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German History in Documents and Images
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Wallpapering with Worthless Banknotes (1923)
With the onset of hyperinflation in the summer of 1922, Germany’s economic situation went from bad to worse. In January 1923, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr in an effort to force Germany to meet its reparations obligations. The German government declared a policy of passive resistance. It subsidized enterprises, owners, and workers, exacerbating the hyperinflation even as the Ruhr’s industrial economy ground to a halt. The government had neither the gold reserves nor the real economic production needed to meet its obligations. But it did have printing presses, which it used with abandon. Paper notes became worthless as soon as they were printed. On November 2, 1923, the Reichsbank issued the first 100-trillion-mark note. By the end of the month, 1 U.S. dollar was worth 4.2 trillion marks. Photographer: Georg Pahl.