In his article on the rites of reparations (“In the News,” July/August) Bernard A. Weisberger states that in November 1923 the German mark reached 4.2 billion to the dollar. He is off by a factor of 1,000. The mark actually dropped to 4.2 trillion to the dollar!
That sort of confusion is understandable. If the author relied on British or German sources, they would (correctly) report an exchange rate of 4.2 billion marks to the dollar. To most Europeans a billion is the same as an American trillion, 1 followed by 12 zeros. An American billion, 1 followed by 9 zeros, is spoken of as a thousand million by an Englishman and a milliard by a German.