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Nazi Germany, 2 Rentenmark note acquired by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2013.442.28

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    Nazi Germany, 2 Rentenmark note acquired by a US soldier


    Brief Narrative
    Two [zwei] rentenmark German note acquired by Captain James Edward Kirkebo, who served in the US Army from 1940-1945, and fought in Europe with the Thunderbolt Division from December 1944-May 1945. It was first issued by the Weimar government as emergency currency during the runaway inflation of the 1920s, but was reissued and remained in circulation until 1945. Kirkebo, 19, enlisted in the US Army in 1940 and, in August 1942, 2nd Lt. Kirkebo became commanding officer, C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division. In December 1944, Kirkebo's unit landed in Normandy, defended Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany. Kirkebo received a battlefield promotion to captain on February 1, 1945. On May 5 and 6, soldiers from the 11th Armored liberated Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps. At Mauthausen, the unit was tasked with caring for 19,000 starving inmates. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Kirkebo was awarded a Silver Star and 3 Bronze Stars for his leadership and heroism in action.
    issue:  approximately 1937 January 30
    issue: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of James Edward Kirkebo
    face, top center, red ink : A · 48265710
    face, top, right, brown ink : 2
    face, center, brown ink : Rentenbankschein / Zwei Rentenmark / Ausgegeben auf Grund Der Verordnung / vom. 15. Oktober 1923 (R.-G.-Bl. IS. 963) / BERLIN, den 30.Januar 1937 / Deutsche Rentenbank / Präsident und Vorstand: [Rentenbank paper / Two Rentenmark / Issued according to / Ordinance. 15 October, 1923 (Rt.-G.-Bl. IS. 9631) / BERLIN, January 30, 1937 / German Rentenbank / President and Board / engraved signatures]
    reverse, center, brown ink : Deutsche Rentenbank / 2 2 / Zwei Rentenmark
    everse, lower left corner, brown ink : 2 Rentenmark
    reverse, left, vertical, brown ink : Wer Rentenbankschien nachmacht oder verfälscht oder nachgemachte oder verfälchte / Sich verschafft und in Verkehr bringt, wird mit Zuchthaus nicht unter zwei Jahren bestraft [Whoever imitates Rentenbank certificate or falsified or counterfeit or falsified / procured and put into circulation shall be punished by imprisonment from two years]
    Subject: James E. Kirkebo
    Issuer: Deutsche Rentenbank
    James (Jim) Edward Kirkebo was born on April 22, 1921, in Tacoma, Washington. He was the second of three children born to Gerhard and Irene Kirkebo. His parents were both born in Norway and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Gerhard was a building contractor. In spring 1939, James graduated from high school and took a job as a shipping clerk.

    On September 14, 1940, he enlisted in the US Army. Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. James was deployed for four and a half months with the Asia Pacific Technical Operations (APTO) unit, through December 1941. James rose to the rank of Sergeant, with a specialty in reconnaissance. On December 7, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,a, and a few days later the US entered World War II. On May 11, 1942, James was selected to attend the Army’s newly formed Officer Candidate Course at Fort Benning in Georgia. In early August, Staff Sergeant Kirkebo, 2nd Training Regiment, 16th Co., graduated from the Officer’s Candidate Course and was reenlisted as a Second Lieutenant with a specialty in automotive maintenance and repair. In mid-August, the 11th Armored Division, the Thunderbolt Division, was activated, as part of the Third Army. James was made commanding officer of C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion. The unit was deployed in September to Great Britain. In early December, his unit landed in Normandy, France, and moved north into Belgium. They entered combat on December 30, defending the road to Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. In January 1945, the Division spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany. On February 1, James received a field promotion to Captain. In February and March, the 11th Armored overran several cities, then crossed the Rhine River. In April, the unit turned south towards the Danube River and Austria. James was wounded by shrapnel on April 25, but continued fighting. On May 5 and 6, the Division liberated Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps, two of the largest camps in Austria. The Medical Inspector’s report on Mauthausen stated that "the situation in the camp on the arrival of the US Forces was one of indescribable filth and human degradation." There were over 19,000 prisoners, most little more than skeletons, and over half in need of immediate medical care. They had to keep the inmates from leaving the camp, until they were able to eat again. After starving for so long, they became sick from eating the soldier's rations or regular food. The 11th Armored Division turned to the task of providing medical services, caring for the inmates, and improving conditions in the camp.

    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. The Division was placed on occupational duty until August 31, when it was deactivated. On September 1, James was reassigned to the 9th Armored Division, 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion, C Company. The 9th armored continued occupational duties in Germany until early fall. James returned to the US on October 13, 1945, the same day the 9th Armored Division was deactivated. He was relieved from active duty and honorably discharged. James had participated in the Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe Campaigns and received many medals for his service, including a Silver Star, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in leadership while in action against the enemy, Bronze Stars for heroic conduct, Purple Heart, American Defense Service, and campaign medals. James returned to Tacoma and went into business with his father as a building contractor. In the late 1940s, James married Lorna (1920-1998), and the couple had two children. James joined the 6th Army Reserves Company, Instructor Group, transitioning to retired in 1962. James, age 70, died on June 4, 1991, in Tacoma, Washington.

    Physical Details

    Exchange Media
    Physical Description
    Rectangular 2 rentenmark paper currency with a brown ink patterned rectangle on a light green background with the serial number in red ink at the top above 6 lines of German text and engraved signatures. There is a wide right margin with the denomination 2 in the upper right corner and an embossed Reichsbank seal at the bottom. The back has 3 ornate medallions on a geometric patterned rectangle: the left and right have the denomination 2, the center has a wheat sheaf. The bank name is printed above and the denomination Zwei Rentenmark is below. Two lines of small fraktur text are printed vertically along the left side. The wide left margin has the denomination 2 Rentenmark in the bottom corner. The paper is stained orange on the right front, torn, and creased.
    overall: Height: 2.750 inches (6.985 cm) | Width: 4.875 inches (12.383 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The currency was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Jamie Kirkebo, on behalf of the Estate of his father, James Edward Kirkebo.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-28 10:32:25
    This page:

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