Urban Agriculture: A True WWII Story from Mannheim, Germany
Stollenwörthweiher community gardens, second largest garden colony in all of Germany. See map here.
My great grandfather said Hitler could just kiss his ass
By Patty Cantrell
Regional Food Solutions
Oct. 5, 2010
Patty Cantrell founded the Michigan Land Use Institute’s entrepreneurial agriculture program in 1998.
My family here in Germany, where I’m visiting this week and next, has a favorite story about my great grandfather, Karl Bader. After already fighting in World War I, he stayed on the home front during the next war, taking care of his wife and two daughters. He did the best he could with a cellar for bomb shelter and a garden for what food they could raise there in the industrial city of Mannheim on the Rhine, one of the most bombed parts of the country during WWII.
In the chaotic last weeks of the war, the Nazi government called on all the older men not yet fighting to take up arms and defend the country. The story goes that my great grandfather said Hitler could just kiss his ass, and he started planting another garden that spring instead.
I think about this story whenever I hear about urban agriculture. I think about the hunger that is so real in war, and the power of small actions people can take to keep alive and sane. This is true whether the war is the kind with bombs and dictators like my German family experienced, or the long cold race war in America that has drained its cities of investment and left so many people behind with only junk outlets for food.
My great grandfather had saved those seeds he planted that spring. There were none to buy. He also knew how to plant a garden, and what to do with the food he would raise there. Like many families, even in that densely settled industrial area, mine had a small yard behind their row house. They had always kept a garden and, before the war wiped out rations for people, let alone feed for animals, they also kept chickens, rabbits, goats, and even a pig or two at times.