“Life Simply Went On.”

The conscience that had failed so terribly ticked on as if nothing had happened. Hunger dictated the next steps and fear of socially uprooted, disoriented fellow men re-framed people’s morals. Zapp-zarapp, organized theft, trophy-hunting, Fringsing — that was the vocabulary of relativisation and self-exculpation. Fine distinctions were made between different kinds of stealing, designed to differentiate between protecting one’s own property and life and expropriating the property of others. A piece of coal was, once it had been personally claimed by someone, more protected by the collective sense of justice than when it merely lay on the freight train as the possession of some abstract institution. The person who took coal from a railway wagon was Fringsing; anyone who removed it from a private coal cellar was stealing. Post-war Germans liked to use animal imagery for their activities: the person who removed potatoes from a field was “hamstering” (stockpiling), while the person who stole them from the hoarding “hamsters” was a “hyena.” And wandering back and forth between them was the “wolf,” whose sociability one could never be quite sure of, since the “lone wolf” had just as frightening a reputation as the whole pack.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, pp. 182 – 183

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