When someone talks about the numismatic aspects of Nazi Germany
before and during World War II, most collectors conjure up visions of
rather drab coins made out of base metals and only slightly more
attractive paper money.
Servicemen returning from Europe often brought examples back as
souvenirs, assuring that most would be readily available for modern
day collectors who had an interest.
One area that has escaped attention is that of numismatic and
near-numismatic items associated with the Winterhilfswerk, or WHW,
public welfare program operated by the German government annually
during the fall and winter between 1933 and the end of the war.
The program’s stated goal was that “None shall starve or freeze”
during the winter. While public participation was theoretically
voluntary, the pressure to donate was unrelenting, with roving bands
of donation collectors (often children) seemingly scouring every
street corner and every block of every street for more donations.
Lotteries for the WHW effort were also held, with tickets sold for
the equivalent of about 20 cents.
One of the most unusual ways to raise money was the Nazi practice
of having so-called “One Pot Sundays” or “Stew Sundays.”
Once a month families were encouraged to have a simple “one pot”
meal and donate the money saved to the WHW program. The “stew
donation” (“Eintopf Spende”) 50-pfennig chit shown with this column
was apparently purchased as a donation to the cause in Frankfurt
during the 1934-1935 campaign. This donation amounted to about 20 cents.
These Stew Sundays were apparently not universally popular (at
In his book, Underground Humour in Nazi Germany 1933-1945
(1995, Routledge), F.K.M. Hillenbrand provides several humorous verses
that reflect the common people’s reaction at times:
“On Saturday evenings, when the Chancellor speaks,
“It’s a one-dish meal, One-dish meal: cabbage
“Then old Göring will pull a long face
“One-dish meal, one-dish meal: cabbage”
“Come, Adolph Hitler, and hear what we crave:
“The food you have promised and not what you gave.
“We can’t go on living on spuds and on herring,
“But we do want to live like Goebbels and Göring.”
Uttering either one of these little ditties in public would have
probably landed the speaker in a “re-education” camp, but humor often
transcends all perils.
Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for
more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can
reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.