Gareth Jones

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  AS I was looking into a shop window in the elegant main street of Dresden I felt someone tap my elbow nervously, and, turning round, I saw a young worker, who begged shamefacedly for a little money.

“What was your work?”  I asked.

“Farm labourer,” he answered. “So I do not get any unemployment insurance.  I can get no work on the land, and here in Dresden it is terrible.  A curse seems to have come over the country.

“Go to the poor quarters here and you will see what misery is.  But we’ll get rid of it some day.  Hitler will do nothing.  He’s ranking himself with the capitalists and is just the tool of Hugenberg.  But we workers will fight to the death against him.  Berlin is Red; Dresden is going Red; the whole country is going Red.  And it is all because we can get no work.”

Unemployment and the misery which follows it are sending millions of honest German workers into the camp of the extremists.  It is arousing among the middle class in Germany burning hatred of the system under which they live.  It is creating a tense feeling that anything is better than the present distress.  Here in Dresden, which has a population of 650,000, nearly 200,000 men, women, and children depend on help from the public bodies in order to live.  In most German towns nearly one-third of the inhabitants receive what little money they have from relief and unemployment insurance.

The Means Test

If you are an unemployed young man in Germany, without family, you receive about 4s. 6d. to 5s. per week.  If you are a man with a wife you receive about 12s. per week, with from is 1s.6d. to 3s. extra for each child.  If, however, there are other resources, such as savings or odd jobs, this sum is drastically cut down, for the means test is. rigidly applied, and a very careful search is made into the amount of money which each unemployed man has.

The amount of unemployment relief depends on what the worker earned when he was in work.  If he earned £1. a week he will receive far less than the worker who earned £2 a week.  There is thus a sliding-scale.  This is fairer to the skilled labourer, who may receive nearly twice as much unemployment insurance as the unskilled.  If this system existed in Wales the skilled tin-plate or steel worker who was paid from £3 to £5 a week would, on losing his work, receive, under German conditions, from 10s. to 12s. a week, while the unskilled worker with a wage of about £2 in Wales would receive about 5s in unemployment insurance per week.  In Germany, however, wages are far lower and the worker who receives £2 10s. a week is already in the category of well-paid employ.

The unemployment benefit only lasts 38 days, after which the unemployed man has to obtain relief from the towns.  This places a tremendous burden upon the city finances, and leads many people to tremble at the thought of what will happen when the cities go bankrupt.  Cologne, for example, a city of 730,000, has to maintain an army of unemployed as large with their families as the population of Cardiff, and spend. £3,000,000 a year on this.

A Financial Mystery

It is a mystery to many how the city can find such a vast sum.  What will happen if the taxes, fail to bring in enough to pay the poor relief is the anxious question asked by all.  One distinguished leader in Saxony said to me: “God help us if the towns cannot pay the money to the unemployed.  And there is danger of this.  If that happens, we shall see anarchy.  There will be an outburst of rioting and plundering which we have never seen before.  There will hardly be a shop-window unbroken in the whole of Dresden.”

Investigations I have made into the way the German unemployed live reveal a grim picture, and one is astounded that revolutionary outbreaks of violence have so rarely occurred.  One reason for the calm and the quietness of the unemployed is probably the under-nourishment, which does not encourage energetic action.

The average unemployed family would have a budget similar to the following: The father, the mother, and the two children would receive at the most 18s a week.  Of this they would have to spend about 6s on rent.  About 2s. would be spent on coal, which leaves 10s. a week for four persons to live on.  It-should be mentioned here that prices are in most products slightly higher than in Britain.  Bread is dearer than in South Wales.  Ten shillings a week for the family means about 1s.6d. per day, to be spent, not only on food but also on light, on clothes, and on shoes.

Thrifty Housewives

A good housewife will usually divide the 1s. 6d. per day in the following way: About 4d. will go in wool, soap, repairs and extras, while she will spend is. 2d. on food.  She will prepare the following meals (the prices are for four persons): Breakfast: A couple of slices of black bread, with a weak substitute coffee.  Total cost 3½d., or less than a penny each.  Dinner: Potatoes, with cabbage or thick soup.  Bread is too dear for dinner.  Total cost 6d., or l½d. each.  Supper: Potatoes. Cost 4½d.

This family would have no milk, and meat would be rarely seen in the house.  It must be remembered, however, that the housewife in this case is economical and is receiving the full rate of relief.  If she were a good-for-nothing, or if the husband took his relief money into a public-house, the. family would be on the verge of starvation. The children, however, receive milk in school.

It would be of great interest to compare the budget of unemployed families in South Wales with this budget of a German family.

Children Hard Hit

Health, conditions among the children of the unemployed are getting worse and worse.  I have been shown the private reports of teachers and of inspectors of the homes, and they make tragic reading.  Many children cannot go to school because they have no shoes.  There is a terrible lack of bed clothing in the houses.  The children come to school in the most meager of rags, and few of them in the poorest quarters have sufficient warm clothing.  Often a child, when given a free meal, will gulp down without stopping eight large plates of soup.

Among the former proud middle class of Germany the distress is also great.  In one city I was brought into a restaurant where a free meal of a dish of soup containing pieces of sausage was being given to members of the middle class who were destitute.  It was a pathetic sight.  Young artists, teachers, professors, old factory. owners who had gone bankrupt, writers with keen intellectual faces, came in one by one for their soup.

Some of them had been wealthy, some of them bad painted well-known pictures, some of them had received rounds upon rounds of applause on the stage.  Today they are glad to have a bite of meat.  It was striking to note that they still maintained their German pride in a respectable appearance.  Each wore a spotlessly clean stiff white collar.  One never knows in Germany whether the clean, well-groomed man next to one in a bus is not on the verge of destitution.

Humour Survives

The Germans still maintain a sense of humour.  In my view Germans have a tremendous capacity for humour and joke about their troubles.

Unemployment has led to the following witticism.  One German says: “I know how to abolish 3,000,000 of the unemployed.”

“How will you do that?”

“First I should put 1,000,000 to work at painting the Black Forest white; secondly, I should make 1,000,000 build a one-way track from Berlin to Jerusalem for the Jews to go along, and the other 1,000,000 should cover the Polish Corridor with linoleum.” 

The 6,000,000 German unemployed have shown remarkable humour and courage under disastrous conditions. Unless the world hastens, however, to break down tariff walls to rescue Europe from the strangling grip of trade restrictions, and unless the mad militarist rampant throughout the globe calms down, the patience of the unemployed may come to an ends and then woe betide Europe!  








Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.


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