18 January 2012

Weimar Wednesday: No. 2

I am in the midst of translating Hans Ostwald's Sittengeschichte der Inflation (Berlin: Neufeld & Henius, 1931). The book is frequently cited in works dealing with the Weimar hyperinflation (where it is usually referred to as A Moral History of the Inflation, or Tales of the Inflation), but up until now it has not been published in English.

In these times of quantitative ease, I thought it might be amusing to post something from it each week. This passage comes to mind whenever I hear James Kunstler talk about the United States degenerating into a garage sale nation:

Berlin's Scheunenviertel district had become a real fairgrounds. The roads between Alexanderplatz, Schönhauser and Rosentaler Tor were packed with crowds so dense that the trams could only progress by constantly ringing their bells. People selling ladies' underwear, suspenders, army boots, blankets, newspapers, gingerbread, and sausages filled the neighbourhood with their junk and their loud cries. A group formed around each merchant as he proclaimed the merits of his wares. But really people were just curious. 
Troops surrounded or marched through the neighbourhood almost every week, and sometimes every day, arresting or expelling the unruly peddlers. But most of the traders and gamblers returned once the troops had disappeared. 
Occasionally there were other clashes. A soldier had taken part in a game and, because he had lost, wanted to arrested its organizer. The crowd grew rebellious and began shouting: "Kill the bastard!" The soldier was going to defend himself with a hand grenade, but he was knocked to the ground before he could use it. The grenade exploded, and the flying shrapnel injured a woman and her daughter as well as a young boy on his feet and arms.