The Hunger Plan

Remember our post from April 7, “When America Fed (and Led) the World”? (Here’s a reminder: There was a time, believe it or not, when America’s leaders and the rest of the free world cared about the hungry and homeless. It was called World War II. While engaged in a life and death struggle against intractable enemies on two fronts on opposite sides of the globe, the U.S. still mobilized a colossal rescue effort to feed, clothe and shelter some half a billion people from Spain to North Africa to China. In history’s darkest time, it was truly humanity’s finest hour…)

When America Fed (and Led) the World…

Well, from the World War II library of Luther Gulick comes this chilling counterpart, which we’ll call “When Nazi Germany Starved the World.”

While the U.S. and its allies were performing Herculean feats to save humanity, Hitler’s armies were systematically looting Europe of food to feed the Reich, consigning millions of conquered people to slow death by starvation. The grim tale is told in this 110-page book, published in 1943 by The Institute of Jewish Affairs of the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress. The authorship is interesting — Boris Shub, a prolific anti-Fascist and anti-Communist writer and radio broadcaster, and Z. Warhaftig, who appears to have been Zerach Warhaftig, a prominent Zionist leader and signer of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

Boris Shub, Prominent American Jewish Writer, Dies in New York; Was 52

The Choice, by Boris Shub

Nearly four years into the war, “Germany eats by the sweat and toil of millions of subjugated Europeans,” the book declares. Even before the invasion of Poland in 1939, Nazi bullying of its neighbors was already filling the larders of the Reich, thanks to rigged trade deals that the Germans had no intention of honoring. With the fighting, the plunder soared. From one Polish province alone, Germany took up to 800,000 tons of grain a year, more than twice all of Poland’s 1938 grain exports. In its first week of occupying Holland, German troops seized 90 percent of the country’s butter, and in 1941 more vegetables than pre-war Germany imported annually from the whole world. From Ukraine, twenty trainloads carried 10,000 tons of food to Germany daily. Local officials, farmers and tradesmen who resisted faced execution while vast populations went hungry.

Lest there be any doubt, The New York Times of Oct. 5, 1942 quoted Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering boasting: “The whole German army is fed from conquered countries.”

With evil cynicism, Propaganda minister Josef Goebbels declared in 1940: “The German people as the pivot and leader of Europe’s new era must avoid the temptation to devote their energies to the good of others.”

They succeeded.

But at home and abroad, Aryan Germans ate well.  The main Krakow newspaper of Sept. 6, 1942 carried two pages of ads for fancy dining and entertainment — by Germans, for Germans in German establishments.

Others suffered, to varying degrees. Compared to Germans, the Dutch made do with more than a quarter less meat, the French with barely half. The Jews got zero.

In the town of Avenza, Italy, in 1942, two young girls were hospitalized with poisoning after cooking and eating a long-dead cat.

By 1943, Germans were still enjoying 93 percent of their pre-war diets. Their victims, declining percentages from Czechs (83%), Belgians (66%), Norwegians (54%) and Jews (20%).

Subjugated populations survived on portions of the caloric intake afforded Germans.

Clearly, the Nazi starvation policies targeted Jews with special venom — another means of extermination. On pain of arrest, Jews were only allowed to line up for rationed food at certain hours, often when supplies had run out. Germany and Poland forbade Jews from buying meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, vegetables, flour, bread and fruit.  Many food stores were closed to Jews altogether. As an ultimate insult, Germany specifically barred the sale of pork to Jews, saying it was against their religious laws.

Using official Polish mortality statistics for 1941, the book puts the death toll of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto that year at 47,428, or one out of ten. With skeletal victims piling up, a Nazi writer scoffed, “The callousness of the Jews goes so far that they throw the bodies of their dead into the streets during the night.”

The 1943 book is necessarily incomplete. “What has happened since is cloaked in darkness and horror,” it  concludes, noting that Hitler’s SS Minister of Food and Agriculture, Herbert Backe, had come up with “the Hunger Plan” to exterminate entire subject populations. “How far that process has already progressed only the German government knows.” Now we too know. It was only the beginning.


How DID We Win the War?

Let’s take a moment to give thanks again for someone we like to call…The Man Who Loved Government.

You wouldn’t know it from today’s Washington, but there was a time when administrative know-how was prized, government was respected, and dedicated professionals worked selflessly to implement smart policies masterminded by an experienced President and largely cooperative Congress. Such was the case during World War II when victory or defeat hung by the slenderest of threads. Luther Gulick and Bernard Baruch were among those experts and without their organizational savvy we might now all be speaking German or Japanese — or more likely, not be speaking at all.

Baruch served in a variety of roles as a trusted Roosevelt trouble-shooter. https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/library/alumni/online_exhibits/digital/2008/bernard/exhibit1.html

Gulick supervised the War Production Board, smaller war plant production and a vital agency of refugee relief that provided life-saving food, clothing and shelter to some half billion war refugees. https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ipaprocessing/2017/04/when-america-fed-and-led-the-world/ He also worked on issues of war reparations from Germany and Japan and surveyed the evidence against Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.

Gulick’s copy of the Nuremberg courtroom layout

But one of his greatest contributions came shortly afterwards when he published a slim volume based on a series of lectures in 1946 at the University of Alabama. The 1948 book, “Administrative Reflections From World War II,” might have been titled, “How and Why We Almost Lost the Most Terrible War in History But Pulled Off  the Greatest of Victories.”

In a nutshell, Gulick found that Democracy, uh, trumps Totalitarianism. You might think that in a contest between unruly democracies and single-minded dictatorships, democracies would lose, but you would be wrong, of course. Gulick showed why.

His story begins with Europe already at war and the U.S. torn over jumping in to aid our allies, or opting for “America First” and staying out of it. Roosevelt tried to prepare, appointing two leading Republicans as secretaries of War and Navy and, on the advice of Einstein and other top scientists,  ordering a top secret effort to build an atomic bomb. Congress boosted defense spending.

After Pearl Harbor, Congress which had barely voted to extend the draft (it won by a single vote) declared war on Japan with only a single dissenter — pacifist Jeanette Rankin from Montana,  the first woman to hold national office in America. Roosevelt demanded 60,000 planes, 45,000 tanks, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns and 8 millions tons of shipping, and government bureaucrats and corporate industrialists rushed to comply. Soon there were more factories and shipyards than could be staffed or supplied, and the process had to be administratively reorganized. Wages and prices required emergency stabilization. Thanks to some key victories in the Pacific and the fierce Soviet resistance that stopped the Germans at Leningrad and Stalingrad, the tide of battle turned in 1943, although the most savage fighting lay ahead. The biggest limiting factor in the war effort: getting enough manpower.

The story broke down into four chapters, Gulick wrote: 1: the opening chaos and imminence of defeat; 2: the little-understood interplay of military, social, political, economic and personality factors; 3: the forging of successful working relationships; and 4: the extraordinary unity and power of the usually individualistic American public.

Ever the passionate chartist, Gulick provided a diagram of all the needed wartime resources (manpower, factories, science etc.), when they were brought on line month to month, and through what alphabet soup of agencies.

Gulick then drew some lessons: In wartime, resources are strictly limited. But they are intermutable — they can be shifted around. This requires administrative know-how, manpower and time. Still there were major failures. The U.S. ignored the lessons of WWI and did not mobilize in time. Military intelligence was poor. Supply and production problems abounded — nobody had an idea of what would be needed and how it was to be provided. The same for raising an army — suddenly up to 15 million men (and soldiers were men then) were needed, along with plans on how to de-mobilize after the war. Internationally, the U.S,. had only a spotty idea of how to reshape the post-war world, jeopardizing the fruits of victory.

On the plus side — victory. From 1940-44, America put together the greatest fighting force in history, a triumph of the singleness of command. The U.S. created a vast transport system and unparalleled war production. Public opinion was marshaled without surrender of notable liberties (with the significant exception of the shameful confinement of Japanese-Americans). The standard of living was maintained and scientific research, particularly military, fluorished. And new government machinery, notably the United Nations, emerged.

Finally, Gulick concluded, “the American governmental system was found to be fully adequate for the management of the  war.” The mission was properly defined to guarantee enthusiastic public support. Good administration translated purpose into action. Coordination with allies, with civilian industry, with all government agencies, was a crucial element in victory. Good planning produced successful operations. Knowing when and how to decentralize decision-making was likewise vital.

But the biggest advantage of America was what the Axis thought would be our downfall — our addiction to comfort and aversion to sacrifice, our moral and ethical code, our divisions as a polyglot society and the competing interests of capital and labor. Whereas the dictatorships with their single leader unbound by the distractions of democracy could act with vigor and dispatch. But in the end, there was no one to tell Hitler or Tojo when they were going disastrously wrong.

“The greatest superiority of the free peoples, however, arose from two things,” Gulick wrote: “the superiority of their broad plans and their elasticity, their quickness to change in the face of need. I think it requires no argument to show that these two superiorities spring directly from the democratic process. Broad plans are more valid when they have been subject to to the kind of review and criticism which democracy alone affords. Broad plans which are hatched in secret by a small group of partially informed men and then enforced through dictatorial authority contain fatal weaknesses until too late.”



On your vacation list of California must-sees (before Disneyland): the Standard Oil refinery in Richmond. Credit: Richmond Public Library


Say you’re a hardworking member of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research 103 years ago. You’re ready for a summer vacation. What do you do to take a break from work?

Naturally, you work.

Sure, you’re away to have fun. But don’t forget to take the opportunity to “broaden your civic outlook.”

One of our indefatigable team of techies, Sarah Rappo, came across this charming advisory while digitizing records of the BMR, its successor Institute of Public Administration and visionary leader Luther Halsey Gulick III as part of our Carnegie-funded project to preserve and promulgate our collection on  civic reform in America.

The weekly bulletin for June 20, 1914 began like this:

So if you were vacationing in Baltimore,  you might see police officers like these:

Neat? Alert? Courteous? You be the judge.

Other things to keep an eye (and ear) open for: pollution, livery stables, street musicians and factory whistles.

Are there rest rooms and comfort stations? (Not in 2017!) Stray dogs? Mosquitoes? Newsstands? (What’s a newsstand, mommy?) How about playgrounds?

Maybe that’s what influenced future NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses when he and Gulick were classmates at the BMR’s Training School for Public Service in 1916?

Now, bring all that good information back home.


Hottest Ticket on Broadway — The Budget!

So we now have President Trump’s first budget, weighing in at $4.1 trillion. Medicaid, food stamps, health care are up for big cuts. Defense spending would rise. One thing all sides agree on: it won’t pass as proposed. It’s the beginning, not end, of the process. Which is as it should be. The budget is, after all, a fiscal blueprint of the society we wish to be, or can afford to be. If we can’t agree on those, how can we easily agree on a budget?

Jim Bourg/Reuters

Let’s talk a little history. Budgeting didn’t emerge as a discipline until the early 20th century. Before that, government officials just spent (or mis-spent) what they wanted, often on cronies, and then tried to figure out where their operating and capital funds would come from. According to a 2008 scholarly survey by Baruch’s own Public Affairs Prof. Daniel W. Williams and Mordecai Lee of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the three pioneers of American urban reform, William H. Allen, Henry Bruère and Frederick A. Cleveland were among the earliest advocates of budgeting. The so-called ABCs went on to found the New York Bureau of Municipal Research that became the Institute of Public Administration. https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ipaprocessing/2014/12/how-it-all-began-with-a-scandal-of-course/

The trio seemed aware of a groundbreaking exhibit on budgeting in the jewel box Saxon city of Dresden in 1903. Within five years, budget exhibits began cropping up in American cities.  In 1908 New Yorkers thronged a two-week budgeting show in the City Investing Building at 165 Broadway that included discussions with city officials.

By 1916, the Bureau of Municipal Research had psyched out the budgeting process, noting how the proposed budget was intended to stir controversy by drawing fire from opponents, in order to expose their arguments.

Indeed, the BMR went on, the treasurer presenting the budget “shells the ranks of the opposition to locate their batteries; to get those who had taken sides against the government to fire off all the ammunition which accumulated since the last meeting of the assembly.”

So, now, a century later, get ready for the 2017 budget firefight.

Meanwhile, see what an engaged citizenry back then looked like, from the archives of the New York Public Library:

We located more images of the budget exhibits at the New York City Department of Records:


The New York City Public Design Commission has its own archives:

Art Commission display, New York City budget exhibit, 1911

Album description

The New (And Truly Great) Deal

We never miss a chance to learn more about The New Deal, and the program May 11 at Roosevelt House, the Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, was everything a history buff would relish. For one thing, it featured one of the reigning experts on FDR, William Leuchtenburg, going strong at 94, with some two dozen books to his credit including his 1958 classic, “The Perils of Prosperity.” (We were privileged to be instructed by Prof. Leuchtenburg at Columbia Journalism School in 1963-4, when he was a mere stripling of 40, and we were even merer.) Here he is at his last academic redoubt, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he is now the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History. http://video.unctv.org/video/2183781430/

The occasion was the unveiling of Roosevelt House’s latest exhibit, “The New Deal in New York City” which will be up until Aug. 19. Displayed are posters, murals, photos and books, all telling the story of how FDR’s program to pull America out of the Great Depression played out in the nation’s greatest city. Much of the New Deal planning, in fact, went on here at Roosevelt House, 47-49 East 65th Street, where Franklin and Eleanor lived from 1905-34. http://www.roosevelthouse.hunter.cuny.edu/house-history/

Perhaps the best part of the exhibit is the colorful map highlighting dozens of the hundreds of public works and art projects, particularly murals, that The New Deal brought to NYC between 1933 and 1942.


We were especially delighted to see we made the list with our Baruch College Administration Center (P) at 135 East 22d Street.

(Little side story here: In 2015 we discovered that the building had been converted from a Family Court built in 1940 — and still contained a holding cell with barred windows used today as a student tutoring center! We wrote that up for The New York Times. )


The May 11 program at Roosevelt House, curated by Deborah Gardner and hosted by its director, Harold Holzer, the prodigious Lincoln scholar, featured a panel discussion with Roosevelt experts. Besides Prof. Leuchtenburg, they were: Owen Gutfreund, Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College; Richard Walker, Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley; Marta Gutman, Professor of Architectural and Urban History, City College; and Ira Katznelson, President of the Social Science Research Council and Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.

Prof. Leuchtenburg told of having been invited to Moscow for a symposium on The New Deal, which the Russians found a worthy role model. Upon arrival, he was notified that the keynote speaker was unavailable — he would be the keynote speaker. With no notes or prepared talk, he panicked. He saved the day, he recalled, by taking his audience on an improvised tour of America via the great legacies of The New Deal — from LaGuardia Airport, Triborough Bridge, FDR Drive and Lincoln Tunnel, to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the great Western dams and California coastal highway.

The Works Progress  Administration is credited with building at least 5,900 schools; 9,300 auditoriums, gyms, and recreational buildings; 1,000 libraries; 7,000  dormitories; 900 armories; 2,302 stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers; 52 fairgrounds and rodeo grounds; 1,686 parks covering 75,152 acres; 3,185 playgrounds; 3,026 athletic fields; 805 swimming pools; 1,817 handball courts; 10,070 tennis courts; 2,261 horseshoe pits; 1,101 ice-skating rinks; 138 outdoor theaters; 254 golf courses; and 65 ski jumps — at a cost, in today’s dollars, of some $186 billion.

You can find all The New Deal projects here: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/resources/newdealprojects.html#

Turns out that the Roosevelt House program was just the kickoff for a whole panoply of celebrations of The Living New Deal in New York. Next up is a forum at the Museum of the City of New York on May 18. http://njfac.org/index.php/living-new-deal-new-york-city/