THE WESTERN MAIL
AND SOUTH WALES NEWS, February 21st, 1933
A WELSHMAN LOOKS AT EUROPE (vii)
WORKLESS MILLIONS OF
By GARETH JONES
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
The Germans still
maintain a sense of humour. In my view Germans have a tremendous capacity
for humour and joke about their troubles.
led to the following witticism. One German says: “I know how to abolish
3,000,000 of the unemployed.”
“How will you
“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
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.