"The mark keeps sinking. It is uncanny. Today the dollar is over 1000 marks! The Swiss franc at 200! One feels sorry for the people in one's soul. One can literally see the misery spreading [...]," wrote Lilly Staudenmann-Stettler, a Swiss student living in Frankfurt, in August 1922, unaware that by the end of 1923 one dollar would cost 4.2 trillion marks. 100 years later, the Historisches Museum Frankfurt is now focusing on the crisis year of hyperinflation with a special exhibition.
As early as 1914, the money supply had increased decisively as a result of the war-related financial policies of the German Reich and the Reichsbank. Inflation, however, only became noticeable after the defeat of the war, when investors and companies lost their capital invested in war bonds. This was accompanied by a loss of confidence in the state, which was a heavy mortgage for the young Weimar Republic. The burdens of peace conditions and demobilization, as well as providing for war victims and survivors, exacerbated the situation. Political assassinations and the occupation of the Ruhr by French troops as a result of unpaid German reparations finally led to a complete economic collapse. It was also an eventful time for Frankfurt, which in 1919 was located on the border with the French-occupied territories, which included Höchst, Nied and Griesheim. The increasing food and housing shortages, black market trading and looting, strikes and riots in the years that followed were deeply imprinted in the collective memory of the people of Frankfurt. The exhibition frames the inflation experience around 1923 with a depiction of historical deflation, the subsequent rise of Hitler and a second inflation, before moving on to the present via the currency reforms of 1948, 1990 and 2001: What is inflation like today?