one can have a kilo every two weeks, which is in accordance with normal average consumption (…). Still, it is an average, and families with many young children occasionally...

  6. 5 From Riches to Rags
    (pp. 88-107)

    Although food supplies in both Denmark and the Netherlands may have been managed relatively effectively through the centralized rationing system, food and agriculture were of course not the only wartime problems. Like foodstuffs and fodder, many industrial raw materials and manufactured goods had been imported from oversees before the war, and many of these consequently became less or completely unavailable after the invasion. Germany, in turn, which was working hard to maximize its industrial output for its massive war effort, set out to curtail civilian consumption in the occupied countries and to exploit their productive capacity and reserves of raw...

  7. 6 Value for Money
    (pp. 108-130)

    As should be clear by now, the war years were not an easy time for housewives. Shortages primarily affected the work sphere traditionally dominated by women, namely clothing and feeding a family, and heating and cleaning the home. Housewives had no choice but to change their ways in the wake of ever more limitations. If they did, as Dutch and Danish authorities never tired of pointing out, it was possible even under these difficult circumstances to maintain cleanliness, to be sufficiently clothed and, crucially, to prepare a decent meal. It was reiterated time and again that as long as people...

  8. 7 Poverty in Moneyed Times
    (pp. 131-157)

    This Danish cartoon on page 132, which appeared in 1942 in the satirical magazineBlæksprutten, depicts a rather fat farmer comfortably seated on the back of a pig, bank book in pocket, the two of them held aloft by a crowd of emaciated Danes. Windfall agricultural profits and the consequent rising cost of living for the rest of the population had clearly had an effect on public opinion. Such profits had also had an effect on political discourse: on returning from exile in Britain, the first postwar prime minister – Christmas Møller – bluntly stated that farmers could ‘not reasonably expect to...

  9. 8 The Shadow Economy
    (pp. 158-191)

    Buying on the black market was always risky, both because of the efforts of law enforcers to eradicate illegal trade and, especially, because of the often unreliable salesmen. As in the case quoted above, one could spend a fortune on coffee, only to find it not to be coffee at all – and get arrested into the bargain. Despite such risks, virtually everybody in occupied Denmark and the Netherlands engaged in black marketeering as buyers or sellers (or both), at least occasionally. For many citizens the black market was an integral part of daily life during the occupation. The attractiveness of...

  10. 9 Filth, food and infectious disease mortality
    (pp. 192-223)

    The above quote from S.L. Louwes, which stems from his defence of his policies as leader of the RBVVO, makes clear why it is difficult to establish causal relations in historical epidemiology. The number of factors potentially contributing to disease or mortality regimes is almost literally endless. This poses a problem, of course, to any investigation of Dutch wartime mortality. As explained in Chapter 2, child and adolescent mortality increased significantly in the Netherlands in the years before September 1944, but not in Denmark. The standard of living in the two countries, which has been investigated in detail in the...

  11. 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 224-228)

    Although the reasons remain unclear, or at least the evidence seems contradictory, it is evident that Germany treated Denmark with a leniency and courtesy it denied all the other countries it occupied. Although Danish neutrality may have been a fiction cynically imposed by Germany, the exceptional arrangements that were in effect during the occupation meant that Denmark enjoyed more freedom, more autonomy and more democracy than any other occupied state. Crucially, Denmark also enjoyed a higher standard of living, which the proponents ofSamarbejde– be they politicians, entrepreneurs or civil servants – were always at pains to preserve. No degree of...

  12. A note on archival sources and abbreviations
    (pp. 229-230)