An article in Freiburg's Sunday newspaper recalled the 200th anniversary of Europe's greatest famine causing the death of 200,000 people and described the situation in Switzerland and Germany's southwest. For the impact of the weather anomaly on North America consult Wikipedia.
Indeed the situation in Baden and Switzerland in 1816 was catastrophic, with constant rain up to the beginning of May and a midsummer with hailstorms and temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius. Until the end of April there was not a single day where when planting was possible, it was too cold for potatoes, fruit, and vegetables and in August a single hailstorm destroyed the pathetic crop entirely.
|Food prices soared in 1817 (©Gustave Graetzlin/Wikipedia)|
|©Toggenburger Museum, Lichtensteig|
Lord Byron wrote the poem Darkness while he was in Geneva in 1816:
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went and came, and brought no day.
It was a bad time for a Europe still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars. In the winter of 1812/13 Freiburg in particular had to cope with allied troopes and their horses on the heels of Napoleon moving through the Breisgau at a rate of up to 20,000 per day eating up all the supplies.
Now in 1817 people wanted to leave Baden. In the vicinity of Freiburg nearly 14,000 Breisgauers sold their possessions for a ship passage to America. How many arrived? Some of them became victims of trafficking and eventually found themselves lost in Amsterdam without money and tickets.
Stories that refugees can tell have not much changed since then.
P.S.: 100 years ago during the last year of the First World War people not only in Germany's southwest but all over the country were hungry too.