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Did the Potato Famine affect Germany?

By March 20, 2014

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If it's one thing Germany is known for, it's all those many potato dishes. Dampfkartoffeln, Stampfkartoffeln, Kartoffelpuree, Kartoffelklösse, Kartoffelpuffer, Schupfnudeln, Kartoffelgratin, Roesti, Kneedeln: the list is endless. Potatoes were a big part of the diet by 1846, the year of the Irish potato famine. Did the famine reach Germany?

Yes, although the effects were not as dramatic as in Ireland*. Even the poor and the peasants had a more diversified diet than the Irish, so when unseasonal cool and rainy weather hit the whole area of Europe that summer, the potatoes died but the other crops did not. Yields of all crops were lower due to the weather and some unrest came about from the food shortage as well as a cholera epidemic, but that was put to use by the revolutionaries fomenting for a unified Germany in 1848*. This led to the very first German constitution and a very short-lived German Empire from 1849 - 1850*.

There was a potato famine in Germany during WWI. Early in the war, potato harvests were excellent, but in 1916, the potato blight fungus caused a food shortage which led to decreased military morale and took 700,000 lives in Germany. The means to fight the fungus, copper sulfate, was not being produced and used on the potato plants at the time, since the copper was being entirely used for military purposes. This famine helped pave the way for Germany's defeat*.

For more about potatoes in Germany:

*Corrected the date.

Photo of people waiting for potatoes in 1917 in Munich © Getty Images

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July 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm
(1) Joe Wachter says:

Tell us more please. The revolution fomenting for a unificatied Germany was in 1848 not 1948 as you know and I believe it was for a constitutional government and the royals where still on the divine right kick. Some of my relatives were on the loosing side and came to the US.

Joe Wachter

August 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm
(2) germanfood says:

Thanks, I corrected the date, which was a misprint. JM

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