Austria and Germany

Christmas Themed Notgeld

Notgeld, the emergency money issued during Germany’s inflationary period after World War One, was so prolific, and became so popular, that almost any topic was depicted on the small paper currency. Some of my favorite is the Christmas themed notgeld, especially with Santa Claus/Father Christmas/St. Nicholas or whatever name you wish to give him.

Here are just a few of the many notgeld notes that are available to collectors of this unique currency from a time that hopefully will never again be repeated.

A hearty “Thank You” to Beate Rauch of for assisting me with procuring some of these notes. Her vast knowledge, stock of notgeld and friendliness help keep this hobby enjoyable. 

Austrian Notgeld: Bruck 
Issued in 1921

First up are two notgeld, 60 Heller and ½ Krone featuring Santa Claus and the Christkindl, in angel form, bringing gifts along with Santa Claus. This image also depicts three angels at right, but are difficult to see against the snowy background and the tree.

All notes in this series  share a common back. 

Here are two noted featuring the Christkindl in angel form, along with Santa Claus, showering children with gifts.  Martin Luther created the Christkindl to compete with St. Nicholas as the main Christmas gift giver.  It has remained popular, but has been receiving competition from the modern Santa Claus.

All notes in this series  share a common back.

The scary Krampus, also known as Black Peter amongst other names, makes his appearance here. This figure acts as a punishing entity rather than a benevolent Santa.

We see that the Krampus is taking hold of a rather affluent looking person in top-hat. Jews were often portrayed in a bad light in several notgeld, and here the implication is that the Jewish people were inherently bad, and would be dealt with by Krampus. We all know how that misconstrued perception would turn into real evil during World War Two.

Germany: Bolkenhain
Issued in 1921

I have to admit, that I do not fully understand the text on the front of this note:

zahle gegen diesen scheck 50 pfennig den     aus meinem guthaben berein fur heimatpflege

Translation:  pay 50 pfennigs against this check     from my credit balance for home care

Perhaps “Home Care” was some type of subsity paid out to household in the area.


The back of the note is a little easier to grasp the meaning of, even if my translations are a bit broken:

Wenn die flocken Dich umschleierm

  When the flakes envelop you

Und die heil’ge Weihnacht kam,

  And the Holy Christmas came,

Leigt ein Graumen und ein feiern

  Lends a shudder and a celebration

Stadtfein, auf dir wundersam.

  Fine city, you are wonderful

And on the back of the note we can see a Santa Claus figure carrying a tree through the streets as children take a break from their sledding to look on.

Germany: Genthin
Issued in 1921

Perhaps not an actual Christmas theme, it is often placed in such a category in shops due to the image of Madonna and Child. These came in 25 & 50 Pfennig as well as 1, 2 & 5 Marks, all having this same reverse but in different colors. There is no other Christmas reference other than Mary holding a baby Jesus.

Germany: Grossbreitenbach
Issued in 1921

Here is a scene on the back where we can see artisans at work with the last frame showing the family celebrating Christmas with the children playing with the gifts from the local shops.

On the front we see text in the middle: “Geigen  Kleinkunst  Spielwaren  Industrie”                      Translated: “Violins  Cabaret  Toys  Industry

Grossbreitenbach 50 Pf - 1921 Front
Grossbreitenbach 50 Pf - 1921 Back

Germany: Kahla
Issued in 1921

The next six notes all share this same front. This series deals with the nativity story.

“The angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.’

“Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The manger scene, complete with animals and the star.

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

The adoration of the Magi, presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the original Christmas presents!

Atop a donkey with child, this must be when they travelled from Bethlehem into Egypt just after Mary gave birth.

Perhaps the earliest historically recorded celebration of Christmas day was December 25, 336 A. D. Though evergreens were used in other religions, the Christmas tree is thought to have originated in Germany in the early 1500’s.

Germany: Langeln
Issued 1921

Located in Northern Germany, Langeln issued some beautiful notgeld with shiny gold colored ink. Other than the denominations, the fronts were all the same on these six Christmas notgeld notes. 

Titled “Das Elfchens Reise auf die Erde” (The Little Elf’s Journey to the Earth) this notgeld commemorates a Christmas Play commissioned by Willy Sauerberg and was written by the Erna Marg. Brieger, thought to be a local writer. The Christmas play had six acts as depicted on this notgeld:

  1. Sterntaler (Star money raining down)
  2. Die Frauen (The Women)
  3. Kind (The Child)
  4. Die Frau (The woman)
  5. Feuer (Fire)
  6. Weinachtsbaum (The Christmas Tree)

This play was performed leading up to Christmas in 1921, but is now only remembered by this pretty set of notgeld which has a thick application of gold ink by the printer Konrad Hanf. One can smile thinking that this may have been a highlight under the Weinachtbaum on Christmas morning.

des elfchens reise auf die erde  /  The elf’s journey to earth

ein weihnachtsspiel  /     A Christmas Game, by Erna Marg. Brieger      

Stars fall down to decorate her dress. This may reference a fairy tale where stars fall to earth as coins which the girl is using her dress to catch.

Here a lone woman shivers in the cold of winter at Christmastime. Perhaps the elves will help her.

In this scene, a young girl seems to be communicating with those inside. Perhaps she is caroling?

Here is a Weihnachtsbaum, or Christmas Tree, decorated and lit with candles and topped with a star.

While the cold winter winds blow from the upper corners of this scene, the forlorn woman adds logs to a fire for her and her little girl.

Germany: Coburg
Issued in 1918

In 1918 the town of Coburg issued this iconic old world Santa making his way through the snow to deliver Christmas presents to children.

In this enlarged view, we can fully appreciate the artisanship that went into this notgeld.

Germany: Coburg
Issued in 1918

Staying in Coburg, these two notes were issued in 1920, but this time there was nothing as spectacular as the previous note. Instead the Santa appears in a small side panel on the front right side with a Christmas tree in the left panel. On the back is a farm field with side panels showing Christmas toys, a Doll on the right and a cymbal playing clown on the left.

Germany: Sonneberg
Issued in 1921

This small 10 Pfennig notgeld shows a Christmas scene complete with Santa carrying a tree and toys galore along with a large Mercury-helmeted boy.

Another 10 Pfennig notgeld this series from depicts Christmas toys around the text on the back.

What German Christmas scene would be complete without a nutcracker? Sonneberg was famous for toymaking, especially dolls, and what I am sure is a locally made nutcrracker stands ready at the side.

Germany: Sonneberg
Issued in 1920

Though small in size, this Santa theme notgeld from Sonnenberg depicts another tree carrying Santa, along with a rocking-horse and doll. Though there is no mention of what the cottage on the back is, I like to think it’s Santa’s workshop.