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Operation Bernhard: Forgeries of England Banknotes

30 Mar 2017  Thu

Operation Bernhard was a systematically planned counterfeiting operation in the history of Paper Currency conducted during World War II. This operation got its name from Bernhard Kruger, head of the workshop where German Security Service forged passports, licenses, degrees and other documents.

During the war, counterfeiting currencies acted like a weapon forged to attack the economic aspects of a country. This is what the Nazis did when Great Britain dropped forged German food and clothing coupons, after making a failed attempt to counterfeit the German mark.

But Germany dwarfed all others when it came to technical mastery of Counterfeiting. The decision of counterfeiting money went all the way to Adolf Hitler, who approved the plan to forge the Banknotes of England. To mock-up these banknotes, Germany faced three technical problems:

• To produce paper identical to the paper of British Banknote.
• Plates matching the English Banknote plates.
• Creating a numerical system matching the serial number in the Banknote.
The problem of Paper was solved by using Turkish rugs and the plates were ready in seven months but the main problem was the numbering system. After solving all technical problems a German agent was sent to Swiss carrying this bundle of mock-up notes to which Swiss replied that the notes are genuine and even it was conferred by the Bank of England itself that these notes were not forged.

German Government first thought to infuse this notes to destroy British Economy but later on, they use this forge note to fund their operation. Legend has it that they used this notes to release the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1943.

Banknotes of denominations £5, £10 and £50 were imitated. These notes were forged at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp done by 300 prisoners and around £130 million were counterfeited. Later on, when the Mock-up notes were identified by the Bank of England in 1943 they withdrew all the denomination of £ 10 and above and used different paper for £5.

After the World War II when Germany was defeated they dumped these banknotes in Lake Toplitzee, Austria. Later in 1955, the knowledge of counterfeiting banknotes came to the surface.

Learn more about the Operation Bernhard through its last Survivor.

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