Tuesday, August 30, 2016

World War II - Currencies of Evil and Ultimate Victory

This is the second part of my three part series detailing the World War II artifacts, stamps, coins, and banknotes in my collection. You can read Part I here which deals with artifacts, stamps, and coins, and Part II here which deals with the occupation currencies of Imperial Japan.

In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II (Sept. 2, 2015) , I wanted to share my WWII collection. As the number of living witnesses to the horrors of the war and to the ultimate victory of liberty over tyranny decline, the importance of having physical artifacts grows. Through these pieces of paper, which also managed to survive years of war and the decades that followed, we can learn about the realities of the history, politics, economics, and even the crimes against humanity that occurred.

This final post encompasses both the most horrific part of World War II, the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camp system, as well as the ultimate victory of freedom over tyranny and fascism.


Theresienstadt was a "camp-ghetto" located in modern-day Czech Republic (Bohemia) that was established on Nov. 24, 1941 and lasted until May 9, 1945, making it one of the last camps to be closed as Germany officially surrendered on May 8.

Click image for larger view.
Prior to being turned into a center of torment and death, Theresienstadt was actually a fortress that was constructed between 1780 and 1790. During World War I, many of those convicted of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria were imprisoned in the larger section of the fortress, TerezĂ­n. After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Gestapo took control of the smaller citadel on June 10, 1940 and a mere four days later the first prisoners arrived there.

Over the course of the war the camp's population fluctuated, reaching a high of nearly 60,000 (although some survivors claim it was as high as 72,000). Some 144,000 people passed through Theresienstadt and in this incredibly cramped environment, plus disease, neglect, and the ever present cruelty of the guards, it all resulted in over 30,000 deaths. It's important to remember that these deaths occurred despite the camp not being an extermination camp, but rather a ghetto and processing/transport facility. Thousands of others who were to sent from here to other camps, like Auschwitz, died as well.

Theresienstadt is rare among concentration camps because it was, for a time, used in Nazi propaganda to support the lie that Jews were only being "re-located." Even a film was made in 1944 to fool the Danish Red Cross. Life within the camp was similar to other ghettos. Daily life was generally looked after by fellow Jews (placed in their positions by the Germans). These ghetto Elders would struggle to keep the population fed and healthy, as well as work to bring some sense of normalcy and culture to the prisoners. The pianist Alice Herz-Sommer (who survived the war) preformed around 100 concerts during her imprisonment there.

To continue the fraud, Theresienstadt also saw the creation of currency for internal camp usage. Laborers were paid a meager wage and others were given 50 Kronen each month. Other ghettos and camps had their own currency, but since Theresienstadt was a "model camp", special attention was paid to the design and production of the notes.

The notes are fairly uniform in their general design, though each denomination, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 Kronen, varies in color and size. They were designed by Czech artist, poet, and inmate Peter Kien in 1942. He later died in Auschwitz in 1944.

Click on each image for a larger size.

This is the front (obverse) of the 1, 2, 5, and 10 Kronen notes. There were 2.24 million One Kronen notes, 1 million Two Kronen notes, 530,000 Five Kronen notes, 456,000 Ten Kronen notes, 319,000 Twenty Kronen notes, 159,000 Fifty Kronen notes, and 279,000 One-hundred Kronen notes printed. 

It is reported that "[t]he Nazis took elaborate steps to create the impression of a ghetto bank. They called it the Jewish Self-Government Bank (Bank of Jewish Autonomy) and the deception went as far as creating over 50,000 personal accounts, complete with monthly statements of deposits and charges..." The notes are signed by Elder Jakob Edelstein.

On the reverse we see Moses pointing the the Ten Commandments. Kien submitted the design to Reinhard Heydrich, however Moses' face was slightly changed to make him appear more "Jewish" with a hooked nose and more aged face. This final, more racist design, was engraved by Jindra Schmidt and is what was used on the notes.

Below is a close-up of the 10 Kronen note.

On the reverse side (Moses) it says, "Wer diese quittung verfalscht oder nachmacht, oder gefalschte quittungen in verkehr bringt, wird strengstens bestraft." This translates to "Anyone who falsifies or distorts or fakes this receipt, or counterfeits receipt, will be strictly punished." 

Here's the front and reverse images of the 20 and 50 Kronen notes.

It is claimed that Adolf Eichmann had Moses' hand cover up the Seventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."

Lastly is the 100 kr note. 

The Campbell Catalog pick numbers for the notes are 1 kr (#C4111), 2 kr (#C4112), 5 kr (#C4113), 10 kr (#C4114), 20 kr (#C4115), 50 kr (#C4116), and 100 kr (#C4117)

Allied Victory-Occupation Notes

After years of war, tens of millions of deaths, and countless battles, the Allied powers finally broke Nazism and liberated a continent. One of the goals of the Nazis was economic hegemony over Europe, and after each country fell to Hitler their economies were turned upside down. In the devastation left over after the war (which runs into the trillions), it was necessary for a temporary currency to be introduced for each country under Allied control. The initial idea for this currency dates to 1942.

Allied Military Currencies (A.M.C) were issued in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Japan. Unlike normal military currencies which are only for military use, A.M.C were to be used by civilians as well. I currently only have notes from Germany and Japan.

Below are German A.M.C Marks. The denominations were 1/2 , 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 1,000 Marks. They were introduced in 1944 and remained in circulation until 1948. Since Germany was divided into zones (US, France, UK, and USSR), notes were issued for each zone. They were all the same design, however, there was a prefix ID mark next to each note's serial number to designate which zone: "1" was for the American zone, "0" for French, "00" for the British, and "-" for the Soviet zone. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, there were 532,720,000 notes issued in Germany. While the BEP produced many of the various A.M.Cs, the German notes were printed by Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company in Boston to help alleviate the tremendous supply demand on the BEP..

These are the 1/2, 1, and 10 Mark notes. The Standard Catalog Special Issue pick numbers for these are 1/2 M (#191a), 1 M (#192a), and 10 M (#194a)

The reverse side of each denomination looked, more or less, the same. They all had a large "M" on the back, for 10 M and larger notes, the words "ALLIIERTE MILITARBEHORDE" (Allied Military Authority) is printed along the top.

Here's the 20, 50, and 100 Mark notes. You'll notice the size difference compared to smaller denominations. Based on the serial numbers, the 20 M note was printed for the British Zone, while the other two were made for the Soviet Occupation Zone.

The pick numbers are 20 M (#195a), 50 M (#196d), and the 100 M is (#197d).

The Japanese "B-Yen" (officially, B-type military script) was used in Okinawa from 1946 to 1958, it was then also used in mainland Japan and in Korea due to the depreciation of the "A-Yen" which existed from 1945-46. There were 331,690,000  A-Yen's produced and 311,374,000 B-Yen's.

B-Yen's were made in the following denominations: 10 sen (cent), 50 sen, 1¥, 5¥, 10¥, 20¥, 50¥, 100¥, and 1,000¥.

Here are the 10s, 5¥, and 10¥ notes. The Standard Catalog Special Issue pick numbers for these are, 10s (#63), 5¥ (#69b), 10¥ (#71).

This is the reverse side of the 10s  and 5¥ note. The others have the same designs. The exchange rate for these notes ranged from 120 to 360 yen for a US dollar.

Service personnel would often send souvenirs back home. On the back of my 10¥ note I found a hand written note that says "5:00 in American money". Given the official exchange rates, it's hard to say that this was to let those back home know that the 10 yen note was worth $5 (at the 120:1 rate, this would be worth $0.08). Regardless, it's still interesting to have.

--Jacob Bogle, 8/30/16



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