During the war there was a lack of almost everything. All import of goods from the countries Germany was at war with was stopped, and in addition the German occupation force requisitioned food and equipment for their own forces.
To make sure that the available goods were distributed fairly and to avoid hoarding, the authorities introduced rationing. Sugar, coffee and flour were rationed first, and then followed all imported foodstuffs as well as bread, fat, meat, egg, milk and dairy products. In the summer of 1942, vegetables and potatoes were also rationed. Each household was given one ration book per family member – this was a kind of ticket that gave the right to buy a certain amount of a particular food item. The rations varied from age and gender and were adapted to special needs in for instance infants, pregnant women and people with hard physical work. If you were sick and had a medical certificate stating that you had a medical reason to have a special diet, you could to some extent be given extra rations of certain types of food.
The overall responsibility of the administration and implementation of rationing was under the Department of Supplies. There are extensive archives from this department. It is mainly in 1st Rationing Office/Rationing Office D and 2nd Rationing Office that you find sources for rationing issues. In the former archive you find an overview of all varieties of ration cards. There are large amounts of in- and outgoing correspondence, applications for extra rations and requests of various kinds as well as notices and circulars. In 2nd Rationing Office there is an administrative archive concerning the distribution of rationed goods to various commercial users. The material is mostly organized by industry and alphabetically by names within each industry. The archive also contains correspondence with supplying committees and information about rationing to municipalities, organized by counties.
It was very unpractical and required much organizing to operate with rationing cards. You had to bring the cards wherever you wanted to buy anything. In the shop, in a café or restaurant – without cards you didn’t get anything. The quotas were geographically restricted and you couldn’t just bring your rationing cards somewhere else. First you had to get a signature from the local supplying committee. If you went to visit your neighbor, it was normal to bring your ration. In the 2nd Rationing Office’s archive you can find correspondence with the local supplying committee regarding rationing issues.
Eventually the lack of food on the regular market was so great that it couldn’t fill the small rations you had. What was the use of meat rations if there was no meat to buy? When news came of a shop having received shipment of some sought-after food, it lead to lots of people showing up and long lines. A big part of the everyday lives of housewives was therefore characterized by standing in lines, hoping to get the ration they were entitled to. In the war archive of NTB there are many photos illustrating both line-ups and other phenomena related to the shortage of goods and rationing.
S-1316 Forsyningsdepartementet, 2. rasjoneringskontor K