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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Privat-Leben einer Rationonskarte

By "Emi Gre"

The Magpie, Winter 1942, v. 26, n. 1, p. 12.

I am a German ration-card, divided into many different sections, each one of which represents the right to buy the amount of food printed on my face. Let me make this explanation clearer. If you wish to purchase one quarter of a pound of bread, you must separate from me the section reading "125 g. Brot," give it to the baker together with money, receive the bread without complaining about its quality, and scram. Don't let the baker see you again that day.

My private life? Well, I tell you, for political reasons I am forbidden to talk about certain phases of it, but now that you have promised me not to divulge my secrets, I may as well talk. I am printed in government laboratories in huge masses. Naturally, I sometimes fall down, and nobody knows where I land except the printer and his relatively well-fed family. That, however, is beside the point just as much as is the fact that those employed as distributors to the people are seldom hungry.

Life really begins for me when I am handed out to the public. Now, it's not as simple as I described it a short while ago. True, that section entitles you to buy 125 grams of bread, but suppose the baker—and he is the only one who may serve you since you registered with him—has sold out. Unless you can either offer him a little extra money, say five Marks per loaf, or threaten to have him arrested for an unpatriotic remark his wife made to your sister-in-law three years ago, you are out of luck. Should you be in a position to do either, he will probably recall having left some bread under the counter about which he had forgotten.

From time to time my face is changed. Only last week one butter section was omitted when I was printed. but, as Propaganda-Minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels informed you, butter tends to fatten people, and fat people are short-lived. Another measure to guard the health of the German nation was the cutting of wheat bread rations to a minimum; it is better not to have any bread at all than to spoil one's stomach and teeth by chewing and swallowing soft stud. Soap takes the natural. protective film from your skin; moreover, when you go out after washing, your hands will only become dusty all over again. This reduction, therefore, is justified. You ask whether the people believe that these cuts are of beneficial nature? Yes, many of them actually do. They know there is enough food on hand, not from their own experience, but because they have seen motion-pictures, read newspaper articles, heard radio talks showing and describing huge storage houses merely being kept "for later."

On the other hand. potato and pickle rations are often increased during harvest time. The German housewife then is urged to take advantage of their nourishing value by using them in all sorts of combinations for meals: there is potato-soup with pickles. pickle-soup with potatoes, mashed potatoes, chopped pickles, or, here is something different; sour pickles, ice-cold, filled with warm, sweet potatoes. Recipes are to be had free.

I am free for the average family, but I have a cousin, the Kleiderkarte, which is issued only to Aryans, and even they must apply for it. It entitles the lucky owner to buy a very small quantity of clothes a year. Gentlemen, formerly reluctant to marry, need no longer hesitate because of fears of their wives' demands for luxurious wardrobes.

Business in big cities seems to go on as usual. Department stores are crowded with apparent buyers who, thanks to the Fuehrer's excellent organization, are permitted to look at products just as they did before the war. Let me give you just one bit of advice on shopping in general. Wherever you see a crowd, get in line on principle. Sometimes at eight o clock in the morning such a crowd begins to stand around an empty space waiting for the vegetable man who is expected to hold his sale there at ten. Politely push your way to the front. The man's supply is so limited that he will have sold out in five minutes without having served the majority of these patient waiters.

Jews? Why should I serve Jews? They are only a minority, they cannot do anything against me. That is what my printer taught me when he stamped a big "J," for Jude (Jew), on my face. That time my owner was a Jew, he could not use me very well; Jews may shop only during certain hours in the afternoon when everything is sold. No, sympathetic Aryans cannot buy for them in the morning because the big red "J" reveals the true owner.

Two kinds of people try to get along without me: those who received an unjustly small quantity of cards and those wasters to whom no life is luxurious enough. Both resort to "Schwarzhandel" or, to use an American idiom, bootlegging. For an article which, bought legally, would cost 50 marks, they are charged 100 marks. Thus, an egg may cost the equivalent of one dollar, a loaf of bread five dollars. Middlemen make good profits. The first class of people mentioned is severely punished if caught bootlegging, although one cannot blame them for refusing to starve; the second, more unpatriotic, class, however, is permitted to get away with it, for who would want (pronounced dare) to punish such high Party Officials as—O, I promised my printer not to mention what I knew about Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Streicher etc.; so, I'd better be silent.

Well, my friend, I wish I could become better acquainted with you but only in a friendly way Since I hear of America's mighty war efforts, the possibilities are that you and I shall meet in one of your Museums of Curios that belong to forgotten periods in history. May that time come soon.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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