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Genuine 100 people banknote

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German propaganda parody of 100 people banknote

Dr. Pokrajcic illustrates another German propaganda leaflet disguised as currency. He states:

I have a well-preserved ‘100 people’ note found in the Zubci region near Trebinje, about 40 kilometers from Dubrovnik, in May 1944. It was given to me by a Partisan courier who took it as a souvenir just after a batch had been airdropped. The Tchetniks also had spread these fliers on their passage through the villages they traveled.

In an article in Coins, October 1966, Pokrajcic elaborated further:

The paper money flier worth one hundred people, which is a copy of the old Yugoslavian dinar note, reads: "Refugee Identity Paper. Warranting freedom, life and bread for 100 people;" This banknote brings you freedom and saves your life. Come over to us before it is too late. Save your life while there is still time. Do away with your commissars and come. [A commissar was a party official in nominal charge of a partisan military unit].

R. G. Auckland says in Air-Dropped Propaganda Currency, 1972 edition:

On January 26,1944 the German authorities occupying Yugoslavia proclaimed an amnesty for all partisans who would desert to the German Army. All partisan-held areas were swamped with leaflets of every size, color and text imaginable.

Among this whirlwind of paper was a copy of the pre-war Yugoslav 100 dinar note. It was made to appear an original, but a close look would reveal that it had been cleverly doctored to include propaganda on both back and front. On the front was also the Wehrmacht seal. The note was, in fact, a safe conduct pass guaranteeing freedom and food for 100 partisans if they surrendered to the German forces with their weapons.

The German parody is of the 100 dinara National Bank of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia note of 1929, worth "100 ljudi" ("100 people"), bears a safe conduct messages in Cyrillic declaring "Refugee Identity Paper. Warranting freedom, life, and bread for 100 people. This banknote brings you freedom and saves your life. Come over to us before it is too late. Save your life while there is still time. Do away with your commissars and come." (A Commissar is a Communist Party political officer attached to a Partisan military unit.) Both sides of the parody are printed in purple, whereas the genuine note is in pale multicolor with a yellow underprint and has a watermark. The banknote is dated 26 January 1944, the date of a German amnesty for Partisans who would surrender to the Germans. The Nazi eagle and swastika appear printed in the watermark area at right on the front. On the back in the watermark area are instructions in German for German soldiers. At lower right on the back is a small "PSK-NS", which identifies the producer as the Propaganda Abteilung Sudost Staffel Kroatien, Nebenstelle (Subsidiary Office) Sarajevo. The PSK was headquartered in Belgrade, and had branch detachments in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Dubrovnik, and elsewhere. These safe conduct passes were air-dropped in occupied Yugoslavia, mainly in Croatia and Slovenia where the Partisan movement was strongest, and more rarely in Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. None was found in Serbia or Montenegro.

It is not a good imitation of the original. The parody has been printed in violet and, whereas the genuine note is predominately violet, it is also printed with yellow and black inks. We have seen several variations of this parody. One variety is cleanly printed, and the shading lines are in general delicately drawn and lightly inked to conform to the style of the genuine note. This parody exists in two sub-varieties, differing in the distance between the signature and the small tower on the front. Another variety is more heavily inked, with some of the shading of the genuine note transformed into solid patches of ink. We therefore list three varieties; lightly inked, with signature 2 mm from tower, lightly inked, with signature 5 mm from tower, and heavily inked.

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German 10 lire Slovenia

The Germans also copied Yugoslav partisan notes. Schwan and Boling, in World War II Military Currency, BNR Press, 1978, tell us that the original partisan notes were sponsored by the Slovenian National Liberation Council and lithographed "in the woods." Dr. Pokrajcic mentions in Paper Money of the Yugoslav Liberation Movements that:

I also have an interesting Partisan 10 lire note printed during the People's Liberation War in Slovenia in 1944. The White Guardsmen (a Fascist military formation recruited in Slovenia) and the German command were stunned at the appearance of Partisan banknotes in a territory they thought they had a strong grip upon.

The people, of course, took great interest in these first Partisan notes. Quickly spirited away, they foretold of the rapid fall of tyranny and defeat of the invaders. The Germans and the White Guardsmen then made the same 10 lire note in Ljubljana.

Since the partisan notes were produced under field conditions, the printing is crude. The German imitation is obviously photographically produced and the face is an almost perfect copy of the original banknote, except for the color, which is a slightly darker red. However, on the back of the German note we find the following text in block letters in dark red on a light blue background:

This bill is valueless, just like the promises from Moscow and London.

The German parodies were disseminated from the middle of 1944 until the liberation of Slovenia. Collectors are warned that very good forgeries of this propaganda banknote are being printed in Slovenia and have been offered on EBay starting at $5 U.S.. They bear no marking such as “reproduction” or “replica.” Caveat Emptor.

It appears that besides producing propaganda parodies of Yugoslav liberation currency, the Germans also counterfeited some of the notes. More likely it was the other way around. They were already counterfeiting the notes and had the plates so producing a propaganda banknote was just going one step further.  Because the partisans were using their own banknotes in the liberated areas their morale was lifted and they were able to purchase weapons and ammunition. According to Adolf Burger, one of the Jewish inmate counterfeiters in the Operation Bernhard team, the exact same note as depicted above was counterfeited by the Germans “in an attempt to undermine their reawakening economies and their war efforts.” The counterfeit is depicted in Burger’s German-language book, Unternehmen Bernhard (Operation Bernhard), Edition Hentrich, Berlin 1992.

Burger mentions the forgeries again in: The Devil's Workshop, Frontline Books, London, 2009.  He says in part:

In order to undermine the Yugoslav peoples' liberation lone "tricolored" Tito banknotes were exactly forged in Sachsenhausen. The reproductions were so exact down to the last detail of paper and print that it was impossible to distinguish them from the real thing Hundreds of thousands of these banknotes had already been printed in the forgery workshop to destabilize the currency in liberated Yugoslavia.

The Soviet Union

The Abteilung fur Wehrmacht Propaganda (Propaganda section of the German Army) of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Army High Command) produced at least three parodies of Soviet banknotes. Some of these "OKW/WPr" productions are filed in the German archives at Freiburg. They have been illustrated in the book Heil Beil, Ortwin Buchbender and Horst Schuh, Seewald Veriag, Stuttgart, 1974.

The notes copied were the 1 Chervonetz 3 and 10 Chervonetsa Russian State Bank Notes of 1937. Each note is a photographic reproduction of the original on the front. The 1 chervonets parody is green instead of the grey found on the genuine. It is hard to understand how the Germans could make such a mistake. They certainly had adequate time to determine the proper color. The 3-chervonetsa parody is in the proper red color, but the serial numbers are printed in black instead of the red of the genuine note. Because of these errors, the finder could easily identify both. Each bears a safe conduct pass and propaganda message on the back. The 10 Chervonesta genuine note was printed in dark blue. 60+ years of time and sunlight has bleached the parody into a dull gray printing on brown crinkled paper. It is impossible to tell what the note looked like when first printed

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Genuine 1 Chervonetz banknote front and back

At the present five different versions of a German propaganda parody of the 1 chervonetz Russian State Banknote of 1937 with propaganda text on the back are known, each with a different serial number. The fronts are good reproductions of the genuine notes. They were prepared by Propaganda Kompanie 680 of the German 20th Mountain Army (commanded by General E. Dietl), stationed in the far north of Finland.

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1 Chervonetz parody, serial # 145275

The first note discovered bore the serial number 145275. It is printed on olive or greenish paper on the front, and was first depicted in Heil Beil!, (Hail Hatchet!), Buchbender, Ortwin and Schuh, Seewald Verlag, Stuttgart, 1974. The leaflet bears the code number “237-10.43” on the back which implies that it was disseminated in October 1943. At the lower right on the back is a Nazi eagle and swastika, and the Cyrillic and German text  “Passierschein.” (“Safe Conduct Pass”). 150,000 leaflets were produced in October 1943. There is a 15-line propaganda message on the back on a grey paper:

10 rubles ... How many things were you able to buy for ten rubles in the old days and what can you get for it now? The purchasing power of the ruble is getting to be less and less and soon it will be a worthless piece of paper.

The prices for food items and the necessities of daily life have increased enormously and the black market in the Soviet Union is flourishing. Party functionaries and Jews are working dark deals at home while you at the front have to sacrifice your life for these criminals. Soon you will see the reason, so keep this ten-ruble note. It will guarantee your safe return to a free Russian after the war. Come to us with this bill and you will have saved your own life. Hide this bill among the other banknotes in your wallet. If you have two of these, pass one on to your comrades.

At the lower right are a German eagle and the safe conduct statement Passierschein. The propaganda term “10 rubles” on a 1-chervonetz note is due to the fact that the chervonetz was originally equal to 10 gold rubles. One chervonetz contained 7.74234 grams of pure gold in theory, but they were not convertible into gold or any equivalent of gold.

For many years that was the only note known in this series. With the fall of the Soviet Union much of their wartime archives became available for research.

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Banknotes found in Wartime Artillery Shells

In this article, most of the items we show are clean and crisp. The reader should understand that this is a rarity and I am showing only the finest notes that I have bought over the past seven decades. In general, these banknote leaflets are found in corroded old artillery shells that failed to explode and buried themselves in the dirt. After 70+ years when the shells are dug up and emptied the contents are rotted by dampness and the cheap paper falls apart in your hands. This is an example of such a group, found in an old WWII leaflet shell.

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1 Chervonetz parody front and back, serial # 803535

An almost identical leaflet bearing the serial number 803535 leaflet and coded 237-10.43 on old brown paper with no trace of any color, perhaps an aging effect, was discovered in Great Britain in October 2000. The propaganda message is identical to 145275 above. At the lower right on the back is a Nazi eagle and swastika, and the Cyrillic and German text  “Passierschein.” (“Safe Conduct Pass”).

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1 Chervonetz parody, serial # 178400

A banknote leaflet with serial number 178400 was found on a cream-colored paper in the late 1990s. Once again the code number is 237-10.43 and the propaganda message is identical to 145275 above. It appears that these three notes were all part of the same propaganda campaign and only the serial numbers on the front were changed. At the lower right on the back is a Nazi eagle and swastika, and the Cyrillic and German text “Passierschein.” (“Safe Conduct Pass”). It appears that this same code number was used with numerous serial numbers. In 2014, another 1 Chervonetz parody coded 237-10.43 was offered at auction with the serial number 947732.

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1 Chervonetz parody, Serial No. 208125

Another German parody of the 1 chervonetz Russian State Banknote of 1937 surfaced in early 2004. Once again, the front is a good reproduction of the genuine note. This item may have been prepared by the same Propaganda Kompanie 680 as the previous item, but the leaflet code is in a different form and the originator of the propaganda note is as yet unknown.

The note bears the code “LA 54” on the back and a boxed safe conduct message mostly in Cyrillic, and additional text in Cyrillic and German. Eight lines of Cyrillic text are flanked by the Nazi eagle on the left, and an inverted triangle containing a rifle implanted in soil inside the triangle on the right.

The symbol was used as part of a propaganda campaign in 1942 that used the slogans “Stalin kaput” and “Stick the bayonet into the ground.” In fact, these words are found at the end of the last line of the leaflet. The three letters on top of the triangle are the first letters of  Sticky w semlio, ("Stick the bayonet into the ground." The idea was to tell the Soviet soldier to use the password “Stalin kaput,” and not to throw his rifle away but to stick it into the ground upside down as a historic European sign of surrender.

The propaganda text on the back of the note is:

Safe Conduct Pass - Passierschein [safe conduct pass in Russian and German] This safe conduct pass may be used for an unlimited number of commanders, soldiers, and political commissars of the Red Army to come over to the side of the German armed forces, their allies, the Russian Liberation Army and Ukrainian, Caucasian, Cossack, Turkestan and Tartar Liberation detachments.

You may also come over to our side without a safe conduct pass. Raise both your hands high and shout "Stalin Kaput" or "Shtiki V Zemliu." [Bayonet in the ground].

The term "Red Army" on the leaflet is spelled “RKKA” and literally means “Raboche-Krestianskaia Krasnaia Armiia," or "Workers-Peasants Red Army.”

At the right of the Russian propaganda text there is a short German language message:

This safe conduct pass is for commanders, soldiers, and political commissars of the Red Army.

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1 Chervonetz parody, Serial No. 314777

A fifth banknote leaflet with serial number 314777 was found in 2006, inside about 30 buried German propaganda grenades (Gewehr-Propagandagranate) in the Karelia area on the Finnish Front. The grenades were found in boxes in the wartime positions of SS division NORD. Each grenade contained about 40-60 leaflets of 11 different types. The 60-year old leaflet rolls were removed from the rusty grenades, placed into water, carefully separated and then individually dried. The 17-line text message on the back is similar to the (“10 rubles”) message depicted above, but much of the text has been changed. The code number for this variety is 336-5.44 which indicates it was disseminated in May 1944. At the lower right on the back is a Nazi eagle and swastika, and the Cyrillic and German text  “Passierschein.” (“Safe Conduct Pass”). The text is:

10 Rubles…

How many things were you able to buy for ten rubles in the old days before the war? And what can you buy for for a chervonetz today? The purchasing power of the ruble is getting to be less and less and soon it will be a worthless piece of paper.

If you have a bank account in GosBank, then you can put your money in it without any worries. (Why, the government even asks you to do that in propaganda postcards). Indeed, you can be sure that GosBank will take care of your money and use it to continue this war and  that you and your comrades will die in this war. And if you are killed or die then the bank will have no reason to pay back your money.

If you do not have a bank account then you can use your rubles for cigarette paper. In the “Black Market” behind the lines, the Kikes and the Communist Party members are charging such exortbitant prices that you with your rubles will simply be ridiculed. (1 kilogram butter = 800 rubles!)

But our “10 rubles” will retain its value! Use it as a surrender pass and you will save your health and life, and after the war, whole and sound, you will return to your native land!

Hide this leaflet in your wallet and use it as soon as possible!

GosBank (the State Bank of the USSR) was the Soviet Union's monobank. Characteristic of command economies, monobanks combine central and commercial banking functions into a single state-owned institution. The savings banks played a large role in funding Russia's involvement in World War II. Not only did they provide loans to the war effort, they also accepted donations from the people for the defense effort and sold tickets for government-run lotteries that raised money for the war. In the leaflet above, the Germans warn the Russians that the money they are placing in Gosbank will all be lost.

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Genuine 3 Chervonetsa banknote

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3 Chervonetsa parody

The 3 chervonetsa Russian State Banknote of 1937 with propaganda text on the back bears the serial number 960070 and has the following Russian-language message:

Murdered by Bolsheviks! (1917-1944).

Years of revolution and civil war (1917-1923) 2,200,000 killed. 14,500,000 people starved to death (1918-21 and 1932-33). 10,000,000 were killed in hard labor camps. 6,688,000 were killed during punitive campaigns. 3,270,000 were killed in the border areas conquered by the Russians. 18,000,000 were killed or disabled during the Second World War (1941-44).

Total: 54,665,000. 12,000,000 people have already escaped from Bolshevik liquidation by surrendering to our forces. Take this paper and save your life before it is too late.

If the reader is confused by the various spellings of the denomination, these notes are also known as Tchervontzi, Chervonetz, Chervonca, Chervonec, Tscherwonez and Karbowanez.

This leaflet banknote is coded 345-6.44. Once again we find the German Eagle at lower right and the word "Passierschein." The Germans printed 150,000 of the banknotes in June 1944.

A German official production document of propaganda material prepared between June 15 and 30, 1944 states that 150,000 of the "3 Tscherwonzen-Schein Nr. 345" were printed. The letter mentions that the Luftwaffe had as yet disseminated none of the leaflets. Propaganda Kompanie 680 of the German 20th Mountain Army prepared the letter. We find more information about this unit in Das Tonende Erz, Ortwin Buchbender, Seewald Veriag, Stuttgart, 1978.

This book, which is the history of the German propaganda campaigns against the Soviet Union in World War II, shows PK 680 being stationed in the far north in the area of Lapland. Its headquarters were in Rovaniemi, Finland. At the time the banknotes were printed, a "Propaganda-Kompanie" was made up of 23 officers, 38 non-commissioned officers and 60 enlisted men. This is one of the few times that we can positively identify the makers of a wartime propaganda banknote.

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Genuine 10 Chervonetsa Russian State Banknote

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10 Chervonetsa parody

The 10 chervonetsa Russian State Banknote of 1937 first appeared in early 2006. It bears the serial number 480292 and has the following long Russian-language propaganda message on the back:

Soviet fighter; read this small leaflet attentively. We do not wish to agitate – your knowledge will convince you of the facts.

The War between the USSR and Germany has surpassed a war of attrition. You see it.

We have an old spiteful enemy – England. We know that it is in no hurry to open a second front, but still, England is preparing to intrude into Europe.

Whether there will be an intrusion or not, the OUTCOME OF THIS WAR will be decided for Germany NOT BY FIGHTING WITH THE USSR, BUT BY FIGHTING A DECISIVE BATTLE WITH ENGLAND. We should prepare for it.

As to our Eastern Front; for Germany it is unimportant if the battle lines are 200 or 300 meters to the west or the east. It is more important that we await the day when Stalin exhausts his forces. And, this day is near. Stalin ordered the death of the unique Soviet General Vatutin – not a bootlicker who was afraid to speak the truth – on the operating table.

“…to continue this war, means in the name of a doubtful opportunity of a victory over Germany, to sell our country to full dependence on Anglo-American capitalism…”

So declared Valutin to Stalin in January of this year.

Will the forces of Stalin suffice to survive for another year?

The income of the Soviet Union in 1944 was 250 billion rubles.

The total cost of the war in 1944 will be 250 billion rubles.

The total sum of just American supplies delivered to Stalin up to November of last year is 3.5 billion gold dollars.

(All these figures are taken from the Moscow newspaper “Truth.” Read the reports of the last session of the Supreme body of the USSR in Zvereva and Roosevelt’s report to the United States Congress.).

The gold dollar costs approximately 50 Soviet rubles. WHAT IS THE GOLD DOLLAR – YOU SHOULD KNOW! Remember the “Torgsinovskie” prices.

If you estimate the cost of the gold dollar as 50 paper rubles, the sum of Stalin’s debt by November 1 of last year is already 175 billion rubles.

There is a total of 303 billion owed on the war and just over 250 billion in annual income.

And how do we pay for schools, hospitals and homes for invalids. How will we pay the salaries of those workers and employees? Where will we get the money to pay the families of the Red Army troops?

1 kilogram of bread used to cost 70 rubles in Sverdlovsk. A family with five children receives over 200 rubles. And today? And what will it be in a half a year?

In fact, the bread deliveries of 1944 have already been made by the collective farmers (we know about it from your newspapers).

We can wait.

The hour of decision will come!

The war will end only after the destruction of Bolshevism.

No compromises are possible.

Do not die in vain. Do not vainly support the regime of Stalin which is doomed for destruction.

Help to destroy it! Refuse to protect it.

Stalin’s death will save Russia.

Stalin’s enemies – our friends.

The German Command

964/V. 44.

The code number implies that this leaflet was prepared in May of 1944.


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German parody of a Hungarian 100 pengo

There is also an alleged German parody of a Hungarian 100 pengo Russian occupation banknote. The banknote has the serial number CA 1717 in red on the front and the propaganda text on the back:

It is only a piece of paper. It is worthless, just like the one the Red Army authority hands out to the people of occupied Hungary. It is obvious that this paper has no value or purchasing power. Are you going to work for such worthless paper? Are you going to give the fruits of your labor for such worthless paper? You must help fight against it, so that your race, the Hungarian people, will not be destroyed. Fight with your words, your heart and your guns!

There has been some conjecture that this note could have been produced after the war as anti-communist propaganda. However, it was originally found in a large cache of German WWII propaganda currency, and until proven otherwise, should be considered of wartime origin.


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The German "Parachute" note

The Germans produced two propaganda currency notes for their own people. The first is an imitation of a German 50 mark note dated March 30, 1933 with serial number FI4712590. The only known specimen of this parody was discovered in the area of Zuften town (Holland) on the River Ijsel in the spring of 1945. This leaflet was probably prepared for German military personnel in an attempt to counter successful Allied propaganda currency leaflets.

On the face of the banknote the word Falschgeld (forgery) has been printed in large letters.

On the back there is a long German-language message:


Paratroopers, this pertains to you. For some time forged currency has circulated at the front and in the homeland. You are expressly warned against accepting or passing this currency.


Who are the forgers? Where is their workshop? How do you recognize forged money? What will your reward be?

The head of the forgery gang is Josef Stalin, born 21.12.1879 in Tiflis/Kaukasus. Religion: Godless. Special characteristics: Unquenchable thirst for blood.

His accomplice is Franklin D. Roosevelt, born 30.1.1882 in New York. Religion: Freemason. Profession: Fireplace speaker. Residing: Hyde Park, New York. Special characteristics: Poor knowledge of geography.

Both are assisted by Winston Churchill, born 30.11.1874 in Canterbury. Religion: Puritan. Profession: Warmonger. Residence: Downing Street, London. Special characteristics: Alcoholic.

The political forged money workshop is located in the Reuter News Agency in London, with branches in all the Jewish poison kitchens of the world. The characteristics of the forged currency are short-lived paper bills with deceptive promises to blind and dazzle simpletons or with exaggerated announcements and threats to scare timid hearts.

Do not let yourself become confused!

They are all lies which are whispered into your ear by the enemy. Remember well: the truth comes from Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler fights for freedom, bread and work. The forged money comes from the enemy. Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt and their stooges bring us poverty and death.

Keep faith with the fuhrer! Adolf Hitler is the guarantor of your future.


Designed and printed by Army Cartographic Office. Paratrooper A.O.K. [Army High Command.]

The message is all black print, except for the capitalized text, which is in red. There are some interesting questions in regard to this banknote. The British did not forge German currency. They did produce parodies with messages on the back. It is likely that it is the 50 pfennig notes with anti-Hitler propaganda on the back that the parachute command is complaining about. Readers will find information on these parodies in the companion article, WW II Allied Propaganda Banknotes. The comment: "they are all lies. . . " would indicate that it is the messages on the money that bothers the high command, not the forging of the notes. However, it is possible that by coincidence, the Germans produced this anti-forgery leaflet in regard to an emergency banknote that had been "legally" forged by their own people. According to Schwan and Boling, World War II Military Currency, BNR Press, 1978:

Near the end of the war (1944) the Reichsbank offices in Graz. Linz and Salzburg were forced to produce emergency currency. Three Reichsmark notes were reproduced from completed pieces. All have blurred printing; the serial numbers are constant for each denomination.

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10 Reichsmark

Other postwar sources have credited the local army commander, Schorner, as the sponsor of the emergency currency. Three notes were reproduced in the denominations of 10, 50 and 100 Reichsmarks. This could be a complete coincidence, but it is possible that the Germans ran across these "bogus" notes and not having knowledge of the currency emergency in Austria, accused the Allies of forgery. There is no evidence to back such a theory. The reader must decide if the connection exists.

The second German propaganda currency parody aimed at their citizens was an enlarged imitation of the 500-milliarden-mark Reichsbank note of 26 October 1923. The imitation is 145 x 84mm., whereas the genuine is 138 x 65mm. The color of the genuine note is tan at the left, changing to green at the right. On the parody, an attempt has been made to match these colors, but the contrast has been lost and the general appearance of the face is tan-green. In order to fill the enlarged area of the parody, the text on the face has been stretched out by double-spacing.

These mock banknotes were used as part of an anti-Semitic exhibition which appeared in Vienna from December 12, 1943 to February 29, 1944. It was once believed that these were tickets to the show, but the text indicates that they were prepared as flyers (advertisements) or souvenirs. Dr. Alan York, writing in The Shekel, July-August, 1984, shows a banknote customized by the addition of two Hitler-head postage stamps and the show cancel, "Wien Messepalast/Austellung 1918/15.1.44."

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Vienna anti-Semitic Exhibition 1918 Green

This propaganda note has been found in two varieties, distinguished by the backs, which are found in either tan or green. Part of the propaganda message on the back reads:

Funfhundert Milliarden Reichsmark = 500,000 Millions = 500,000,000,000 RM. This bought one loaf of bread during the inflation caused by uninhibited Jewish speculation. The loss of all savings, unemployment, hunger and misery were the consequences of the "just peace of freedom and independence" as promised by our English and American "friends". . .

The Great Exhibition 1918 shows from original documents and photographs the origins and consequences of the collapse of 1918. It also demonstrates most convincingly that in this war the results of the year 1918 must not occur again. We will pursue this war to ultimate victory. Every Viennese must see Exhibition 1918."

There is a footnote at the bottom that states that tickets may be obtained at various NSDAP (Nazi Party) Offices. General admission was 50 pfennigs for the public, 40 pfennigs for Nazi Party members.

Operation Bernhard

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German counterfeit 5 pound note

We should very briefly mention what has been called the greatest counterfeiting operation of all time, Operation Bernhard. This was not a propaganda campaign, although the very same people who prepared the banknotes were also involved in a PSYOP campaign to parody British postage stamps with Communist and Jewish symbols. Operation Bernhard was instead, a secret German plan devised during World War II to destabilize the British economy by flooding the country with forged Bank of England 5, 10, 20, and 50 notes of 1934.

This was not the first wartime attempt to counterfeit the money of Great Britain. In 1939, Reinhard Heydrich decided to destroy the economy of Britain by flooding it with fake banknotes. He authorized “Operation Andreas,” commanded by SS Major Alfred Naujocks, who was given a budget of 2 million Reichsmarks. His technical director was Dr. Albert Langer. In April 1940, the never-patient Reinhard Heydrich ordered Naujocks to counterfeit Norwegian currency, and when told that the effort would at least four months, he fired Naujocks.

The plan was code-named “Operation Andreas” because the British flag bore the Cross of St. Andrew. The Germans thought that it looked like an “X.” In the same way they wanted to strike through the value of the pound, thus making it worthless.

Heydrich did not want to use criminals to make the banknotes, and as a result the plan never went into full production. By early 1942, Langer claimed that his Operation Andrew unit had produced 200,000 five-pound notes and 200,000 ten-pound notes. The project lacked the skilled labor force necessary to go into mass production, and as a result of internal squabbling among Nazi SS officials, Operation Andrew sputtered to a halt. It is probably just as well. Reichsbank Minister Funk stated that the plan was untenable and he could see no way to deliver the banknotes to England. Operation Bernhard also refused to use criminals preferring to use Jewish concentration camp inmates until the need for a counterfeit U.S. banknote eventually brought a professional counterfeiter into the fold.

The paper for the counterfeits was originally prepared at the Hahnemuhle paper mill near Dassel.

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SS Major Bernhard Kruger

The second and far more successful plan was directed by, and named after, SS Major Bernhard Kruger, who set up a team of 142 counterfeiters at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The Germans scoured the Concentration Camps for Jewish printing experts. A memorandum to Camp Commanders said:

Recruitment of Jewish Prisoners

Prisoners in the camp who are qualified in the printing trade such as paper manufacturing printers or suitable craftsmen are to report to me immediately.

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Only one Operation Bernhard printing plate survives today.
It can be seen at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C

The research on, and production of the British banknotes began in 1942. The major problem was the engraving of the complex printing plates and the breaking of the British code used to generate valid serial numbers. One of the experts on the team was Salamon Smolianoff, a Russian who had been forging British 50-pound notes since 1927 and who had been arrested and jailed in Amsterdam for counterfeiting. Another was Adolf Burger, a Slovakian Jew who had been trained as a printer. According to Burger, who wrote two books about his experiences, the forgers at Sachsenhausen also successfully copied the U.S. $100 bill.

In The Devil's Workshop he says in part:

In September 1944 Kruger appeared in his forgery workshop and announced. Gentlemen from today we are going to produce dollars too.

There were special rooms set aside for the dollar group. New machines and different paper arrived from Berlin. Soon after Kruger brought in real $50 and $100 bills and gave them to Jacobson the foreman.

The eight of us worked in isolation from the other prisoners. No one else was allowed to enter the three rooms in the back part of that block.

The last project in the forgery workshop was production of $50 and $100 bills. Only two hundred $100 bills were printed.

Kruger told Himmler of the success by phone and assured his boss that everything was ready now for the production of forged dollars.

"A million forged dollars a day are to be produced working in two 19-hour shifts." It was then 12 February 1945.

But before production could start Berlin was being attacked by the Allies.

Burger says that an order from the Reich Security main office ordered the work to stop the machinery to be dismantled

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SS Major Bernhard Kruger in Postwar British Captivity

Most references to Bernhard Kruger tell of him driving away from the concentration camp with a satchel full of counterfeit money at war’s end. In fact, Kruger was arrested first by the French who held him for about two years trying to convince him to forge for them, and then by the British who questioned him in depth about his wartime counterfeiting. When I interviewed Kruger in the 1950s he was a very bitter man who felt he had been mistreated by the allies. In fact, as a former SS officer, he probably got off much lighter than he should have.

Burger also says in regard to the dollar project that the inmates selected to counterfeit the U.S. dollar were Solomon Smolianoff, Norbert Levy (chief of the photographic department), Abraham Jacobson (director of the copy department), Adolf Burger (typographer) and Leonard and Roger Weill (retouchers). The painters Leo Haas and Peter Edel would assist them as needed.

In a top secret interrogation after the war Jacobson stated that he started forging U.S. dollars in May 1944. He claims they planned to print $50 and $100 bills, and although 5000 pieces were made, they were never numbered or left the plant. It seems that every one of the counterfeiters told a different story after the war and since there probably was some compartmentalization, it may be that they are just telling us the rumors that they heard from each other.

The main problem was to find an adequate printing method. Genuine dollar notes were printed in what Burger calls tiefdruckverfahren, which can be translated as “engraved (intaglio) printing”but the inmates did not have the correct type of printing press. It was decided instead to print the notes in the Lichtdruck process. This method uses a glass plate that is covered with light-sensible gelatin layer on which the film negative is exposed. No screening is necessary to reproduce halftone pictures, but only up to 1.000 copies can be printed from one plate. A typical feature of this seldom used printing process is the wrinkled grain that is seen instead of screen dots under a magnifying glass. Burger claims that they attempted to counterfeit $50 and $100 banknotes with the Lichtdruck process. He says that only two-hundred copies of the $100 note were printed.

I probably should not editorialize since this article is entirely factual, but I feel that I must make some comments here. The vast majority of the information about this operation comes from former Jewish concentration camp inmate counterfeiters. They lived in relatively good conditions while all around them their fellow inmates died of starvation, disease and ill treatment. There probably is survivor guilt. In addition, the inmates were helping their sworn enemies win the war. We understand why they acted as they did, but they were by definition, collaborators. As a result, many of the inmates now talk about how they fought the Germans and sabotaged their efforts, and Burger, in his autobiography, becomes practically a one-man sabotage machine. I think we need to be very critical when we read these reports and ask ourselves if they are totally reliable. In the various interviews you will read that no $100 bills were printed, the backs of some $100 bills were printed, One-hundred or two-hundred $100 bills were printed, and perhaps even $20 and $50 bills were worked on. It is difficult to know what really happened.

The German-language movie Die Falshers (The Counterfeiters) based on Burger’s book depicted the inmates handing Major Kruger forged American banknotes.

By the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, according to Chief Inspector (later Chief Superintendent) William Rudkin of the London Metropolitan Police, the printing presses there had produced 3,945,867 5 pound notes, 2,398,981 10 pound notes, 1,337,335 20 pound notes and 1,282,902 50 pound notes for a total on 134,610,945 pounds. The Germans used them all over Europe for espionage and covert operations, purchased weapons with them from partisan bands, and even paid their spy "Cicero" in the British embassy in Turkey with the counterfeits. The notes are considered the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being extremely difficult to distinguish from the real thing. The best grade was used by German spies in enemy countries and for purchases in friendly or neutral countries. The second best grade was for collaborators and informers. The third grade would have been dropped over the British countryside to destroy its economy. This never happened because it was impossible to produce enough notes to destroy an economy, and worse, it would tip off the British that their notes were being counterfeited. The last grade was destroyed.

Did the Germans really counterfeit U.S. currency? Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp inmates were interviewed at the end of the war at the Seventh Army Interrogation Center. Two Jewish prisoners, Jacob Goldglass and Henrik Fajermann stated on 20 May 1945 that the counterfeiting team that had produced millions of fake British pounds had planned to counterfeit American banknotes late in the war. The secret report stated:

The camp had thirteen machines for the production of British pound notes and two machines for the production of American dollar bills. The latter could not be produced because of the lack of suitable paper.

Hans Walter, one of the original Bernhard forgers spoke of his experiences in 2009. There was not much new in his comments, but it is nice to have facts verified by one of the forgers. He said that barracks 19 was sealed off from the remainder of the camp and there was no contact with the other prisoners. The Camp Commandant was not even aware of the work being done there.

His job was to inspect the forged notes and to put them into one of five categories (not four as mentioned elsewhere in this article). Has believed that the best notes, category one, were for shipment to England (through Chicago and Switzerland). The next grade was to be sent to the English colonies. The third grade was to be used in sabotage operations at the front and in Africa and Egypt. Grade four notes were to be dropped over England to disrupt the economy and the poorest of the forgeries were discarded.

Hans said that Bernhard Kruger would come to visit once or twice a week. The hardest portion of the British note to copy was "Britannia" because of the large amount of details in the figure. There were no secret marks applied to the notes and none of the prisoners ever got any of the forgeries out of the camp.

After successfully forging the English notes, Hans said that his fellow prisoners set about to make U.S. one hundred dollar bills. The green color of the ink created a problem but that was overcome. To complete the process would have resulted in the gas chamber so the prisoners decided to slow the project. Hans said that in mixing the ink he added a little machine oil to the mixture so that when the green ink dried some of it would come off when rubbed by a finger. Kruger took notes to a German printer to try to solve the problem but they could not.

A declassified report entitled “Counterfeiting Activities of Section 6-F-4 in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt” (German Main Security Office) agrees:

It was also planned to produce American dollars. Section 6-F-4 already possessed the necessary engraving plates but had not been able to produce a satisfactory paper. The paper on hand was much too stiff and had other failings.

We know that part of the block 18 dormitory was cleared for the dollar workshop in May 1944. There is a theory that Kruger was willing to have the project linger on since a successful ending or total failure meant his inmates would be executed and he might find himself on the Eastern Front facing the Russians. As a result, the dollar project stretched on and on. Anthony Pirie says in Operation Bernhard, William Morrow and Company, NYC, 1961:

Early in January 1945, Kruger received a phone call from Sachsenhausen. Soon afterwards, in Block 19, he was minutely examining the first run of the new dollar notes – a hundred samples of the hundred-dollar bill.

Burke adds in Nazi Counterfeiting of British Currency During World War II, The Book Shop, San Bernardino, CO, 1987:

On the 6th of January 1945, a selection of notes was shown to Himmler in which, it is said, he could not separate the genuine from the copies. The engraving was much harder than for the simple Bank of England notes, but the numbering system proved to be quite easy to break…Some of the prisoners involved thought that about 200 of the $100 notes were printed. McNally [a U.S. Army major who had served in the American Secret Service and was appointed to Germany after the war to protect the occupying forces from counterfeit currency], in his investigation, estimated about 6,000…

Lawrence Malkin says in Kruger’s Men, Little, Brown and Company, NYC, 2006:

Within two days they had printed what Smolianoff [the one true criminal counterfeiter in the group – known by a dozen aliases] judged a “pretty fair copy of the back of a hundred dollar bill. Across a table the Dollar Group spread fifteen genuine greenbacks with their fake demonstration bill. Without a magnifying glass, it was hard even for the forgers themselves to distinguish the counterfeit.

The group then started work on the front of the $100 note and after a week they had a suitable $100 counterfeit note. The inmates were ordered to produce one million dollars of U.S. currency a day.

Arlie Slabaugh says in Prisoner of War Monies and Medals, Hewitt Brothers, Chicago, Il, 1965:

Late in 1943 it was decided to counterfeit U.S. currency…By late fall 1944the reverse of the $100 bill was finished, approved and retouching began on the face. Twenty $100 bills were produced  which passed inspection except for the U.S. date and serial number which had not yet been solved. The paper had finally been imitated but due to the bombings the factory could not produce the quantity needed. The U.S. $100 bill never went into production. The plates were destroyed.

The Counterfeit specialist Murray Teigh Bloom, author of seven books on currency, wrote in an International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence article entitled “Uncle Sam: Bashful Counterfeiter” that the Germans attempted to counterfeit a U.S. $20 note. He says that the operation proceeded so slowly that it was never completed. I have seen no other evidence of this denomination being counterfeited.

So, although there is no evidence of the German counterfeits ever being put into circulation, there are numerous written references to them being printed.

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The Money Game

The artist Mort Kunstler painted a scene of the counterfeit currency workshop of Sachsenhausen concentration Camp entitled “The Money Game.” The scene is explained in advertisements as:

In the dark recesses of Barracks 19 at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, a German SS officer examines a sample of counterfeit U.S. currency being manufactured for distribution in an effort to undermine the economy of the United States. Unbeknown to Hitler and his cohorts, the scheme would never reach fruition as the conspiracy would be thwarted by an allied victory in Europe.

What is interesting about the painting from the artist known for his historical accuracy is that it depicts a counterfeit $50 banknote, one that was never counterfeited by the Jewish inmates in the camp. Only the $100 note was counterfeited, as reported in the classified “Secret” December 1945 Czechoslovakian Ministry of the Interior Report on Forgery in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Translated to English it says in part:

…Kruger brought in about fifty 100 dollar bank notes…For whole months the work did not produce satisfactory results…Faults could be seen in the application of color. At other times they filed to achieve the right tone of green for the reverse side of the 100 dollar notes. 220 experiments were made altogether until at the end of December 1944 they were able to begin on the production of the bank notes…But although the prisoners had an ultimatum from Himmler to manufacture dollars, the actual production was never carried out…Altogether about 200 one hundred dollar bank notes were printed. These were left in the camp.

John K. Cooley says in Currency Wars, Skyhorse Publishing, NYC, 2008:

Kruger turned over some genuine $50 and $100 notes to copy…The SD leadership had originally demanded that the team produce 200 perfect $100 specimens…On the two hundred and fiftieth attempt…The result was twenty-four perfect $100 counterfeits. During the same night, the team printed the required 200 bills, face value $20,000.

On the other hand, Wilhelm Hottl says in Hitler’s Paper Weapon, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1955:

…Fifty and hundred dollar notes and produced the first examples by the end of 1944…when the first dollars were delivered in early 1945, they were turned down because of defective paper…

Moritz Nachtstern talks about his experiences as a forger in Sachsenhausen and says that there were $50 bills produced in Counterfeiter – how a Norwegian Jew survived the holocaust, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K., 2008. The counterfeiters talk about their work at different times:

We will soon begin the manufacture of 50-dollar bills en masse. I swear old Uncle Sam is going to be so bloated with dollar bills that he will burst…

It won’t be long and you’ll see a 50-dollar bill that beat everything in the industry. It will be my life’s masterpiece…

Are you completely finished with it? Does it look good? You should have seen Kruger. He embraced me and carried on like a maniac. I can tell you this men; if anyone has produced a better 50-dollar bill than mine, he has not been discovered.

So, at least three authors believed that the Germans attempted to counterfeit a U.S. fifty dollar bill. Perhaps Mort Kunstler got the idea from Hottl.

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Mort Kunstler and Author

In 2006 the author was asked to display and explain American and foreign weapons and uniforms as part of an exhibition of Mort Kuntsler's military paintings.

Operation Bernhard seems to be the story that lives on forever. On 18 August 2011 a set of the four counterfeit notes was auctioned in Great Britain. The four banknotes were recovered from Lake Toplitz in Austria and estimated at 2,000 pounds. That seems rather steep because generally a set can be bought for less than half that amount. I assume the auctioneer thought that the Lake Toplitz provenance made them more valuable.

Many experts have stated that the British did not know that their banknotes were counterfeited by the Germans until after the war. In fact, the British did know because they were regularly arresting Nazi spies and the Germans had paid some of them with Bernhard counterfeits. In February 2012 the British National Archives released documents on the discovery of counterfeit banknotes found in the possession of Nazi spies. The documents say in part:

According to information given by Alfred Naujocks, who gave himself up in November 1944, the Germans started to forge these notes in 1940 with the object of scattering them over the country from the air at the time they were invading the British Isles, in order to cause a loss of confidence and general confusion.

[These are clearly the early attempts and not the later Bernhard counterfeits].

In September 1943, the German spy Tricycle arrived with 500 five pound notes, 152 of which were counterfeits. In March 1944, the spy Treasure was found with 30 ten pound notes, 23 of which were counterfeits.

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The Bernhard 10 Pound Forgery

When I collected the German counterfeits I liked the ones that had been identified and stamped by banks. The Germans liked to think that they were never caught but I had many such notes with different handstamps showing that the notes had been recognized as fakes by various European banks. The Poles have stamped this note FALSZYWY (False). I also have notes stamped by the British FALSIFICATION.

[It appears that in some cases one section of German intelligence was selling counterfeits in Lisbon to raise funds and another section was buying the counterfeits that they believed were genuine and paying spies with that currency. We cannot be sure if the Germans intended to give the spies the fake money or not. We also notice that the British watched every banknote in foreigner’s hands and traced them back to the point of origin trying to decide if the banknote had somehow come into German hands and was being used to pay spies].

This concludes our discussion of German propaganda aimed at the United States and Europe. There are other banknote-leaflets allegedly produced, but none has been seen at present. For instance, Murray Teigh Bloom states in The Brotherhood of Money, BNR Press, Port Clinton, Ohio, 1983, that "the Germans planned to take French currency plates with them when they retreated." Allegedly this plot was foiled when the French gave the Germans deformed and faulty plates. Bloom says: "The Germans used the deformed plates to make propaganda notes - a seeming French note on one side and on the other a message urging French soldiers and 'maquis (Partisans)' to surrender." These alleged surrender passes are unknown and it is probable that the leaflets in question are those that pictured the 5-franc AMG note we mention above.

Burger claims that his Counterfeiting team forged Soviet currency and NKVD papers:

We made almost everything; Soviet rubles, and in a smaller quantity, Soviet documents.  I remember once we had to falsify 200 identity cards of the Soviet People’s Commissariat Security employees.

Jacobson adds that the Germans intended to counterfeit French 25 franc notes but they never produced any. He was ordered to counterfeit currency of the Netherlands but convinced his bosses that it was too difficult.

Chinese Pro-Japanese Propaganda

The Japanese Army regularly produced propaganda leaflets in an attempt to sway the patriotism of the Chinese National Army and the guerrillas. The pro-Japanese Chinese collaborationist government took part in a series of propaganda operations against the legitimate Chinese government and the guerrillas that helped it.

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Genuine Central Bank of China 1 yuan note of 1936 (front)

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Parody of Central Bank of China 1 yuan note of 1936 (back)

The first parody of a Chinese banknote was a lithographed full-color replica of the Central Bank of China 1 yuan note of 1936 with a safe conduct pass in brown on the back. The serial number 558829 N/E appears on both front and back. The pass is dated 1936 in Arabic numerals on the back and the date in Chinese on the front is MK25 (1936). This was the original safe conduct pass. This note is also known with a slightly modified text and different serial number.

The safe conduct message appears as nine vertical lines of Chinese text in a central boxed area, flanked on the left by a circular area containing one vertical line of six Chinese characters and on the right by a circular scalloped area containing one vertical line of six Chinese characters. Above the central boxed area is a horizontal arced banner line of five Chinese characters; below the central area is a horizontal straight line of eleven characters. The text is:

Safe conduct pass for military troops

Welcome to the forces of peace     Guarantee of safe passage

Prior to the Official Announcement of the Military Committee, this Safe Conduct Pass has been made for those who intend to join the peace reconstruction movement of the New Central Government. There has been an understanding with the front-line troops of the Japanese Army. Please show this Pass to the sentries of the Japanese Army to obtain protection and the means to join the New Central Government.

Military Committee, National Government, Nanking

The note is described in World War II Remembered, C. Frederick Schwan and Joseph E. Boling, BNR Press, 1995.

The Nanking Nationalist Government with Wang Ching-wei as President was a collaborationist carbon copy of the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek. The Japanese puppet government in Nanking copied the names of bureaus and agencies in an attempt to appear legitimate. However, the genuine Chinese government did not have a Military Committee. The term "peaceful reconstruction movement" was a direct counter-propaganda slogan to the nationalist "reconstruction through the war of resistance movement."

The second variety of this note was described in Oriental Affairs, March 1941. The text is mostly the same with some variation perhaps caused by translation but the propaganda text at the sides of the note is described as:

Welcome to take part in peace - To safeguard your life.

The article states that the note was produced by “The Headquarters of the Pacifying Forces in Kiangsu, Chekiang and Anhwei Province.” In addition:

The forged notes are stated to have been freely distributed among villagers in the countryside…

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Genuine Central Bank of China 5 Fen

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  5 Fen parody

The Japanese collaborationists then proceeded to take the propaganda message on the back of the original banknote and reproduce it on the currency of other banks. The first copy is a green replica of Central Bank of China 5 fen (5 cents) note of 1939 with a safe conduct pass in green on the back, reduced in size to fit the smaller size of this note. Curiously, they copied the serial number along with the text so this note is also 558829 N/E on the back with no serial number on the front. The pass is dated 1936 in Arabic numerals on the back; the date in Chinese on the front is MK28 (1939).

The Ward D. Smith and Brian Matravers book Chinese Banknotes, Shirjieh Publishers, Menlo Park, CA, 1970, is the “Bible” of Chinese numismatics. They say in regard to the 5 fen note:

[The 5 cents] also exists with a slightly larger but otherwise identical obverse, but with a reverse dated 1936. It was issued by the Nanking Government Military Affairs Committee as a form of safe conduct pass to encourage defections from the Chinese nationalist military.

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Genuine Farmer’s Bank of China 1 chiao (10 cents)

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A Safe Conduct Pass Parody of Farmer's Bank of China 1 chiao (10 cents)

The Chinese also parodied the Farmer's Bank of China 1 chiao (10 cents) note of 1937 with safe conduct pass in blue on the back. The serial number appears on both front and back. The pass is dated 1936 in Arabic numerals on the back; the date in Chinese on the front is MK26 (1937). The text is identical to the preceding two banknotes.

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A Second Parody of Farmer's Bank of China 1 chiao (10 cents)

There are two versions of the Farmer's Bank of China 1 chiao (10 cents) note of 1937 with safe conduct pass in blue. Once again the serial number appears on both front and back. This pass is a modified reprint of the preceding item. The pass is dated 1942 in Arabic numerals on the back; the date in Chinese on the front is MK26 (1937). Besides the difference in date, there is a slight difference in the text in the central box: the last (leftmost) line has only five Chinese characters rather than six, and the two references to the "New Central Government" have been changed to "Nanking Government."

As stated earlier, there is a second pro-Japanese safe conduct pass on the Bank of China 1 yuan note of 1936 that we depict above. This note is dated 1936 in Arabic numerals on the back and the date in Chinese on the front is MK25 (1936). This second variety has the serial number 267355 N/H on the front and back. The front is identical to the genuine banknote,

This version has the serial number 267355 N/H on the front and back. The front is identical to the genuine banknote, and once again the safe conduct message is on the back. This pass has the same structure as those in the preceding listing, and bears similar texts with some minor changes and additions. The central boxed area in this pass now contains ten vertical lines and translates to:

Safe conduct pass for military troops

Welcome to the forces of peace            Guarantee of safe passage

Prior to the Official Announcement of the Military Committee, this Safe Conduct Pass has been made for those who intend to join the peace movement of the New Central Government. There has been an understanding with the front-line troops of the Japanese Army and the Pacification Army. Please show this Pass to the sentries of the Japanese Army or the Chinese Army to obtain protection and the means to join the New Central Government.

Pacification Army of Kiangsu, Chekiang, and Anhwei Provinces

This second variety is illustrated and discussed in Oriental Affairs 15, 3 (March 1941).

In Battle Hymn of China, Knopf, NY, 1943, Author Agnes Smedley mentions a banknote safe conduct pass dropped over the north bank of the lower Yangtze River, an area occupied by the Communist New Fourth Army:

Another handbill looked like a banknote except that the reverse side explained the procedure for desertion. It urged guerrillas to bring their rifles. Halt at least 200 feet away from a Japanese garrison and wave a white flag. Next all should lay their rifles on the earth, then, with arms uplifted, approach the Japanese sentry one by one to be searched for concealed weapons. After that a life of ease would be theirs!

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Japanese Overprint on Malaya Currency

The Japanese defeated and occupied British Malaya in 1942 and printed occupation currency for their use. For some unknown reason they placed a propaganda message on the back of this 1944 $100 dollar banknote.

At the right there is a red circle hand-stamp that means: “verified.”

The text is read from top to bottom, right to left,  written in a poetic style where it rhymes, with five characters per line.

It is easy to catch a tiger in the jungle [can also be “high mountain”]
It is hard to find someone to lend you money.
If you have no savings
You will have a big problem.
Greater Japan [can also be “Empire of Japan”]
Malayan Finance Department

A square red chop at left is: “Showa ___ year” The hand-stamped date is difficult to read, but it certainly was applied during the occupation of Malaya by Japan. There was no “Greater Japan” after their surrender in 1945.

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Japanese pornographic banknote parodies

The Japanese also used pornographic photographs on their banknote parodies to catch the attention of the Chinese soldiers and patriots. Two are reported to have been disseminated in Chekiang Province. They were first reported in The China Weekly Review, April 13, 1946 which identified them as "Army Return certificates." The photographs and the text are inconsistent. The first propaganda banknote appears to be imitations of the Farmer’s Bank of China 1 chiao (10 cents) note of 1937 depicting a nude girl from the waist up. The second note may be the Central Bank of China 1 yuan note of 1936 or 5 fen (5 cents) note of 1939 showing a nude girl sitting on a floor.

The text is identical on both notes:

I am constantly looking forward to your return. You are still fighting the war of resistance. If you continue to fight, you will die in the field! Come back and listen to my heart.

Ban Shigeo, a technician at the Japanese Army's 9th Technical Research Institute wrote a slim history of the Japanese WWII Noborito Research Institute entitled: Rikugun Noborito Kenkyujo no shinjitsu (The Truth About the Army Noborito Research Institute), in 2001. It was reviewed by Stephen C. Mercado.

The institute was commanded by Lt. Gen. Shinoda, and was involved in projects to develop poisons, biological agents, and the balloon bombs sent to drift over the western United States to set forest fires near the end of the Second World War.

Of the Japanese Army's ten numbered institutes, only the 9th Army Technical Research Institute came under the covert operations section of the Army General Staff's Second Bureau (Intelligence). Noborito's main customers were the covert operatives trained at the Army's Nakano School and the counterintelligence officers of the Kempeitai. Noborito developed equipment for the men of Nakano, where the institute’s equipment was often tested before deployment.

One wartime project was the counterfeiting of the currency used by Chiang Kai-shek's regime with the idea of flooding the area held by Nationalist China, causing economic upheaval, undermining confidence in the Nationalist regime, destroying the economy and ending the Chinese resistance. The Noborito Research Institute printed the currency, members of the Nakano School took the counterfeit notes to China, and then Imperial Japanese Army intelligence units worked with Shanghai's notorious crime gangs to distribute the currency.

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One Type of 5 Yuan Chinese Banknote Counterfeited by the Japanese

More information about this counterfeiting operation became known in 2015. The Asahi Shimbun stated that the Imperial Japanese Army used a private company to produce counterfeit banknotes of China. 279 sheets, each about 30 centimeters square, were found at the Tomoegawa Company’s paper mill in Shizuoka. The army’s Noborito institute in Kawasaki had placed an order for the sheets with the Tokyo-based company. The sheets showed watermarks of a profile of Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary and founding father of the Republic of China. They also contain silk fibers. These features are identical to those of a 5-yuan banknote that was widely circulated in the Republic of China at that time. Other sheets found at the mill had watermarks of the Temple of Heaven, a historic structure in Beijing, that appeared on a different kind of 5-yuan bill back then.

A former Imperial Japanese Army officer who was in charge of the counterfeiting project claimed that Japan had created fake bills worth 4 billion yuan starting in 1939. It is believed that the private company was used because the Army institute was unable to make the banknotes in the bulk required. The civilian-made sheets were produced between August 1940 and July 1941. The workers ensured the bills looked authentic by checking the sophistication of the watermarks and the amount of silk fibers used.

Originally, authentic banknotes used in the Republic of China were printed in Hong Kong using technology from the United States and Britain. The machines and original plates to print the bills in Hong Kong were confiscated and taken to the institute after Japan occupied Hong Kong in 1941.

A second version of what is apparently the same story says that the Japanese forged the currency of Nationalist China during 1941 to 1945 using inks and plates (and presumably paper) seized from Chinese banks in Kowloon. The inspiration for this ploy came from Lieutenant-Colonel Iwakuro Hideo, 8th Section, Army GHQ, who was a graduate of the Nakano School for espionage according to Louis Allen, "Nakano School for spies," World War Investigator, Vol. 1, No. 12, 1989.

At the end of the war, the United States secretly employed some of the counterfeiters and installed them at the Yokosuka naval base. They continued to forge currency and documents to support American agent operations in Communist China, North Korea, and the Soviet Far East. This story first came to light when Ariga Tsutao, a former member of the current Japan Defense Agency and a noted authority on the Imperial Japanese Military’s intelligence community, made the allegation.

There were reports in 1943 of the Japanese flooding China with large sums of counterfeit Bank of China currency notes. Reports from Kweilin indicate that 10 billion dollars in forged currency were introduced into China. It is interesting to note that American agents thought the report was exaggerated and recommended that a figure of 100 million dollars be specified instead. In a later letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, the sum is further reduced to 10 million dollars. The same letter reports that the Japanese have counterfeited US dollars, Hong Kong dollars, and British sterling. Other experts such as C. M. Nielsen told me that the Japanese government did not always sponsor the counterfeiting, but they would often stand by and allow private counterfeiters to wreak havoc on the Chinese economy.

It is likely that other German and Japanese propaganda banknotes will surface in the coming years. These are all that are known at the moment. Readers with comments or additional information are encouraged to write to the author at

End: 15 June 2004