Every war is economic disruption and economic destruction – Frankfurter Zeitung from 1923
WWhilst politics is groping for the weak possibilities for a solution to the European conflict, the economic struggle in the Ruhr and Rhine has intensified. The struggle for coal and coke shows the development: Germany refused delivery to France and Belgium – the French prevented the transport to unoccupied Germany. The German collieries were content with selling in the occupied area and threw the rest of the production on the heaps – the occupiers tried to make the transport of coal more difficult in the occupied area and began to seize the heaps by force and transport them away. And again the logical answer to this was the further restriction of coal production and the cessation of coke production in the German works.
This is the line of battle. The same goes for other areas. The French have paralyzed sales in the occupied territory. We’ve been working at heavy sacrifices in camps to keep at least some limited production there. The French are now increasingly resorting to the violent confiscation of such stored goods. They seek to acquire iron products and chemical products. And the result will be a further restriction of this work in storage.
The French and Belgians continue to see their immediate costs of fighting mount. Mr. Poincaré must again request hundreds of millions of francs in war credits. And the amount of coal, coke and other industrial products he really brings to France by force is only a fraction of what Germany gave him voluntarily and free of charge before the onset of the Ruhr. It will be even less when the camps come to an end and are not replenished. And the French economy bears the burden, especially the Lorraine iron industry, which, with coke prices four times as high, is only able to cover its needs very inadequately.
The German economy, however, bears the heavy burden of this struggle even more. Directly in occupied and indirectly in unoccupied territory. Every war – there was ample opportunity to learn that – is economic disruption and economic destruction. It means the conscious elimination of economic considerations for the higher general necessities of the state. This is particularly evident in economic warfare, the very nature of which is waged by anti-economic means.
We must be clear that Germany is now facing a new, enormous endurance test. The development of the exchange rate announces it. For ten weeks, from mid-February to early April, the Reichsbank was able to keep the foreign value of the mark at a relatively stable level. That, too, was a fatal low: the dollar, which had fluctuated between 6,000 and 7,000 marks in the weeks before the Ruhr collapse, was fixed at a base of around 20,000 marks. The mark was only a third of what it was before the Ruhr collapsed, only an improvement on the complete collapse in the first days of the Franco-Belgian occupation.
That’s over now. The sacrifices made by the Reichsbank are not, as far as can be seen from their certificates, so far not too heavy, especially when one considers that in the meantime several installments of the Belgian reparations bills have become due and have been paid. Invisible foreign exchange reserves will have been surrendered. The open gold holdings of the Reichsbank, however, had hardly changed up to mid-April at the level of a good thousand million marks, which it received at the beginning of January; Only the last few weeks have seen reductions, to 914 million marks in the first week of May and further to 842 million marks in the second week of May, because in the meantime the considerable parts of the gold holdings that have been put abroad as a precaution have actually been attacked by the utilization of foreign exchange credits.