Saturday, September 24

Greece and Gold During World War II

Reading Timothy Green's The World of Gold  (1968, p. 154-55) I ran across the below quote from a wealthy Greek soap and oil manufacturer from Salonica reflecting back on the war:
'My family changed all their money into gold sovereigns in the winter of 1941 before the Germans invaded Greece. We had at least 3,000 sovereigns hidden behind the frames of four doors in the house. As soon as the Germans arrived, they took over my father's factory and without those (gold) sovereigns we would all have starved. Although we didn't realize it at the time, most of our other relatives and friends had done just the same thing. But my grandfather, who had put his faith in the Greek currency, was left with a bundle of worthless notes. He lost everything.'
Green then reflects on the role of gold in Greece at the time of his writing in 1968:
This experience dies hard. Today the (gold) sovereign is still the backbone of the Greek economy. The country absorbs vast quantities of the gold coins. Six million of them were imported from London in 1965, a further two million in 1966. The Bank of Greece has made some attempt to check the habit by insisting that sovereigns can be imported only with dollars held outside Greece and that all transactions must be registered with the Bank. But such regulations are unlikely to sweep away the customs of many generations. There is a thriving black market in sovereigns. The uneasiness about the future of the monarchy in Greece is not helping to breed confidence in the drachma.
From this it would seem that Greeks have a rich history of understanding the value of gold in uncertain times, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why so many Greeks are still keeping their euros in Greeks banks?!

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the Euros in Greek banks are of corporates, who can't stash gold. They are regulated entities and their books are open for examination. Perhaps the individual Greeks took their money out years ago and no one noticed.