2nd October 2018 German Exchange Controls – Robin Pizer

Robin Pizer visited Banbury Stamp Society on Tuesday 2nd October and gave us all an education on an aspect of Germany post WWI that was unknown to most of us. During the war mail had been subject to military censorship but with the armistice, the new German government banned censorship and replaced it with exchange control with the aim of preventing an outflow of cash and valuables and also to tax any valuables coming into the country.  Mail sent out of Germany had to be posted unsealed and if there was cash that exceeded the allowance then the letter was returned to the sender. For incoming mail, if it contained foreign currency or other financial instruments then cash was exchanged for Marks.  Of course this lead to a swathe of postal labels, cachets and other markings and Robin had examples of many of these, sorted by theme and type and was able to give clear explanations of the meanings – useful as of course all of them were in German. Because of the speed of the implementation of exchange controls, the wartime markings continued to be used but these were replaced by new designs between April and May 1919.  The law was finally repealed in August 1925 by which time hyperinflation had hit the German economy: the allowance started at 50 Marks/day in December 1918 and by 1923 had increased to 20,000 Marks – worth almost nothing!  Some of the more unusual markings that Robin showed included: labels with an apology for opening mail that wasn’t subject to exchange control – in this case, mail transiting through Germany; a handstamp placed where a stamp had been removed from the cover to say that the stamp hadn’t been removed by the Post Office, and a bogus handstamp which translated as ‘Not Liable for Exchange Control’ which people used to try and avoid the system.


As well as showing the postal items, Robin described the bureaucracy that was required to support exchange control – offices were set up so that people could take mail to a counter and have it checked and pre-authorised; incoming mail containing trade samples were held up until the recipient could show that they had the appropriate import duties.


The next meeting will be on Tuesday 16th October at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre when Terry Hare-Walker will give ‘A Taste of India’. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.