THE WESTERN MAIL
& SOUTH WALES NEWS, April 27th, 1933
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War on Unemployment
How Germany is Helping the Workless
Magnificent Opportunity for Wales
By GARETH JONES
the war against unemployment has only recently begun. The attacks are in
isolated parts and are making slight but sure headway against the enemy.
Germany, however, the. suffering has been deeper than in this country, and the
Germans have been carrying on their battle with greater vigour.
and Germany have the same problem. Germany
has her Rhondda Valley and her Brynmawr.
Ruhr coal, iron, and steel district is now an industrial wreck compared with its
past. The unemployed workers
receive only about 4s. 6d. per week if they are young and single, and only about
11s. to 18s. if they are married and have children.
Prices are a little higher than in South Wales.
Bread, for example, is far more expensive.
The German miners have the same sorrows as the Welsh miners, but in far
the Ruhr district there is moorland which could be drained and cleared for human
settlement. Private initiative
could never make this moorland inhabitable for it could never get the necessary
capital. Thus voluntary labour has
stepped in and I5,000 men have been hard at work making the moors fit for human
voluntary labour service can be worked cheaply, providing the men with shelter,
good food, companionship, and health in camps.
It rescues these men from the apathy of worklessness, and when the
moorlands are drained homes are ready for the men where they can lead a hard,
but healthy, farmers life in the fields.
are these German camps run? During
February I visited five of them in Saxony,
which impressed me deeply. The
first camp was in the middle of the city of Dresden and was a big disused
voluntary workers’ task was to dismantle the shop.
One hundred and eighty workers had taken one of the buildings and had
turned it from a large, dirty, broken-down hall into an excellent dwelling-place
which they had artistically decorated.
They had been
remarkably clever in making use of odd material. The tiles and bricks of a dismantled building had been used
to build walls inside their hall, dividing the dwelling-places from the lecture
rooms and the kitchens. The men had taken wash-basins from old railway wagons.
They worked six hours and had lectures and games for four hours per day.
man came for five to ten months and might be replaced by another unemployed man. He received good food, two uniforms, and material for
repairing boots and clothes, attended lectures and a gymnasium, and had about 4d
per day pocket money. While in
the camp he would not receive unemployment benefit.
There were, however, a certain number of expert workers who were
receiving Trade Union wages. I was
assured that if it were not for the
voluntary labour the task of clearing the repair-shop would never have been
attempted. Thus the members of the
club were not in competition with fully paid workers.
The next camp
was in a castle in the Elbe Valley,
and was run by the military Steel Helmet organisation.
When some German officers and I entered any room the uniformed Steel
Helmets would leap to their feet, bang their heels together with a resounding
click, and stand motionless like Prussian Guards.
To questions they would reply with a sharp military “Jawohl.”
They had done excellent work in making orchards and building roads, but
their outlook was nationalistic and military.
camp was that of Baron Ropp in Berlin, and was run on Christian lines.
As its leader said: “The first duty of the Churches is towards the
unemployed. We are beginning take
religion seriously in Germany. We
are not contented with singing hymns of Hallelujah, but are trying to “make
the Gospel practical.”
what extent do these camps tackle the problem of unemployment?
They aim at saving chiefly the young workless, and last summer 290,000
men went through these camps. This
summer it is hoped that between 300,000 and 400,000 will be enrolled. Now, however, the whole system is in the melting-pot, for
Hitler is in power, and it is feared that he may destroy its voluntary basis and
make it compulsory and narrowly nationalistic.
Wales had done as much as Germany for the unemployed there would now be 300
camps here, and about 10,000 young Welshmen between 18 and 25 years of age would
be engaged at useful work, repairing boots, singing, doing physical exercise,
playing football or cricket and discussing everything under the sun.
Wales had the same system as Germany the Government would be joining in and
helping. The German movement was
first a private one, springing up spontaneously in various parts of the country.
But In 1931 the Government decided, to support the Voluntary Labour
JuIy, 1932, the Government went a step further and put the movement on a wider
basis, recognising the principle that all young Germans from 18 to 25 years of
age should be enabled to enter the voluntary labour camps it they wished to.
Thus the Government now provides funds to the extent of 2s. per day per
rough estimate is that the German Government spent in 1932 between £3,000,000
and £8,000,000 (Figure difficult to read) on this work.
It must be remembered, on the other hand, that much was saved in
unemployment benefit. With the initiating of the work itself the Government has
nothing to do, for camps are set up by bodies such as town councils, churches or
Y.M.C.A.s or clubs.
is years ahead of Wales in tackling unemployment.
Thus Wales has a chance of catching up its brother nation and perhaps of
beating Germany n the quality of work done.
The opportunity is a magnificent one, especially for the Churches.