image of a banknote, blue and yellow design with witches flying on broomsticks and goats

Currency in crisis
German emergency money 1914–1924

Exhibition / -

3 October 2019 – 29 March 2020

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Room 69a


Notgeld, or 'emergency money', from the early Weimar Republic, is a powerful illustration of the turbulent years during and after the First World War in Germany.

This exhibition reveals how this temporary currency responded to a national crisis with distinctive designs commenting on German society and politics. These range from the Turnip Notgeld lamenting the disastrous food shortage of 1917, to richly illustrated designs featuring regional landmarks and folk narratives, intended to buoy a population hungry for reassurance.

In its short lifespan, Notgeld's purpose and design changed dramatically. It was introduced as a substitute currency during a coin shortage in the First World War, with patriotic and sometimes subversive messages. Popular with German people, it became highly collectable and then, during the hyperinflation of 1923, regained its role as an alternative currency.

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In the chaotic early years of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), designs often depicted idealised views of German history and culture, as well as exciting travel advertisements, appealing to a people longing to shake off the bitter war years.

Intrinsically bound to German identity and the upheaval that followed the First World War, Notgeld is a fascinating microcosm of public feeling in post-war Germany.