The Downfall of Money: Germany’s Hyperinflation and the Destruction of the Middle Class

Frederick Taylor. Bloomsbury, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-1-62040-236-8
British historian Taylor (Dresden) adds to a solid body of work on 20th-century Germany with this chilling account of the human face of hyperinflation in the 1920s Weimar Republic. Many blame the collapse of the German mark on the reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, yet Taylor argues that it was the Second Empire’s decision to finance WWI primarily by borrowing that led to the economic catastrophe. Postwar uprisings on the left and right further destabilized the country’s fragile, young government and diminished confidence in its already-shaky currency. The mark’s value began to tumble, and once the fall gained momentum, “the only way now was down.” Prices rose 50% a month. Hyperinflation made Germany a “paradise for anyone who owed money”; citizens at all levels of society discovered that their fiscal prudence had been for naught. The result was a “war of all against all” and a society of “starving billionaires,” where a doorman received a million-mark tip, a life’s savings bought a subway ticket, and a girl’s virginity was something to barter. The government eventually managed to sufficiently stabilize the currency and foster a sense of hope, but the disaster had already fatally weakened the mutual trust essential to democracy. The beneficiary would be Hitler. B&w images throughout. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/2013
Release date: 09/17/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-4088-4018-4
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