Tag Archives: germany

Communist banknotes: Part 1

Communism is both deeply hated and deeply loved by many. But whatever your thoughts are on the ideology it’s still easy to get fascinated by the phenomena. In its essence the ideology strives towards a utopic and equal society without classes and without private ownership.
It’s safe to say that communism is not strong today. It is an ideology of the 20th century during which many countries held it as the only possible way of life. However, no country succeeded in realizing the utopic society. Way to often these countries got stuck in the proletarian dictatorship with limitations in freedom of speech and terrible prosecutions ending in mass murder of opponents in countries like the USSR and China.
The enemy of communism is of course capitalism. This we saw during the long conflict that was the cold war which fueled wars all over the world.
Now, what would be a stronger symbol of capitalism if not money itself? There is something hypocritical with communist symbols and leaders on the very same thing that de ideology strives to counter. But the communism that was created in different countries during the 20th century is not unfamiliar to creating cults around certain figures. Some leaders got almost a religious status in these secular countries. The personality cult of the communistic countries works actually esthetically very well together with the classical design of banknotes. This fact makes them especially fun to collect.
In a couple of posts I’ll present some examples of these banknotes from my personal collection. You’ll get to read about them in an order of when the different persons were active. We’ll start it of where communism began.

DDR - 100 Mark - Marx

Above is a 100 mark banknote from East Germany (DDR) and it features Karl Marx, the philosopher and sociologist that could be considered the founder of modern socialist and communism. Below you have another banknote from DDR. This is a 50 mark banknote and it features Marx companion, Freidrich Engels. Together they laid the basis of the ideology with The Communist Manifesto which is their most famous manuscript and one of the world’s most influential ones. It’s no wonder that Marx and Engels were featured on DDR’s highest valued banknotes. DDR was a socialistic state and both of them were from Germany. The back of the 100 mark banknote features a couple of buildings in East Berlin. Among them you have the Palast der Republik (the parliament at that time), the Berlin TV tower and the red city hall. On the back of the 50 mark banknote you have an industrial complex portraying the importance of heavy industry for the state.

DDR - 50 Mark - Engels

These were my two first communist banknotes and there are six more to go!

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(West) Germany: 50 pfenning 1971

This is a pfenning coin – the subunit of the Deutsche Mark (often referred to as the D-mark). Germany was split in two after World War II. One state was created from the zones occupied by the U.S., France and Great Britain. This was Bundesrepublik Deutschland – West Germany and it was here that the D-mark was the official currency. The other state was created from the zone occupied by the USSR. This was Deutsche Demokratische Republik – East Germany.

The two parts were separated for about 40 years and developed in two different ways. West Germany developed into a stable democratic country, even though they had problems with people who’d been part of the power during the Nazi era keeping high positions after the war. The same problem wasn’t that present in the east, but there the population suffered hard from both economic problems and an undemocratic rule. The Berlin wall constructed in 1961 is the main symbol of the separation of these two countries. It stood as an example of the insanity that was the Cold war, and it wasn’t until one wonderful night in 1989 that the wall was brought down. Sadly, walls are still being built…

The coin features a woman planting an oak three. The oak is a symbol of Germany and is featured on many different coins both from the D-mark and the euro. To me the woman planting the tree represents something new. It’s a rebirth of a new country that rises from the ashes of the Second World War.

The D-mark also became the official currency in East Germany following the unification of the two countries in 1990. It was later replaced by the euro in 2002.

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