En la dirección de arriba se informa de cómo en el siglo XX, reiteradamente se intentó destruir a Alemania mediante el genocidio, siendo éste un tema tabú silenciado en todos los medios de comunicación…desde 1945. Seguidamente publicamos la citada información en versión original:

The Blockade and Attempted Starvation of Germany

Mises Daily:Friday, May 07, 2010 by

[The Politics of Hunger: Allied Blockade of Germany, 1915-1919 • By C. Paul Vincent • Ohio University Press (1985) • 185 pages. This review was first published in the Review of Austrian Economics 3, no. 1.]

The Politics of Hunger: Allied Blockade of Germany, 1915-1919

States throughout history have persisted in severely encumbering and even prohibiting international trade. Seldom, however, can the consequences of such an effort — the obvious immediate results as well as the likely long-range ones — have been as devastating as in the case of the Allied (really, British) naval blockade of Germany in the First World War. This hunger blockade belongs to the category of forgotten state atrocities of the twentieth century. (Similarly, who now remembers the tens of thousands of Biafrans starved to death during the war of independence through the policy of the Nigerian generals supported by the British government?) Thus, C. Paul Vincent, a trained historian and currently library director at Keene State College in New Hampshire, deserves our gratitude for recalling it to memory in this scholarly and balanced study.

Vincent tellingly recreates the atmosphere of jubilation that surrounded the outbreak of the war that was truly the fateful watershed of the twentieth century. While Germans were overcome by an almost mystical sense of community (the economist Emil Lederer declared that now Gesellschaft [Society] had been transformed into Gemeinschaft [Community]), the British gave themselves over to their own patented form of cant. The socialist and positivist utopian H.G. Wells, for instance, gushed: “I find myself enthusiastic for this war against Prussian militarism. … Every sword that is drawn against Germany is a sword drawn for peace.” Wells later coined the mendacious slogan “the war to end war.”

As the conflict continued, the state-socialist current that had been building for decades overflowed into massive government intrusions into every facet of civil society, especially the economy. The German Kriegssozialismus that became a model for the Bolsheviks on their assumption of power is well known, but, as Vincent points out: “the British achieved control over their economy unequaled by any of the other belligerent states.”

Everywhere state seizure of social power was accompanied and fostered by propaganda drives unparalleled in history to that time. In this respect, the British were very much more successful than the Germans, and their masterly portrayal of the “Huns” as the diabolical enemies of civilization, perpetrators of every imaginable sort of “frightfulness,”[1] served to mask the single worst example of barbarism in the whole war, aside from the Armenian massacres.

This was what Lord Devlin frankly calls “the starvation policy” directed against the civilians of the Central Powers (particularly Germany),[2] the plan that aimed, as Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1914 and one of the framers of the scheme, admitted, to “starve the whole population — men, women, and children, old and young, wounded and sound — into submission.”[3]

The British policy was in contravention of international law on two major points.[4] First, in regard to the character of the blockade, it violated the Declaration of Paris of 1856, which Britain itself had signed, and which, among other things, permitted “close” but not “distant” blockades. A belligerent was allowed to station ships near the three-mile limit to stop traffic with an enemy’s ports; it was not allowed simply to declare areas of the high seas comprising the approaches to the enemy’s coast to be off-limits.

This is what Britain did on November 3,1914, when it announced, allegedly in response to the discovery of a German ship unloading mines off the English coast, that henceforth the whole of the North Sea was a military area, which would be mined and into which neutral ships proceeded “at their own peril.” Similar measures in regard to the English Channel insured that neutral ships would be forced to put into British ports for sailing instructions or to take on British pilots. During this time they could easily be searched, obviating the requirement of searching them on the high seas.

This introduces the second and even more complex question: that of contraband. Briefly, following the lead of the Hague Conference of 1907, the Declaration of London of 1909 considered food to be “conditional contraband,” that is, subject to interception and capture only when intended for the use of the enemy’s military forces. This was part of the painstaking effort, extending over generations, to strip war of its most savage aspects by establishing a sharp distinction between combatants and noncombatants. Among the corollaries of this was that food not intended for military use could legitimately be transported to a neutral port, even if it ultimately found its way to the enemy’s territory. The House of Lords had refused its consent to the Declaration of London, which did not, consequently, come into full force. Still, as the US government pointed out to the British at the start of the war, the declaration’s provisions were in keeping “with the generally recognized principles of international law.” As an indication of this, the British admiralty had incorporated the Declaration into its manuals.

The British quickly began to tighten the noose around Germany by unilaterally expanding the list of contraband and by putting pressure on neutrals (particularly the Netherlands, since Rotterdam more than any other port was the focus of British concerns over the provisioning of the Germans) to acquiesce in its violations of the rules. In the case of the major neutral, the United States, no pressure was needed. With the exception of the beleaguered secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, who resigned in 1915, the American leaders were amazingly sympathetic to the British point of view. For example, after listening to complaints from the Austrian ambassador on the illegality of the British blockade, Colonel House, Wilson’s intimate advisor on foreign affairs, noted in his diary: “He forgets to add that England is not exercising her power in an objectionable way, for it is controlled by a democracy.”[5]

The Germans responded to the British attempt to starve them into submission by declaring the seas around the British Isles a “war zone.” Now the British openly announced their intention of impounding any and all goods originating in or bound for Germany. Although the British measures were lent the air of reprisals for German actions, in reality the great plan was hatched and pursued independently of anything the enemy did or refrained from doing:

The War Orders given by the Admiralty on 26 August [1914] were clear enough. All food consigned to Germany through neutral ports was to be captured and all food consigned to Rotterdam was to be presumed consigned to Germany. … The British were determined on the starvation policy, whether or not it was lawful.[6]

The effects of the blockade were soon being felt by the German civilians. In June 1915, bread began to be rationed. “By 1916,” Vincent states, “the German population was surviving on a meager diet of dark bread, slices of sausage without fat, an individual ration of three pounds of potatoes per week, and turnips,” and that year the potato crop failed. The author’s choice of telling quotations from eye witnesses helps to bring home to the reader the reality of a famine such as had not been experienced in Europe outside of Russia since Ireland’s travail in the 1840s. As one German put it: “Soon the women who stood in the pallid queues before shops spoke more about their children’s hunger than about the death of their husbands.”

An American correspondent in Berlin wrote:

Once I set out for the purpose of finding in these food-lines a face that did not show the ravages of hunger. … Four long lines were inspected with the closest scrutiny. But among the 300 applicants for food there was not one who had had enough to eat for weeks. In the case of the youngest women and children the skin was drawn hard to the bones and bloodless. Eyes had fallen deeper into the sockets. From the lips all color was gone, and the tufts of hair which fell over the parchmented faces seemed dull and famished — a sign that the nervous vigor of the body was departing with the physical strength.

Vincent places the German decision in early 1917 to resume and expand submarine warfare against merchant shipping — which provided the Wilson administration with its final pretext for entering the war — in the framework of collapsing German morale. The German U-boat campaign proved unsuccessful and, in fact, by bringing the United States into the conflict, aggravated the famine.

“Soon the women who stood in the pallid queues before shops spoke more about their children’s hunger than about the death of their husbands.”

“Wilson ensured that every loophole left open by the Allies for the potential reprovisioning of Germany was closed … even the importation of foodstuffs by neutrals was prevented until December 1917.” Rations in Germany were reduced to about one thousand calories a day. By 1918, the mortality rate among civilians was 38 percent higher than in 1913; tuberculosis was rampant, and, among children, so were rickets and edema. Yet, when the Germans surrendered in November 1918, the armistice terms, drawn up by Clemenceau, Foch, and Pétain, included the continuation of the blockade until a final peace treaty was ratified.

In December 1918, the National Health Office in Berlin calculated that 763,000 persons had died as a result of the blockade by that time; the number added to this in the first months of 1919 is unknown.[7] In some respects, the armistice saw the intensification of the suffering, since the German Baltic coast was now effectively blockaded and German fishing rights in the Baltic annulled.

One of the most notable points in Vincent’s account is how the perspective of “zoological” warfare, later associated with the Nazis, began to emerge from the maelstrom of ethnic hatred engendered by the war. In September 1918, one English journalist, in an article titled “The Huns of 1940,” wrote hopefully of the tens of thousands of Germans now in the wombs of famished mothers who “are destined for a life of physical inferiority.”[8] The “famous founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell, naively expressed his satisfaction that the German race is being ruined; though the birth rate, from the German point of view, may look satisfactory, the irreparable harm done is quite different and much more serious.”

Against the genocidal wish-fantasies of such thinkers and the heartless vindictiveness of Entente politicians should be set the anguished reports from Germany by British journalists and, especially, army officers, as well as by the members of Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Commission. Again and again they stressed, besides the barbarism of the continued blockade, the danger that famine might well drive the Germans to Bolshevism. Hoover was soon persuaded of the urgent need to end the blockade, but wrangling among the Allies, particularly French insistence that the German gold stock could not be used to pay for food, since it was earmarked for reparations, prevented action.

In early March 1919, General Herbert Plumer, commander of the British Army of Occupation, informed Prime Minister Lloyd George that his men were begging to be sent home; they could no longer stand the sight of “hordes of skinny and bloated children pawing over the offal” from the British camps. Finally, the Americans and British overpowered French objections, and at the end of March, the first food shipments began arriving in Hamburg. But it was only in July, after the formal German signature to the Treaty of Versailles, that the Germans were permitted to import raw materials and export manufactured goods.

Besides the direct effects of the British blockade, there are the possible indirect and much more damaging effects to consider. A German child who was ten years old in 1918, and who survived, was twenty-two in 1930. Vincent raises the question of whether the miseries and suffering from hunger in the early, formative years help account to some degree for the enthusiasm of German youth for Nazism later on. Drawing on a 1971 article by Peter Loewenberg, he argues in the affirmative.[9] Loewenberg’s work, however, is a specimen of psychohistory and his conclusions are explicitly founded on psychoanalytic doctrine.

Although Vincent does not endorse them unreservedly, he leans toward explaining the later behavior of the generation of German children scarred by the war years in terms of an emotional or nervous impairment of rational thought. Thus, he refers to “the ominous amalgamation of twisted emotion and physical degradation, which was to presage considerable misery for Germany and the world” and which was produced in large part by the starvation policy.

But is such an approach necessary? It seems perfectly plausible to seek for the mediating connections between exposure to starvation (and the other torments caused by the blockade) and later fanatical and brutal behavior in commonly intelligible (though, of course, not thereby justifiable) human attitudes generated by the early experiences. These attitudes would include hatred, deep-seated bitterness and resentment, and a disregard for the value of life of “others” because the value of one’s “own” life had been so ruthlessly disregarded.

A starting point for such an analysis could be Theodore Abel’s 1938 work, Why Hitler Came into Power: An Answer Based on the Original Life Stories of Six Hundred of His Followers. Loewenberg’s conclusion after studying this work is that “the most striking emotional affect expressed in the Abel autobiographies are the adult memories of intense hunger and privation from childhood.”[10] An interpretation that would accord the hunger blockade its proper place in the setting for the rise of Nazi savagery has no particular need for a psychoanalytical or physiological underpinning.

Occasionally Vincent’s views on issues marginal to his theme are distressingly stereotyped: he appears to accept an extreme Fischer-school interpretation of guilt for the origin of the war as adhering to the German government alone, and, concerning the fortunes of the Weimar Republic, he states: “That Germany lost this opportunity is one of the tragedies of the twentieth century. … Too often the old socialists seemed almost terrified of socialization.”

The cliché that, if only heavy industry had been socialized in 1919, then German democracy could have been saved, was never very convincing.[11] It is proving less so as research begins to suggest that it was precisely the Weimar system of massive state intervention in the labor markets and the advanced welfare-state institutions (the most “progressive” of their time) that so weakened the German economy that it collapsed in the face of the Great Depression.[12] This collapse, particularly the staggering unemployment that accompanied it, has long been considered by scholars to have been a major cause of the Nazi rise to power in 1930–33.

These are, however, negligible points in view of the service Vincent has performed both in reclaiming from oblivion past victims of a murderous state policy and in deepening our understanding of twentieth-century European history. There has recently occurred in the Federal Republic of Germany a “fight of historians” over whether the Nazi slaughter of the European Jews should be viewed as “unique” or placed within the context of other mass murders, specifically the Stalinist atrocities against the Ukrainian peasantry.[13] Vincent’s work suggests the possibility that the framework of the discussion ought to be widened more than any of the participants has so far proposed.


Ralph Raico, Professor Emeritus in European history at Buffalo State College is a senior fellow of the Mises Institute. He is a specialist on the history of liberty, the liberal tradition in Europe, and the relationship between war and the rise of the state. He is the author of The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton. You can study the history of civilization under his guidance here: MP3-CD and Audio Tape. Send him mail. See Ralph Raico’s article archives.

This review was first published in the Review of Austrian Economics 3, no. 1.

Comment on the blog.

You can subscribe to future articles by Ralph Raico via this RSS feed.


[1] Cf. H.C. Peterson, Propaganda for War. The Campaign against American Neutrality, 1914–1917 (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939), especially pp. 51-70, on propaganda regarding German “atrocities.”

[2] Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson’s Neutrality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 193–98.

[3] Cited in Peterson, Propaganda, p. 83.

[4] Cf. Devlin, Too Proud to Fight, pp. 158–67,191–200; and Thomas A. Bailey and Paul B. Ryan, The Lusitania Disaster: An Episode in Modern Warfare and Diplomacy (New York: Free Press, 1975), pp. 27–33.

[5] Cited in Walter Millis, Road to War: America, 1914–1917 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935), p. 84. The US government’s bias in favor of the Allied cause is well documented. Thus, even such an “establishment” diplomatic historian as the late Thomas A. Bailey, in his A Diplomatic History of the American People, 9th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974), p. 572, states: “The obvious explanation of America’s surprising docility [in the face of British violations of neutrals’ rights] is that the Wilson administration was sympathetic with the Allies from the beginning.” The partisanship of Wilson, his advisor Colonel House, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, and, especially, the American ambassador to England, Walter Hines Page, is highlighted in Bailey’s even-handed account of the entry of the United States into the war (pp. 562–95). The reader may find it an interesting exercise to compare Bailey’s treatment with that from a newer generation of “establishment” authority, Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy: A History, 3rd ed. (New York: Norton, 1975), pp. 456–74. Ferrell gives no hint of the administration’s bias toward Britain. Of the notorious British propaganda document luridly detailing the nonexistent German atrocities in Belgium, he writes: “It is true that in the light of postwar investigation the veracity of some of the deeds instanced in the Bryce Report has come into question” (p. 462). (On the Bryce Report, see Peterson, Propaganda, pp. 53-58, and Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty [New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975], pp. 83–84.) Ferrell’s account could itself pass muster as somewhat refined Entente propaganda. Lest American college students miss the moral of his story, he ends with the assertion: “It was certainly in the interest of national security to go to war … logic demanded entrance.”

[6] Devlin, Too Proud to Fight, pp. 193, 195.

[7] The British historian Arthur Bryant, writing in 1940, put the figure even higher, at 800,000 for the last two years of the blockade, “about fifty times more than were drowned by submarine attacks on British shipping.” Cited in J.F.C. Fuller, The Conduct of War, 1789–1961 (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961), p. 178.

[8] F.W. Wile, “The Huns of 1940,” Weekly Dispatch, September 8,1918. Vincent notes that he is citing the article from a book published in Stuttgart in 1940.

[9] Peter Loewenberg, “The Psychohistorical Origins of the Nazi Youth Cohorts,” American Historical Review 76, no. 5 (December 1971): 1457–502. Loewenberg writes, for instance:

The war and postwar experiences of the small children and youth of World War I explicitly conditioned the nature and success of National Socialism. The new adults who became politically effective after 1929 and who filled the ranks of the SA and the other paramilitary party organizations … were the children socialized in the First World War. (p. 1458)

[10] Ibid., p. 1499.

[11] The leading advocate of socialization in Germany after the war was Emil Lederer, whose remarks about Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft were cited previously. He denied, however, that the socialized economy would be more productive than capitalism. See Karl Pribram, A History of Economic Reasoning (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), p. 382.

[12] The recent debate among German economic historians on this question is discussed in Jürgen von Kruedener, “Die Überforderung der Weimarer Republik als Sozialstaat,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 11, no. 3 (1985): 358-76.

[13] Historiker- “Streit.” Die Dokumentation der Kontroverse um die Einzigartigkeit der nationalsozialistischen Judenvernichtung (Munich: Piper, 1987).



Los estados a lo largo de la historia han persistido en dificultar severamente e incluso prohibir el comercio internacional. Sin embargo, casi nunca las consecuencias de dicho intento (tanto en los resultados evidentes inmediatos como probablemente en los de largo plazo) pueden haber sido tan devastadoras como en el casi del bloqueo naval aliado (realmente británico) a Alemania en la Primera Guerra Mundial. Este bloqueo de hambre pertenece a la categoría de las atrocidades estatales olvidadas del siglo XX. (Igualmente, ¿quién recuerda hoy a las decenas de biafreños muertos por hambre durante la guerra de independencia por la política de los generales nigerianos apoyados por el gobierno británico?) Así, C. Paul Vincent, un veterano historiador y actualmente director de la biblioteca, en el Keene State College en New Hampshire, merece nuestra gratitud por traerlo a la memoria en este estudio erudito y equilibrado.
Vincent recrea eficazmente la atmósfera de júbilo que rodeó al estallido de la guerra que fue en realidad el hito funesto del siglo XX. Mientras que los alemanes estaban poseídos por un sentido casi místico de comunidad (el economista Emil Lederer declaraba que ahora la Gesellschaft [sociedad] se había transformado en Gemeinschaft[comunidad]), los británicos se entregaban a propia forma patentada de hipocresía. El socialista y utópico positivista H.G. Wells, por ejemplo, decía efusivamente: “Me encuentro entusiasmado por esta guerra contra el militarismo prusiano. (…) Toda espada que se empuñe contra Alemania, es una espada que se empuña por la paz”. Well acuñó más tarde el falso lema: “la guerra para acabar con la guerra”.
Mientras continuaba el conflicto, el actual estado socialista que se había venido construyendo durante décadas se desbordó con masivas intrusiones del gobierno en todas las facetas de la sociedad civil, especialmente en la economía. El Kriegssozialismusalemán que se convertiría en un modelo para los bolcheviques en su ascenso al poder es bien conocido, pero, como apunta Vincent: “los británicos alcanzaron un control sobre toda la economía sin parangón con ningún otro estado beligerante”.
En todas partes la apropiación del poder social por el estado estaba acompañada y estimulada por labores de propaganda sin precedentes en la historia. A este respecto, los británicos tuvieron mucho más éxito que los alemanes y su magistral retrato de los “hunos”como diabólicos enemigos de la civilización, perpetradores de todo tipo de“horror” imaginable,[1]servía para enmascarar el peor ejemplo de barbarie de toda la guerra, aparte de las masacres armenias.
A éste lo llama abiertamente Lord Devlin, “la política del hambre”, dirigida contra los civiles de las Potencias Centrales (particularmente Alemania),[2] el plan que se dirigía, como admitía Winston Churchill, Primer Lord del Almirantazgo en 1914 y uno de los redactores del plan, a “hacer pasar hambre a toda la población (hombres, mujeres y niños, jóvenes y viejos, heridos y sanos) para que se rinda”.[3]
La política británica contradecía el derecho internacional en dos puntos principales.[4]Primero, respecto del carácter del bloqueo, violaba la Declaración de París de 1856, que había firmado la propia Gran Bretaña y que, entre otras cosas, permitía bloqueos “cercanos”, pero no “distantes”. Se permitía a un beligerante estacionar buques cerca del límite de las tres millas para detener el tráfico con puertos enemigos; no se permitía sencillamente declarar áreas de alta mar que incluyeran las aproximaciones a la costa enemiga fuera de esos límites.
Eso es lo que hizo Gran Bretaña el 3 de noviembre de 1914, cuando anunció, supuestamente en respuesta al descubrimiento de un barco alemán desplegando minas cerca de la costa inglesa, que desde entonces todo el Mar del Norte era área militar, que podía minarse y en la que los barcos neutrales actuarían “bajo su propio riesgo”. Medidas similares respecto del Canal de la Mancha aseguraban que los barcos neutrales se vieran obligados a arribar a puertos ingleses para recibir instrucciones de navegación o recoger pilotos ingleses. Durante este periodo podían ser revisados, evitando el requisito de buscarlos en alta mar.
Eso introduce la segunda y aún más compleja cuestión: la del contrabando. En pocas palabras, siguiendo el camino de la Conferencia de La Haya de 1907, la Declaración de Londres de 1909 consideraba que la comida era “contrabando condicional”, es decir, estaba sujeta a intercepción y captura solo cuando s dirigía al uso de las fuerzas militares del enemigo. Esto era parte del meticuloso trabajo, extendido durante generaciones, de quitar a la guerra sus aspectos más salvajes estableciendo una clara distinción entre combatientes y no combatientes. Entre los corolarios de esto estaba que la comida que no tuviera un uso militar podía transportarse legítimamente a un puerto neutral, incluso si acabara llegando al territorio enemigo. La Cámara de los Lores había rechazado dar su consentimiento a la Declaración de Londres, que, en consecuencia, no tenía vigencia plena. Aún así, como apuntó el gobierno de EEUU al británico al inicio de la guerra, las provisiones de la declaración en general seguían “los principios generalmente reconocidos del derecho internacional”. Como una indicación de esto, el almirantazgo inglés había incorporado la Declaración a sus manuales.
Los británicos empezaron pronto a apretar el dogal alrededor de Alemania expandiendo unilateralmente la lista del contrabando y presionando a los neutrales (especialmente a Holanda, ya que Rotterdam, más que ningún otro puerto, era el foco de las preocupaciones inglesas respecto del aprovisionamiento de los alemanes) para que consintieran sus violaciones de las leyes. En el caso del neutral más importante, Estados Unidos, no hizo falta ninguna presión. Con la excepción del atribulado secretario de estado, William Jennings Bryan, que dimitió en 915, los líderes estadounidenses fueron asombrosamente simpatizantes con el punto de vista británico. Por ejemplo, después de escuchar las quejas del embajador austriaco sobre la legalidad del bloqueo británico, el coronel House, el íntimo asesor de Wilson en asuntos exteriores, apuntaba en su diario: “Olvida añadir que Inglaterra no está ejercitando su poder de una forma objetable, pues está controlada por una democracia”.[5]
Los alemanes respondieron al intento británico rendirles por hambre declarando a los mares alrededor de las Islas Británicas como “zona de guerra”. Entonces los británicos anunciaron abiertamente su intención de incautarse de todos y cada uno de los bienes originados o en camino hacia Alemania. Aunque a las medidas británicas se les dio el aspecto de represalias por las acciones alemanas, en realidad el gran plan se habría urdido y realizado independientemente de cualquier cosa que hiciera o dejara de hacer el enemigo:
Las Órdenes de Guerra del Almirantazgo del 26 de agosto [de 1914] eran muy claras. Iba a capturarse toda la comida consignada a Alemania a través de puertos neutrales e iba a considerarse que toda la comida consignada a Rotterdam estaba consignada a Alemania. (…) Los británicos estaban determinados en su política del hambre, fuera ajustada a derecho o no.[6]
Los efectos del bloqueo se sintieron pronto entre los civiles alemanes. En junio de 1915, el pan empezó a estar racionado. “En 1916”, dice Vincent, “la población alemana sobrevivía con una mísera dieta de pan negro, rodajas de salchichas sin grasa, una ración individual de tres libras de patatas por semana y nabos” y en ese año se perdió la cosecha de patatas. La elección del autor de contar citas de testigos oculares para llevar al lector la realidad de una hambruna como no se había experimentado en Europa fuera de Rusia desde las tribulaciones irlandesas de la década de 1840. Como decía un alemán: “Pronto las mujeres que esperaban en las pálidas colas hablaron más del hambre de sus hijos que de la muerte de sus maridos.
Un corresponsal estadounidense en Berlín escribía:
Una vez salí con el propósito de encontrar en estas colas de comida una cara que no mostrara los estragos del hambre. (…) Inspeccioné con cuidado cuatro largas colas. Pero entre los 300 buscadores de comida no había nadie que hubiera tenido suficiente para comer durante semanas. En el caso de las mujeres y niños más jóvenes, la piel se había pegado a los huesos y no tenía sangre. Los ojos se habían hundido en las cuencas. Había desparecido todo el color en los labios, y los mechones de pelo que caían sobre las caras apergaminadas parecían lacios y famélicos (una señal de que el vigor nervioso del cuerpo desaparecía con la fortaleza física).
Vincent pone la decisión alemana de principios de 1917 de reanudar y extender la guerra submarina contra la marina mercante (que proporcionó a la administración Wilson su pretexto final para entrar en guerra) en el marco del desmoronamiento de la moral alemana. La campaña de los U-boat alemanes resultó un fracaso y, de hecho, al hacer entrar a Estados Unidos en el conflicto, agravó la hambruna.
“Wilson garantizó que se cerrara toda laguna jurídica dejada abierta por los aliados (…) incluso la importación de alimentos por los neutrales se prohibió hasta diciembre de 1917”. Las raciones en Alemania se redujeron a alrededor de mil calorías por día. En 1918, la tasa de mortalidad entre los civiles en un 38% mayor que la de 1913, proliferaba la tuberculosis y, entre los niños, también el raquitismo y los edemas. Aún así, cuando los alemanes se rindieron en noviembre de 1918, los términos del armisticio, redactados por Clemenceau, Foch y Pétain, incluían la continuación del bloqueo hasta que se ratificara el tratado final de paz.
En diciembre de 1918, la Oficina de Salud Nacional en Berlín calculaba que 763.000 personas habían muerto hasta entonces como consecuencia del bloqueo: la cifra adicional a ésta en los primeros meses de 1919 se desconoce.[7] En algunos aspectos, el armisticio supuso la intensificación del sufrimiento, ya que la costa alemana del Báltico estaba ahora efectivamente bloqueada y anulados los derechos de pesca en el Báltico.
Uno de los puntos más notables en la explicación de Vincent es cómo la perspectiva de una guerra “zoológica”,luego asociada con los nazis, empezó a aparecer en la vorágine del odio étnico engendrado por la guerra. En septiembre de 1918, un periodista inglés, en un artículo titulado “Los hunos de 1940”, escribía con optimismo de las decenas de miles de alemanes ahora en los vientres de mujeres famélicas que “están destinados a una vida de inferioridad física”.[8] El“famoso fundador de los boy-scouts, Robert Baden-Powell, expresaba ingenuamente su satisfacción de que la raza alemana fuera arruinada: aunque la tasa de natalidad, desde el punto de vista alemán, pueda parecer satisfactoria, el daño irreparable producido es bastante distinto y mucho más serio”.
Frente a las fantasías genocidas de esos pensadores y el despiadado rencor de los políticos de la Entente deberían considerarse los angustiosos reportajes de periodistas y, especialmente, oficiales británicos del ejército desde Alemania, así como de miembros de la American Relief Commission de Herbert Hoover. Una y otra vez destacaban, aparte de la barbarie del continuo bloqueo, el peligro de que la hambruna bien puedira empujar a los alemanes hacia el bolchevismo. Hoover se vio en seguida convencido de la urgente necesidad de acabar con el bloqueo, pero las disputas entre los aliados, particularmente la insistencia francesa en que las existencias de oro no podrían usarse para pagar alimentos, pues estaban destinadas a las indemnizaciones, impidieron actuar.
A principios de marzo de 1919, el general Herbert Plumer, comandante del Ejército Británico de Ocupación, informaba al Primer Ministro Lloyd George que sus hombres demandaban volver a casa: ya no podían soportar la vista de “hordas de niños flacos e hinchados buscando entre los desperdicios” de los campos británicos. Por fin, estadounidenses y británicos superaron las objeciones francesas y a finales de marzo, empezaron a llegar los primeros cargamentos de comida a Hamburgo. Pero solo fue en julio, después de la firma formal alemana del Tratado de Versalles, cuando se permitió a los alemanes importar materias primas y exportar bienes manufacturados.
Aparte de los efectos directos del bloqueo británico, hay posibles efectos indirectos y mucho más dañinos a considerar. Un niño alemán que tuviera 10 años en 1918 y sobreviviera, tendría 22 en 1930. Vincent plantea la pregunta de si las miserias y sufrimientos por el hambre en Alemania en los primeros años de formación contribuyen a explicar en alguna medida el entusiasmo de la juventud alemana por el nazismo posterior. Partiendo de un artículo de 1971 de Peter Loewenberg, argumenta positivamente.[9]Sin embargo, la obra de Loewenberg es una especie de psicohistoria y sus conclusiones se basan explícitamente en la doctrina psicoanalítica.
Aunque Vincent no las apoye sin reservas, se inclina a explicar el comportamiento posterior de la generación de niños alemanes marcados por los años de la guerra en términos de dificultades emocionales o nerviosas para pensar racionalmente. Así, se refiere a “la ominosa amalgama de emoción retorcida y degradación física, que iba a presagiar una considerable miseria para Alemania y el mundo” y que fue producida en buena medida por la política de hambre.
¿Pero es necesaria una aproximación así? Parece perfectamente factible buscar las conexiones que median entre la exposición al hambre (y los demás tormentos causados por el bloqueo) y el posterior comportamiento fanático y brutal en actitudes humana comúnmente comprensibles (aunque, por supuesto, no por eso justificables) generadas por experiencias anteriores. Estas actitudes incluirían el odio, una profunda amargura y resentimiento y un desprecio por el valor de la vida de “otros”,porque el valor de la “propia” vida hubiera sido despreciado tan despiadadamente.
Un punto de partida para un análisis así podría ser la obra de Theodore Abel de 1938, Why Hitler Came into Power: An Answer Based on the Original Life Stories of Six Hundred of His Followers. La conclusion de Loewenberg después de estudiar esta obra es que “el más sorprendente afecto emocional expresado en las autobiografías de Abel son los recuerdos de adultos de la intensa hambre y privaciones de la infancia”.[10]Una interpretación que pondría al bloqueo del hambre en su lugar apropiado en la aparición del salvajismo nazino tiene ninguna necesidad particular de un fundamento psicoanalítico o fisiológico.
De vez en cuando, las opiniones de Vincent en temas marginales a éste son lamentablemente estereotipadas: parece aceptar una interpretación extrema de la escuela de Fischer de la culpabilidad del origen de la guerra como atribuible solo al gobierno alemán y, respecto de la fortuna de la República de Weimar, dice: “Que Alemania perdiera su oportunidad es una de las tragedias del siglo XX. (…) demasiado a menudo los viejos socialistas parecieron casi aterrorizados ante la socialización”.
El tópico de que si se hubiera socializado la industria pesada en 1919 la democracia alemana podía haberse salvado, nunca fue muy convincente.[11]Cada vez resulta serlo menos ya que la investigación empieza a sugerir que fue precisamente el sistema de Weimar de intervención masiva del estado en los mercados laborales y la extensión de las instituciones del estado del bienestar (el más “progresista” de su tiempo) el que debilitó la economía alemana que se desplomaba ante la Gran Depresión.[12]Este desplome, particularmente el asombroso desempleo que lo acompañó, ha sido considerado desde hace mucho por los investigadores como la mayor causa del ascenso nazi al poder en 1930-33.
Son sin embargo, puntos mínimos a la vista del servicio que ha proporcionado Vincent tanto el rescatar del olvido a las víctimas de una política asesina de estado y en profundizar en nuestra comprensión de la historia europea del siglo XX. Se ha producido recientemente en la República Federal de Alemania una “lucha de historiadores”sobre si la matanza nazi de judíos europeos debería considerarse como “única” o ubicarse dentro del contexto de las matanzas masivas, en concreto las atrocidades estalinistas contra el campesinado ucraniano.[13] La obra de Vincent sugiere la posibilidad de que el marco de la discusión tendría que ampliarse más de lo que haya propuesto hasta ahora cualquiera de los participantes.
Ralph Raico es miembro senior del Instituto Mises. Es profesor de Historia Europea en el Buffalo State College y especialista en la historia de la libertad, la tradición liberal en Europa y la relación entre la guerra y al aumento del estado. Es autor de The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton.Puede estudiarse la historia de la civilización bajo su guía aquí: en MP3-CD y en casete.
Esta reseña se publicó por primera vez en la Review of Austrian Economics 3, nº 1.
NOTA de Tresmontes: La versión en lengua española del post publicado por
Ludwig von Mises Institute la hemos tomado del blog FILOSOFÍA CRíTICA.

Etiquetas: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. College Finder Says:

    Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if
    you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you stop it, any plugin
    or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any help is very much appreciated.

  2. Causes Says:

    I want to show my thanks to this writer for rescuing me from
    this incident. Right after browsing throughout the the net and meeting strategies which were not helpful, I assumed my life was over.
    Existing without the presence of solutions to the difficulties you
    have fixed all through your main report is a crucial case, and the ones which might have adversely affected my career if I hadn’t discovered your web page. Your own personal capability and kindness in maneuvering a lot of stuff was very useful. I don’t know
    what I would have done if I had not come across such a solution like this.
    I can also at this time look forward to my future. Thanks for
    your time very much for your professional and effective help.
    I will not be reluctant to suggest the website to any person who requires counselling on this situation.

  3. www.childsbedsdirect.co.uk Says:

    great points altogether, you simply received a new reader.

    What would you recommend about your submit that you just made some days in the past?

    Any sure?

  4. info product killer Says:

    You have observed very interesting points! ps decent internet site.

  5. hellolosangeles.com Says:

    Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it,
    you’re a great author.I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back down the road. I want to encourage continue your great writing, have a nice evening!

  6. Gabriele Says:

    I blog often and I genuinely appreciate your information.
    Your article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your website and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.

  7. Justina Says:

    Hello! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give
    a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading
    through your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums
    that deal with the same subjects? Many thanks!

  8. Ezequiel Says:

    For most recent news you have to pay a quick visit the web and on internet I found this site as a best web site for latest updates.


Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de WordPress.com

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de WordPress.com. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Google+ photo

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Google+. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Conectando a %s

A %d blogueros les gusta esto: