AXIS PROPAGANDA
CURRENCY OF WWII

SGM HERBERT A. FRIEDMAN (Ret.)

The field of psychological operations (PSYOP) and aerial propaganda leaflets is vast. There were billions of leaflets dropped during WWII, and thousands of different types. One of my favorite themes is the leaflet in the form of a banknote. It is a very strong psychological tool. Few people will fail to pick up a banknote on the ground. For this reason they have always been popular as a medium of propaganda. In this article we will discuss and illustrate the banknote leaflets prepared by Nazi Germany for use against The United States and its Allies. Portions of this article have appeared previously in the International Bank Note Society Journal, Volume 24, No. 3, 1985, and Volume 24 No. 4, 1985.

Warning

It should be noted that in 2009 a number of forgeries of the German propaganda parodies of $1, $2 and $5 U.S. banknotes were offered on EBay by a New Jersey dealer operating under the name The Grand Emporium. Buyers are warned to inspect any propaganda banknotes carefully. We can assume that fakes will abound in the future.

German Propaganda

The Germans loved propaganda. It has been said that because they loved it so much, they couldn't do it properly. They were by far the most extravagant producers of aerial leaflets in the form of currency. They produced propaganda banknotes for the United States, Great Britain, Yugoslavia, Hungary, the Soviet Union and other nations that stood in their path of world domination.

The United States of America

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German anti-Semitic parody of US $1 to France

In October 1943, French citizens awakened to find the streets of Paris littered with United States $1 Silver Certificates of 1935. The populace was overjoyed, thinking that the generous Americans had dropped dollar bills for the eventual use of the French people after the defeat of the hated German occupation forces. It was only upon close examination that the true significance of the dollars came to light. All the bills had the serial number Y91033384A. Each was in reality a thin strip of photographically prepared paper that had been folded to give the appearance of a legitimate banknote.

The front and the back of the folded leaflet were excellent reproductions of the genuine currency. When the fake dollar was unfolded, a vicious attack upon the United States and world Judaism was exposed. All the inside text is in French.

In the center of the unfolded note is a yellow Star of David. The text is:

This dollar is valid only if signed Morgenthau. The Minister of the United States Treasury is the Jew Morgenthau Junior, allied to the big sharks of international finance. All the Jewish symbols appear on this dollar: the Eagle of Israel, the Triangle, the Eye of Jehovah and the thirteen letters of the device, stars of the halo, arrows, olive branches and steps of the unfinished pyramid. This money is certainly Jewish! This dollar has paid for the Jewish war. The only message that the Anglo-Americans are able to address to us is: Will this dollar be enough to compensate us for the sorrows caused by the Jewish war? Money has no smell ... but the Jew has one!"

This banknote is very well done, extremely realistic, and one of the most popular German banknote leaflets of World War II.

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The German parody of US $1 for Italy

In late April of 1945, the United States Fifth Army was preparing to slug it out with entrenched German forces along the Po River in Northern Italy. By the 23rd of the month, the 337th, 338th and 339th Infantry Regiments of the 85th U.S. Infantry Division were crossing the Po and moving rapidly northward. The expected strong German defense never materialized and the Po Valley offensive turned into a complete rout of the Axis forces.

The 339th Regiment raced ahead at full speed, men riding in jeeps mounted with machine guns and even in captured German and Italian staff cars. By 0815 of April 26th, forward elements were entering the town of Verona. Verona was a center of Fascist propaganda. Several major printing plants were located in the city and these were known to have produced stamps, postcards, posters, and pamphlets meant to bolster the Italian morale and will to continue the war.

Colonel Floyd E. Minor, Commanding Officer of the Third Battalion of the 339th, found that because of the headlong retreat of the enemy he had advanced beyond the range of his maps. His men reported that the Germans had left vast quantities of printed material in the now-vacant printing plants and storage facilities. He decided to lead a patrol through the warehouses in search of operational maps of the area.

In a storage building located on a private estate just north of Verona he found maps of the surrounding area, all the way to the Brenner Pass. Continuing to search, he was surprised to find a large bundle of United States $1 Silver Certificates of 1935. The banknotes all bore the serial number D85826026A. The notes had been reproduced by the Germans and had a short Italian-language propaganda message overprinted on the back:

The promises of the Americans are of no value - they look fine and good, but they are only illusions (like this banknote).

Minor stated: "I picked up a bundle of them, about 100 I guess, gave some away and had the rest destroyed."

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German Parody of US $1 Banknote for North Africa

The Germans produced a parody of the United States $1 Silver Certificate of 1935, serial number G80536479B with Arabic text on the back:

Sons of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia: Do you know of the struggle of Muslims in Palestine and Syria who have declared war against Jews who have lived there like animals for several years? Do you know how they are feeling from their struggle? They want freedom and independence for their country which they inherited free and independent from their fathers and grandfathers. They don’t want the Jews to steal their property, fields, cows, etc., by surprise or force and after that steal their freedom and dignity. Who are the people who are helping and cooperating with these Jews? Aren’t they American and British? Listen! Arabs! A speech was delivered by Mr. Wadsworth, American Ambassador to Syria, to the Muslim community and to the world as a whole. This is what he says: "Muslims of Syria are out to prove that they deserve to be free. They probably don’t deserve freedom." Dear Arabs, since when has it been the case that an Arab has to prove to a Jew and to a friend of a Jew that he deserves freedom? Through God there is no stronger proof than the edge of a sword because freedom is born out of blood. Also, freedom is a dignity we have to sacrifice for in order not to lose it. A noble dignity will not be saved unless blood is shed on each side. Sons of western Arabic countries, Americans have invaded your countries like armies of students; one day they will tell you that you don’t deserve freedom. Sons of western Arabic countries, be prepared! God is with the people who struggle!"

This note was presumably distributed to Arabs in North Africa and the Middle East at some point between 1942 and 1944. George Wadsworth (1893-1958) was the first U.S. diplomat accredited to Syria, on 9 October 1942. When the U.S. recognized the independence of Syria and Lebanon on 7 September 1944, he became Minister to both countries, serving until 1947. This note was first reported in the winter 1975 issue of Falling Leaf; the owner is given as R.J. French. An example sold on eBay on 16 November 2001. This item was mounted in a crude paper frame with notations “Dollar bill issued by Germans in Africa. Obtained in Italy July 1944.” The note itself is signed “C.L. Montgomery / 15th Inf.” The 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Division served in North Africa and Sicily, and was in Italy from 18 September 1943 until August 1944. The copy above was sent by former U.S. Army 1SG Garry Arva.

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German $2 note for Arabs

The Germans also reproduced a parody of the United States $2 note of 1928. The serial number of this bill is B67336096A. This note was prepared in mid-1943 while the German army in Tunisia was in full retreat. The plan was to drop propaganda in the form of currency upon the local tribesmen. The messages would attack the Allied occupation of the Arab lands and attempt to inflame a patriotic resistance to the American and British forces. Allegedly, a cheap jobbing printer was found in Tunis who was willing to undertake the printing of these fraudulent banknotes. He used poor quality paper. The color is a much deeper green than found on genuine bills.

The propaganda message was printed in Arabic and reads:

To our Brother, the Moslem: The note depicted is that with which the British and Americans seek to enslave the world. Remember, Oh Moslem brother, that the blood of your brethren has flowed like rivers in order to increase the fortunes of these robbing overlords who sponge on the lands of Allah and his faithful followers. Look at the current events and those that have occurred in all areas of Islam under the disastrous occupation of the Anglo-Americans. This is an auspicious time for rapid action to salvage what is left. Join those who have revolted against the Anglo-Americans, hated enemies of Islam. You will secure not only your own lives, but also those of your children. Allah supports you and will shield you from danger in driving off the Jewish occupation that has been sucking your lifeblood and controlling the lands of Islam.

The effect of this propaganda on the Arabs was negligible. On the other hand, the British and American troops who found this currency enjoyed them. They collected and traded the banknotes and even used the fake money in card games. By accident, the Germans had helped to defeat the boredom of the Allied front line soldier.

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German Parody of a $2 banknote with Italian Text Coded I/1

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German Parody of a $2 banknote with Italian Text Coded I/5

German parodies of the United States $2 note are also found with Italian-language text. As the Germans fled from North Africa they carried the plates for the propaganda with them. Expecting the Allied landings in Sicily, they printed an entire series of bills with pro-Fascist and anti-Allied statements. At least eight different propaganda messages were prepared and dropped over Sicily. The same messages appear on both U.S. $2 and $10 banknote leaflets. I will translate the Italian-language texts later in this article when we discuss the German parodies of the United States $10 bills.

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German parody of the US $5 with skull

The Germans also produced a photographic reproduction of the United States $5 Federal Reserve Note of 1934. The propaganda banknotes bear the serial number B03439129A. They were dropped in 1942 over Egypt and possibly over other parts of North Africa.

These notes are found with two different Arabic messages on the back. The first depicts a skull in the center and text:

The face it is shining gold, but it hides tragedies. It is full of promises, but is followed by occupation and confiscation of the land. They tell you none of this. Worse will be the enslavement of the people and permanent occupation by the colonizers who destroy all traditions. They came with ugly aggression and no regard for religion. Is it not better for the patient to fight his illness before it spreads and becomes fatal? Before it is implanted permanently in the land and spreads, which would mean the loss of the land? The face it is shining gold, but the inside is merciless and cruel.

The term "face" refers to both the front of the banknote and the skull on the back.

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Another German parody of the US $5

The second $5 banknote variety is identical to the first on the front, but lacks the skull and bears a different Arabic language text on the back:

To the people of Morocco: When a merchant wants to sell something in his store to a customer, both the buyer and seller look to the scale. They both see the merchandise on one side and the weight on the other and they are satisfied when the scale balances. There is no need for argument; both get what they pay for. How beautiful it would be if the world would be judged on a similar scale.

But now the Americans, the thieves, force themselves through countries, drowning these nations with their dollars, which causes confusion. The rules of government have been changed. Violence has become rampant, and it seems that someone has an invisible finger on the scales, pushing down to make sure that one side has more value than the other side.

These ‘people of the dollars’ destroy the rules of marketing and housing. If they had their way all of the time you would have nothing to show but their paper money. Wouldn't it be better if you kept your money, animals, oil and other products away from the eyes of the enemy so he could not reach out and get his hands on everything you own? Let the American keep his money and see how he will fill his stomach with dollars. A smart man saves part of his food and products for another time when he will be in need.

Data on dissemination of the $5 bills is scarce. There are reports that the Luftwaffe dropped the notes over Alexandria, Cairo, and El Alamein in Egypt, but at present there is no documented proof.

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German $5 parody

The most interesting German parody of a US $5 note is that of a silver certificate of 1934 with the serial number A40237826A. A single copy of this note is filed in the National Archives in Washington DC. There is no record of it being disseminated. There is a caricature on the back that depicts a sickle-bearing Bolshevik thug being released from a cage by a group of formally dressed Allied leaders. Among them are President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill. There is no text, but the vignette certainly implies that the Allied nations are unleashing Bolshevik death and destruction on Europe.

The first German $10 banknote leaflet is a photographic reproduction of the United States Federal Reserve note of 1934. The face of the leaflet is a good copy of the genuine bank note and bears the serial number F05934811A. This same $10 image appears on a number of other German propaganda leaflets. At least two are known with Arabic text, and as many as eight with Italian-language propaganda on the back.

The Arabic-language bank notes were dropped over Tunisia toward the end of 1943 when the German Army was in full retreat. It was hoped that the inflammatory text would incite the local tribesmen to revolt against the Anglo-American forces and their alleged Zionist cronies and hopefully slow the Allied advance. The text on the back of the first Arabic-language banknote is:

Muslims of North Africa: The time has come for you to fight the criminal Anglo-Americans and their agents the Jews. Announce your revolt against them. Fight them. Don't let them achieve their goals. Deny your enemies all hope. The result will be that you have obeyed the commandments of Allah the Omniscient. You will have liberated your beloved nation from those thieves. Remember, the Anglo-Americans hate you as much as the Jews do. Beware their propaganda. Don't trust their promises. Do not be deceived by the money they offer to pay for your help, or afterwards you and your children will be given to the Jews as spoils of war.

The second Arabic-language German reproduction of the United States $10 Federal Reserve Note of 1934 is found with the same message as their parody of the U.S. $2 note:

To our Brother, the Moslem: The note depicted is that with which the British and Americans seek to enslave the world. Remember, 0h Moslem brother that the blood of your brethren has flowed like rivers in order to increase the fortunes of these robbing overlords who sponge on the lands of Allah and his faithful followers. Look at the current events and those that have occurred in all areas of Islam under the disastrous occupation of the Anglo-Americans. This is an auspicious time for rapid action to salvage what is left. Join those who have revolted against the Anglo-Americans, hated enemies of Islam. You will secure not only your own lives, but also those of your children. Allah supports you and will shield you from danger in driving off the Jewish occupation that has been sucking your lifeblood and controlling the lands of Islam.

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Back of the German T/5/E Propaganda Banknote 

A third $10 banknote with Arab propaganda text on the back has the code T/5/E. The text on the back of the note is:

Fellow Muslims!

The British and Americans are bombing your cities hoping to scare you and cause damage to your families and your holy places, but if you injure a lion it will do all in its power to defend itself and kill its attacker.

Fellow Muslims! Take revenge for your brothers the martyrs, and kill your British and Americans enemies who did not hesitate to ignite the flames of war in the Islamic countries because of their greediness and selfishness.

It is time to finally free yourself from those invaders who enjoy enslaving all the people of the world through the power of their gold and their extreme wealth. They come with the intention not to protect you, but to steal your money and increase their wealth by robbing your crops and occupying your territory to give it to the Jews who lend them the money necessary to carry on the war. Fight your enemy for God is with you!

 

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$10 German parody Code I/2

There are believed to be eight different propaganda messages in Italian, coded I/1 through I/8. All have been seen except for 1/7, which is unknown at present. The propaganda messages are:

Code I/1: The American dollar has always been money of high value. This is a result of the great natural resources of America and also of the great amount of labor performed by Italian immigrants.

The United States of America has no reason to be involved in the European conflict. The story of this American intervention staggers the imagination. America has wanted to extend economic domination to the European continent and Africa.

How many American citizens of Italian descent are now forced to fight against their mother country, on the land in which their parents and their grandparents reside?

Code I/2: There is no way of compensating the people for the immense fatigue caused by the hateful, niggardly emigrants. The American dollar desires to humiliate Italy, to impose on our country a disastrous change: the failure of the lira, just as in Ethiopia and Libya. The dollar has cost the blood of a multitude of our unhappy people in this nation. The Italian monarchists and fascists fight to defend the honesty and security of the people. With the discipline and faith of the Italian people they will know how to defend themselves and will win.

Code I/3: Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and one of the principal architects of the Declaration of Independence of his country from England, would be ashamed to see his image used as a symbol of morality on those dollars which President Roosevelt, his present and worthy successor, pays mercenaries of all races. They are the ‘pirates of the air’ and he compensates them with great prices, regularly fixed for the savage bombings of European cities that are centers of culture and human science, and for the criminal bombings of defenseless populations. Dollar! In place of Jefferson's noble face, every civilized man can see with horror and desecration a bloodstain coming through.

Code I/4: His excellence Ascalesi, Archbishop of Naples, has addressed to the Neapolitan people and clergy a most worthy and grievous letter, in which he expressed his indignation for the destruction inflicted by the enemy in air raids. After having observed the devastation undergone by religious institutions, the Archbishop concluded thus: ‘How many sacred ciboriums, how many baptismal fonts and how many archives are today a mass of ruins, silent witnesses that the enemy bombs, instead of hitting military objectives, have destroyed sanctuaries of peace and of divine protection’. But Anglo-American pilots receive a reward in cash for bombings directed against civilian populations.

Code I/5: The Anglo-American bombers have descended on our cities, destroying private property, historical art, churches, hospitals and schools. They hope to oppress the spirit of Italian resistance. They amuse their honored allies the Bolsheviks, who have massacred the old, women, children, priests and sisters of charity, with only one purpose, the elimination of every sound principle of morals and religion. Italians, we will resist at any cost to save our religion and country with a fascist victory.

On July 9, 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily. On July 14th, a copy of the note coded 1/5 was found in an open field three miles north of Gela by Corporal Stan Swizenski of the 5th Field Artillery Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division.

Code I/6: The American banks overflow with the gold of European countries unduly accumulated and withheld. Taken away from the young worker nations, this gold is used to feed the American imperialism, allied with Bolshevism that would destroy every moral and religious principle of our civilization. The Monarchic and fascist Italy, strong in her principles of social justice must fight to assure the work of her sons by victory.

Code I/7: Message unknown.

Code I/8: The Anglo-American civilization has devised a new means for bringing death among defenseless civilian populations. The enemy planes drop explosive bombs that look like fountain pens, pencils, bottles of ink and other objects that can appear innocuous. As soon as such objects are gathered, they explode, causing death and serious wounds to those who handle them. On Easter Monday in the square of Grosseto, Anglo-American flyers took an amusement park as a target, killing women and children. In the sea, hospital ships have been made cruel targets by the enemy. These infamous actions have been rewarded with great payment to the assassins. ITALIANS! The blood of innocent victims calls for revenge; it demands hate. We must hate the English and Americans with all the strength of our soul and we must rush, with our will to resist until victory, toward the inevitable day in which all their crimes shall be punished.

The Italian-language $10 notes were dropped by the Luftwaffe over Sicily. They were apparently disseminated prior to and during the battle for that island. The same messages are found on parodies of U.S. $2 notes. The messages indicate that the Germans hoped to strengthen the resolve of their Italian allies in the fight against the expected American forces. There are no reports of these currency propaganda notes being distributed in Italy.

The final German parody of United States currency came to light when the following comment was published in the Eighth Army News, (Italian edition), 19 November 1943:

Swiss journalists report that German planes have dropped thousands of counterfeit ten-dollar notes over districts in Yugoslavia held by Tito's army.

These banknotes were prepared by the Propagandaabteilung Sudost, Staffel Kroatien (Propaganda Section Southeast, Croatian Detachment). This German propaganda unit was headquartered in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, with subsidiary units (Nebenstelle) in Banja Luka, Sarajevo, Varazdin, Essegg, Dubrovinik, Vukovar and Bjelovar.

Yugoslavia was created at the end of WWI. It was an unstable fusion of the kingdom of Serbia with Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats were predominately Roman Catholic and resented their dominance by the Greek Orthodox Serbs. Some Croats applauded Hitler's surprise invasion of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941. After the 12-day German victory, Croatia was declared an independent state. Ante Pavelic, founder of the Croat Revolutionary Organization, Ustaska Hrvatska Revolueionero Organizacija (Ustase), declared himself Poglavnik (leader). The Croatian Legion placed 5,000 men in the field and joined the Nazis in their attack on Stalingrad. They also attempted to form at least three infantry divisions and several Waffen SS divisions. This was the reason that the German propagandists worked closely with their Chetnik collaborators and called their detachment Staffel Kroatien.

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The German $10 gold note for Yugoslavia

The propaganda banknote is a safe conduct pass in the form of the United States $10 Gold Certificate of 1928. The serial number is A55838131A. In small print on the face of the front of the note we find the following text at top, bottom and left side over the gold seal:

True, this bill is not worth anything, but it is capable of saving your life. It makes it possible for you to go over to the German forces in safety. We call upon you to leave the partisans and come over to the German forces. With this pass in your hands you are exempt from all punishment.

The Germans placed a safe conduct message on the back of the note:

Deserter Pass. Don't shoot, take this man to the nearest German Command Post and treat him well.

The message appears in the German, Serbian and Croatian languages. At the right of the message a Nazi eagle and swastika are shown. At the lower left, over the $10 denomination we find the code "P.S.K.83," which indicates that this is the 83rd leaflet in the series. The banknote was prepared by the German propaganda organization Skorpion-Adria. A brief word about German propaganda.

The German Propaganda Kompanie Einheiten (PK Units) was comprised of two light reporting teams consisting of a few writers and photographers, and one heavy team with additional movie and radio personnel. Starting about 1938 they were appointed by propaganda Minister Josef Goebbel’s Das Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (The Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda - RMVP), but when at the front they came under the command of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces High Command – OKW). The arrangement that was agreed upon in 1939 said:

Propaganda is recognized as an essential means of war, equal to armed struggle. The Wehrmacht is responsible for conducting the armed struggle: the propaganda war will be conducted by the RMVP. In the home district, the RMVP carries it out completely independently; in the operations area, in coordination with the OKW.

All of the film shot by the PK was for the exclusive use of the Propaganda Ministry. Adolf Hitler always worried about the loyalty of the Army and eventually moved all of the propaganda sections to the Schutzstaffeln (Protection Squads – SS).

In January of 1940 an SS-Kriegsberichter-Kompanie (Waffen-SS war Reporters Company) was established, each equipped with still and movie cameras, and its platoons were attached to the four main Waffen-SS combat formations that fought in the Western Campaign of May and June, 1940. These platoons remained with their respective divisions for the Balkans Campaign in the spring of 1941. During August 1941, the SS-Kriegsberichter-Kompanie was expanded to Abteilung (battalion) strength. Waffen-SS expansion continued to grow throughout the war and in December 1943 the reporters unit again expanded, this time to regimental size. It also received an honor title at this point, becoming known as SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers. It also received a cuff-title bearing the same name. Kurt Eggers was the former editor of the SS magazine Das Schwarz Korps (The Black Corps). He was killed in action west of Kharkov while serving as a tank commander with the 5th SS-Division on 13 August 1943

The chain of command of the Propaganda organization was on a direct line from Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, to SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, to “Kurt Eggers” Commander Standartenführer Gunter d’Alquen to units such as the German Skorpion propaganda group. The Skorpion units were supplied by regular Army commands but not supervised by them. All guidance came down through the SS.

The Skorpion units operated on all fronts; Skorpion East (East Front), Südstern (Italy), Skorpion-Adria (Balkans) and Skorpion West (Western Europe). They all produced propaganda for the enemy under the command of the SS Standarte Kurt Eggers. Skorpion West not only produced propaganda for the enemy, it was also tasked with boosting the morale of German troops. It regularly produced leaflets and newspapers for German forces, and the Allies quickly produced black editions of the leaflets with defeatist propaganda cleverly hidden among the news stories.

The Luftwaffe dropped thousands of these safe conduct passes over guerrilla forces in the mountains of Yugoslavia in late 1943. Since Yugoslavia suffered the highest percentage of deaths in relation to population of all the German-occupied nations during the last war, it is extremely doubtful that any partisan would accept this German pass at face value.

The propaganda banknote appears in two printings. The most obvious difference is the spacing of words in the second line from the bottom of the Cyrillic text on the back. In one version the line is 93mm long, in the other it is 80-83mm in length.

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Fake German $10 banknote

In 2014, these WWII propaganda banknotes were reproduced and sold. They are not identified as reproductions. The dealer stated:

REENACTORS and PROPMASTERS - WHY BUY REPRODUCTIONS?

First is that if you are using a period item to set the period, the item would be close to new. Second, you can use it without worry of damage. Third, you can display the real item in a safe, guarded place for all to see. This note is new, but, aged to look used.

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German Leaflet Bank Check

It wasn’t only banknotes that the Germans copied. There is also a leaflet in the form of a bank check. The uncoded leaflet above is a perfect parody of a check from the Philadelphia National Bank. It is dated 25 February 1945, so we can assume that this was made at the end of the war and dropped on the American troops fighting in Northern Europe. The check is addressed to “Your widow,” And made out for $10,000. That is the amount of the life insurance policy that the U. S. Government gave to servicemen during the war. The check is signed by Major General J.A. Ulio, the Adjutant General of the Army. His name, and often this printed signature, appeared on the page following the title page of every training and intelligence manual published by the U.S. Army during WWII.  The name and signature would have been readily recognized by every GI who was a target of this propaganda piece, and its inclusion on this item was a deft touch by the Germans. On the back of the check, in place of the normal signature and bank account number is a hand written message: 

This will give your widow a chance to buy a new husband. His dowry will be your suits and things. Are you going to let this check be cashed? 

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Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight

Although there are no known further German imitations of United States currency, there are additional German propaganda leaflets that show banknotes in an attempt to catch the attention of the finder. The propaganda unit "Southern Star" operating within the German 10th Army produced an interesting leaflet. The leaflet, coded 1319/2 45, depicts exceptionally clear black and white photographs of U.S. currency on the front. In the center is a U.S. $1000 Federal Reserve Note. It is surrounded by other high value American and British banknotes. The text on the face reads "Rich man's war." The back of the leaflet shows a military cemetery and rows of Allied grave markers. The text concludes "Poor man's fight."

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A lot of money

Another German aerial leaflet depicts a stack of at least 10 United States Federal Reserve notes atop a stack of 5 Great Britain large notes diagonally overwritten with the phrase "A lot of money" printed in handwriting in red ink. The notes are printed in black. The top United States note is $1000; the top Great Britain note appears to be 500 pounds. The back contains ten lines of anti-Semitic printed text (containing some grammatical errors) in red and black:

A lot of money. It is only a pity that YOU won't get it, but the warprofiteers and bank-jews. They earn this money, and lots more, by YOUR fighting and by your death. Not quite worthwhile for you, is n't it? And even more, now it looks like the war being over pretty soon. If you agree, don't forget that being taken prisoner is the only life insurance in the world in wartime. And the best!

Allied Military Government Currency

The next propaganda parody could be thought of as originating from either Germany or Italy. It was produced by the Repubblica Sociale ltaliana (RSI), under the sponsorship and occupation of Nazi Germany. After Mussolini's rescue by German Secret Service Captain Otto Skorzeny on 12 September 1943, Adolf Hitler placed the former Italian dictator in nominal command of the Northern Italian government. Mussolini put four Italian divisions in the field, reinforced by twenty-six German divisions. A number of propaganda leaflets were prepared with the message that Germany was the last hope and salvation of Italy, and that the Allies were fiends and murderers who would destroy European civilization.

 

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Genuine 10 lire Allied Military Government (AMG)

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10 lire Allied Military Government (AMG) parody

One propaganda leaflet was a facsimile of the 10 lire Allied Military Government (AMG) occupation currency for Italy. The parody imitates a banknote that was produced by the Forbes Lithograph Corporation of Boston, MA, under direction of the United States Government. The genuine note is 78 x 66mm, tan on the face and blue on the back. The parody is 150 x 125mm, brown on both face and back. The facsimile is a photographic reproduction, with serial number A62000770A. It opens to show a long propaganda message in Italian:

A few days after the infamous 8th of September, the German military authorities ordered the circulation in Italy of a certain number of occupation marks. This step, taken at a moment of special and justified tension, was considered by everyone as a limitation placed on the financial autonomy of the government and as a reason for serious internal monetary imbalance. When Il Duce was freed, the Italian state was reconstituted as a republic, the alliance with Germany was reconfirmed and the distribution of marks was revoked. The new Italy reacquired, in this most delicate matter, its freedom of action: a condition indispensable to be able to continue, as a protection for workers of every class, the strong defense of the lira against the danger of inflation. In the provinces of southern and central Italy the "Liberators" arrived. They wanted to free us from everything: even from the freedom to coin money and distribute it in whatever quantity necessary to face the extraordinary costs attributable to a state of war. The Allied Command put millions and millions of Occupation Lira into circulation, which Italians had to accept if they didn't want to die of starvation.

During those days the Americans bought a great number of works of art, which used to grace some of the precious collections of Rome and Florence. With what were they paid for? With Occupation Lire. A factory in Naples manufactured aerial bombs, which were used to drop on our homes. With what were the brothers paid, our brothers forced by the liberators to prepare the arms of destruction? With Occupation Lire.

The so-called monarchial government no longer had any control over the circulation of money. In whole regions of Italy that had been invaded, prices increased at a dizzying pace, and with the prices, poverty. What difference did it make? The Allies offered us the usual joy of seeing printed on their bills which they distributed, the appealing promises of freedom:

Freedom of speech
Freedom of religion
Freedom from seizure
Freedom from terrorism

These are in fact the words printed in the English language on the back of the bills, of which we reproduce, enlarged, a ten-lire sample.

The leaflet is dated 30 January 1945, the 12th anniversary of Hitler's ascension to power. It was prepared by the Nucleo Propaganda, ("Propaganda Center") and coded in Roman numerals "XXIII." The mention of September 8th at the start of the message is in regard to the Italian surrender to Allied forces at 1830 on that date in 1943. It is curious that the Germans claim that the Americans are taking away Italy’s art objects. The Germans were crating and stealing art all over Europe to be placed in Hitler’s proposed German art center in Linz.

France

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Army Paymaster paying soldier with Allied Military Government (AMG) occupation notes

The Germans also imitated the 5 francs Allied Military Government occupation note for France. Once again Forbes Lithograph Corporation of Boston produced these notes. The military notes were important for the Americans because they did not want United States banknotes to be available to the enemy in the war zone. These military notes could only be used locally so it helped the Allied to keep some control over their economy. The banknotes were prepared ahead of time and brought ashore on D-Day by the liberating American forces. They were printed in denominations of 2 francs to 5,000 francs.

The AMG notes were controversial. General DeGaulle complained that the Americans were interfering with French internal affairs and went so far as to call the American military francs “counterfeit money.” They were also forged extensively by both local civilians and later it is alleged, in the case of German occupation marks, by America ’s Soviet allies.

At present, eleven different propaganda leaflets are known that depict this note. Two are in the form of the 5-franc banknote and open to show anti-Allied propaganda. The other nine are leaflets that show the AMG currency either in color or black and white.

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5 francs Allied Military Government occupation note

On the two banknote parodies, fronts and backs are identical to the face and back of the genuine note. They are in full color with the serial number 34417499. A second version of the “Liberation” banknote leaflet exists with the serial number 15701385. The banknote leaflet unfolds to display propaganda messages inside. Both of the propaganda banknotes are 76 x 67mm. When opened to expose the messages, the size of each leaflet is 152x67mm.

The French-language propaganda messages are:

This note of Invasion...

This note of invasion, who guarantees it? Neither a State, nor a bank, nor a signature. No one is responsible in any way. It is a piece of paper without value! A Jewish swindle pure and simple. Why do the Anglo-Americans put them in circulation if not to rob the French of their belongings? To exploit and ruin France by any means. The lie: Issued in France. The truth: to swindle the French with this false money. Why don't they pay with their dollars and their pounds?

The Liberation...

The liberation means for the Anglo-Americans: to massacre the French, to destroy their cities by bombing, to ravage their countryside, to mobilize their children to make cannon-fodder of them, to swindle the French with invasion notes without a single guarantee of value. The swindle is proved by these invasion notes which are not guaranteed by anyone, not by the State, not by the bank, not by a signature, not by a responsible person of any sort. It is just a piece of paper! The whole world can use it in any way. To all these crimes the Anglo-Americans now add this swindle to completely ruin France.

The remaining nine leaflets bear photographs of the French Allied Military Government (AMG) currency. In most cases the messages are similar to those on the banknote parodies. The leaflets are found on a low-grade paper. Most are in black and white, though some show the banknotes in full color. We briefly identify each leaflet.

The face of the leaflet depicts front and back of AMG currency. Serial number 34417465. Title "Regardez ce billet" ("Look at this note"). Message on back begins "Emis en France!" ("Issued in France"). Size 190 x 260mm. Black and white.

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The face of the leaflet depicts front and back of AMG currency. Serial number 34417465. Title "Les Anglo-Americains" ("The Anglo-Americans"). Message on back starts "Trahie a Dunkerque." ("Betrayal at Dunkirk") Size 190 x 260mm. Black and white.

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The face of the leaflet depicts front and back of AMG currency in color. Serial number 34417411. Title on front, "Les Anglo-Americans" ("The Anglo-Americans"). Message on back inside a small 93 x 72mm box; "Trahie a Dunkerque," ("Betrayal at Dunkirk"). Size 154 x 238mm. Color.

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The face of the leaflet depicts front and back of AMG currency. Serial number 05703956. Title "Regardez ce Billet" ("Look at this note"). Message on back starts "Emise en France." ("Issued in France"). Size l67 x 218mm. Black and white.

The face of the leaflet depicts front and back of AMG currency. Serial number 05703956. Title on front, "Les Anglo-Americans" ("The Anglo-Americans"). Message on back "Trahie a Dunkerque," ("Betrayal at Dunkirk"). Size 167 x 218mm. Black and white.

The face of the leaflet shows front and back of AMG currency partially overlapping. Serial number 05703914. Title "Regardez ce Billet" ("Look at this note"). Back text "Trahie a Dunkerque," ("Betrayal at Dunkirk"). The leaflet code is SW 28, which indicates that it was printed by the German propaganda agency Skorpion West. Size 133 x 198mm. Some color.

The face of the leaflet shows front and back of AMG currency. Serial number 12396971. Title "Regardez ce Billet" ("Look at this note"). Size 76 x 67mm, unfolding to 152 x 67mm. Color.

The face of the leaflet shows the front of AMG currency. Serial number 34417459. Title "Francais! Voici l’argent de la liberacion!…" ("Frenchmen! Look at the cost of liberation!…"). Size 115 x 140mm. Black and white.

The face of the leaflet shows the front of AMG currency. Serial number 34417459. Title "Francais! Voici l’argent de la liberacion!…" ("Frenchmen! Look at the cost of liberation!…"). Similar to above except text is small san-serif font. Size 115 x 140mm. Black and white.

The genuine AMG banknotes for France had been bitterly opposed by General Charles DeGaulle. He considered them a usurpation of French sovereignty by the Allies and he had the French Provisional Government in Algiers declare that the currency was worthless because "traditionally the right of issuing currency has belonged to the national authority in France alone." It is possible that DeGaulle's complaint led to the German attack on the AMG notes.

The earliest reported use of these leaflets is 23 June 1944, just 17 days after the invasion of France. One of the large "Regardez ce Billet" types was found on the ground at Bois de Viroflay. These leaflets are an excellent use of tactical propaganda, prepared in the field within days of first seeing the Allied currency and determining that it was a vulnerable area for attack.

That completes our look at the German parodies of United States banknotes and Allied Military Government banknotes. AMG and banknotes.

Denmark

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The 5 Kroner Danish Nazi Party Propaganda “Banknote”

From time to time a set of four Danish “banknotes” bearing various Nazi symbols are offered for sale. The notes are very colorful and handsome and have sold for substantial amounts. The problem is that they are probably not banknotes.

The notes all have the words Faedrelandet (The Fatherland) on the front along with various vignettes. The backs are identical and all have swastikas and SS runes. There is reason to believe the “banknotes” were issued in mid-1942 by the Danish Nazi Party (Danmarks National Socialistiske Arbejder Parti) to support their newspaper Faedrelandet, or as fundraisers, or possibly to be used to pay Party dues or to be used in a canteen at Danish Nazi party headquarters in Copenhagen. Three Danes were arrested and fined in September 1942 for producing these currency pieces. They are Carl Bernhard Nielsen, CEO of Faedrelandet, Carl Henry Thomsen, an employee of the newspaper and Claus Alfred Langgaard Nielsen, propaganda head of the Danish Nazi Party.

The denominations are 50 ore (serial numbers in the 10,000s) and 1, 2 and 5 kroner (serial numbers in the 20,000s, 30,000s and 40,000s). The 50 ore symbolizes youth and depicts two members of the Young Nazi Party founded by von Schalburg, a local fascist hero who had fought against the Soviets and was eventually killed on the Eastern Front. The 1 krone depicts a smiling soldier and SS ruins at his sides. The 2 kroner honors the worker and depicts a farmer working the fields. The 5 kroner shows a heroic soldier wearing a German-style helmet with SS runes. The text beneath all the vignettes is:

For Denmark’s honor, freedom and right

We don’t know much about the sets that came on the market but allegedly 100 complete sets showed up in the late 1980s. The currency expert C.M. Nielsen bought a set in 1988 for $210. They then disappeared until about 1992 when they suddenly appeared again, this time offered for $600. By October 1993 a Danish dealer asked $1788 for the set, and $1200 for a misregistered “error” 1 krone note.

However, by 1993 high-quality reproductions were already on the market allegedly produced in the United States and the Washington State dealer Bill Henderson offered a souvenir set of the copies for $5. The reproductions bear the text on the back in vertical format and very ornate lettering: “Reproduction of W.W. II Propaganda Note from Denmark.” The lettering is so ornate and looks so much like the genuine text on the note that unless you look at it carefully it appears to be a part of an original note.

Great Britain

The Germans were also busy preparing propaganda against other Allied Nations. Their propagandists prepared millions of parodies of the British one pound note.

The London Daily Mirror of 17 April 1943 had a headline that read: "German planes ‘bomb’ Cairo with fake one pound notes." The story stated that "Egyptians and Arabs walking the streets of Alexandria or Cairo have sometimes picked up what at first sight was an English one pound note. But on turning it over they have found that it is a worthless reproduction, with a German propaganda message written in Arabic. These notes have been dropped in the Egyptian towns from German aircraft in an attempt to lower the standing of the British currency among the population. One of these propaganda one pound notes was sent to the Daily Mirror by the wife of a Highlander serving in North Africa, who had enclosed it in one of his letters home.

R. G. Auckland quoted the unknown soldier's letter in more detail in his booklet Air-dropped Propaganda Currency, 1972 edition. According to Auckland, the letter read in part: "Here is a funny one pound note which I picked up in the streets of Alexandria after a German air-raid on the city. I have heard that other soldiers also picked up some of these worthless reproductions in other places, too."

Years later, the London Daily Express ran a similar story on 20 November 1972. When a reader wrote to ask about the rarity and value of the propaganda banknotes, Gordon Wilkes, the "Letters" editor stated: "I am sorry to disappoint you, but these pound notes are quite common and hundreds of readers have written or telephoned to say that they own one."

I have seen a file of such letters and quote from several:

From Colchester: "I found hundreds of these during our stint in the desert. I was a mechanic in 238 Squadron of the Royal Air Force from September 1940 until our withdrawal in December 1943. We found the notes in a shot-down Junkers 88. 1 believe it was at Fuka or El Adem aerodrome ... I brought at least a hundred of them home ... Our children played with them as monopoly money until they were thrown away."

A Londoner writes: "This was taken at Daba Airfield in 1942. They were intended for Egypt."

From Bexleyheath: "I took one of them from a captured German aircraft while serving in the Middle East in 1942."

From Southend-on-Sea: "I picked up one outside of Alexandria soon after one of the propaganda raids. I know that some of the lads in the R. A. F. unit I was with at the time also picked up some."

There are also numerous published references to these banknotes. Garry Marsh, writing in his book Sand in My Spinach, states that upon entering Rommel’s advanced air base at El Fuqa in November 1942, "While the others were nosing around to see what else was there, I went outside and saw a wooden box about six feet long and three feet high. I tried to open it but it was firmly padlocked. I shouted a warning that I was going to fire a shot or two, in order to save their nerves, and blew the lock off. When I opened it I could scarcely believe my eyes. It was packed stiff with one pound notes. There must have been a million ... The grey light of dawn was now taking on the true light of the day, and in so doing the notes looked an unfamiliar green color that made my spirits drop. They were ‘stumers,’ there was no doubt about it. Unhappily we examined them closer, and turning one over saw on the back a message written in Arabic."

Other written references indicate that the German parodies were ordered burnt, but many British soldiers were seen filling their pockets with souvenirs at the last moment.

It is common knowledge that the Germans produced millions of these British one pound notes for use in North Africa. What is not commonly known is that they were imitations of two different British issues. At least three different Arab-language messages are known on the back.

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Genuine British 1 pound note

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German parody of British 1 pound with Arabic text

The first German parody of the British pound appears to be an imitation of the 1940-48 pink and blue one pound note. The Wehrmacht propaganda section (OKW/WPr) produced an imitation in green, serial number H86D729630, signed "Peppiatt." For years it was believed that this was a copy of the British green one pound note. However, close examination of the background indicates a diamond pattern at the top and bottom that is found on the pink and blue note. The Germans apparently printed this parody in the wrong color.

All evidence points to the Luftwaffe dropping these notes in November and December of 1942 over a 200-mile area of Northern Egypt that included Cairo, Alexandria and El Alamein. On the back is the following eleven-line message in Arabic:

Signs of Disintegration. If you inspect this banknote, you will remember the time when it was worth ten times its present value in bright shiny gold. That was because at that time the strength and riches of the mighty British Empire supported such notes. But that greatness is fading as is the value of this worthless piece of paper. What is this note worth today? You certainly know the answer to that. With each passing day of this British inspired war, the strength of the Empire is depleted. Each battle that England loses causes a further weakening of their currency. The day draws near when even the beggars in the street will refuse the British banknote, even as a gift. Truly, Allah wills the collapse of Britain, which will surely come to pass.

Some translators have stated that the Arabic is poorly written and the note contains both typographical and grammatical errors. One Arab scholar who studied the note said "While not full of errors, it is definitely written in a stilted, dictionary style that would not be expected from an Arab. There are a few outright errors, and some dangling expressions. The style is schoolbook rather than colloquial or fluent." There are rumors that British "Tommies" passed these notes in Egyptian bazaars until the Arab shopkeepers caught on.

I should make one other interesting point about this banknote leaflet. In 2013, I received a letter from the son of a South African Air Force veteran who had served in North Africa. He had found this leaflet in his father’s papers and wrote to the Bank of England to find out what it was. He told me:

I wrote to the Bank of England. They referred me to your website where I found your article about the WWII propaganda notes.

So, apparently the Bank of England uses my articles as a reference source. I find that fascinating.

The second German parody of a one pound note came to light almost twenty years after the war when a former British officer stated:

I picked up currency leaflets in Tunisia in the area of the Mareth Line (Gabes/Sfax) in April 1943. The success of the drop was obviously negligible, at least as far as the British were concerned. We never used English currency, but that of the country we were in. Egyptian money was used, as far as I can recollect, well into Cyrenaica, also the British Military Administration notes that were, after the initial suspicious phase, readily accepted by the local Arab population.

This officer brought back several copies of the one pound notes, as well as German parodies of United States $2 and $10 notes with identical messages that were air-dropped at the same time.

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Genuine 1 pound Banknote of 1928-48

Since the battle for Tunisia occurred after the battle of Egypt, this note should be a later variety. However, a close investigation of the background shows that it has the same wavy line engraving as the genuine green British one pound note of 1928-48. In other words, the Wehrmacht parodied an earlier British note and in the proper color, except for the serial number which is copied in green instead of the red of the genuine currency. It is therefore possible that this note was produced first. They might have set up for green parodies and used the same inks when they copied the pink and blue note. No documentary evidence exists and the reader will have to draw his own conclusions from these comments.

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The 11-Line propaganda Text

This second variety of pound note has the serial number C78A419669 and is once again signed "Peppiatt." This note is a deeper green and far more striking in appearance than the first parody. The eleven line Arabic message reads:

To our Brother, the Moslem:

The note depicted is that with which the British and Americans seek to enslave the world. Remember, Oh Moslem brother, that the blood of your brethren has flowed like rivers in order to increase the fortunes of these robbing overlords who sponge on the lands of Allah and his faithful followers. Look at the current events and those which have occurred in all areas of Islam under the disastrous occupation of the Anglo-Americans. This is an auspicious time for rapid action to salvage what is left. Join those who have revolted against the Anglo-Americans, hated enemies of Islam. You will secure not only your own lives, but also those of your children. Allah supports you and will shield you from danger in driving off the Jewish occupation which has been sucking your life blood and controlling the lands of Islam.

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Nine-line British Pound parody in Arabic

A second Arabic message exists on the C78A419669 variety of one pound note. Its nine-line message reads:

Muslims of North Africa:

The time has come for you to fight the criminal Anglo-Americans and their agents, the Jews. Announce your revolt against them. Fight them. Don't let them achieve their goals. Deny your enemies all hope. The result will be that you have obeyed the commandments of Allah the Omniscient. You will have liberated the beloved nation from those thieves. Remember, the Anglo-Americans hate you just as much as the Jews. Beware of their propaganda. Don't trust their promises. Do not be deceived by the money they offer to pay for your help, or afterwards you and your children will be given to the Jews as spoils of war.

It is likely that this second message was also used in Tunisia in April of 1943. The Nazis were in full retreat, having lost Sfax on April 10th, the Faid Pass on the 11th and Sousse on the 12th. These notes were very likely a last gasp attempt to sway Arab public opinion. A military victory was obviously out of the question, but the Wehrmacht still hoped that the Muslim population could be convinced to resist the Allied occupation.

On 7 May 1943, Allied forces occupied Tunis and Bizerte. On 9 May German forces facing the U.S. II Corps surrendered. On the 16th General Alexander informed Prime Minister Churchill: "Sir, it is my duty to report that the Tunisian Campaign is over."

The German propaganda campaign utilizing pound notes was not over. It appears that they were able to send the plates and inks across the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily in the final days before their total collapse. The variety with serial number C78A419669 has been found with Italian language messages on the back. There are a total of eight different Italian-language texts (I/1-1/8). We translated the messages above in the section on the U.S. $10 banknote parodies.

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German 1 Pound Note with Italian Language Message I/5 on back
The Anglo-American bombers…

The Italian-language texts I have discovered on the one pound notes are I/1, I/4 and I/5. Although not yet reported, it is likely that all eight messages were printed. We have no proof at present where these one pound notes were disseminated, but the messages are identical to those found on U.S. $2 notes and U.S. $10 notes dropped over Sicily, so we can assume that the one pound notes were also used there.

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One pound parody

Dr. Bozidar Pokrajcic illustrated an alleged propaganda parody of British currency in his booklet Paper Money of the Yugoslav Liberation Movements, Sarajevo, 1971. He shows a one pound note with serial number A10A632732. Pokrajcic describes the note:

British one pound banknote leaflet which noted the landing of Allied forces in Italy, dropped from American Flying Fortresses above Sarajevo, 1943. The paper is thick and white. The face of the note has leaf-green print, serial number and the text ‘We bring you freedom’ in red print. Size 19.1 x 11cm.

The back of the note has black and red print. It shows British, American and Russian flags stuck into a map of Sicily, Calabrion, Apulia and Campania. The red print (in cursive) reads: "You have the right to learn what sort of freedom we all intend to bring. We will explain it to you on the basis of the Italian example where the sharp and decisive advance of our troops in Italy has been guided by the principle, "Italy to the Italians." Without any sort of alien interference, the exhausted Italian people must again take its own destiny into its own hands…’

Dr. Pokrajcic was wrong. This was not a banknote leaflet. American bombers did not drop it. It was actually the first page of a ten-page German "black" booklet. The other pages would have been easily identified as German propaganda, since they depict insulting caricatures of Jews, Negroes, unemployed workers, capitalists and other images that the Nazis thought would enrage the Yugoslav people.

The original booklet is on file in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, coded 35/3/67/E. Documentation in the German Archives in Freiburg indicates that the booklet was produced by Propagandaabteilung Sudost, Staffel Kroatien (Propaganda Section Southeast, Croatian Detachment). It is believed that the Luftwaffe dropped them over Sarajevo sometime in 1943. The currency vignette appears on the cover of this booklet and that would seem to explain its mistaken identity as a banknote. Pokrajcic obviously saw a first page that had been torn off as a souvenir.

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