In my last post, I wrote about Sigrid Schultz’s columns titled “From Across the Sea” and the fact that they gave me close up glimpses of life in Nazi Germany. One column that caught my attention in particular was the plan to issue “Kulturemarks” which appeared in her column on March 4, 1938–eight days before Germany marched into Austria.
Wages in Germany had remained stationary. The cost of basic necessities had increased at the same time as the quality of those goods had decreased. Not surprisingly, Schultz told her readers, workers were grumbling. Labor officials were unwilling to raise salaries because consumers would be tempted to buy more things if they had more money, which would increase “temporary shortages”* of food, textiles, and other goods. (Go figure.)
The Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda** came up with a plan. Instead of increased wages, the government would distribute Kulturemarks which could be spent on entertainment, sporting events, and culture but not on food, clothing, or other necessities. Circuses, but no bread, as it were. It was in some ways a very Nazi approach: the celebration of German Kultur was a common element of pan-Germanism in all its variations.
Another article by Schultz ran the same day. It summed up the big picture nicely: “Assurances of friendship with America, efforts to come to an understanding with England, hidden threats against Austria, and impending rupture of the stagnating German-Russian diplomatic relations marked today’s political developments in Nazi Germany.
In short, big stuff was getting ready to go down. Kulturemarks weren’t even on the radar as far as American readers were concerned. And yet, and yet, the Austrian Anschluss was only the first step in Hitler’s drive east in search of more space, food, and raw materials, which he believed were needed to make greater Germany, well, great. Kulturemarks were intended to distract German workers from the shortages behind that drive.
I don’t know if the plan came to fruition. I haven’t been able to verify it in any of my Big Fat History Books about Nazi Germany or any of my go-to online sources. Even if it didn’t, the fact that such a plan was under discussion is revealing.
*The quotation marks are hers, not mine.
** A name that I find darkly comic.