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Destruction, Disorientation, and New Patterns of Order: Changes in the Black Market Landscape during the Transition from War to Postwar

  • Malte Zierenberg
Part of the Worlds of Consumption book series (WC)

Abstract

In the last months of the war, the landscape of the Berlin black market changed. Alongside the trading in closed spaces, markets now became visible in the city. They became a new sort of public space. Of course, individual trading partners had already used streets and street corners as trading sites. However, no later than in October 1944, groups of black marketeers became a permanent presence in “focused gatherings.”2 There were a number of reasons for this. Alongside the difficult supply situation, this development was part of a comprehensive crisis of urban life under the mantle of “everyday life in the state of emergency.”3 Agencies whose job it was to uphold public order were increasingly reduced to mere observation. The brutality the government used against “quibblers,” plunderers, and deserters was one side of the state exerting its power when it was no longer able to disguise all the signs of disintegration.4 Among these, increasingly, were the appearance of black marketeers in public spaces and a specific form of consumption. These signs were both contributed to and reflected in the crisis of everyday life in the city.5

Keywords

Public Space Black Market Urban Life Illegal Trading German Woman 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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    Daniel Libeskind, Radix—Matrix: Architecture and Writing (Munich, 1997), 113.Google Scholar
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    See Susanne zur Nieden, Alltag im Ausnahmezustand: Frauentagebücher im zerstörten Deutschland 1943 bis 1945 (Berlin, 1993). On the collapse of “normal” everyday life in Berlin during the “final battle,”Google Scholar
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    This increased need for mobility is reflected in the continual increases in the use of public transportation in the city from 1933. Indeed, between 1933 and 1943 the number of people transported nearly doubled, to 2.27 million. In 1944, because of the destruction, the number declined to 1.82 million. See Statistisches Landesamt der Stadt Berlin, ed. Berlin in Zahlen (Berlin, 1947), 216–17. On the harm done to industrial and transportation enterprises in the “last half year” of the war in Germany as a whole, see Blank, “Kriegsalltag,” 446–48.Google Scholar
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    Kardorff, Aufzeichnungen, 119–20. Even the difficulties in organizing the special allocations after air raids were a sign of disintegration. Beginning in the middle of September 1943, the cards, whose printing was centralized in Berlin, could no longer be distributed immediately after air raids in Ruhr cities, for example, because of transportation difficulties. This undermined the purpose of these special allocation cards, namely, to alleviate the supply difficulties caused by the air raids and above all to strengthen the “morale” of the urban population. To guarantee the psychologically important effect of the “coffee or schnapps to calm one’s nerves,” the printing had to be decentralized. See Dorothea Schmidt, Zeitgeschichte im Mikrokosmos: Ein Gebäude in Berlin-Schöneberg (Berlin, 2004).Google Scholar
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    Everyday life, in a sense, “ducked away” during the war. The camouflage practices developed to confuse incoming bombers also illustrate this development: for example, the important east-west axis along the Charlottenburger Chaussee, which bombers used for orientation, was covered over. See the pictures in Christian Engeli and Wolfgang Ribbe, “Berlin in der NS-Zeit,” in Geschichte Berlins, vol. 2, Von der Märzrevolution bis zur Gegenwart, ed. idem (Berlin, 1989), 999, as well as Davide Deriu, “Between Veiling and Unveiling: Modern Camouflage and the City as a Theater of War,” in Endangered Cities, ed. Funck and Chickering, 15–34, on the competition between bombing and camouflage technologies.Google Scholar
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    See Maren Löw, Raumsoziologie (Frankfurt am Main, 2001), 161–63, referring to Giddens, on the significance of the environment for constituting a feeling of everyday security.Google Scholar
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    Statistisches Landesamt der Stadt Berlin, ed., Berlin in Zahlen, 25. The official statistics for 1947 give the same percentages. Given the immense destruction and the only partly successful rebuilding measures, this seems unlikely. See “Zahlen zeigen Zeitgeschehen: Berlin 1945–1947,” Berliner Statistik 3. special issue 1 (1947): 5. The cleanup operations after the end of the war were among the first measures the Soviet occupiers took up. The operations were systematically planned on “de-rubbling maps” (Enttrümmerungskarten) (LAB LAZ Nr. 5648). Numerous photos from the time give an idea of how much difficulty the rubble caused. See, for example, Hans J. Reichardt, Raus aus den Trümmern. Vom Beginn des Wiederaufbaus in Berlin 1945 (Berlin, 1988);Google Scholar
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    Elisabeth Noelle and Erich-Peter Neumann, eds., Jahrbuch der öffentlichen Meinung 3 (1975): 150.Google Scholar

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© Malte Zierenberg 2015

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  • Malte Zierenberg

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