In 1919, a year after the end of World War One and the start of the Weimar Republic in Germany, $1 was worth 48 Marks. By early 1922, $1 bought 320 Marks; by late 1922, $1 bought 7,400 Marks. By 1923, $1 bought 4,210,500,000,000 Marks. “Lingering at shop windows was a luxury because shopping had to be done immediately,” said the artist George Grosz at the height of this hyperinflation.
“Even an additional minute could mean an increase in price. One had to buy quickly. A rabbit, for example, might cost two million marks more by the time it took you to walk into the store. The packages of money needed to buy the smallest item had long since become too heavy for trouser pockets. I used a knapsack.”
“I never thought of myself as doing anything other than telling stories,” said Erich Lessing. “The camera became the medium through which I did that, but I don’t carry a camera everywhere I go. To me, it is simply the means to a very specific end. I observe the world through my eyes and not through the viewfinder of a camera. I don’t interpret, nor do I adjust anything in the dark room. I am a realistic photographer.”
They’re modest words from a man who created iconic images of the 20th century, and who was a member of Magnum Photos for well over half a century. His photographs of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 were seen around the world, as was his shot of the presentation of the Austrian State Treaty on the balcony of the Belvedere palace in front of a cheering crowd in 1955.
“I was born in 1968 in West Germany – that’s 23 years after 1945,” says Frederike Helwig. “One of my first memories of seeing images of the war was at my grandmother’s house, watching an antiwar movie about 16-year-old German soldiers defending a small village against all odds. I must have been 8 or 10 and I climbed into my brother’s bed that night utterly terrified by what I had seen with no explanation or guidance whatsoever. “This ‘shock’ education continued throughout school, where my generation was taught facts and figures about war crimes and atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. Nobody was able to articulate guilt or shame, or elaborate on the emotional side of what this meant for modern German society. No one ever asked the question why this had happened, let alone gave an answer. Why didn’t the history teachers encourage my generation to ask our grandparents about their experiences in the war? The perpetrators were always the others – names in history books.” Moving to the UK to study photography when she …