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Betty Scholem on the Inflation (October 1923)

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Berlin, October 15, 1923

Dear child,

We have not yet received your second letter. Hopefully, it’ll arrive this week. Conditions have taken a catastrophic turn here. Notice that this letter cost 15 million cash; it will be 30 million beginning the day after tomorrow—and this price will most likely last a mere two days at most. Now you can get things done only with billions. To ensure that next week’s payroll will keep its value, the boys bought dollars on Friday at the (ridiculous!!) exchange rate of 1.5 billion to 1, and they’ll re-sell them on Thursday in order to pay people. For the time being, this week’s pay will be 8 billion, though we’ve had negotiations today because the workers are demanding twice that much. The bread ration card has been done away with, and a normal loaf of bread now costs 540 million; tomorrow, surely twice as much. The streetcar fare is 20 million (tomorrow it’ll be 50!). My God, you probably don’t have faintest notion of this million-fold witches’ Sabbath. You must know that we send women’s magazines to Frau Jacques Meyer. A few days ago her husband sent us a bank check for over 5 million. When we went to the bank here in Berlin to pick it up, it cost 40 million in transfer fees! I ask myself if the neighboring Swiss are indeed so ignorant of our circumstances, or if they just act that way! This small anecdote can illuminate everything. If throughout the world there is such little understanding of our plight, how can we expect that anyone will come to our aid? It seems inevitable that we will lose the Rhine and the Ruhr, that Bavaria will break away, and that Germany will once again fall apart into minuscule petty states. [ . . . ]

The Communists made their weekly visit to Erich’s. Little Edith was delightful and charming.44 She explained to everyone how she went to the hairdresser on Monday to have her hair washed and her bobbed hair set. Werner said that she would take dance lessons and attend a charm school and that he would look for a better apartment, but that he first wanted to wait for the revolution (planned for November 10!). They and his friends had to go to lunch. They ate a rabbit for 1.75 billion. Erich mentioned to me how extremely amusing, but also quite pathetic, it was to hear those politicians speak.

Kisses, Mum

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