Polish Nazi Occupation Coins

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This article discusses occupation currency. Occupation currency is simply currency issued by the occupying power of a conquered nation.

Some examples of conquering nations that issued occupation currency include:
  • Greece under Alexander the Great,
  • Rome under the Caesars,
  • France under Napoleon,
  • Nazi Germany under Hitler.
Just because the conquering nation issues occupation currency does not mean that they change the type of currency in the occupied country.
For example when Nazi Germany invaded Poland the Polish currency was not changed from Grosz and Gulden to the Reichmark.

The occupation currency in this article comes from Poland during WWII and includes some of the background history of that era.

Poland started off as a Slavic duchy in the 10th century and has had a turbulent past by being invaded, partitioned and occupied by Mongols, the Turks, Transylvania, Sweden, Austria, Prussia and Russia. At one point Poland almost ceased to exist, and at the start of WWI it was a landlocked country.

Part 1 - The Danzig Corridor

At the end of WWI, as a part of the Versailles Treaty, three things happened to Poland:
  • Poland was recognized as an independent state.
  • The port city of Danzig (which would later be renamed to Gdansk) on the Baltic Sea was made a free city.
  • A corridor from Danzig to Poland was established. The reason for the corridor was Germany was charging extremely excessive shipping rates from Danzig to Poland.
These three things, especially the corridor, ensured the continued existence of Poland. This corridor, however, caused one problem as far as the Germans were concerned because now Prussia was separated from greater Germany.


Danzig Coins

5 Pfennig:

10 Pfennig:

1 Gulden:

Shown here are three coins from Danzig: 5 and 10 pfennig and 1 gulden coins.

The 5 and 10 pfennig coins are cupro-nickel with the denomination of each coin on the obverse.

The reverse shows the Danzig coat of arms which divides the date but are surrounded by a snowflake design.

The 1 gulden coin is 75% silver with a ship and star design dividing the denomination on the obverse and the reverse showing a shielded coat of arms supported by 2 lions with a star on top and the date below.

The 10 pfenning and the 1 gulden coins have one thing in common on the obverse which is "FREIE STADT DANZIG" which means "FREE STATE OF DANZIG".

Part 2 - WW2 German Occupied Polish Coins

Prior to WWII Hitler was creating a big controversy over the Danzig corridor through the German media. Britain and Edward Rydz-Smigly, the Polish General Inspector of the Armed Forces, realized what was going to happen and that they needed to stand up against Hitler and his expansionist agenda which had already been evidenced through the occupation of the Rhineland, Austria and Moravia.

So Britain signed a pact with Poland on Aug. 25, 1939 to guarantee her borders. As a result Poland did not back down to Hitler's bombast and the result was the Sept. 1 1939 German invasion. Britain and France then declared war on Sept. 3.

Prior to WWII Poland minted some of its own coins but after the invasion a very curious thing happened.

When Germany started producing wartime Polish currency, they decided to freeze the 1923 date for the lower denomination coins by using old Polish dies between 1941 and 1944.

The specific reason why the Germans decided to freeze the 1923 date on some Polish coins is unclear. However in looking through some documents I came up with 2 possible reasons why the Germans froze the date. I want to stress these reasons are not conclusive but some are reasonable conjecture.

  • The first possible reason is that using the old dies was convenient and the easiest thing to do.
  • The second reason is that while lower denomination coins were minted in Warsaw some of the higher denomination coins were minted in other countries such as Switzerland and Sweden where the Germans did not have access to the older dies.

Pre-WW2 Polish Coins

Pre-War 10 Groszy (nickel):

Pre-War 20 Groszy (nickel):

Nazi Occupation Polish Coins

Occupation 10 Groszy (zinc):

Occupation 20 Groszy (zinc):

To tell the difference, the actual 1923 Polish coins are made of nickel while the German occupation coins are made of zinc.
2 Groszy (bronze):

5 Groszy (occupation):

These two coins are both dated 1939. One is a 2 grosze and the other is a 5 groszy. Prior to the German invasion Poland was able to mint some of its own coins and the 2 grosze coin is an example of this.

The 5 groszy coin however is an example of German occupation currency. The way to distinguish the difference is the German 1939 dated coins have a hole in the middle of the coin.
5 Groszy Error Coin (occupation):

This is an error coin, in which the hole which should be found in the center has not been punched out.

Part 3 - Lodz Ghetto Coins

The last coin is from Litzmannstadt, Poland. Now Litzmann was a WWI German general and the city of Lodz, Poland was renamed by the Nazis in his honour. The official German name of the Jewish encampment in Lodz was Litzmannstadt ghetto.

The Lodz ghetto was the only Jewish ghetto to issue coinage. These coins came in 4 denominations, the 10 pfennig and the 5, 10 and 20 mark. Some coins were prooduced in 2 varieties (as described below): one is aluminum and the other is magnesium. Even though mintage numbers were about the same for both varieties the magnesium coins are very hard to find.

This ghetto currency had no value outside of the ghetto, and are officially classified as tokens. Two reasons for this include the fact that it was against the law for Jews to have Polish currency, and the Jews could not have any monetary transactions with anyone outside of the ghetto.

Financing of this currency occurred, first, by Jews turning in their valuables to the ghetto bank, which the Germans then quickly confiscated. The currency was also financed through the Germans (military and civilian) purchasing goods made at the ghetto factories. Chaim Rumkowski, the eldest of the Jews, thought that by providing services to the Germans it would mean the survival of the ghetto. This did not work out so well for Rumkowski and the ghetto.

NOTE: For any of the photos found below if the photo contains the PCGS logo, that particular coin has been certified as genuine. The certification number can be provided if requested.

- Produced in magnesium only.

The top photo is an example of the "First Emission" design of the magnesium 10 Pfennig coin issued in 1942. On the obverse the Star of David with some stuff emanating from it. Around the outside of the obverse is printed "LITZMANNSTADT-GETTO" and the date of issue (1942).

The center of the reverse contains the denomination, 10 Pfennig. Around the outside of the reverse is printed "DER ALTEST DER JUDEN" which means "The elder of the Jews". The eldest of the Jews was Chaim Rumkowski who was the leader or ruler of the ghetto.

The bottom photo is an example of the "Second Emission" design of the magnesium 10 Pfennig coin issued in 1942.
The center of the obverse consists of a Star of David with the date of issue inside of it. Around the outside of the obverse is printed "DER ALTEST DER JUDEN IN LITZMANNSTADT" which means "The elder of the Jews in Litzmannstadt".

On the reverse is the denomination, 10 Pfennig, along with "QUITTUNG UBER" printed around the rim which means "transaction receipt".

- Produced in either aluminum or magnesium.

The top photo is an example of the aluminum 5 Mark coin issued in 1943. On the obverse is a large Star of David overprinted by GHETTO with the date below and all of this is surrounded by a broken circle of 2 strands separated by what looks a bit like the barbs on barb wire but which are actually small stars of David.

The bottom photo is an example of a magnesium 5 Mark coin.

- Produced in either aluminum or magnesium.

The top photo is an example of the aluminum 10 Mark coin issued in 1943.

The bottom photo is an example of a magnesium 10 Mark coin.

- Produced in aluminum only.

This is an example of the aluminum 20 Mark coin issued in 1943.

Note about authenticity of Lodz Ghetto coins:

A staggering number of counterfeit Lodz Ghetto coins have been produced since the end of the Second World War. An excellent web page showing numerous examples of counterfeit coins can be found here.

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