top of page

Notgeld Exhibit


Notgeld means "not money" or "emergency money" in German. This money was issued by towns, groups, anyone other than the German government. After WWI, Germany was in bad financial shape due to inflation and money required to pay reparations. Coins were worth more as metal than money. There was no money in circulation. The German & Austrian governments allowed others to print money.


Making notgeld created work for German artists and printers. Most towns produced notgeld that featured fairy tales or renderings of their town's scenic views. Some towns sought to send a message. Antisemitism was rampant. People were looking for someone to blame. These pre-Holocaust items show the mindset of the time. This was the environment in which the young Adolph Hitler and his followers "learned politics" and formed views about Jews. 


Antisemitic Bund (front)

These banknotes were issued in April 1920 by a private political organization. On one side, the picture shows the symbolic burning of several liberal Austrian publications, including the Jewish Press. The quote next to it says, “although time will come when Christians and Jews will live together, it will never work out." The bills are ornately engraved in multiple colors in an art nouveau/art deco style.


The reverse of the 10 heller note is a quote from Josef von Scheffel, a famous 19th Century German poet, and writer.  It states: “The disdain of the Germanic people of Semites is not based on religious differences so much as on blood, race, heritage (ancestry), ethnicity and culture.”  


The reverse of the 20 heller note is a quote from the composer Franz Liszt, although its origin has been disputed. It states that "the day will come when all Christian Nations have to decide if the Jew can live in their midst or must be expelled. This is a life and death decision."  


The reverse of the 50 heller note reads "Germans of all political persuasions who loved their folk, and who recognized the looming danger of the Jews, and who want to fight this,  join the German-Austrian Antisemitic Coalition. Enroll at the district headquarters. Read and spread the Aryan Press.” 

Antisemitic Bund, 20 Heller (back)
Antisemitic Bund, 10 Heller (back)
Antisemitic Bund, 50 Heller (back)


1922 was the 430th anniversary of the infamous blood libel legend of 1492. The medieval blood libel rumor claimed that Jews kidnap and kill Christian boys to use their blood to make matzah for Passover. The legend was partly responsible for the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, and the basis of persecutions and actual courtroom trials throughout Europe. Hundreds of thousands were forced into exile by the Spanish Catholic Church and Spanish monarchy, and thousands were converted under duress. Thousands more were murdered. 

To celebrate the anniversary, Sternberg, Germany printed notgeld depicting three scenes of hatred. The first (top left) is a scene of Sternberg, Germany. The second (top right) shows Jews adding blood to matzo. The third (bottom left) shows a priest offering the wafer to Jews as a sign of conversion to Christianity, which they refuse. The fourth (bottom right) shows Jews being burned at the stake. The drawings on the money are copies of original wood blocks made in 1492.

Sternberg (front)


The Brackel Notgeld shows an image of a man being drowned on the left side. The right side shows another man in jail. The caption reads: "This is how we used to punish thieves." "Thieves" is code for Jews. 

Brackel (front)
Brackel (back)


The Beverungen Notgeld shows a Hasidic Jew selling chamber pots. Portraying a religious Jew as a toilet bowl salesperson is creating an opportunity for Germans to laugh at Jews. 

Translation: In autumn a merchant came and offered some goods to a woman. He had brought pots of every shape including chamber pots. The woman cried in anger, “Be gone! It is too large.” Replied David, “For that purpose, it is just right, the nights are getting longer.”

Beverungen (front)
Beverungen (back)


The Loich Notgeld shows a peddler. On both sides of the picture are the words Fortmit Wuchern und schleichern which means, “off with profiteers and sneaky hypocrites.” These were code words for Jews.

Loich (front)


The front of the Tostedt notgeld shows views of the town while the back of the note shows two Jews hanging from a tree, with ravens watching, ready to eat them.

Translation: "So should it happen to all profiteers, then things could be better for Germany."  The commonly known antisemitic slur for Jews used here, "schieber" (profiteers), alludes to the rumor that Jews are non-German “outsiders,” the cause of Germany’s downfall in WWI and that Jews continue to take advantage of fellow Germans.

Tostedt (front)
Tostedt (back)
bottom of page