Balkan Peninsula, Earth, Europe, Greece, South East Europe

Greece – 1944, WW2 and Hyperinflation

Million Drachmas, Greece, 1944, front, featuring Antikythera Ephebe, the bronze statue discovered in early 20th century

Where the number on a banknote (after all, a piece of paper) is a Million, you can bet there is hyperinflation. The banknotes on this page are from the WW2 era, 1944. War may clarify a few things such as who one’s true friends are, but it distorts most other things, including money.

Million Drachmas, Greece, 1944, back, featuring the Temple of Poseidon
Half Million, 500,000 Drachmas, Greece 1944, front, featuring Zeus, who resides on Mt Olympus, the thunder god.
Half Million, 500,000 Drachmas, Greece 1944, back

From Wikipedia article on Hyperinflation in Greece under the German-Italian occupation, (Reference and links in footnotes below):
With the German invasion in April 1941, there was an abrupt increase in prices. This was due to psychological factors related to the fear of shortages and to the hoarding of goods. During the German and Italian Axis occupation of Greece (1941-1944), the agricultural, mineral, industrial etc. production of Greece were used to sustain the occupation forces, but also to secure provisions for the Afrika Korps. One part of these “sales” of provisions was settled with bilateral clearing through the German DEGRIGES and the Italian Sagic companies at very low prices. As the value of Greek exports in drachmas fell, the demand for drachmas followed suit and so did its forex rate. While shortages started due to naval blockades and hoarding, the prices of commodities soared. The other part of the “purchases” was settled with drachmas secured from the Bank of Greece and printed for this purpose by private printing presses. As prices soared, the Germans and Italians started requesting more and more drachmas from the Bank of Greece to offset price increases; each time prices increased, the note circulation followed suit soon afterwards. For the year November 1943 – November 1944, the inflation rate was 2.5 × 1010%, the circulation was 6.28 × 1018 drachmae and one gold sovereign cost 43,167 billion drachmas. The hyperinflation started subsiding immediately after the departure of the German occupation forces, but inflation rates took several years before they fell below 50%.
Start and End Date: Jun. 1941 – Jan. 1946
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Dec. 1944, 3.0 × 1010%. 1

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The Million drachma banknote features the head a bronze statue recovered from the Sea bottom in 1900, off the island of Antikythera, Greece. This small island, a little less than 8 square miles, is important to ornithologists. It is an important resting place for regional migratory birds and is also the largest breeding ground for a certain species of falcon known as Eleonora’s falcon. 2

Antikythera Ephebe
But the tiny island is important to historians too. In 1900, sponge divers spotted the shipwreck off the island. In addition to many treasures and artifacts were two items of tremendous significance. One is a full size bronze statue of remarkable beauty and grace. The head of the Antikythera Ephebe is featured on our 1,000,000 drachma banknote.  The beauty of the artwork startled the artworld, revised art history and was featured prominently on our 1944 banknote.3

Antikythera Mechanism
But it wasn’t until years later that the greatest, perhaps, treasure of all was recognized in the recovered sea-soaked artifacts.  A small wooden box containing bronze items, corroding for two millenia beneath the sea, attracted little attention in the fifty years following its discovery.  Then in 1951 a Yale University professor and science historian began to study it. It has been intensely studied since, and has become known as the Antikythera mechanism.  It is considered by many to be the earliest analogue computer in the world. The technological skill and craftsmanship demonstrated in the mechanism became lost to history for reasons unknown. It wasn’t until the 14th century that anything comparable began to be produced. 4

Temple of Poseidon
On the reverse of our 1,000,000 drachma banknote, is featured the Temple of Poseidon. 5  Poseidon was the god of the Sea.  This temple is constructed on the bluff at the end of a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water, with a commanding view of the Sea, the dominion of Poseidon. 6

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The Half Million drachma banknote in this post features Zeus on the front. One must hand it to the Greeks, whereas other nations feature renowned politicians and other leaders on their banknotes, the Greeks feature God Himself. This is Zeus, the god of Thunder, known by others as Jupiter, the greatest of the planets.  He resides on Mount Olympus as the King of the gods.7

 

Footnotes

  1. Wikipedia, Hyperinflation, See reference under heading “Greece (German-Italian occupation)
  2. Wikipedia, Eleonora’s Falcon
  3. Wikipedia, Antikythera Ephebe
  4. Wikipedia, Antikythera Mechanism
  5. AncientGreece.org Temple of Poseidon
  6. Wikipedia, Sounion, Sounion is the name of the cape at the southernmost tip of the peninsula where the Temple of Poseidon resides.
  7. Wikipedia, Zeus

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