There was a time when an average German carried billions of marks in their pockets but could still buy nothing. A loaf of bread cost 200 billion marks. A week’s pension would not buy even a cup of coffee. The mark was freefalling and its value decreasing by the minute. Restaurants stopped printing menus because by the time the food arrived the price had gone up. One guy drank the first cup of coffee at 5,000 marks. The second cup cost him 9,000 marks. The stories from those days were horrifying and amusing at the same time. One boy was sent by his mother to buy two bread buns. He stopped on the way to play football, and by the time he got to the shop, the price had gone up, so he could only afford to buy one. One man set out for Berlin to buy a pair of shoes. But when he got there, all he could afford was a cup of coffee and the bus fare home.
The absurd situation began sometime around the middle of the First World War, when the German government decided that instead of using the taxpayer’s money to fund the war they would simply borrow money from other nations. The Germans were confident that they would be able to pay off the debt once they won the war by seizing the resource-rich industrial territories and imposing reparations on the defeated Allies.
But the plan backfired. Germany lost the war and ended up with massive debts. In addition, the Treaty of Versailles imposed Germany a huge fine of 132 billion marks (or $31.4 billion) as reparations for causing loss and damage to the Allies on account of the war. In order to pay off the debts, the government turned to deceit—they began to print money, and used it to buy foreign currency, which was then used to pay reparations. Soon there was too much money chasing too few goods and inflation spiraled out of control.
At first, inflation crept up slowly—from 4.2 marks per dollar before the war to 48 marks per dollar when the treaty was signed. Then it accelerated rapidly. In the first half of 1922, the mark was at 320 marks per dollar. By the end of the year, it had fallen to 7,400 marks per US dollar. Eventually, the mark touched a mind-boggling 4.2 trillion marks to one US dollar.
Employees brought suitcases and backpacks to work on payday to collect their wages, and then dashed off to the nearest shop before the exchange rate changed. Banknotes of higher and higher denomination started turning up every few weeks. When the 1,000-billion mark note came out, few bothered to collect the change when they spent it. The hyperinflation peaked in October 1923 and banknote denominations rose to 100 trillion mark. The currency had lost meaning.
People stopped dealing in cash and started bartering instead. Many doctors insisted on being paid in sausages, eggs, coal, and the like. People exchanged a pair of shoes for a shirt, and some crockery for coffee. There was widespread economic panic and mistrust. People began to live as if there were no tomorrow. Dancehalls and strip bars opened up in the cities, and cocaine sales skyrocketed.
Strangely enough, goods were not in short supply. There was simply no stable currency to buy them with. The only objects of real value were tangible assets—diamonds, gold, antiques, and art. Soon the country crumbled into petty thievery. People began stealing anything—soaps, hairpins, copper pipes, gasoline.
It was clear than a radical monetary change was needed to halt the permanent depreciation and return to a more ordered state of affairs. In late 1923, the mark was replaced by a new currency—the Rentenmark, which was backed by mortgages on agricultural and industrial land. The value of the Rentenmark was fixed at the old exchange rate of 4.2 Rentenmark for one US dollar.
Germany limped back to normalcy but the country was never the same again. Lost savings were never recovered, “nor were the values of hard work and decency that had accompanied the savings,” wrote George J.W. Goodman, the American author and economist. “There was a different temper in the country, a temper that Hitler would later exploit with diabolical talent.”
Pearl S. Buck, the American writer, who was in Germany in 1923, wrote:
The cities were still there, the houses not yet bombed and in ruins, but the victims were millions of people. They had lost their fortunes, their savings; they were dazed and inflation-shocked and did not understand how it had happened to them and who the foe was who had defeated them. Yet they had lost their self-assurance, their feeling that they themselves could be the masters of their own lives if only they worked hard enough; and lost, too, were the old values of morals, of ethics, of decency.
The 100 trillion mark banknote. Photo credit: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.
and, A Berlin banker counts stacks of bundled marks.
Source….Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com
We use phrases, expressions, and proverbs on a daily basis when conversing with each other. Whether you’re at home, hanging out with some friends, or at work, chances are that you’ve uttered one of the phrases below more than once in your life. But, do you ever stop to think about what these expressions really mean? Where they come from? The answer to this is probably no, so let’s take a look at 8 common phrases and learn where there came from.
1. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs
Houses used to have thatched roofs. These roofs had thick straw piled together to form a ceiling, but there was no wood underneath.
So how did this phrase come about? Well, according to a popular theory, on cold nights, animals such as cats, dogs, mice, and rats would climb onto these roofs in order to have a warm place to sleep. Unfortunately, when it started to rain, the thatched roofs got so slippery that cats and dogs would slip and fall off the roofs. Therefore, when it rained heavily, it would literally rain cats and dogs (and whatever other animals were on the roofs).
2. Mad as a Hatter
The average person will probably tell you that this famous expression comes from Alice in Wonderland, but they’d be sorely mistaken. The Mad Hatter character isn’t the reason you use this phrase when describing someone who has lost their mind.
The true origin goes back to the days when actual hatmakers used mercury to construct their hats. The mercury poisoned the hatmakers and affected their nervous systems. Mercury causes aggressive, heavy mood swings, and erratic behavior and, as a result, “mad hatter’s disease” became the nickname for mercury poisoning, and the expression has been popular ever since.
3. Cat Got Your Tongue?
This is often used when someone is silent or at a loss for words. Surprisingly though, it has nothing to do with cats. In the English navy, punishments were handed out in the form of a flogging, which was carried out with a whip known as a cat-o’-nine-tails.
This was a formidable weapon, and the pain from being flogged by it was so bad that it caused its victims to go mute. They would often be afraid to speak and would often remain mute for a long time after a flogging.
Drunken navy sailors would then walk around shouting, “Cat got your tongue?” as a way of taunting the victims. So, next time you’re rendered speechless because someone made a really good point, remember that it could be a lot worse.
4. Bring Home the Bacon
There are a number of theories as to where this phrase comes from, but the two most popular include pigs.
According to one theory, this phrase comes from winners at state fairs bringing home the greased pigs they caught in competitions. However, the more popular theory is that highly successful men back in the day would buy pork, cook some bacon, and then hang it on their walls when they had guests over. This showed everyone how successful the men were. Walking into a man’s house and seeing bacon hanging on the wall meant that he was to be respected. In this particular case, bringing home the bacon was the ultimate sign of power and class.
5. Eat Crow
Usually, we have to “eat crow” when we’ve been proven wrong after taking a strong stance on something.
The expression originates from where you’d expect. Crow meat tastes bad and is hard to swallow. The simple connection to this term can start and end here, but there’s an even more interesting origin story.
Back in 1812, an American accidentally went hunting across British enemy lines. The US soldier was caught shooting and killing a crow by a British soldier. As punishment, the British soldier, after praising the American for his accurate shooting, tricked him into giving up his gun.
Now armed, the Brit pointed the gun at the American and forced him to take a bite out of the crow. After the American complied, he was given back his gun. Angered, the American then turned the gun on the British soldier and forced him to eat the rest of the bird.
6. On Cloud Nine
It’s often thought that this is a reference to Heaven, but this is not true.
According to one known origin of this expression, one of the classifications of clouds, defined by the US Weather Bureau in the 1950s, is known as “Cloud Nine.” This is a type of fluffy, cumulonimbus type of cloud.
So, what makes this cloud so special? Well, this cloud is considered to be the most attractive in the cloud community, which is what gives the phrase it’s positive connotation.
7. Crocodile Tears
For those who may not know, this expression refers to someone who is faking crying or pretending to be upset. When they do this, they are said to be shedding crocodile tears.
Did this phrase come about because crocodiles never cry? Well, no, the origin is a lot more interesting than that. In an ancient anecdote, Photios claimed that crocodiles cry to strategically lure their prey closer to them. When the prey is close enough, the crocodiles drop the act and go in for the kill.
8. Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater
This strange expression goes all the way back to the 1500s. Believe it or not, but people in the 16th century only bathed once a year, and to make matters worse, entire groups used to bathe in the same water.
The men would go first, then the women, and then the children and babies went last. The water was so dirty by the time the babies got in, that they often came out clouded. Sometimes, mothers had to make sure that the babies weren’t literally thrown out with the dirty bathwater.
The phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” now means that you should make sure you don’t throw out anything valuable while getting rid of unnecessary things. Nothing is more valuable than a newborn baby, so the phrase still rings true even to this day.