I was going through the collection of paper money that my dad brought back from Europe after World War II. Most of the bills are dated between 1917 and 1924, and includes currency from France, England, Belgium, Germany, and Poland. Only a few are from the war years, and I found only one that includes a swastika.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed to end World War I, and it was brutal in what it expected from Germany. It divided up land, reset boundaries, gave away industries, set the maximum size of any future Germany army, and had a lengthy list of other demands, most of which were aimed at making sure that Germany could never again have the military, industrial, or economic strength to wage another war.
The Allies also demanded that Germany pay for the war. In April, 1921, the reparations bill was assessed at $33 billion, which was a staggering sum at the time. Walther Rathenau had become Minister of Reconstruction and it was his unlucky job to find a way for Germany to make the payments.
Unfortunately, in June 1922, Rathenau was assassinated. The day he died, the Mark fell to 300 per U.S. dollar. A month later, when the first reparation payments were due, it had fallen to 500 per dollar. By late October, 1922, when the second payments were due, it had collapsed to 4500 per dollar.
By April, 1923, inflation had become hyperinflation and by November, it took twelve trillion German Marks to buy a U.S. dollar. In 1921 there were 120 billion Marks in circulation; Two years later, there were nearly five hundred million trillion Marks in circulation.
The cost of an egg was five hundred thousand million times more that it had been in 1918. A five hundred million Mark note (pictured above, along with a million Mark note, a 50 Mark note, and 10 pfennige note) might buy a loaf of bread. People were known to carry their money in wheelbarrows, looking to exchange their notes for higher denominations, and it was not unusual to find people burning their bills in furnaces to heat their houses.
Another feature of the era was that since most of the centralized government of German had been dis-empowered significantly, major cities printed their own currency. In the bills in the picture (there are two pictures on the website that show 4 bills), two were printed in Berlin in 1923, one in Munich in 1920, and I can’t make out where the 10 pfennige (that’s a penny; the note is the equivalent of a dime) was printed in 1917.
The point is, Germany after World War I felt that the only recourse to increasing the economy was to print more money. It wasn’t until the Weimar government appointed a Commissioner of Currency in 1923 that things got better. He introduced a new currency, the Rentenmark, with an exchange rate of one trillion old Marks to one new Rentenmark, declared it the national currency, and then had it guaranteed by the government. The hyperinflation disappeared very rapidly, within months, and Germany was brought into a workable system.
Most of this information comes from Germany, Memories of a Nation, by Neil McGregor, printed in 2014.
Early last week, I received the “proof “of my book from my publisher, but it came in pdf format rather than the usual printed copy. A pdf is an electronic version of my book that, when viewed on an electronic screen, appears exactly like the printed book will look; think reading something on a Kindle, a Nook, or a tablet. It’s a standard format and most electronic devices will read it with no problem. A “proof” is the first version of a book produced by a professional book printing business that is meant to be reviewed by the author for the purpose of making sure everything is correct before more copies are printed.
In the past, I’ve received printed copies of the proofs my books that came directly from the printer. I went through each one, word by word, marking the changes or corrections needed and then typing them into a Word file. It was cumbersome because I have to record the page number and paragraph number, and then have to write “change such and such to read like this:”, followed by the different words that I wanted. When finished, I emailed the corrections file to my publisher and he makes the changes to the printer’s file.
No matter the format, the proof typically will have several errors introduced by converting the text from a Word format into a ready-to-print format. My publisher will insert the text file (provided by my editor) into his book composition software (there are several packages; I don’t know which one he uses). He then sets the different font styles, adds the chapter headings, page alignment, page numbers, headers, footers, page breaks, different margins for the spine side of the page versus the outside of the page, etc.; adds the beginning pages (the title page, the copyright page, the dedication page, blank pages); adds the end pages, if any (the author’s biographical note, for example); and then prepares the cover in a different file. Those two files – the text and the cover – will be sent to the professional printer who is producing the book.
My proof had about thirty or so errors – lack of paragraph indents, missed spaces, too many spaces, incorrect chapter headings, italics used in the wrong places, incorrect punctuation marks, and others. Overwhelmingly, the errors are related to transcription and formatting.
Only two or three concerned words or sentences that I chose to replace or rewrite. I’ve written before about giving up my liberties to do wordsmithing before this point in the process, but sometimes I don’t see problems until I’m reading my words in a book format. I want to make the book to be absolutely the best book that I can, so I make the changes, anyway. My publisher and editor understand and have learned to expect a certain small number of changes that I cannot resist making.
I went through the file twice (which took a lot of effort; the finished book has 305 pages), indicated the corrections using a “notes” feature of the pdf reader (which allowed me to append a text message with the changes to a specific location in the pdf file itself. It’s like an electronic Post-It note.), and then returned the file to the publisher. I’m hoping to see the corrected pdf, and maybe even a printed copy of the book, sometime this week.
At which time, I will celebrate.
Unfortunately, I then get to sit around being irritated. I will have a physical book in my hands but even I won’t be able to buy a copy from Amazon until November. I wrote about this in a blog a few weeks ago; it’s no surprise, but it’s no less irritating.
I’m looking into buying several of my books from my publisher at a discounted price and offering them through my website. I don’t want to do it. I would have to put in a lot of money up front, hold a certain level of physical books at my house, take orders over the phone or through email, accept credit cards over the phone, provide receipts, package the books, mail them, and then pay county and state Gross Receipts taxes. I’d probably have to also get a town business license.
It would be better to find a business that already sells things and get them to sell my book, giving them a cut of the revenue. Regular bookstores (my town doesn’t have one anyway) don’t do that sort of business for the same reasons they don’t sell self-published books. I don’t currently know a local business that would do it, but I’m looking; I’ve got one good lead that I will follow as soon as I have a printed copy to show them. It may also be that my publisher would sell individual copies, but they haven’t done so in the past.
I’m going to find a way to do it. It’s a shame to hold an incredibly timely book in my hands that no one can buy for six months.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.