Paper Money

Last Operation Bernhard survivor dies

Counterfeit £10 and £20 notes were among the nearly 9 million Bank of England notes, with a face value over £100 million, produced in 'Operation Bernhard' by prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp under the direction of Nazi SS Major Bernhard Krüger.

Original images courtesy of Bill Rosenblum.

Hans Walter, the sole remaining survivor of Operation Bernhard, the Nazi counterfeiting operation at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, died April 20 in Mansfield, Ohio. He was 96 and was buried on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, with a traditional Jewish ceremony.

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His obituary states that he came to the United States in 1951 after surviving five concentration camps. Mr. Walter was sent from Auschwitz to Sachsenhausen. There he was made became a member of a 142-member team of prisoners who, as part of a Nazi plan to destroy Britain’s economy, were forced to counterfeit £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes. His role was as a final inspector in an operation that produced nearly 9 million of the Bank of England notes with a face value over £100 million.

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Operation Bernhard was named after its director, SS Major Bernhard Krüger. The team’s output is still considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever. The fakes were made rag paper, with correctly engraved plates, the right watermarks, and valid serial numbers. Judaica specialist William M. Rosenblum says they can be identified with 99 percent certainty based on serial number ranges, and by a small anomaly: “ ‘Bank of England’ is found in the watermark at the bottom of the note. There is a triangle at the base of the first ‘N’ in England. On the counterfeits there is a line that originates from the center of the base of the triangle while on the originals the line is off-center.”

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