This Should Surprise No One: Germany Tried to Undermine British Currency in WW2

Apparently, the Nazis were quite successful, too.

A 1945 report in the National Archives suggests Germany began production of the fake notes five years earlier in a bid to undermine sterling.

Notes began to enter neutral countries by D-Day and the Bank of England issued the first of two recalls.

The Nazis produced counterfeit sterling with a face value of £134m in total.

That was the equivalent of 10% of all sterling in circulation.


Although this trade had been falling off in August 1945, according to Sir Edward the only way to restore confidence in the currency would be for the Bank of England to recall all notes with a face value of £5 or more, and print new ones.

That is what happened.

The highest denomination was £5 and remained so until the early 1960s.

“In general it can be said that the German object of destroying confidence abroad in Bank of England notes has been achieved,” Sir Edward wrote.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that the Nazis would have done this as a form of economic warfare. When you’re at war, you’ll use whatever means are at your disposal to undermine your enemies and their ability to fight back.

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Robert Prather
About Robert Prather
Robert Prather contributed over 80 posts to OTB between October 2005 and July 2013. He previously blogged at the now defunct Insults Unpunished. Follow him on Twitter @RobPrather.


  1. Richard Gardner says:

    And currently, the NORKS (the heavenly peoples something or another of North Korea) have been making fake US$100 bills – though in their case, it may be desperation. I won’t link World Nut Daily articles but the Wikipedia article is decent

  2. I am pretty sure I saw this on the History Channel over ten years ago. They have found a bunch of the notes at the bottom of some lake in Germany or Austria where the Nazis had apparently dumped them after the war.

  3. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Very old (but interesting) story.

    The probably most surprising thing by today’s point of view is how low the security standards of the British pound were: Unlike almost every other nation that had to deal with counterfeit money they could not just inform the public what tells to look for. The reproductions were so perfect that the UK essentially had to introduce a redesigned currency to stop the problem.

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    This is a well known story I’ve even seen comedy movies about it. Given the tight currency controls that were a feature of British economic management during the war and that remained in place until the 50’s it probably didn’t have that much impact. Full employment and an enlarged workforce producing higher earnings with nothing to spend it on was probably substantially more inflationary than fake currency.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    That is the 97,345th worst thing the Nazis ever did!