The Concentration Camp Currency You’ve Never Heard Of

29 Apr 2020  Wed

The first known use of Holocaust money was in the Lodz ghetto in Poland in 1940. The city of Lodz contained, after Warsaw, the second-largest Jewish community in pre-war Poland. Over 150,000 Jews, more than a third of the total population of Lodz, were forced into a small area of the city.

Over the next five years, the Nazis introduced currencies in concentration camps and other ghettos in Germany and occupied Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands. Each camp or ghetto had its own currency — with unique denominations and designs — to be used only within its gates.

In ghettos, currencies served to compensate Jews when Nazi officials confiscated their valuables and cash. While ghetto residents relied on food rations, there was never enough to eat, and cash could be the difference between life and death. Coins in the Lodz ghetto were made of a flammable alloy and sometimes used as fuel.

this currency was officially called “marks” but widely known as “rumki” and “chaimki” in reference to the head of the ghetto, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Rumkowski’s title—”Der Aelteste der Juden in Litzmannstadt” (“The Elder of the Jews in Litzmannstadt”)—is prominently displayed on the coins and notes; his signature is clearly visible on the notes.

The notes were issued in the denominations of 50 pfennig, 1, 2,5,10, and 20 marks and depicted with symbols associated with Judaism so that it could be easily recognized by the Polish population. The Star of David is visible on the front side and on the back is a menorah, a lamp with seven candle stems.

Image Courtesy:

Knowledge Base