Jewish underground used fake bank notes, book claims

A new book claims that more than $164 million worth of forged British bank notes was used by the Jewish underground to help establish the state of Israel.

The book, “Krueger’s Men: The Secret Nazi Counterfeit Plot and the Prisoners of Block 19,” says wads of notes, which the Germans had concentration camp inmates forge, were used after World War II to pay for the transport of Jews to then British-occupied Palestine and to buy weapons for the emerging Israeli armed forces.  

The book, which has been published in the United States and Germany and was written by former Time magazine journalist Lawrence Malkin, details how the Nazis sought to undermine the British economy and what became of the cash they produced. The counterfeiting also helped finance some Nazi spy efforts.

Malkin writes that the Germans produced $166 million in forged Bank of England notes during World War II as part of a plan to destroy the British economy. While the plan ultimately failed to deal a fatal blow to Britain, it nevertheless frightened the Bank of England into withdrawing notes worth more than 5 pounds sterling from circulation until the 1960s.

The book said the notes were produced by a team of forgers and printing experts gathered from among Jewish concentration camp inmates. The inmates volunteered because they thought the work would save them from the gas chambers.

At the height of the operation, headed by SS officer Bernhard Krueger, the Jewish prisoners at the work camps of Sachenhausen, produced 650,000 notes a month. Before the war ended, U.S. money was forged as well.

Malkin reveals how some of the forged cash ended up in the hands of the Jewish underground at the end of the war.

The Nazis laundered millions of British pounds through a series of schemes including using business figures in occupied Europe who had concealed their Jewish origins. One of these businessmen was Yaakov Levy, a successful jeweler and art expert in prewar Germany.

In the weeks following the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, Levy got supplies to Jewish refugees in Northern Italy who were fleeing south in hope sterling in traveling to Israel. He also handed out wads each containing about 50,000 pounds sterling in fake cash to organizers looking to help Jewish Holocaust survivors get to Israel.

In his book, which draws on new information from British, U.S., German and Israeli archives, Malkin wrote: “The Jewish underground wanted van Harten’s [Levy’s] money and did not care whether it was counterfeit or real. They passed the bogus pounds to supply Holocaust survivors and help the Brichah [Jewish escape organization] smuggle more refugees to Palestine.

“On the international arms market, they used the money to buy weapons for Jews arming themselves against the British and then the Arabs.”