This is a translation of the german story
“Erinnerungen an die Schwarzmarktzeit nach Beendigung des 2. Weltkrieges”
written by Horst Hommel
My father had fled captivity in Buxtehude near Hamburg and he came to us in Wilhelmshaven after an adventurous bicycle ride. He was integrated quickly.
Before then the biggest problem for us was having enough to eat. The ration coupons didn’t help much, as lots of the products either weren’t available or were in short supply.
In order to survive we had to get involved in the black market, which was forbidden and avenged!
The so-called black market with the farmers in East Frisia could be run successfully if you had tea to trade. Black tea is still the most popular drink there! My father had discovered a source in Hamburg, where black tea could be exchanged for wood. He had got hold of the wood from the naval shipyard and transported it by lorry to Hamburg.
My father drove with me as an eleven-year-old boy, both dressed inconspicuously, on the train to Hamburg. Here we acquired several kilos of black tea.
We separated the tea into small portions, hid these in the air pockets of life jackets and put these on under our coats. Dressed with this load we took the train, unchallenged by controls, back to Wilhelmshaven. There my parents packed the tea into smaller portions of 30 or 50 grams and hid them in the door frames of our rental apartment, which had been allocated to us after being bombed out twice. With the tea we now had means of exchange for all sorts of provisions (bread, sausage, eggs, butter, bacon and also meat) which we could get from the East Frisian farmers. And so I was sent off on an old bicycle to offer the farmers 30 grams of tea for appropriate goods.
It worked very well and this source in Hamburg enabled us to improve our lives considerably, as well as those of our housemates (so that none of them revealed our secret).
The black market became an exchange base for all items, for example, cameras, clocks, jewellery, cigarettes, but also weapons like guns and pocket knives.
After the end of the war I had secretly witnessed German officers throwing a package in a ditch.
Several weeks later I wanted to know if it was still there, went to the ditch and managed to fish it out. Well wrapped up in oil-impregnated paper I found four Walter guns. I took one of them out and hid the rest back in the ditch.
In the meantime it had become known that the English occupying forces were keen on obtaining good quality German weaponry.
My father carefully offered this gun to English officers and got decent amounts of cigarettes, chocolate and other foodstuffs for it. As anticipated, the officers asked if he had more, so we got the other weapons out of their hiding place. The handing over was carried out smoothly and so our supply for provisions was well ensured.
The black market was, especially in the towns, a necessary step in survival and had really sent us into raptures.
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