1914 - 1918

Financing War with War Bonds

German Federal Archives

The groundwork for Germany to maintain their financial readiness for war was to finance warfare with war bonds (see also further information in the sources on funding warfare).

In addition to proper calls for subscription, the Imperial Government employed a rather sophisticated propaganda. On the one hand they were advertising the financial benefits of war bonds as safe and attractive investments, on the other hand they tried to appeal to the citizens’ patriotic feelings and promoted war bonds as a contribution that was to be rendered by all Germans to ensure a German victory.

Call for subscription for the 3rd edition war bond | BArch R 2 Plak-42096-001 / o.Ang.
Poster promoting war bonds 1915-1918 | BArch R 2/52902

Apart from the calls for subscription, advertisements, like this one here, which was placed in the ADAC magazine “Der Motorfahrer“, were meant to highlight the financial attractiveness of war bonds. According to this announcement, war bonds were as sound an investment as passbooks but with five per cent interest they guaranteed higher yields and – being tradeable securities – provided the opportunity of additional equity price gains.

Advertisement for the 5th edition war bond, 1916 | BArch R 2/42090 fol. 21
Advertisement for the 5th edition war bond, 1916 | BArch R 2/42090 fol. 22

One core element of the propaganda for war bonds was to appeal to perople’s patriotism - hence people from all walks of life had to be inspired with the idea of war bonds. No one was spared: Even school children were targeted to get involved in subscribing to collective war bonds (so-called school war bonds) and to design their own promotional material. An example can be seen here which shows the subscription and honorary card for the 5th edition war bond, drawn by a 16-year old.

"Heroic deed of the German youth 1916" | BArch R 2/42090 fol. 239v
"Heroic deed of the German youth 1916" (back) | BArch R 2/42090 fol.239v
Children pictured in war bond propaganda, 1917 | BArch R 2501/398

Caption:

“Dad gave me 100 Marks for war bonds.“

“But you only have to pay 98 Marks to get one.“

“Great, so I can have war bonds and sweets!“

Women pictured in war bond propaganda, 1917 | BArch R 2501/398

Caption:

“This is the first time that I don’t have to take my hubby’s gift back to the shop to exchange it for something I like: this time he gave me war bonds.“

Soldier subscribing for war bonds, 1918 | BArch R 2/44207 fol. 313

One way of advertising  was to demonstrate that military success was a foregone conclusion and thereby war bonds were seen as a secure investment. This method was still used in autumn 1918 when the 9th edition war bond was launched.

Reputed security of war bonds, 1918 | BArch R 2/52905 fol. 19v

The visualisation of Germany’s economic strength placed specific emphasis on different aspects such as the chemical industry which were supposed to shed a better light on Germany compared to their enemies. With alleged objective information about public spending on education and social security both by Germany and by the enemy the promotion of economic stability could be combined with a nationalistic imbued polemic, as can be seen here in this advert for the 9th edition war bond.

Referring to Germany`s economic strength, 1918 | BArch R 2/42107 fol. 15v

Using polemic against the enemy while at the same time whitewashing their own situation was an element of pictorial propaganda for war bonds, like here in a promotional call for subscription of the 8th edition war bond.

War bonds depicted as Easter Eggs for the enemy, 1918 | BArch R 2501/398

This musical rhyme was supposed to highlight the need for war bonds in a playful way.

The song about field-grey money, 1917-1918 | BArch R 2501/396

„Infantry in the trench / must be equipped with rifle and bullet / and a man’s courage is of no use, / when he cannot fire his weapon!“

[...]

 “When the sailor in a submarine shoots the torpedo towards the enemy / he is aware that such a shot must be expensive!” 

[...]

“Germany fights against the world / and this involves a lot of money!”

Credits: Story

Quellen der Ausstellung — R 2  Reichsfinanzministerium | R 2501 Deutsche Reichsbank

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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