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Random PSYOP leaflet - NEWS FROM THE HOME COUNTRY, No. 19, 9 January 1945

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Passierschein 149.

4 August 2014 at 4:44 pm

Conversations with a Master Forger
By SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

9 March 2004

This article was originally published in Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, January 1980. It was written for philatelists who had an interest in espionage forgeries and propaganda parodies of postage stamps. I have done some minor updates to the story to correct some comments where further information has surfaced, but it is still 25 years old. It is embarrassing to see how excited I was about talking to government forgers at the time, but the reader should understand that in those days all of this forging and parodying work was very secret. Readers should understand that much of the information is dated and the text should be considered a starting point for further research, not a conclusive reference work.

I have studied the propaganda stamps, currency, and leaflets of World War II for over thirty years and published well over one hundred articles on the subject in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. For twenty years I searched for the British master forger who directed Britain's philatelic forgery operations during World War II. I was always fascinated by the forged and parodied stamps produced to attack the enemy's economy or ridicule his leaders.

The realization that philatelic research can be a very difficult undertaking will come as no great shock to the advanced collector. Facts are often hidden in out-of-print books, classified documents, dated magazines, worn letters, or tattered newspapers. When we attempt to study wartime forgeries and propaganda parodies, the problem becomes even more acute. The fact of the matter is that few governments are willing to admit that they ever counterfeited or parodied the stamps of another sovereign nation. Even when faced with incontestable proof, these governments refuse to admit that they could have been guilty of so heinous a crime as forgery.

Denis Sefton Delmer
Sefton Delmer
(Courtesy the Delmer estate)

We do have a number of literary admissions. In 1962, the Viking Press published a book entitled Black Boomerang. To my knowledge, this was the first book written by a former government official to admit that stamps had been forged and parodied during World War II. The author, Sefton Delmer, was a highly placed operative in the British "Special Operations Executive" (SOE). In the book he mentioned Armin Hull, a printer who had made a study of German typography and printing techniques. Hull had "an unrivalled knowledge of where to look in Britain for the printing types we needed in our operations." Delmer admitted that he had asked Hull to produce a German postage stamp with the face of Adolf Hitler replaced by that of Schutzstaffel (SS) Leader Heinrich Himmler.

H.279, British Himmler Stamp H.388, British Himmler Stamp Original 6 Pfennig Hitler stamp
The British Himmler Parody - H.279 left, H.388 middle, and German Hitler original right.

Delmer made numerous errors in his statement about the Himmler stamp. He said, "We had a set of German postage stamps which depicted a portrait of Himmler instead of Hitler." In fact, there was no "set" of stamps. There was just the 6-pfennig denomination. Delmer actually told me, "I could swear that there was also a stamp in green." There was not. Delmer also said in Black Boomerang, "Himmler's head was engraved in exactly the same way as Hitler's head on the usual German stamps." This comment is incorrect. Hitler is facing left on the genuine stamp while Himmler looks out at the viewer on the parody. I think this kind of error occurs (and Butler made the same mistake) because these individuals are agents and not philatelists. They simply don't have an eye for the small details that most stamp collectors have.

The original British parody of the Himmler stamp was poorly drawn. A 16 December 1942 memorandum entitled "Reference H.279 Himmler stamp" says, "The forgery makes Himmler look as if he has erysipelas [a skin disease] but I expect these blemishes will be removed from the stamps in their final form." Howe reported on 7 January 1943, "H.279 Himmler postage stamp. This was submitted to SOE for quantity order on 19 December. They seem to be taking rather long to make up their minds." Another memorandum dated 5 April 1943 is entitled, "Material for the Himmler stamp posting job for Stockholm." It details the consignment of 400 Himmler stamps, postmarks, censorship strips, and rubber stamps from the United Kingdom to Sweden for propaganda purposes. The Himmler stamp was later corrected. The blemishes were removed from Himmler's face and the new project was coded H.388. I later wrote about the Himmler parody in depth in The American Philatelist, February 1970, "A Philatelic View of Heinrich Himmler."

H.1227, The British Von Witzleben Parody
The British Von Witzleben Parody

A year later, in 1963, W.W. Norton and Co. published Amateur Agent by Ewan Butler. In this book, Butler, another SOE operative, mentions that London had provided him with a stamp showing Field Marshall Erich von Witzleben in place of a Nazi storm trooper.

Butler said, "After the failure of the plot against Hitler's life, on July 20, 1944, and the subsequent execution, by slow hanging, of the principal conspirators, London provide us with another set of forged stamps. These bore the head of Field-Marshal von Witzleben, who headed the military element in the plot, recorded the date of his execution, and a slogan originally devised by the Nazis to honor those who fell in the Munich Putsch of November 1923, 'And despite all, you were victorious'." Notice that Butler errs in stating that he was provided with a "set" of forged stamps. The Witzleben parody was a single stamp printed in small sheets of twenty. The Psychological Warfare executive (PWE) delivered 5000 sheets of the Witzleben stamp to the SOE on 7 December 1944. The project was coded H.1227. I wrote about the Witzleben parody in more depth in an article entitled "More Propaganda Parodies," The Society of Philatelic Americans Journal, June 1976.

Butler also mentions smuggling British agents into Germany and says, "Among the small items of equipment which each man took with him was a sheet of postage stamps of 20-pfennig denomination. These were sewn into the collar of a shirt or the lining of a jacket, and their discovery by the Gestapo would have had deadly consequences for their bearer. For these stamps, although at first glance identical with those, which could be bought at any German post-office, differed from any others in Germany in one important respect. They bore an effigy of Himmler instead of Hitler's portrait." Notice that Butler thinks the Himmler parody was a 20-pfennig stamp. He errs. It was a 6-pfennig stamp. Butler concludes, "These beautiful forgeries had been sent from London to all neutral posts which operated lines into Germany."

I had tried to gain further knowledge over the years by writing to the authors mentioned above, as well as others that I had reason to believe were involved with the production of forged stamps. The British Government's "Official Secrets Act" was my greatest obstacle, effectively stopping any free flow of information on the subject of forgeries or parodies.

Ellic Howe, PWE Forger
British Master Forger Ellic Howe
aka "Armin Hull"

I also spent a considerable amount of time trying to track down the elusive Armin Hull. His "cover" and code-name seemed impossible to break. All inquiries were returned with the same general reply; Hull was dead and his documents destroyed. Through some good luck and a lot of devious detective work I was able to determine that Hull was alive and living under his true name, which was kept secret at the time. I was unable to make contact with him. All correspondence to him was returned with an explanation that he was deceased and his papers were either being catalogued or studied and edited prior to publication. It seemed to be the end of the road for this area of research.

You can imagine my surprise when I answered the telephone one day and a mysterious voice said "I am the man who was in charge of Britain's forgery operation during World War Two." It was Armin Hull, whose real name I protected at the time I originally wrote this article in 1980, but who I can now identify as Ellic Howe. I actually told Sefton Delmer on one earlier occasion that I had identified Armin Hull as Ellic Howe, and he became rather angry. In various correspondence with former British agents one mistakenly wrote “Howe” in place of “Hull” and it was quick work to figure out who the forger was from that slip up.

The Black Game by Ellic Howe

The Black Game

Ellic Howe was in this country on a brief research visit. He was about to write a book about his wartime activities, which was later published in 1982 by Michael Joseph, London, as The Black Game. He told me that just two days after the end of the war, he had been ordered to destroy all of the files in his office. An incredible amount of irreplaceable material on the subject of wartime philatelic operations had gone up in smoke. Now, certain officials in Her Majesty's Government were unwilling to let him study his own archived official reports and memoranda, which were still classified. As a result, he was having a difficult time documenting all of the work he had done

After searching for the master forger for twenty years, he was here to gather the information from me that I had hoped to obtain from him. I gave him about a dozen articles I wrote on the subject of British forgeries and parodies and nine photographs of his wartime work. Ellic Howe was kind enough to acknowledge my efforts by stating in his book, "I am grateful too, to Mr. Herbert A. Friedman for lending me copies of the American philatelic publications in which he so carefully described and analyzed some of our more exotic productions."

It would be nice to report that I was able to discover many new and exciting facts about wartime forgeries and parodies. In fact, most of our time together was spent cataloguing philatelic productions of Great Britain, Germany, and the United States for his book. I did discover that this scholarly-looking gentleman had been a sergeant major in the British Army during the early war years. Curiously, I also obtained the rank of sergeant major in the United States Army.

Howe said that since he had been a professional printer before the war with both forgery and type recognition as a hobby, he had approached his superiors with suggestions about the proper way to produce anti-German propaganda. "I was in exactly the right place at the right time" he said. At that moment the British government was looking for an expert to train counterfeiters to produce documents for agents going behind enemy lines.

 SS Major Bernhard Kruger
SS Major Bernhard Kruger

We talked of the German forger, SS Major Bernhard Kruger who was Hull's opposite. Kruger had been ordered to produce British postage stamps with various anti-Semitic and anti-Bolshevik symbols in an attempt to imply that Britain was under the influence of Judaism and the Soviet Union. Kruger's forgers were a mixture of imprisoned Czechoslovakians, Poles, Norwegians, French, Dutch, Danes, and German Jews.

I asked Hull about his forgers. Did he have any prisoners released from jail for patriotic reasons, any criminals or counterfeiters referred from Scotland Yard? "Heavens no" he answered. "My staff was entirely respectable. We wouldn't have known how to act around that sort."

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

How about housing? Kruger's forgers were based in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp located near Oranienburg bei Berlin. His men were segregated in two cellblocks isolated from the other prisoners. Howe told me that his men lived in normal surroundings and were given total freedom. His printing was done at "Fanfare Press" on Saint Martin's Lane in London. I asked Hull about those special things that a stamp producing company might be able to do with greater efficiency. What about watermarks, perforations, etc.? "We used Waterlow and Sons when special problems occurred in the production of the forged stamps." What about the Thomas de la Rue Company? Author Murray Teigh Bloom says in his book on currency counterfeiting, The Man Who Stole Portugal, that both Waterlow and de la Rue forged stamps for the British government in the First World War. "To my knowledge," Howe said, "only Waterlow worked for us in the last war." However, Marion Mcfadyean, who was in Howe's Unit in 1944, said that they were used. When historian Lee Richards contacted de la Rue, they claimed that all of their WWII stamp records were conveniently destroyed. Which goes to show how the passage of time can affect the memory and the spectre of the British Official Secrets Act blur the facts.

How about quality control? "Our work was excellent, very few problems." Sefton Delmer agrees in Black Boomerang. Talking about the Himmler stamps he states: "But no one noticed the stamps. The trouble was that Hull's counterfeit was far too good, the Himmler stamp much too similar to the Hitler stamp, and the public - including the philatelists - far too unobservant."

German "Jewsh" War parody stamp
German "This is a Jewsh War" stamp error

Unfortunately, Kruger's German quality control had serious breakdowns. On his parody of the Silver Jubilee stamp, Kruger had replaced the head of King George VI with that of Josef Stalin and changed the inscription to "This is a Jewish War." However, the vowel "I" was left out of "JEWISH." I once questioned Kruger about this, trying to find out if some patriotic Jewish anti-Nazi forger had purposely sabotaged the operation to embarrass the Germans.

"Oh no, it was just a terrible error. The mistake was spotted after the stamps had been forwarded to the distributors. We attempted to stop their distribution but it was too late. We halted production. The error was not considered particularly important since the stamps were only meant for propaganda. The engravers were responsible. The designers had properly translated the words but the engravers omitted the 'I'."

Kruger had problems with dissemination. Many of his agents began to sell the stamps to dealers in neutral countries. Since it was obvious to their superiors in Berlin that the dealers could identify these operatives at a later time, the orders came down to cease immediately. Kruger told me that when his superiors heard of the agents selling the stamps to dealers abroad they ordered the men to return and face charges of neglect of duty. Since these same agents were in the process of spreading millions of pounds in forged British banknotes throughout Europe to destroy the British economy, there really was not much that could be done to punish them. Actually, Kruger had never wanted to produce the stamps, considering the entire operation a waste of time and valuable resources. After all, he was producing excellent forgeries of British 5, 10, 20 and 50 pound banknotes at the time. He would soon be ordered to counterfeit American banknotes. The stamp project was time-consuming and took up valuable man-hours and materials and was of little value.

Kruger Forged stamp with annotation
Forged stamp with Kruger's annotation
"By order of Himmler - B. Kruger."

During one of my conversations with Kruger I gave him a set of six margin copies of the British definitives that his crew had parodied in Sachsenhausen as a gift. I thought he might enjoy having some of his old products as souvenirs. By surprise, he wrote a brief different saying on each of the six margins and returned them all to me. The stamp above says in German, "By order of Himmler - B. Kruger."

Allan Dulles, OSS
Allan Dulles - OSS Berne

Howe was rather proud of his forgeries and counterfeits. Of course, he had good reason to be. While digging through some old Office of Strategic Services official radiotelephone transmission dispatches recently, I found one dated 10 June 1944, numbered 155, from Allan Dulles in Berne to Director Donovan in Washington. It says in part:

Some months ago I reported briefly about the mysterious Himmler stamp, which has turned up here in Switzerland. Since then, I have had someone investigate some stamp dealers in regard to the situation with this stamp and the mystery deepens.

The Stamp Collector's Journal, published here in December, 1943, had a brief article with regard to this stamp, with a facsimile and a full description. The next issue printed in 1944 had a further article about the stamp and stated that it was not an official issue of the German Post Office. As far as I can tell, pressure was brought to bear on the editors of this stamp journal by the German authorities to play the matter down.

It may have been a trick pulled by some of Himmler's enemies to make trouble for him, or it may be that some enthusiast in the Ministry of the Interior thought that it might be nice to honor Himmler in this way, possibly in connection with some charitable drive. In any event, the mystery of the stamp has not been cleared up.

What is particularly interesting here is that the American agent preparing this report had no inkling that the stamp is a British production. He believed the "Himmler for Fuhrer" operation of the SOE that failed to fool the Germans. It also gives us fair idea of the cooperation between the British and the Americans in regard to clandestine operations.

On the subject of Himmler, another interesting fact recently turned up. I have often written about the "Winter help" stamps produced by Great Britain to parody the German Winterhilfswerk semi-postals. In The American Philatelist, February 1970, I illustrated all the various Himmler parodies in my article, "A Philatelic View of Heinrich Himmler." At that time I had mentioned the second in a pair of stamps as showing a Nazi soldier with half his face shot away. I didn't know much about that particular stamp at the time. In fact, some specialists said that it was a caricature of Reich propaganda minister Goebbels "talking his head off." Continued research has led to some information about this parody that will interest readers with a mind for the curious.

The photograph of the mutilated Nazi originally appeared in a 1924 German anti-war book Krieg dem Kriege! ("War Against War!"). The photograph is identified as "Das ganze Gesicht weggeschossen" ("The entire face shot away"). Curiously, the photograph was reprinted after the Great War in Great Britain with acknowledgment to the original book.

In World War II, the British used the image twice. The Political Warfare Executive (PWE) produced a series of stickers in late 1942. They were in the form of Winterhilfswerk or "WHW" ("Winter help") labels. This German organization supported the poor during the cold German winters. The WHW sold various items to raise money to be used for charity. The British produced five gummed stickers in the form of a WHW labels. One of these labels used the image of the soldier with his face shot off. Another label showed Himmler holding a pistol and demanding money for the charity. The code number of all five labels is H.235. The code does not appear on the labels; it was found in declassified British wartime records.

H.292, British Face Shot Away Stamp Parody
British Face Shot Away Stamp Parody

Howe used the image a second time when he designed a pair of very realistic looking postage stamps in late 1942 and early 1943. These were coded H.292. The stamps were prepared in booklets of two sheets of 10 stamps, twenty stamps in all. Once again, one stamp showed Himmler, the other stamp showed the man with no face. Behind him are two happy Germans, sometimes described as Julius Streicher (editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Sturmer) and Hermann Goering (Reichsmarschall of the Luftwaffe). They are smiling and holding champagne glasses. The message is clear. The Party bosses drink and have a good time while the front-line soldier is killed or mutilated.

German blown away face leaflet
German "Face Shot Away" Leaflet
(Click to Enlarge)

The story does not end there. In February 1945, the Germans dropped a leaflet on the American troops on the Western front coded 9802 45/91 that showed the same image of a mutilated soldier. The text on the leaflet states:

This picture is taken from LIFE. It shows how excellent medics can work. Maj. Gen. Norman T. Kirk, Surgeon General of the Army, reported to the annual meeting of the Association of Military Surgeons that 60,000 World War II American soldiers live today, although, had they received the same type of injury in the last war, they would have died.

The soldier on the picture probably is one of those 60,000 'lucky ones.' But take one more look at the picture. We don't want to belittle the skill of modern medics, but what good is it for this unfortunate human being?

And what happened to him and 59,999 others may happen to you. Then people will read 'one more wounded' and will perhaps think of six weeks in a hospital, a furlough, and a Purple Heart. But they will not know of some broken hearts.

Of course, the Germans were lying. The photograph had appeared in the 1924 German anti-war book, in the British gummed labels, and in the British stamp booklet, but not in Life Magazine!

You may have noted that I have not mentioned the United States or the Soviet Union insofar as propaganda stamps are concerned. This is because both of these super powers refuse to admit that they ever did such a thing.

For example, when questioned about forged stamps and postcards the official Soviet reply states: "In reply to your letter of so-called forged German postcards I wish to advise you that the policy of the Soviet Union in issuing stamps and postcards excludes any forging of any kind. I am not aware of any forgeries."

 Russian Propaganda Stamped Postcard Russian Propaganda Stamped Postcard - Reverse

Russian Propaganda Stamped Postcard

This is all very well, but during World War II the Russians often bragged of their operations in Soviet War News. For instance, in the issue dated January 7, 1942, they described how Soviet planes dropped parcels behind the German lines, containing millions of leaflets and picture postcards bearing German stamps, all ready for soldiers to send home. The picture on one of them shows a field with wooden crosses, and crows fluttering above them. In the foreground lies one lone helmet. The caption reads: "Lebensraum in Osten" ("Living space in the East").

Another card shows a fir tree. Beneath it, almost buried in deep snow, lies a German soldier frozen to death. The inscription reads "Oh Tannenbaum! Oh Tannenbaum!" (Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!").

The United States Government is less helpful. Back in November 1978, I wrote a short piece for the Society of Philatelic Americans, "A Spy Hunter's View of Wartime Philately." I briefly mentioned my difficulties with our government at that time. If I might be more concise, let me start by saying that in April 1977, I wrote the Central Intelligence Agency under the Freedom of Information Act, asking for any data in their files on the production of propaganda stamps. Several weeks later I received a reply that said "As you may know, the heavy volume of Freedom of Information requests received by the Agency has resulted in processing backlogs."

A week after receipt of the CIA letter, I received material from the Department of the Army on the distribution in China of the stamp produced by the United States to mark the fifth anniversary of Chinese resistance to Japan. Nice information, but not exactly what I had asked for.

In June I wrote the CIA again asking about progress on my request. They answered in July: "while the Agency has diverted considerable resources into answering these requests, a serious backlog developed nevertheless. Rest assured that I will notify you just as soon as the search is completed." Shortly afterwards, I received eight documents. One half dealt with the distribution of the Chinese commemorative stamp mentioned earlier. The others were on the subject of surveillance of stamp dealers as possible foreign agents. I later wrote this fiasco up for Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, June 1980, in an article entitled "How They Read Your Mail."

Sheet of 6 Pfennig forged stamps

Operation Cornflakes 6-Pfennig Forgery Sheet

Nowhere did I find material on the subject of the thousands of German postage stamps that the United States forged and parodied. I was tempted to send the Agency some of my material since I obviously have better files than they do. One document in my possession is the final report of production and distribution from July 15, 1944, to May 15, 1945. This Office of Strategic Services document tells us that "Hitler Heads" were produced in the number of 1,138,500. There were 70,000 "Sex cards and envelopes," 726,550 "German stamps," and 6,500 "numbered stamps."

Sheet of 12 Pfennig forged stamps
Operation Cornflakes 12-Pfennig Forgery Sheet

Another interesting document sadly missing from the OSS files is a booklet giving the complete background of "Operation Cornflakes." Robson Lowe of London auctioned off this document several years ago. He explained its origin thus: "I have absolutely no doubt about the validity of any of the papers. The tenant of the apartment from whom I obtained these two volumes apparently found them in the attic. The apartment had been used by American officials since the occupation of Rome and it would appear that one of the predecessors left these two volumes together with a third volume in the attic. My guess is that the owner was one of the main officials in the report."

Operation Cornflakes Hitler-skull Parody Sheet
Operation Cornflakes Hitler-skull Parody Sheet

The "Cornflakes" booklet was a printed report of "a complicated operation devised by Morale Operations to bring subversive propaganda to the German breakfast table through the infiltration of the German mail system." Some of the actual propaganda mounted in this report included complete sheets of the American forgeries of German 6 and 12 Pfennig stamps and a complete sheet of the Hitler-skull parody. I first wrote about this operation in The Society of Philatelic Americans Journal, February 1972, entitled "Poison Cornflakes for Breakfast." The article was reprinted by the German Postal Specialist in February 1973. Readers who want to read a more current report should peruse my Operation Cornflakes article on the Internet.

Corey Ford also described this operation in his book Donovan of the OSS. Ford did not mention the classified name "Cornflakes," but he told how "Fake German mailbags were prepared and filled with subversive letters stamped, postmarked, and inscribed with real addresses from local directories. These bags were dropped by the fifteenth Air Force in strafing missions over marshalling yards and railway stations, in the hope that they would be picked up as stray mail pouches lost from wrecked railroad cars, and would be sent on by regular mail."

At the same time the OSS Morale Operations team was forging stamps and documents in Rome under Operation Cornflakes, another team was producing Nazi Party dues stamps and leaflets under an operation called “Sauerkraut.” The man in charge of the forging in that group was Ed Linder. I once asked Linder if he considered himself a forger and he said that he did not. The products were actually printed by Corporal Egidio Clemente who ran the OSS Rome print shop Stabilimento Aristide Staderini and later worked as a detective for Senator Joe McCarthy. That seems odd since McCarthy was far to the right politically, and Clement was a socialist activist most of his life. Egidio Clemente donated his papers to the University of Illinois at Chicago in January 1971.

Eddie Linder prepares forged documents at the front lines.
Eddie Linder prepares forged documents at the front lines

The charcoal sketch above was drawn by German prisoner-of-war and volunteer Sauerkraut agent Willy Haseneier, captured 4 June 1944. An artist and graduate of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, he was used by his OSS handlers to forge identity papers, passes, credentials and signatures. Linder called him “the resident graphic artist.”

Linder said in regard to this picture:

I prepared German Army travel orders for my men, using homemade rubber stamps and other gimmicks and gave them identity cards and other documents which matched the day’s frontline intelligence.  In order to be up to date I would open my trusty field desk and concoct what was needed right on the spot, with rubber stamps and all, right up at the frontlines before infiltrating the boys across the lines. The stuff was not an artistic master achievement, but it was good enough to fool the dumb German Feldpolizei.

Eddie Linder
Eddie Linder

Declassified documents show that Edmund Friedrich Linder was an Austrian born in Vienna 11 May 1908. His father was an American citizen working for Republic Steel in Cleveland, Ohio. After the Germans entered Austria, Linder first went to Switzerland and later Belgium while awaiting papers to allow him to enter the United States. He tried to join the American military but was turned down as an alien. He eventually joined the American OSS assigned to the Algiers MO section on 1 August 1943. An October 1944 letter to the Chief of Morale Operations describes Linder using his code name and says in part:

Eddie Zinder, Austrian, is now applying for American citizenship... Eddie is a remarkably versatile young man, having written many leaflets, acted as a doctor at various times and is the supreme master of briefing, preparation of documents and preparing prisoners of war for infiltration.  

 Eddie Zinder
Willy Hanseneier charcoal sketch of Eddie Zinder

I once asked Eddie Linder (also known as Eddie Lindner, Eddie Zinder and "Blitzkrieg Eddie,") if Rome produced propaganda parodies of German postage stamps. He answered:

We in Rome were concerned with postage stamps that could be used legitimately in the German postal service which we thusly infiltrated. The stamps were applied to pre-addressed envelopes and we even stamped over them the appropriate cancellation of the post office, just as such letters would ordinarily go into the big mail bags. Our letters, of course, contained subversive materials which had been printed in Rome. We did not share our engraving plates with anyone and we didn't use anyone else's plates.

As far as Hitler skulls are concerned, we did use original "skull art" for underground leaflets of various types. No stamps though. They would have been inappropriate.

Ration stamps were not needed for our operation, so we didn't do any. You see, forgery was not our game. We forged only what was needed to fulfill our particular Morale Operations strategies… to demonstrate that there exists an active underground movement, freedom fighters to liberate Germany from the oppression of the Nazis.

 OSS Counterfeit Nazi Party Stamp
OSS Counterfeit Nazi Party Stamp

The Sauerkraut group in Rome printed counterfeit Nazi Party stamps for use on Party membership cards.

The Sauerkraut printed material was prepared in two qualities; very good or very crude. The documents, hand-stamps, Nazi Party dues stamps and identification papers that the agents carried behind the lines had to be perfect. They had to pass inspection by the German military police. At the same time, the leaflets, gummed labels, and posters had to look crude. The plan was for the German soldiers to think that there was an underground anti-Nazi movement that existed all around them. If the stickers on the wall were too good, it would be apparent that they were of Allied origin. As a result, many of the leaflets had the appearance of crudely mimeographed sheets that had been produced in a basement on a hand-cranked machine.

I first discovered the Nazi Party forgeries by carefully studying a photograph found in an official OSS wartime presentation booklet entitled The Story of the Sauerkrauts. In this nine-page document is a photograph that shows, much reduced, numerous forged identity documents and a perforated vertical strip of 5 stamps with top, left, and bottom margins.

It is interesting to note, in conclusion, that whether the government is British, German, Russian or American, they all agree on one point. Not one of them forged stamps. Each year the evidence becomes more and more overwhelming as former agents tell all and old spies put stamps and parodies up for auction that they have kept hidden for almost thirty-five years.

Will we ever make a clean breast of it? Probably not, for as one CIA agent told me, "the methods used to print and distribute our propaganda are as valid today as it was then. Why should we tell anyone what our methods might be tomorrow should we desire to mount another campaign against an enemy?" Then he said, "By the way, they had a great exhibit of wartime forgeries and parodies outside the main cafeteria at CIA Headquarters in Virginia. Too bad only company employees were able to see it."

OSS Hitler Birthday Parody Souvenir sheet.
Operation Cornflakes OSS Parody Hitler Birthday Souvenir Sheet

By the grace of God and good luck I was called to a seminar at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia soon afterwards and did see the exhibit. Two CIA agents that happened to be stamp collectors put the exhibit together. It consisted of four glass shelves of stamps, postcards and newspapers. The highlight of the collection was a WWII OSS parody of a Hitler birthday souvenir sheet. These sheets have sold for well into five figures in the past. They are extremely rare. Other items on exhibit were full sheets of the U.S. forged Hitler stamps, and a forged German newspaper, Das Neue Deutschland.

Do the great powers forge postage stamps? Not according to them. I have already quoted the Soviets who publicly disclaimed all knowledge of postal forging at the same time that they were bragging about their fake stamped postcards in their internal propaganda magazines. Even Sefton Delmer who was Howe's boss and knew exactly what was being produced told me in early private correspondence, "SOE had no business to be producing forged stamps. We did not produce any Witzleben stamps. I would have refused to do so. No operational value. Just joke stuff." This from the man who oversaw the forging of German 3, 4, 6 and 8 Pfennig Hitler stamps, and the parodying of a number of others. About the same time, Howe wrote to me that, "It seems that we were very busy with philatelic nonsense at the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943."

No, nations don't forge postage stamps. But their agents do!

Readers who care to comment on any aspect of this article are encouraged to write the author at here.

 

 

 
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