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Betty Scholem on the Inflation (October 1923)

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Berlin, October 23, 1923

My dear child,

Your letter from the ninth brought enormous joy. We no longer have to worry, now that you’ve set yourself up by obtaining a position and a certain degree of satisfaction. It’s an incomparable stroke of luck to earn a living by doing what is also the substance and aim of your life. Thus, our warmest congratulations! Anyway, dealing with books is far preferable to dealing with other people: books—unlike humans—mostly give reasonable answers when queried. [ . . . ]

It’s lucky we’re in the business of printing money. Once again, we have 130 workers. With the exception of the money presses, the few customers able to pay such fantastic prices do not require much effort. By contrast, the boys are busy day and night with the money transactions. They are now more bankers than book publishers. They have to watch like a hawk in order to plan properly and to prevent the billions of paper marks, which are now their business, from disappearing into thin air. You can’t imagine how things have become! In three days the dollar has gone from 10 billion, to 18.5 billion, to 40. Bread: 900 million, 2.5 billion, 5.5 billion. The collapse has been total. Here and there plundering has flared up, but not much. The despairing women are far too weary; they put up with everything. Until now there has been no unrest, though for weeks we’ve expected it to break out at any time. [ . . . ]

Kisses, Mum

Source of English translation: Gershom Scholem, A Life in Letters, 1914-1982. Ed. and trans. Anthony David Skinner. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002, pp. 125-27.

Source of original German text: Betty Scholem and Gershom Scholem, Mutter und Sohn im Briefwechsel 1917-1946. Edited by Itta Shedletzky with Thomas Sparr. Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, 1989, pp. 84-89.

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