450-Year-Old Debt: Berlin Owes German Village Trillions, Thanks To Inflation, Interest

A certificate of debt found filed away in the regional archives of Mittenwalde, Germany, attests that Berlin still owes them a debt of 400 guilders, which goes back 450 years.

While Reuters has reported that the debt is 540 years old, the calculations don’t add up, since the certificate was written on May 28, 1562.

Radio Berlin Brandenburg’s estimates put the debt at 11,200 guilders today, because of a 6 percent interest, an amount that is roughly the same as 112 million euros, or $136.79 million. When adjusted for compound interest and inflation, the total debt actually lies in the trillions today.

The Christian Post reports that Vera Schmidt, the town historian, found the centuries-old debt slip in the town’s archive, where it was filed in 1963. Although the document’s seal is missing, Schmidt is certain that the slip is still valid. She stated:

“In 1893 there was a debate in which the document was examined and the writing was determined to be authentic.”

Schmidt also noted that Mittenwalde has attempted to ask for their money back every 50 years or so since 1820, but they have yet to receive compensation. Schmidt, along with Mittenwalde Mayor Uwe Pfeiffer, are the latest to ask for the debt to be repaid, an amount that would make the town of 8,800 incredibly rich.

According to Reuters, Schmidt and Pfeiffer, who met with Berlin’s finance senator Ulrich Nussbaum, were given a small amount of compensation, as Nussbaum ceremonially handed the two a historical guilder, which dates back to 1539. Nussbaum stated of the transaction that, “This case shows that debts always catch up with you, no matter how old they are.”

While it’s nice for Mittenwalde residents to think that their 450-year-old debt will someday be repaid by Berlin, the debt-laden German capital would have a hard time filling their end of the deal, considering recent reports show Berlin is close to 63 million euros in debt.

Berlin Mittenwalde Guilder