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Ahrweiler District, Weimar Germany, 1 million mark note, acquired by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2013.442.32

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    Ahrweiler District, Weimar Germany, 1 million mark note, acquired by a US soldier


    Brief Narrative
    One million mark note issued in Ahrweiler District in Germany as emergency currency during the runaway inflation of the 1920s 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. Kirkebo, age 19, enlisted in September 1940. In August 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Kirkebo became commanding officer, C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Third Army. In December 1944, Kirkebo's unit landed in Normandy, and defended Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The 11th Armored spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany and pushed through to Austria. 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, they discovered over 19,000 starving inmates. The unit was tasked with caring for the inmates and improving camp conditions. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Kirkebo was on occupational duty until October when he returned to the Star for his bravery in action.
    issue:  1923 October 15
    issue:  1937 January
    issue: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of James Edward Kirkebo
    face, left, top, purple ink : NU / No 005037
    face, center, purple ink : Gutschein űber / Eine Million / Mark / Dieser Gutschein wird bei Der Kreissparkasse Ahrweiler begann be[?] zweigstellen / in zahlung genommen. Er ber[?] seine G[?]ighoft nach euf[?]predbeuder / Be[?]a[?]nimachuag in den Zeitungen den Krea[?]se[?]. Der Kreis Ahrweiler / hast[?]t fűr die [?]iaf[?]ng. / Ahrweiler, den 5. Juli 1923. / Der Kreisanss[?]uβ des Kreises Ahrweiler: [About Our voucher / One Million / Mark / This voucher is at Kreissparkasse Ahrweiler began be[?] Branches / accepted in payment. He over [?] His g[?]ighoft after euf[?]predbeuder / Be[?]a[?]nimachuag in the newspapers the Krea[?]se[?]. The circle Ahrweiler / hast[?]t for the [?]iaf[?]ng. / Ahrweiler, 5 July 1923. / The Kreisanss uβ the circle Ahrweiler [?]
    face, center, underprint, light green ink : 1000000
    face, bottom, purple ink : EDUARD KIRFEL, AHRWEILLR
    reverse, left, right, light green ink : Kreis Ahrweiler
    reverse, center, light green ink : 1000000
    reverse, right, light green ink : Eine Million Mark
    Reverse, right, light green ink : Kreis Ahrweiler
    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 currency on diamond patterned watermarked paper with orange, green, and purple ink. On the right of the face is a narrow vertical rectangle bordered with circles and an Art Deco background with the serial number and a Landrat Ahrweiler seal with an eagle in purple ink. A rectangle with a purple and white flowered border and patterned orange background covers the remainder of the face. The denomination 1000000 in green underprint is in the center below the denomination Eine Million. There are several more lines of German text and engraved signatures. The reverse inverts the rectangle design. The large, left rectangle has the orange background overlaid with a green square en pointe, 4 small squares, text, and 1000000 and Eine Million Mark. The smaller rectangle repeats the district name. The note is slightly discolored.
    overall: Height: 3.500 inches (8.89 cm) | Width: 5.750 inches (14.605 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 10:32:00
    This page:

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