Any dupes of German propaganda who imagine that there is much self-sacrifice among the wealthy class in Germany in this war should disabuse their minds of that theory at once. While the poor are being deprived of what they have, the purchases of pearls, diamonds, and other gems by the profiteers are on a scale never before known in Germany.
One of the paradoxes of the situation, both in Austria and in Germany, is the coincidence of the great gold hunt, which is clearing out the trinkets of the humblest, with the roaring trade in jewelry in Berlin and Vienna. As an instance I can vouch for the veracity of the following story:—
A Berlin woman went to Werner’s, the well-known jewellers in the Unter den Linden, and asked to be shown some pearl necklaces. After very little examination she selected one that cost 40,000 marks (2,000 pounds). The manager, who knew the purchaser as a regular customer for small articles of jewelry, ventured to express his surprise, remarking, “I well remember, madam, that you have been coming here for many years, and that you have never bought anything exceeding in value 100 marks. Naturally I am somewhat surprised at the purchase of this necklace.” “Oh, it is very simple,” she replied. “My husband is in the leather business, and our war profits have made us rich beyond our fondest hopes.”
Throughout Austria and Germany in every village and townlet are appearing notices to bring in gold.
The following notice is to be met with in all parts of Germany:—
Our enemies, after realising that they cannot defeat us on the field of battle, are striving to defeat us economically. But here they will also fail.
OUT WITH YOUR GOLD.
Out with your gold! What is the value of a trinket to the life of the dear one that gave it? By giving now you may save the life of a husband, brother, or son.
Bring your gold to the places designated below. If the value of the gold you bring exceeds five marks, you will receive an iron memento of “Die grosse Zeit.”
Iron chains will be given for gold chains. Wedding rings of those still living will not be accepted.
From rural pulpits is preached the wickedness of retaining gold which might purchase food for the man in the trenches.
The precedent of the historic great ladies of Prussia who exchanged their golden wedding rings for rings of iron is drummed into the smaller folk continuously. The example is being followed by the exchange of gold trinkets for trinkets made of iron, with the addition of the price paid at the central collecting station—paid, of course, in paper, which is at a 30 per cent. discount in Germany and 47 per cent. discount in Austria. Every bringer of a trinket worth more than 5s. receives a small iron token of “die grosse Zeit” (the great epoch).