A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 119


SMALL CHANGE VANISHES


potato haulm, and later to sort the tubers themselves. Towards the end of August, when communication by train once more began to be more or less possible, large numbers of people left Berlin and other cities for the open country, carrying with them, for the most part, no more than a blanket wherewith to modify the unaccustomed bed of straw in a barn, which was all that they were offered. The average payment for their services was about ninepence a day. Other official measures to control the sudden dislocation of employment were, for example, the announcement that an eight hours' day would be made the maximum in all trades not concerned immediately with provisioning the army.

One of the earliest signs of the money stringency was the disappearance of small change. In some parts of Germany, particularly it would appear in the mining districts of Silesia, it became necessary for the municipalities to issue local notes for small change. The authorities of Gleiwitz, the mining town, for example, issued local paper notes of the value of one shilling, having currency only within the town and its immediate district. Much self-congratulation was expressed by the German press over the fact that Germany alone of the great nations found it unnecessary to resort officially to a moratorium. There is, however, an explanation of this fact which seems to have been unduly overlooked. The German civil code provides for a kind of private moratorium between debtor and creditor in the event of war. It is true that the provision is not automatic, and that in each separate case it is necessary for the debtor to apply for a postponement of payment through the courts, but arrangements were made whereby such applications should be heard swiftly and relief granted instantly. The result, of course, was that whilst the empire did not publicly resort to a moratorium, the actual use of this system of officially recognized and controlled private moratoria was very extensive, and served the same purpose. It would almost appear as if here, too, Germany had rather successfully thrown a veil over the actual facts.

In any case, the German claim that the special measures which were resorted to by other countries were for her quite unnecessary is scarcely justified by the facts. The virtual cessation of foreign business necessarily hit the country very hard, but the collapse of her industrial and commercial activities with the consequent growth of unemployment was not so immediately apparent as it would have been had she not sent one-tenth of her total

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