Inspired by this question How much is one 1945 German Mark to one 2016 Euro?, for example how many Reichsmark would I need to buy a loaf of bread and how many Euros compared to that?

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    The excellent answer below brings up another question - what is it you really want to know? There are various ways to compare economic activity - buying power is one of the standards, but government wage and price controls are intended to conceal economic reality and make economic comparison nigh impossible (it puzzles me why they remain popular). You'll get better information on how to measure the phenomena if you can explain what you want to measure.
    – MCW
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 14:37
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    @MarkC.Wallace - Indeed, the subsequent paragraphs in that paper I linked go into the progressively more surreal ramifications of the price controls. The fool fights the tide and the winds, the wise harnesses them.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 14:48

1 Answer 1


That's actually a more complicated question than it may seem. During WWII the Nazi government instituted price controls on things like bread, and the occupying UN powers didn't lift those controls until 1948. So bread's official price and its real ("black-market") price would have been very different things [pdf].

From 1936 through 1944, money (measured by currency in circulation plus total bank deposits) rose somewhat more than sixfold (Table 2). Despite this rise in money, price controls restrained the rise in the official consumer price index to only 14 percent from 1936 through 1944. Germany therefore ended the war with suppressed inflation. The Allies kept Hitler’s price freeze in effect during the postwar occupation. Goods traded on the black market or through barter because no one wanted to exchange goods for marks at the artificially low price level.

Fortunately for our purposes, this paper goes directly into the implications of this with respect to bread:

Germans used nylon stockings, American cigarettes, and Parker pens for currency. For example, in 1945, ten cigarettes could be exchanged for 1,500 grams of bread and two pairs of stockings for 1.5 pounds of butter (Haus der Geschichte).

(The reference to Haus der Geschichte is to the exhibits in the museum of modern German history in Bonn, so presumably this is for West Germany only)

So what this tells us is that, unless you had a ration card for it and a bit of luck, you couldn't get bread for Marks before it sold out. You'd have to buy it from the black market (think of it as "bread scalpers"). Assuming a loaf weighs about 250 grams, the going price was about 1 and 1/3 cigarettes for a loaf.

  • Good answer. Do you know how much a cigarette or a nylon stocking would cost in 2016 Euros? If we assume that the cigarettes were purchased with U.S. dollars in 1945 USA.
    – kzevo1800
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:06
  • @kzevo1800 - Well, I'm not sure how good of a comparison that would really be, as the cigarettes themselves seemed to have been acquired from US GI's via their Army PBX's, using their Army pay. So that's essentially a controlled economy too. Amongst the German public at large they were probably fairly rare and in demand items (due to nicotine addicts), like in modern US prisons. If you really want to look up modern cigarette prices and call them equivalent though, be my guest. Your neighborhood convenience store has them, so it should be trivial to check.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 15:09
  • Wow, and I thought cigarettes were expensive now...
    – Comintern
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 1:09
  • @T.E.D. - I just read that pdf you put in the answer quiet interesting stuff. Do you have any info on the actual controlled prices of bread at the end of WWII?
    – kzevo1800
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:40
  • @Comintern: It's not about "cigarettes were expensive". It was that cigarettes had become a kind of alternative currency. You sold goods for cigarettes, then you went and bought goods for cigarettes. Kind of like the piece of paper you call a "dollar bill". It's not valuable in and of itself, it's valuable because people accept it as currency. The value of that currency is decided by the market; same as for 1945 cigarettes in post-war Germany.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 11:44

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