In addition to more traditional things that I collect, like obsolete
bank notes and scrip and Confederate notes, I have a couple of unusual pursuits.
For example, I collect World War II era lottery tickets and ephemera
related to the German social welfare program known as Winterhilfswerk
(known by its initials WHW and translated roughly as the “Winter Fund”
or “Winter Help Work”). This program was begun in 1931 by the German
government, but Adolf Hitler scaled it up in a massive manner in 1933,
overseen by the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (National
Socialist People’s Welfare Organization). Germany had not escaped the
worldwide depression, and the program’s slogan “None shall starve or
freeze” certainly sounded laudable enough during the dark days of the
But the program soon became a high-pressure giving exercise that
makes any modern day public participation program look like a Sunday
school collection. Meticulous records of participation and giving were
kept and nonparticipation simply was not tolerated.
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Assistance for the needy was provided in the form of “relief notes”
that were denominated in values of 50 reichspfennig, as well as 1-,
5-, and 10-reichsmark issues. The local WHW office would issue relief
notes to approved recipients after stamping them as issued.
The recipients, after filling in their names and addresses on the
notes, could then buy from a relatively small list of allowed items at
any participating merchant (undoubtedly, not participating was also an
ill-advised decision). When the note was redeemed, the merchant
stamped his merchant information and certified what had been purchased.
The merchant then turned in the notes to his local bank or other
financial institution so that his account would be credited. After the
notes were redeemed, one corner was clipped off, making the notes
invalid for any further circulation. As a result, these notes were not
transferable nor were they normally used for more than a single transaction.
Today, the notes are still available and are usually found in nice
condition. Notes that are fully filled out with clear stamped
information and all four corners intact generally command a premium,
and higher denomination notes, particularly 10-reichsmark notes, tend
to be a bit scarcer.
Notes were issued in five different series between the winters of
1939 to 1940 and 1943 to 1944. Fewer than 40 notes comprise a complete
Most do not have vignettes (the note pictured is an exception) but
are, nonetheless, interesting reminders of what was going on in the
Third Reich on the home front during World War II.