“Inflation dress” made of inflation money, c. 1923 ©Museums of the City of Hanau, Schloss Philippsruhe, Kai Jakob

Inflation 1923. War, Money, Trauma Exhibition at the Historical Museum Frankfurt

From 3 May to 10 September 2023, the Historical Museum Frankfurt, in cooperation with the Bundesbank’s Money Museum, will host the exhibition “Inflation 1923. War, Money, Trauma”.

Queuing to buy food in Frankfurt, spring 1919 ©Leonhard Kleemann, Historical Museum Frankfurt
Inflation in the early 1920s stripped away the value of German financial assets. Those who had invested in German war bonds during the First World War, in particular, lost their money. This shattered the confidence of large swathes of the German population and weighed heavily on the young Weimar Republic. The social upheaval associated with the great devaluation was an experience deeply engrained in the collective memory and this was to have an impact for decades to come.

“The exhibition “Inflation 1923. War, Money, Trauma” at the Historical Museum Frankfurt is a striking account of what happens when the purchasing power of money is destroyed by rampant inflation,” commented Alexandra Hachmeister, Director General Economic Education at the Bundesbank, speaking at the exhibition’s opening. “In its role as partner, the Bundesbank’s Money Museum has had a key hand in supporting the exhibition. Public awareness of the importance of stable money is utterly crucial to enabling central banks, like the Bundesbank, to fulfil their primary task: maintaining price stability.”

“The German mark continues to fall – it’s scary. Today, the US-dollar is worth over 1,000 Marks! The Swiss franc is at 200! It hurts me deeply for the people of this country, you can literally see the misery spreading.”
Lilly Staudenmann-Stettler, a Swiss student living in Frankfurt am Main, August 1922.

Food stamps issued by the city of Frankfurt am Main from the era of the First World War, 1915, Historical Museum Frankfurt ©Horst Ziegenfusz
The exhibition at the Historical Museum gives a very comprehensive and fascinating insight into this eventful period, providing a powerful description of the disastrous consequences of inflation. It also highlights the fate of individuals, using artistic and literary testimonies to illustrate how the people of Frankfurt suffered under inflation. 

“Contending with the sheer masses of paper money,” excerpt from the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung newspaper, No 11 of 18 March 1923, p. 203, Historical Museum Frankfurt ©Historical Museum Frankfurt
These testimonies include voices of the time, caricatures, photographs, posters and film recordings. In addition, the exhibition outlines both the history of devaluation prior to the 20th century as well as developments from 1923 to the present day. 

Reichsbank note worth 10 trillion Mark dated 1 November 1923 ©Historical Museum Frankfurt
The current exhibition at the Historical Museum Frankfurt thus expands and delves into greater depth on topics covered by the permanent exhibition at the Bundesbank’s Money Museum. The Money Museum takes a comprehensive look at money, with four areas devoted to cash, book money, monetary policy and money globally, presenting the information in a clear and illustrative manner.