May 6, 1923
Siegelau, 6 May 1923
My Dear Brother and Family:
I finally reached the point to reply to your letter which you wrote on the 15th of January, 1923, and which arrived here in good shape on the 2nd of February. We very much enjoyed hearing again how you are.
Well, dear Brother, you are asking how we are. Well, Hermann, if I wanted to tell you all this, I would be busy for days. For about a year now things have risen into the infinite, to such an extent that everyone will be curious as to what will still happen. A horse costs 5 to10 million marks; a couple of oxen, 5 to 7 million; a couple of pigs are 200,000 marks. But everything one had to buy is still more expensive relatively speaking. For instance, clothing and shoes are almost impossible to purchase anymore. The tax burden is also most terrible. I first paid 50,000 marks for a "compulsory" bond, and there are many of such demands coming.* It is indeed good that all of my children will soon be grown up; otherwise it would be a hard task. As far as our health is concerned we can be satisfied and that is probably good too, for a doctor coming from Waldkirch demands 70 to 80 thousand marks now.**
As far as last year was concerned, it was average. There was pretty much fodder, but it was harvested badly. The harvest itself was small, especially in regard to sheaves of oats which were very bad indeed. Potatoes were medicore. However, there was a lot of fruit.
Last fall our son Vitus, who is a mechanic, put in electric lights for us in our mill. It works pretty well. We bought a dynamo machine in the Black Forest. We have about 30 lights on the circuit. A number of large plants are being built now since the French have the coal mining regions.*** Thus a large power plant is built by the City of Freiburg, down the Hörnle Mountain, with a fall of 700 meters for the water and several million kilowatt hours are supposed to be produced. The Hinter Elz River is being rechanneled to create the waterfall.
Well, dear Brother, you write that you are well and that you only have some trouble with your breathing. It is the same with me, especially if I have to climb a mountain. But that is what you have to count on when you move towards 60.
Old Mr. Leis dies two weeks ago; he was 88 years old. Franz Zepp, associated with the mill, is not very well either. It would have been better for him to have stayed in the Mage Mill than to have bought the wirtschaft in Herten near Basel. He has leased the inn out, since he is suffering pretty badly from instances of seizures. Little Vitus died there last year.
As Benedict told us, you wrote him first. Benedict comes here often. He has talked to me for hours, telling about things over there. Here he is a rich man now and works if he feels like it for Jurgle (umalaut over the u) in Bleibach. Jörg is now a cattle and hog dealer and has made a lot of money.****
You write in your letter that three of your sons are in the West and also the daughter with her husband, and that you have a wireless apparatus and that you go to them by car. These cars are terribly expensive here. I believe about 20 million marks or so for a decent car. But inspite of that there are so many here driving cars that you can hardly get ahead on the highway if you do not have a horse used to such traffic. I drive very little anymore now because the horse we have, fox colored, which is five years old, does not love cars especially either.
Well, dear Brother and family, until we have better times here in Germany again, there will not be much left for us. Well, we just have to submit to it. Most businesses keep shortened hours. Gütermann***** in Bleibach where they have a colossal saw mill and a big brick and tile making plant operating with steam. They bought everything that was available. The beautiful Sun Inn in Bleibach is owned by them too; also the electrical installations of the Upper Elz Valley and of the Simonswald, belong to this company. Just think how much income that means. The big capitalists in Germany control everything.
Well, I want to finish now. With very best regards and good health to all of you, from Mother too. She is still doing fine.
Well, farewell to you.
Your Brother Franz Anton Fahrlander
Write again soon.
*Mr. Schweder explains a "compulsory" bond was a government bond issued to raise money for government, but instead of being a voluntary purchase for investment by citizens, its purchase is compulsory. Germany was destitute.
** In 1883, 750 DM equalled about $561.40 in U.S. dollars, or about 1.34 DM per $1.00 (Manchester, The Arms of Krupp). In 1921 one U.S. dollar was equal to 75 DM; in 1922, 400 DM; in 1923, 7000 DM, and in the same year at the beginning of the French occupation of the Ruhr in January, the DM fell to 18,000 per $1.00; in July, 160,000; August, 1,000,000; November, 4,000,000 and after that, in the trillions (Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich).
*** Under peace terms following WW I, Allies' Army was to occupy Germany for 15 years. The French were to own coal mines of Saar Valley, but not the valley itself, for 15 years. Allso, Germany lost coal from Upper Silesia, or a total of almost one-third of coal production, and from the remaining coal was to deliver 40,000,000 tons of coal per year to France, Italy and Belgium for ten years. In January of 1923 France's military forces marched into the Ruhr, justifying their move on the fact that Germany could not continue to meet reparation payments, and the mark had devaluated to almost nil. So Germany had to seek some other source of power.
****Franz Anton in this letter states that Benedict (Eble), who is now in Germany, "...is a rich man now and works if he feels like it..." No indication as to when he returned to Germany, but as letter of 5 October 1930 states he has money in a bank in America, if he is drawing on that and buying marks at these stated rates, he would be rich. I have recollection of him visiting us on the farm at Union and since I do recall it, it must have been after the war. Perhaps he did not return to Germany until after 1918 and was aware of financial conditions there, so kept his money in America. I can recall him as a very small man in stature and build, bright, dark eyes and very neatly dressed. He must have worked around Iowa where Dad lived. He is evidently the Eble referred to in letter of 10 February 1884, who just departed for America.
*****Gutermann (umalaut over the u) is still in textile business. I can purchase their thread here.