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)


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


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Daniel Libeskind, Radix—Matrix: Architecture and Writing (Munich, 1997), 113.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    References can be found in the reports of the Wehrmachtpropaganda (see Wolfram Wette, ed., Das letzte halbe Jahr. Stimmungsberichte der Wehrmachtpropaganda 1944/45 [Essen, 2001], 151–55), as well as in individual police reports and court records. See LAB A Rep. 358–02 123725; 79979, pp. 12ff.; LAB Pr. Br. Rep. 030–01 Nr. 1095, p. 5.Google Scholar
  3. See Adam Kendon, Conducting Interaction: Patterns of Behavior in Focused Encounters (Cambridge, UK, 1990), on the concept of “focused gatherings.”Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    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
  5. see also Anthony Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (London, 2007).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    On the acts of violence by the Gestapo and the criminal justice system, see Ralf Blank, “Kriegsalltag und Luftkrieg an der Heimatfront,” in Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, vol. 9/2, Die Deutsche Kriegsgesellschaft 1939 bis 1945. Ausbeutung, Deutungen, Ausgrenzung, ed. Jörg Echternkamp, 386–90 (Munich, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    On how city space and forms of consumption mutually influence each other, see Paul Glennie, “Consumption, Consumerism and Urban Form: Historical Perspectives,” Urban Studies 35 (1998): 927–51, 944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Bernd Martin, “Der Schein des Bündnisses. Deutschland und Japan im Krieg 1940–1945,” in Formierung und Fall der Achse Berlin—Tokio, ed. Gerhard Krebs and Bernd Martin, 27–53 (Munich, 1994), 31.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Victor Klemperer, LTI: Notizbuch eines Philologen (Leipzig, 1999), 322.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Martin Broszat, Klaus-Dietmar Henke, and Hans Woller, Von Stalingrad zur Währungsreform: Zur Sozialgeschichte des Umbruchs in Deutschland, 3rd ed. (Munich, 1990).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    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
  12. 14.
    Thomas Neumann, “Der Bombenkrieg. Zur ungeschriebenen Geschichte einer kollektiven Verletzung,” in Nachkrieg in Deutschland, ed. Klaus Naumann 319–42 (Hamburg, 2001), 324.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    See Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Cambridge, UK, 1984), 111–12.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    The significance of these everyday routines for achieving stabilization has been proven in experiments conducted by Harold Garfinkel, “A Conception of, and Experiments with, ‘Trust’ as a Condition of Stable Concerted Actions,” in Motivation and Social Interaction, ed. O. J. Harvey, 187–238 (New York, 1963), 198: “The critical phenomenon is … the perceived normality of environmental events as this normality is a function of the presuppositions that define the possible events.”Google Scholar
  15. This confirms the finding in Bernd Wegner, ed., Wie Kriege enden: Wege zum Frieden von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Paderborn, 2002), xxii, that “even in times of war one can find over and over islands of peace.” Accordingly, we need to recognize that the apparent dichotomy of war and peace, spatially and temporally, is not always so clear.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    For example, 222 and 226 people, respectively, died in the air raids in 1940 and 1941. David Clay Large, Berlin: A Modern History (New York, 2001), 311. By contrast, 3,758 people died, according to the official statistics, in the air raid on November 23, 1943, which lasted barely two hours.Google Scholar
  17. See Sven Felix Kellerhoff and Wieland Giebel, eds., Als die Tage zu Nächten wurden. Berliner Schicksale im Luftkrieg (Berlin, 2003), 221.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    Ursula von Kardorff, Berliner Aufzeichnungen: 1942–1945, ed. Peter Hartl (Munich, 1992), 88–89.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    See Gert Selle, Die eigenen vier Wände. Zur verborgenen Geschichte des Wohnens (Frankfurt am Main, 1993), 23.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    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
  21. 31.
    On the background, see Julia S. Torrie, “Preservation by Dispersion: Civilian Evacuations and the City in Germany and France 1939–1945,” in Endangered Cities: Military Power and Urban Societies in the Era of the World Wars, ed. Marcus Funck and Roger Chickering, 47–62 (Boston, 2004). The consequences of the evacuation often fell on the shoulders of family fathers who earned their money combating black market trading. For example, the policemen working for the trade inspection service of the Berlin police were informed in March 1944 that their “holiday for 1944/45,” including “holidays for the purpose of visiting the family that had been evacuated,” could only be granted if the number taking leave remained beneath 15 percent of the total force because of the tense situation. Exceptions would not be considered “under any circumstances.” LAB A Pr. Br. Rep. 030, Tit. 90 Nr. 7619/2, Der Leiter des GAD, Tagesbefehl Nr. 4 from March 2, 1944.Google Scholar
  22. 38.
    On the criminality among the youth during and immediately after the war, see Frank Kebbedies, Außer Kontrolle. Jugendkriminalität in der NS-Zeit und der frühen Nachkriegszeit (Essen, 2000).Google Scholar
  23. 39.
    See Patrick Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft ohne Verbrecher. Konzeption und Praxis der Kriminalpolizei in der Weimarer Republik und des Nationalsozialismus (Hamburg, 1996), 316.Google Scholar
  24. 40.
    Hans von Hentig, “Die Kriminalität des Zusammenbruchs,” Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Strafrecht 63 (1947): 337–41, 337.Google Scholar
  25. 41.
    Karl Bader, Soziologie der deutschen Nachkriegskriminalität (Tübingen, 1949), 1. Numerous publications were dedicated to legal as well as sociological research into the “steadily spreading” problem of criminality. See the bibliography in ibid.Google Scholar
  26. 45.
    See Werner Schöllgen, Grenzmoral: Soziale Krisis und neuer Aufbau (Düsseldorf, 1946).Google Scholar
  27. 46.
    On this interdependence, see Jennifer Evans, Life among the Ruins: Cityscape and Sexuality in Cold War Berlin (New York, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 51.
    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
  29. 53.
    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
  30. 61.
    On such agreement even in the last phases of the war, see Robert Gellately, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany (Oxford, UK, 2001), 15 and 311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 68.
    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
  32. and Reinhard Rürup, ed., Berlin 1945. Eine Dokumentation (Berlin, 1995);Google Scholar
  33. as well as Reinhard Rürup and Gottfried Korff, Berlin: Die Ausstellung zur Geschichte der Stadt (Berlin, 1987), 577 and 595.Google Scholar
  34. 84.
    Elisabeth Noelle and Erich-Peter Neumann, eds., Jahrbuch der öffentlichen Meinung 3 (1975): 150.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Malte Zierenberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malte Zierenberg

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations