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Information on the Public Mood with Regard to Provisioning in Berlin and the District of Potsdam (May 19, 1961)

A few months before the closure of the inner-German border and the building of the Berlin Wall, the supply situation in East Berlin and Potsdam came in for serious criticism, once again, from the population. The situation had temporarily improved at the end of the 1950s, but by 1961, the public was finding it difficult to obtain even some basic staples, because the forced collectivization of agriculture in 1960 had led to serious supply bottlenecks. The situation was made worse by the fact that, in Berlin, East German farmers took advantage of the relatively open border and sold their goods for higher prices in the western sector of the city.

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The Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, Sect. Party Organs

Berlin, May 19, 1961

I. From many industrial enterprises and residential areas of Berlin, there is growing public criticism regarding the shortcomings in the provisioning of food and industrial goods.

In many HO [Handelsorganisation], Konsum, and private stores, no bread and sometimes no rolls are available by the late afternoon, especially on Fridays and Saturday evenings.

This shortage occurs not only before holidays. In some residential areas in Lichtenberg, Treptow, Köpenick, Friedrichshain, Pankow, and Weißensee, this situation has been going on for weeks in some cases.

The offices of a few KL have dealt with this issue. The office of the KL Prenzlauer Berg has noted that “the capacity of the VEB Aktivist is fully utilized and that workers in the enterprise are putting in a large workload for the bread supply. But the shortages have occurred because the private bakers have increasingly scaled back or stopped baking bread and are now producing above all fine pastries, cakes, rolls and so forth.”

In a circular dated April 24, 1961, the Purchasing and Delivery Cooperative of Bakers and Confectioners asked that a sufficient amount of bread be baked ahead for the holidays from May 1 to Pentecost. At the same time, it announced that the VEB Aktivist and the Konsum wholesale bakery are in a position to deliver bread to the bakers in an emergency. However, this measure was supposedly not agreed upon with the two enterprises. A large number of bakers have taken advantage of this hint.

The 1st District Secretary in Prenzlauer Berg, Gen. Kropius, and the chairman of the council of the city district, Gen. Hilbert, explained that they had personally observed in the expansion enterprise that tons of ribs, shins, and pig heads (with and without cheeks) were lying around and were not being sold, because some retail stores are not taking the cheaper meats.

The provisioning with butter is being disrupted by two phenomena. First, in many stores the butter is rancid, and second, some of the stores in which shoppers are signed up already close at around 3:00-4:00 pm, so that many get no butter.

At the same time, comrades of the municipal administration point out that according to a preliminary survey, about 100,000 more people are entered on the customer lists than there are inhabitants.

At times, there is no beer, no non-alcoholic drinks, no white wine, and no liquor in many stores and taverns. Salespeople in Lichtenberg told comrades: “You should really know that only the larger taverns are still being supplied with white wine.”

In the Hotel Albrechtshof, where, among others, West German and foreign guests stay, neither beer nor soda was available for six days. So far, people point merely to a labor shortage in regard to this matter. Great shortcomings exist in the trade of industrial goods in many areas (e.g. textiles, ready-to-wear clothes, shoes, glasses, and so forth).

The shortage of detergent has caused great displeasure among some members of the population. In a soap store in Karlshorst, one female customer said: the Second World War also started with this.

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