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February 25, 2021

Historical Photos of Germany in the Era of Hyperinflation in the Early 1920s

During the hyperinflation in Germany of 1920s, the country’s currency, the mark, went crazy. The government of the Weimar Republic may have been able to clear its debts, but it came at the cost of the citizens’ savings. It’s an era that is still part of the national psyche today.

German hyperinflation after the First World War originated in the decision of July/August 1914 to suspend the gold convertibility of the mark and associated gold-reserve requirements. As with other hyperinflations, this one was irregular.

German wholesale prices slightly more than doubled during the First World War. By February 1920 the ratio to 1913 prices was about 17, but then fell, irregularly, to a ratio of 13 in May 1921. After May 1921 inflation resumed and between then and June 1922 average monthly inflation was 13.5 per cent; in the following 12 months it reached 60 per cent (including a short cessation in early 1923 as the Reichsbank temporarily pegged the exchange rate), and 32,700 per cent or about 20 per cent per day between June and November 1923.

The mark was stabilized in later November 1923 at one million millionth of its 1913 dollar exchange rate. Although only the period from June 1922 was ‘hyperinflationary’ (above 50 per cent per month), this period cannot be studied independently of the preceding inflationary history.

A shop owner advertises “selling and repairing in exchange for food,” one of many Germans turning to a barter economy amid hyperinflation, 1922.

Children play with virtually worthless marks, 1922.

Boys fly a kite made of banknotes, 1922.

A shopkeeper stuffs excess cash into a tea chest next to his register, 1922.

Children use bundles of banknotes as building blocks, 1923.

A 50 million mark bill, 1923.

A Berlin banker counts stacks of bundled marks, 1923.

Boys use worthless banknotes for arts and crafts, 1923.

A display of extremely high food prices during hyperinflation, 1923.

Worthless banknotes are collected to be burned, 1923.

Children stand next to a tower of 100,000 marks, equal in value to one US dollar, 1923.

A woman uses banknotes to light her stove, 1923.

“The King of Inflation,” a man clad in worthless coins, 1923.

A man uses one-mark notes as wallpaper, a more affordable option than even the cheapest rolls of wallpaper, 1923.

A one billion mark note, 1923.

(Photos: Getty Images)


  1. Your title is all kinds of wrong. Not only is it loaf instead of load but a loaf cost much more than 2000 marks. From the Wikipedia article Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic:

    A loaf of bread in Berlin that cost around 160 Marks at the end of 1922 cost 200,000,000,000 Marks by late 1923.

    1. Just edited it. And yes it rose to 2,000 Marks on this day in 1923, and then maybe to 200,000,000,000 by the end of 1923. Thanks.

    2. Still wrong according to the source that Wikipedia used:

      The table there indicates that bread was 250 marks in January 1923 and 463 marks in March 1923 so it couldn't have been 2000 marks on February 25. It wasn't 2000 marks until the summer of 1923.

    3. Vintag, even when you fix something, you screw it up! LOL!
      In the 9th pic there is clearly a loaf of bread for sale for 50,000 marks, adding to the ever-increasing discrepancies here.
      Two facts are clear however.
      Fact One, there was hyperinflation at the time, largely because the economy was collapsing.
      Fact Two, given how often the commentary is misleading and/or inaccurate, this site would be far better off if they just posted pictures and left off adding commentary entirely, including and perhaps especially, the comically ridiculous titles. A little professionalism would go a long way, but if you can't muster it up it'd be best to not say anything and let the pics stand on their own.

  2. See what social democrats can do? We can look forward to this in the US with them in charge now.




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