A new book titled Forging Secrets: Faces and Facts Inside the Nazi Operation Bernhard Scheme was published by the Spungen Family Foundation in association with Coin and Currency Institute and addresses collectors, students, and researchers of World War II and the Holocaust.
Operation Bernhard was a secret Nazi project during WWII that forced Jewish concentration camp prisoners to forge Bank of England notes. Initially intended to destroy the British economy, the forged notes ended up financing the German side of the war. With their lives hanging by a thread, 140-plus prisoners produced enough fake currency to equal the face value of all reserves in the vaults of the Bank of England – an astounding 6 or 7 billion dollars in today’s money. This sensational true story has been treated by historians, survivors, Hollywood, and mainstream media, but never have all of these elements been combined into one volume.
“We wanted to put a face on money – to show the humanity behind this incredible story for students and future generations who take an interest in the Holocaust and World War II,” said
Danny Spungen, trustee of the Spungen Family Foundation. “This is more than a book. This is an interactive experience in a book where students and collectors can search for and acquire an artifact, witnesses of the Holocaust.”
Contributors to the book include American Numismatic Association Medal of Merit recipients Joseph Boling and C. Frederick Schwan; Auschwitz historian and museum curator Robert Jan van Pelt; Debbie Walter, daughter of Operation Bernhard survivor Hans Walter; Charlotte Krüger, granddaughter of Bernhard Krüger, who ran Operation Bernhard; and Astrid Ley and Agnes Ohm, expert historians from the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum near Berlin.
Collectors will be fascinated by the authoritative chapter by Boling, which shows readers in over 200 diagnostic photos how to distinguish genuine British white notes from fakes produced by the Operation Bernhard prisoners. Boling served as chief editor of the book, along with Danny Spungen and Kiel Majewski, executive director of the Spungen Family Foundation. Several other researchers and historians also contributed original content.
The 252 page, 11.25 x 11.25 inch (28.575 x 28.575 cm) book features over 500 images, including never-before-published sketches of Bernhard prisoners by the artists Peter Edel and Leo Haas, who were themselves prisoners in the forgery operation. Perhaps the most unique feature of the hardcover, linen-wrapped book is a die-cut window in the cover. The window opens up to a museum-quality transparent polyester sleeve stitched into the book and sized precisely to hold an artifact – a counterfeit “Operation Bernhard” note produced by the prisoners of Block 19 in Sachsenhausen. Retail copies of the book will come with a replica Bernhard note depicting the signatures of three survivors of Block 19 – Adolf Burger, Jack Plapler, and Hans Walter. Guidance on how to conserve an authentic Bernhard note is printed on the backside of the replica.
Each copy of the short-run collectible book is be numbered 1-1000 and retails for $199. Thanks to the generous contributions of donors and sponsors, 200+ copies were made available to students at an 85% discount. $9.75 shipping in the USA. Foreign orders will be billed actual cost. The current rate is US $78 for Priority Mail, the most inexpensive alternative. Copies may be obtained from the Coin & Currency Institute, P.O. Box 399, Williston, Vermont,05495, phone +1 800 421 1866 or online.
Examples of the counterfeited currencies can be viewed in the Dresden coin cabinet or at the Bank of England Museum.
An exhibition in Italy focused on real and false coins and currencies.