Currency in crisis exhibition at British Museum


30 November 2019
The current exhibition in Room 69a at the British Museum provides an insight into the German emergency money of 1914 to 1924, also known as Notgeld, which is said to be ‘a powerful illustration of the turbulent years during and after the First World War in Germany.’

The exhibition tells the story of how the currency was a reaction to the national crisis and reveals the intriguing designs which often commented on German society and politics of the time.

Examples on show include ‘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.

A spokesperson for the Museum said:

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

'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.’

The Currency in crisis: German emergency money 1914-1924 is on until 29 March 2020 in Room 69a, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG;

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