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Food - Weapon of Conquest is a 22-minute 1941 Canadian documentary film, made by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) as part of the wartime Canada Carries On series.[2] The film was directed and produced by Stuart Legg. Food - Weapon of Conquest shows the Food shortage in Nazi-occupied countries in the Second World War, contrasted with the Allied response to the global food crisis. The film's French version title is Une armée marche sur son estomac.


During the Second World War, food has become a weapon of war, validating Napoleon's adage that "An army moves on its stomach." In Allied nations such as the United States and Canada, vast reserves of farmland have to be harnessed to meet the needs of the war effort. While rationing is still in place in Canada for civilians, the food produced in the Prairies have been made available to the overseas military forces.

In other Allied nations, food scarcity is a daily misery.

During the First World War, Germany was confronted by wide-scale shortages in food, leading to a breakdown in the will to fight. Hunger brought about Germany's collapse, and the vivid memories of the time of deprivation led to the rise of the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler.

During the inter-war years, Nazi Germany used a frugal "guns or butter" policy, with food producers ordered to assist the war aims of the Nazi government. New uses for food products included fat as a component for high explosives, apples to be turned into synthetic fuel and milk made into lubricating oil. German scientists created other synthetic items include a soy substitute for meat, with the purpose of making the nation self-sufficient in food.

In Italy, self-sufficiency in food is also a goal for the Fascist regime led by Benito Mussolini who attempted to re-establish Italy's former glory. His efforts to reinvigorate the nation began with a campaign to increase its population, necessitating a tripling of food production.

The food shortage in Nazi-occupied countries is mainly the result of a strategic policy, the Hunger Plan (Der Hungerplan also Der Backe-Plan). The objective of the Nazi Hunger Plan was to inflict deliberate mass starvation on the Slavic civilian populations under German occupation by directing all food supplies to the German home population and the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.

Other conquered lands such as Greece and France also face drastic shortages of food.

The wartime leaders of the Western world also have to face the challenge of feeding its own people, and during the postwar years, the inevitable need to feed hundreds of millions across the globe.



Typical of the NFB's Second World War documentary short films in the Canada Carries On series, Food - Weapon of Conquest was made in cooperation with the Director of Public Information, Herbert Lash.[3] The film was created as a morale boosting propaganda film.[4] Food - Weapon of Conquest was a compilation documentary that relied heavily on newsreel material including "enemy" footage, in order to provide the background to the dialogue.[5] [1]

The deep baritone voice of stage actor Lorne Greene was featured in the narration of Food - Weapon of Conquest. Greene was known for his work on both radio broadcasts as a news announcer at CBC as well as narrating many of the Canada Carries On series.[6] His sonorous recitation led to his nickname, "The Voice of Canada", and to some observers, the "voice-of-God".[7] When reading grim battle statistics or narrating a particularly serious topic, he was known as "The Voice of Doom".[8]


Food - Weapon of Conquest was produced in 35 mm for the theatrical market. Each film was shown over a six-month period as part of the shorts or newsreel segments in approximately 800 theatres across Canada. The NFB had an arrangement with Famous Players theatres to ensure that Canadians from coast-to-coast could see them, with further distribution by Columbia Pictures.[9]

After the six-month theatrical tour ended, individual films were made available on 16 mm to schools, libraries, churches and factories, extending the life of these films for another year or two.

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