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The greatest forger of British five-pound notes was a Nazi

Posted in Espionage, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, World War 2 on Wednesday, 1 January 2014

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This edited article about Germany first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 502 published on 28 August 1971.

Kruger and the sunken millions, picture, image, illustration

Kruger's Millions being recovered from the bottom of a lake in Austria

Excitedly, the divers plunged to the depths of the Austrian lake. Their metal detectors had told them that somewhere in the soft mud that lined the rocky bed were the iron boxes they wanted.

Searching hands probed the watery gloom. They touched something cold and hard with sharp corners and strong rivets. This was it . . . the object of their search.

One by one, the boxes were hauled to the surface and dragged to the shore. After a great deal of effort they were opened – and the world throbbed with the news of what they contained. It was money . . . thousands and thousands of pounds in Bank of England notes. But it was worthless because it was forged.

The notes were sent to the Bank of England for disposal and the waters of the lake in Austria returned to their normal calm.

Thus ended a mystery! But was was this mystery – Why was the money buried in the lake, and why was it made originally? What master forger was behind this colossal crime?

Although the money had been found in 1959, the story begins in 1942 during the height of the Second World War.

The master forger was Bernhard Kruger, the head of the German Security Service workshop at Sachsenhausen camp, near Berlin.

Here, thousands of false passports, ration books, identity cards and other documents for German spies were made. Kruger was noted for his ironic sense of humour, and Hitler thought him the ideal man to flood Europe with counterfeit British five pound notes. If enough of the false notes could be circulated, British money would become worthless throughout the world.

To achieve this devastating result, the forgeries would have to be perfect. He ordered that the notes must be printed on precisely the right kind of paper: that there must be no discrepancy in colour or design, and that a correct numbering system must be adopted.

Once this had been done, Kruger gave instructions that no less than a million “fivers” must be printed a month; and that these would be followed by the manufacture of higher denominations.

As the camp’s presses roared day and night to produce these notes, Kruger set about organising their distribution. Some of this was done by sea.

Two yachts, the Columbus and the Auroria, carried vast quantities to Yugoslavia, Italy and Spain. Teams of spies circulated the money all over the world – North Africa, the Far East and even South America.

Every important European capital received its share of the “Kruger Millions.” It was not uncommon for British soldiers to find rolls of “fivers” on prisoners-of-war, or to be offered a genuine-looking ten pound note in exchange for a packet of cigarettes.

Still Kruger’s forgers continued their forced labour and soon lost count of how many millions of pounds they had made.

By 1945, Germany was on the brink of defeat. Kruger evacuated his entire plant to a camp in Austria, where the remaining workmen were brusquely told to destroy everything.

Everything which could not be destroyed – and immense mounds of new money – was taken by truck to a lake. There, “Kruger’s Millions” were placed in watertight containers and dropped hastily into the depths of the lake, where they settled on the rocky bed. Perhaps, one day, the Germans hoped to salvage the containers and become rich men.

The money might have been there today, but for the curiosity of the divers over the unsolved mystery of the fortune in forgeries.

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