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"Give everyone a share,"
the lieutenant ordered The Town That Got Rieh Quick BY THEODORE IRWIN Czech villagers hit the jackpot when the Nazis left 16,000,000 behind. Here’s what happened What would happen to your town if one wonderful day a quixotic visitor were to hand out six million dollars to everybody in it — at the rate of a thousand dollars for each year of your life? A flight of fancy? Well, little over a year ago just such a cash windfall did drop into the lap of the village of Sastin in the northeast comer of Czechoslovakia. It was during the last days of April. 1945. German forces were occupying Sastin, a placid little com munity of several thousand fanners and industnal workers close to the Austrian border. When word time that the Russians were ap proaching, pandemonium hit the Naxis. They prepared to retreat further northward to Austria. In the mayor’s office at the Sastin town hall, used by the Germans as their headquarters, the Nazi com mandant stared at a few battered trunks. They were packed to the bnm with korunas, the Czechoslo vak currency. Originally, the Nazis had looted the money from the vaults of the Czechoslovak National Bank of Bratislava. m. 0«Uway Now, with the Red Army on his heels, the panicky Nazi commander decided to abandon his millions. Outside, his staff car — the motor running — was waiting to speed him to safety. There was no room for any of the trunks, so he locked them, pocketed the keys, and called in two young Slovak peasants who had been drafted into the Wehrmacht. “I leave these trunks in your care. Hide them well. I’ll hold you both responsible. If 1 return — and some day our armies will return — you will be well rewarded. Do you under stand?” The two soldiers nodded dumbly. A moment later, the Nazi officer was gone. The terrified Slovaks promptly discarded their German uniforms for peasant clothes and soon were bicycling madly down the road toward their farms. Meanwhile, the trunks remained in the mayor’s office. The next day. a battalion of Rus sians took over Sastin. Naturally, the first thing the lieutenant in charge inspected was the former Nazi head quarters. There were the strange trunks. Breaking one open, he picked up a few bundles of currency. What was to be done with all this? To understand what happened next, just remember that these Russian soldiers — part of General Konev’s army — had started their triumphant push way back in Stalin grad. They had fought without stop ping, week after week, month after month with only one thought: "March into Berlin or die.” "Fam It Oat" And so the weary lieutenant — his name does not appear on any records of the Czech government — said to his sergeant: “Who knows if I will be alive tomorrow, if I will ever see Berlin ? Let’s give this money to the townspeople.” Then he added: “You handle this, Sergeant. See that every man, woman and child in Sastin gets a share. Ask each one his age, and for every year of his life give him a thousand korunas. There should be enough to go around." With that problem solved he stretched out on a couch and fell asleep. On that sunny day in April, the gentle people of Sastin became rich beyond their dreams. In all. some 300,000.000 korunas (equal to $6,000,000) were handed out. For a few hours, Sastin was stunned. People were incredulous at their amazing good fortune: a citizen with a large family had as much as 150,000 or 200,000 korunas! Every one rushed into the shops in a wild, almost hysterical, spending spree. Sastin at once became the scene of perhaps the fastest inflationary spiral in history. A man used to pay three korunas for a shave; now it cost him 3,000! The entire economy, of the town broke down. Every man was a magnate, a big shot. Farm hands and laborers refused to work. The town’s flour mills, the ce ment factory, the distillery — all had to shut down. Butchers and other merchants sold their whole stocks at fantastic prices. And when everything in Sastin’s stores was sold out, the people traveled to near-by towns with their wads of money. Prices soon sky rocketed there, too, and Sastin be came the center of a monetary earthquake. But all the people didn’t spend their new wealth foolishly. Many of them, after the first orgy of extrava gance was over, buried their money in gardens and cellars. By mid-May, the directors of the bank in Bratislava, checking on the currency missing from their vaults, had traced it to Sastin. There was no way, however, to force the people to return it. So the democratic government headed by President Edouard Benes asked them to give it back voluntarily. An in tensive propaganda drive, pointing out that the money was urgently needed state property, was aimed at Sastin’s patriotism. 1 hen an mcreoiDie tmng nap pened: the people of Sastin dug into their gardens and came forth with 115.000. 000 korunas. The remaining 185.000. 000 korunas were most likely scattered in other towns and cities. Perhaps the Sastinites responded so readily because they are all deeply religious. 1b any case, most of the suddenly-acquired fortunes were voluntarily wiped out. Sooner or later, the Czech govern ment plans to ask each citizen just how he obtained his wealth during the war. Perhaps eventually most of the 300,000,000 korunas that once had flowed so freely in &stin will, return to their home in Bratislava. Today, Sastin is still in something of a daze and the people have a glazed look in their eyes. Men who had once refused to work are back in the fields and factories. But in the wine shops, a bottle of shyovitz, which used to cost 25 korunas, now sells for 600. Sastin will never be the same. For a Beautilul Lawn Now and Next Spring NOW' Treat lawns with this amazing 2,4-D weed killer. Here’s the simple, sure way to banish those scraggy, ugly weeds that make your lawn look ragged and unkempt. 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