Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Book Review: Blockade by Anna Eisenmenger

In my study of history, I've found eyewitness accounts from those who were there to be very interesting. Blockade by Anna Eisenmenger is one such account. As recently as a year ago, the only way to get this book was through an interlibrary loan. It is now available in .pdf on the Internet. I got it from here.

Anna Eisenmenger was a middle class Austrian woman who lived through World War I and the horrific aftermath in Vienna. She obviously had some means. She knew the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, and apparently met with him prior to his trip to Sarajevo where he was assassinated, lighting the powder keg that started the war.

The book is from a series of diaries she wrote during the events. The journal starts in 1913, goes into 1914, then picks up again in 1918 and runs through 1920. She tells of the start of the war and how life was. Her pacifist husband wasn't pleased with their daughter marrying an officer, but accepted him eventually.

During the war, her husband, a doctor, literally worked himself to death. Of her three sons, one died in the war and the other two returned maimed. One survived a plane dropping a bomb, but was blinded by splinters. Another suffered a head wound that altered him permanently. He became a communist and by the end of the book was committed to an asylum. Her son in law lost both of his legs in combat.

During the war, the government imposed rations on everybody and instituted anti-hoarding laws. The rations were not enough to satisfy basic human nutritional requirements, which forced Frau Eisenmenger to break the law by purchasing off the black market and hoarding. It was the only way to survive; to become a felon.

Austria is a land-locked country. A "hunger blockade" was imposed on Germany and Austria during the war in an attempt to starve out their populations. This is just like the "economic sanctions" we impose on other nations today. In theory, it's supposed to get the population pissed off enough to overthrow their government. I have yet to find a single example from history of this working. If I've missed one, please let me know. During sanctions, the only people who suffer are people like you and me; people just trying to get by in the world. The psychopathic, megalomaniacal politicians who in theory are supposed to be affected aren't. During the sanctions against Iraq, Sadam did not want for anything. Neither does the leadership of North Korea. But the poor innocent people suffer.

This book is horrifying. Anna recounts people dropping in the street from malnutrition. Among her own family, her aunt and daughter both died during the 1918-1920 period because she could not give them enough nutrition for their immune systems to counteract disease. Her grandson got scurvy, but she was able through hard work and law breaking to give him what he needed to survive.

She tells of infants dying because not enough milk was available, and their mothers couldn't nurse due to malnutrition.

The currency inflated heavily. Her wealth lost a ton of value. Her banker counseled her to convert her money into Swiss Francs, but she plead ignorance and declined. At another point, her banker encouraged her to convert to industrial securities, which did very well, but again with currency inflation most of that wealth was wiped out by the end of the book.

To enforce the anti-hoarding laws, government agents could visit their house to inspect. They had to be let in. She got really good at hiding things. Since it was very difficult to get coal and wood, she'd built up a stash in her basement during the war. When she heard basements would be checked, she had to work all night getting the coal moved to a hiding place in her kitchen. The coal ration was not enough to heat the house at all, so she had to break the law and hoard.

All of this could happen tomorrow. That's the scariest part. This isn't some wild, one time thing from the past. You're deluded and as ignorant of history as Frau Eisenmenger was of banking if you believe that. Not that it WILL happen for certain, but it could happen. Our banking and economic policies are rushing us toward possible hyperinflation at breakneck speed. Won't take very much to push us over the cliff. The current situation in Ukraine could very well do it, if Russia, China, and Europe dump the dollar and use another currency for international trade.

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