Nazi forgers flooded Europe with fake British notes
Nazi forgers succeeded in flooding Europe with fake British banknotes, “destroying” confidence in the UK currency, according to secret MI5 files made public today.
Papers released by the National Archives show that, by the end of the Second World War, the forgeries were so rife, British banknotes would not be accepted on the continent.
The Germans first began forging the notes in 1940 in preparation for Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain, according to a report drawn up in 1945 by Sir Edward Reid of MI5’s section B1B. According to a captured German agent, the plan was to scatter the notes from the air “in order to create loss of confidence and general confusion”.
Although Hitler was forced to abandon his invasion plan after the failure of the Luftwaffe to gain aerial supremacy in the Battle of Britain, the German forgers carried on perfecting their techniques.
“What they subsequently produced was a type of forgery so skilful that it is impossible for anyone other than a specially trained expert to detect the difference between them and genuine notes,” Sir Edward reported.
However, the practice backfired on the Germans when it turned out that agents being sent to spy on Britain were being issued with the fake notes, quickly alerting the UK authorities to their presence.
At first few of the fake notes reached Britain, but all that changed after D-Day and the invasion of France in 1944 when they began appearing in large numbers – largely due to the black market activities of Allied troops.
“It turned out that what was common was the selling of army stores on the French black market and the using of the francs so received to buy British notes to send or smuggle home,” Sir Edward wrote. “A good deal of undesirable activity took place in this way.”
Nazis forging British banknotes have also made it on to the small screen. The idea was used as the plot for the TV comedy drama Private Schultz.
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