One of the stories from her childhood in Berlin that my mother told me when I was a girl was about her first taste of sweetened condensed milk. She had never had anything like it.
The milk was part of a ‘CARE Paket’ received by her paternal grandparents, Fritz and Anna Boltz, in 1947 or 1948, when she was about eight years old. She vividly remembers opening the parcels in their apartment. There were at least two packages, both gratefully received, in them sweetened condensed milk and sweetcorn in tins, and cocoa, and corned beef, which she found less interesting. My mother does not recall any of her friends’ families getting such parcels. She remembers the name ‘CARE Paket’.
CARE is a relief agency founded in 1945. The acronym was first from “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe” then, from 1993, “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere”. The CARE Package was the original unit of aid distributed by this humanitarian organization.
The first CARE packages were so-called ‘ten-in-one rations’ of the US Army during WWII, originally meant to provide ten soldiers with one meal. Each package contained:
- 9.8 pounds of meat and offal,
- 6.5 pounds of cornflakes, oatmeal and biscuits,
- 3.6 pounds of fruit and pudding,
- 2.3 pounds of vegetables,
- 3.9 pounds of sugar,
- 1.1 pounds of cocoa, coffee and other beverage powder,
- 0.8 pounds of condensed milk,
- 0.5 pounds of butter,
- 0.4 pounds of cheese,
- a pack of cigarettes, some gum
Most CARE parcels were sent to their European relatives by Americans. It seems a family would have paid $10 to send such a package (about $US143 in today’s value or $AU210). Except that they would have been from her father’s side of the family, my mother does not know anything about her American cousins.
Nearly ten million packages reached West Germany from 1946 to 1960; three million went to West Berlin, many at at the time of the Berlin Airlift, from June 1948 to May 1949, when the city was blockaded by the Soviets.
My mother lived in Zehlendorf, in the American sector of Berlin. She remembers watching the planes land during the airlift. More than 1500 flights a day landed at Templehof in the month of August 1948 alone, delivering 4,500 tons of cargo.
My mother in 1947
- “CARE’s History.” Care International, www.care-international.org/who-we-are-1/cares-history.
- A Youtube video of the memories of another CARE package recipient: https://youtu.be/e4jduR842RA
- Schaum, Marlis. “CARE Packages Prevented Starvation in Post-War Germany: DW: 14.08.2011.” DW.COM, Deutsche Welle, 14 Aug. 2011, www.dw.com/en/care-packages-prevented-starvation-in-post-war-germany/a-15313828.