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A Symbol of Unity and Division

The Deutsche Mark was more than just a currency to the Germans. Twice it became the symbol of a new identity. After today, it will no longer be in circulation.

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The euro comes and the mark goes

Until the spring of 1948, Germany still used the currency introduced by the Nazis.

Then new money started to arrive by the crate load from America. The currency reform that followed fuelled the economic miracle in Germany and as the value of its new currency rose, so did the confidence of its people.

After losing two world wars, the devastated country grew from strength to strength and soon became a leading industrialised nation. The Deutsche Mark was the symbol of a new-found freedom and stability.

The new money became known as West-Geld, the money of the west.

The second currency reform went hand in hand with German re-unification nearly 40 years later.

The lost world war cost Germany her unity.

The dividing line

A currency reform of sorts also took place in East Germany. But the Soviets had been taken by surprise by the changeover in the west. They had not even begun printing new notes.

They resorted to the "wallpaper-mark". In huge warehouses stickers were stuck on the old money and brought back into circulation.

Nothing was to divide east and west Germany more than the difference in the value of their currency. The East German Mark was comparatively worthless. Long before the country was unified the West German Deutsche Mark was a parallel currency.

"Either the D-Mark comes to us, or we are going to the D-Mark" was a popular slogan in East Germany during the unification process.

The change-over from East to West German Marks was bulldozed through in haste by former chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Deutsche Mark Scheine mit Münzen

Deutsche Mark bills and coins will soon become history

Going Euro

On the whole, Germans have responded positively to the introduction of the euro, which, of course, meant giving up their beloved Mark.

In his New Year’s address the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said he understood people’s fears about the euro and the loss of the deutsche mark.

"Many of us will be a bit wistful. The German mark meant a lot to us. We link the mark with memories of good times ", Schröder said. "But you can be sure, even better times are ahead."

And indeed the Germans seem to have embraced the euro much faster than expected. The new money is steady on international currency markets, which is what most concerned the Germans in the run up to the change-over.

Other doomsday scenarios of robberies, a flood of counterfeit notes and chaos as shops and customers struggled to adapt to the new currency also failed to materialise.

Most transactions were being made totally in euros within less than two weeks.

And in Germany, where people had long seemed loath to part with the Deutsche Mark, many small retailers proved reluctant to accept cash Deutsche Mark only weeks before the end of the two-month dual-currency period.

By the end of Thursday, the last of the eurozone's old national currencies will become obsolete, and the euro will be the only legal tender.

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