Some Data on Conditions of Milk Supply in Central Europe, November 1, 1919



19, Bd Georges Favon

Some Date on Conditions of Milk Supply in Central Europe.

The very special significance of the milk supply in regard to health and the well-being of a population is obvious. Under normal conditions milk and cream enter into a very large part of all our food and drink from coffee, tea or chocolate to soups, vegetable dishes, cakes and desserts. To disarrange all the customs of the kitchen and the dining room by the withdrawal of this element is relatively a trivial evil although it enormously depletes the diet. Milk is not only the most complete single food; it is not only the main reliance of the doctor where waste must be repaired, especially in tuberculosis. For children who cannot be fed at the breast it is indispensable. That is, not indispensable unless there are available certain artificial substitutes, but where milk is lacking [today] these substitutes are generally lacking also, à fortiori.

There is here presented no attempt at any complete survey of the milk situation in general or in any one district. There are here gathered together only certain data, recent and trustworthy, as samples of widely prevailing conditions. The only countries from which data have been received in response to my enquiries are [page 2] Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Switzerland.

From Germany, Austria and Bulgaria came reports of actual needs. Switzerland is short of milk, suffering, among other things, from a drought during the last summer. The milk cards give ordinary people a right to buy three tenths of a liter a day but it is not always easy to find the milk to buy. Although Switzerland is herself importing condensed milk from America Dr. Henri Carrière of the Swiss Service of Public Hygiene writes that it would probably be possible to spare some car-loads for export and that a request for such assistance would be given the greatest consideration.

As regards the falling off in the supply, Stuttgart reports that it is receiving about 1/5 of its [antebellum] supply and that it is now worse ↑off↓ than at any time during the war, in quality as well as in quantity. Klagenfurt reports that since last November it has been receiving about 11% of its normal supply, Graz a little over 6%. Vienna with its over two millions of inhabitants is receiving about 72,000 liters of milk a day where it used to receive 900,000. (A liter is very slightly more than 1 quart). That is it gets for every hundred quarts it used to have it has now has 8.

Complains are made also of quality. The Stuttgart report says that the fat content has fallen and ↑that↓ the milk keeps less well, as that coming from a distance is a long time en route owing to lack of coal. In the critical days of summer ↑[illegible]↓ some 4 quarts out of ten were ↑in↓ a really good condition, making it necessary to depend for infant's milk on dairies within the city. Such dairies have to buy feed and charge proportionately more for their milk.

High prices reflect both the scantiness of the supply and the demoralized monetary conditions and often are often prohibitive for families of small means. At Munich the pre-war price was 22 pfennige [page 3] the liter, ↑it is↓ now about 60. In Stuttgart the rise is from a price of 18 or 20 up a range of from 62 to 95 pfennige.

In Austria, Salzburg reports a rise from 24 to 84 heller and in Vienna a rise of 800%, from less than a quarter crown (24 hellers) to over 2 crowns.

A fixed price of 54 pfennige and the payment of the deficit by the city is reported from Königsberg.

I have not been able to learn that Cooperative Associations have been able to do anything to help the situation.

The authorities do what they can by rationing systems to get the scanty supply to those who most need it but the temptations to both dealers and consumers to resort to illegal traffic ("Schleishhandel") is tremendous. In some cases there are arrangements for the equal allotment of milk over and above that set aside for those to whom it is most necessary but too often it is the other way and the ration is a fiction because there is not enough milk to supply even these scanty allowances to the most pitiful need. The most privileged class are infants is in some case it is provided that this means only those not breast fed. They are usually allowed a liter a day, in Königsberg 3/4 of a liter. ↑A↓ nursing mother and her baby may have, together, 1 1/2 liters in Munich, 1 in Stuttgart. The very ↑critically↓ ill may be allowed a liter, the seriously ill less or [more] none. In some place there is an allowance of 3/4 of a liter for a woman in the last 3 months of pregnancy. Old people of over 70 may be allowed from 1/4 to 1/2 a liter.

Vienna provides an elaborate scale running up to children of 6 to 14 with an allowance of 1/8 of a liter. But this is only on paper. There is generally milk for sale only to for the very little children and the ill and not always for them. For instance on the day where these data were collected the notice read that [today] there was only [page 4] 3/4 of a liter for the very youngest and none for the ill. The supply is however helped out with condensed milk furnished to children under six years but as the milk will not keep long in summer a child who is allowed 1 box of 2 liters every fortnight is not really supplied continuously at all.

In Austria it is years since there has been any milk for [well] people over 14 years old. Stuttgart reports that already in 1917-18 the supply was too scant to allow anything even to the aged or those ill in hospital or ↑to↓ the children over 14, that at that time there was enough for children under 2, pregnant women and nursing mothers but that even this is no longer [time] <true> and that the situation is worse not than at any previous time.

For other countries the information is even more scrappy.

All that we know of conditions in Hungary and especially in Budapest implies a terrible situation there. A report on hospital conditions by a Swiss nurse in the Red Cross service speaking of last July told of a hospital with 800 children, receiving daily 60-80 liters of milk "which is however sour and mixed with a preparation of white of egg." There was no children's food, such for instance as [Keebler] Nestlé's, nor the most necessary medical supplies. In June, of 920 children received, 347 died. Few women could nurse their children Most [women] were too undernourished to nurse their children. Another story of Budapest hospital conditions tells the same story of utter need.

For Serbia and Poland and [Czechoslovakia] I have no replies.

From Bulgaria where it might have been supposed that the milk situation, at least, would be vastly better, Madame Malinoff, of the Ligue Féminine, telegraphs from Sofia that there also conditions are deplorable, milk being scarce and very dear, Nestlé's condensed milk and tapioca absolutely lacking and that infant mortality is assuming [disturbing] ↑proportions↓. [page 5]

Another Bulgarian friend in Switzerland reports "Before the war Bulgarian city children had plenty of Yoghurt (Bulgarian curded milk) to eat. But the war has destroyed immense number of cattle and the little milk remaining has been absorbed by the hospitals. When I left Sofia in July, 1918, milk was not only a luxury but not to be had. Although I was dangerously ill and had milk ration cards I could not get any. My son was obliged to hunt through the cafés and restaurants and sometimes brought me a quart of a whitish liquid costing two francs, which had nothing in common with milk but the [color]! As the price of everything has now doubled or tripled, I suppose milk would be costing three or four francs a quart! The feeding of Bulgarian children in the cities is lamentable."

A Polish doctor, Dr. Marie Rusiecka, who went all through the Serbian campaign, writes as to say, that the Turkish children should not be overlooked "for the misery in those countries surpasses all imagination. It is the same in Egypt. But no one talks about these poor people, they do not count."

To turn again to Austria and Germany from which the most information has come in.

To the query as to the cause of the [deplorable] situation no one answered "War". No one thought that necessary, and the answers relate to the difference specific effects of war, blockade and [compulsory] delivering of [milk] cattle as required by the peace treaty.

The war-time food stringency led to an excessive slaughter of cattle for meat, but this was alas ↑also↓ due to the lack of feed, and notably of imported feed, which made it impossible to support enough cattle or to maintain ↑keep↓ those that are kept ↑retained↓ in a condition, in which [milk cows] can maintain the amount and quality of their yield.

Lack of interest on the part of the milk produces, Schleichhandel, foot and mouth disease, drought have added their quota to the difficulty.

Austria suffers especially from being cut off, by the new political arrangements of territory, from which much of her former supply. Of 900,000 liters which  formerly flowed into Vienna daily 142,000 came from what is now [Czechoslovakia] and [96,000?] more from Hungary. That is Vienna lost, in this way alone well over a quarter of its supply. [page 6]

Part of the difficulty is the whole derangement of the [mechanism] of exchange and of the complex interplay of give and take, especially between city and country. It is not only that the peasants lack cows to give enough ↑cows↓ milk and horses to take what they have to the railway for transportation. They do not want depreciated money, they want goods. In Austria efforts are being made to arrange for some sort of direct exchange of milk for factory products. But what of the babies meanwhile?

Perhaps the hardest thing to bear, because the most visible and deliberate deduction from the supply, is the exportation of cattle required for both Austria and Germany. It takes a heroic soul, like one of our [German] friends to cry "It is just. Our men, those we permitted to act for us, took their cattle. We must repay."

It is not necessary to insist on the effects especially the permanent effects, on the constitution of the coming generation, of this situation. The widespread lack of rice, meat, potatoes and eggs increases [illegible] the damage done. What means terrible malnutrition even of the well to do means a pitiful mortality of children.

Obviously the whole situation hands together, the lack of coal, for the trains, and of space for freight for the importation of food, the lack of goods to export and of raw materials of which to make them and the impossible rate of exchange making Austrian money practically valueless for bringing abroad.

Suggestions for remedying the situation run from a prayer to remit the obligation to deliver the required [milk] cows to a desire for more condensed milk. Our Vienna correspondent however has in substance this to say.

"Switzerland has made several free distributions of condensed milk. The American 'Hilfsaktion' has been giving help to children [page 7] since June. Irish women have just sent a most gratefully received gift of 5000 cars cans of condensed milk. But 2 million people cannot live permanently on charitable donations arriving irregularly and haphazard.

"What is needed, is an assured supply of guaranteed amounts, secured in credit.

"The question is [interdependent] ↑sent↓ with that of coal and raw materials and other foods."

And the Königsberg authorities say that the situation will be substantially improved only when the stock is restored ↑to↓ its [antebellum] standard and the necessary foreign feed can be secured. [page 8]



Letter from Dr. Henri Carrier, ↑Director↓ of the Swiss Service of Public Hygiene.


Munich. Letter from Fraulein Gertrude Bauer ↑Baer↓ with data received from Roesel, Referat fuer Milchversorgung des Lebensmittelamtes of the City of Munich, with price list and rationing list.

Stuttgart, letter from Dr. Goeser, Amtsvorstand of the Lenensmittelamt of the City of Munich.

[Köenigsberg], report from the office of the City Magistrait.

Report of Miss Jane Addams and Dr. Alice Hamilton of Harvard University on their observations on conditions in Germany in the summer of 1919.


Letter from Yella Hertzka of Vienna. Statistical data derived from figures of the Ernachrungsamt

Salzburg. Report from Franz [Neubauer], Director of the Milchstelle of the district of Salzburg.


Extract from a Report of Sister Martha of the Swiss Red Cross Service on Hospital Conditions.

Information from Madame Vajkaj, of the Hungarian Red Cross Mission in Switzerland, on the state of hospitals in Budapest.


Letter from Dr. Rusiecka.


Telegram from Sofia from Madam Makinoff of the Ligue Féminine.

Extract from a Letter from Madam Lydia Schischmanow.

QUESTIONAIRE (German version).