Counterfeiting Pound Notes

The Dastardly Past:  Counterfeiting Pound Notes.


On or around September 18, 1939, someone in the upper echelons of the Nazi regime proposed the plan that eventually became Operation Bernhard—the large-scale counterfeiting of five-, ten-, and twenty-pound British notes in order to destabilize England’s economy.  SS officer Bernhard Kruger ran the operation using as many as 130 professional counterfeiters and skilled Jewish craftsmen incarcerated at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  These individuals both created bills of the highest quality and “seasoned” them, making them look like money that had circulated for a while, producing them in industrial quantities.  Scholars estimate that the amount of counterfeit currency approached $150 million pounds.  Germany passed the fake notes throughout the Empire—the first came to light in West Africa.

The use of counterfeiting currency as a method of warfare had been practiced at least since counterfeited coinage in ancient Greece; it occurred in many European wars as well as the Civil War in the United States.  England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer repeatedly, and confidentially, asked to withdraw the old bills in favor of newly designed “forgery-proof” bills, but England only began to take action toward the close of the war.




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