Numismatics and history are very closely connected. From the earliest coinage to modern commemoratives, coins tell the story of triumph, conquest and tragedy throughout history. They tell the story of kings and of revolutions, exploration and innovation. This series looks at the history of the Modern World through the lense of 20 coins.
Part 16: World War II
Norway Occupied Iron coinage
The Treaty of Versaille, signed at the end of World War 1, piled all the blame for the war on Germany. Significantly, it forced the Germans to pay the enormous cost of the war. Under this crippling debt, the German economy was ruined and the German Mark became worthless.
Out of this chaos arose Hitlerâs Nazi Party, which grabbed power in the 1930s. A second world war broke out on September 1, 1939, when German forces invaded Poland. In a year, Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway had fallen. The United Kingdom was left alone to fight the Germans and Italians. However, resistance movements in places such as France and Norway continued to fight, even after their governments fell.
In Norway, the fight did not end with the surrender of the country. Resistance fighters continued to fight in the mountains and fjords for the entirety of the war. Former army soldiers fled to England, from where they continued the fight through resistance, espionage and sabotage. From the Shetland Islands, Norwegian fishing boats transported arms, ammunitions and operatives to the Norwegian coastline, hundreds of miles away across the open North Sea. These efforts eventually defeated the Germans in Norway.
During the occupation of the country, the Germans issued their own set of coinage, like other occupied territories, such as the Netherlands and Belgium. This particular coin was issued from 1943 to 1945 during the later part of the German occupation of the country. The obverse has the Norwegian Lion bearing an ax, with âNorgeâ for Norway above it. Flanking the lion to either side is a set of axes. The reverse has the denomination of 2 Ãre, which was worth 0.02 Kroner. The date was set below the denomination in small font, with the â19â separated from the â43â by another set of crossed axes. Almost 18 million of these were minted in three years.
When the United States entered the war, the tide was already turning against Germany. Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia in 1941 was halted at Stalingrad and Moscow. American and British forces defeated the Germans in 1942-3 in North Africa and Italy. Unfortunately for Norwegians, military plans never included their country. It was not liberated until the final defeat of the Axis in 1945, when at last the divisions guarding against the resistance fishing vessels, retreated to defend Germany itself.
In the aftermath of the war, the empires of old, finally fell, joining those defeated after the first world war. Next, this series looks at the end of colonialism for Great Britain and France.
The Shetland Bus, by David Howarth
Photo by Ulmo from Numista