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Propaganda and Espionage Philately

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Propaganda and Espionage Philately

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

Third Reich Postage Stamp Day 1943

I have been writing articles on propaganda and espionage philately for 5 decades. Most of the articles were printed in philatelic magazines and newspapers. They go into great detail about the paper, the perforations, the manner of printing and all those very specific facts that philatelists and researchers find so interesting. Looking at my bookcase I see that I wrote eleven articles for The American Philatelist between 1969 and 2002. I wrote another thirteen articles for the now defunct Society of Philatelic Americans between 1967 and 1978. Four articles went into Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal and another five into The German Postal Specialist. I can't even count all the newspaper articles, but have published series in Linn's Stamp News and in the British Stamp Weekly. I also want to recognize my friend and partner professor Frank Prosser for his work in placing all this information into workable files so that the data is always at hand and easy to access.

I am not going to go into any great detail in this Internet article. There are probably about 300 different propaganda stamps, most produced by Great Britain, the United States, and Germany. The Russians did not produce propaganda stamps, but they printed dozen of propaganda postcards, many with a forged imprinted stamp. We will probably illustrate less than two dozen here. If our readers request any other specific items I will be happy to add them to this article. Feel free to write to me with your request and I will add the image and a short text. Readers wanting to learn more can search for my old articles and study the field in depth. This will just be a very light look at many of the more interesting propaganda parodies and espionage forgeries. It is meant to be a general introduction to the field. I will also depict some selected items because of their rarity or interest.

Perhaps we should take a moment to define the difference between a propaganda parody and an espionage forgery. In the former, one government will take the stamp of an enemy or occupied government and change the stamp in such a way as to make a political statement and perhaps cast aspersions at and ridicule enemy leaders or occupation forces. These stamps are designed to be recognized for what they are, an attack on the enemy. In the case of the espionage forgery, one government has produced a stamp that is a perfect imitation of the enemy stamp to be used to mail propaganda or instructions to people in the enemy or occupied country. These stamps are part of a secret operation and not meant to be recognized.

We will mainly discuss black propaganda in this article, items produced secretly by one nation to be used against another. We will start with Great Britain. Without going into detail, up until July 1940 the items were printed by Department EH, and Section D in countries where it operated. From July 1940 to September 1941 the Special Operation Executive (SOE) was the printer; SO1 produced the propaganda, SO2 handled delivery. From 11 September 1941 on: Political Warfare Executive (PWE) produced the stamps under the direction of Ellic Howe (pseudonym: Armin Hull), and significant distribution by SOE's SO2 unit. The listing has items with known Section D, Department EH, and SOE document numbers, and PWE H-numbers, as well as those for which the code numbers are not yet known.

Imperforate proofs of the British WWI Germania Forgeries
Imperforate proofs of the British WWI Germania Forgeries

During WWI the British counterfeited the stamps of Austria, Bavaria and Germany. I first wrote about these in "Propaganda Forgeries of World War I," The Stamp and Coin Collector, April-May 1966. I wrote about them again in "British Espionage Forgeries of the First World War," American Philatelist, September 1973. I must admit that this article was a great disappointment to me. I sent the APS a dozen extremely rare photographs of margin copies of all the stamps with various notations by the forgers. Apparently the editor lost the photos, and without writing to me and asking for replacements he simply printed the article with no illustrations. I was mad at that editor for quite a while. I didn't write another article for the APS until 1985.

During World War II the PWE printed a series of French stamps. I first wrote about these in an article entitled "Propaganda Forgeries of WWII in Linn's Stamp News of November 14, 1966. Although there are eleven forged denominations in all, there are just four actual vignettes; Mercury, Iris, Petain bare-headed and Petain with cap. All but the scarlet 30 centimes Mercury are printed in perforated sheets of 20 (5 x 4); the Mercury is printed in a sheet of 16, with four blocks of four separated by gutters. The genuine stamps are perforated 14:13 1/2, as are the forgeries with the exception of the 30 centimes Mercury, the 1 franc 50 centimes Iris and the 1 franc Petain with cap, which is perforated 15:14. Imperforate sheets exist for all values. Each item is identifiable by a "secret mark" or its perforation. Whereas the secret marks may have been intentionally introduced for an espionage purpose, it is more likely that they are unintentional. These forgeries were initially produced in 1942; some "H-numbers" are known. Illustrated and discussed in L.N. and M. Williams, Forged Stamps of Two World Wars, published by the authors, London, 1954, pages 15-19.

A "Most Secret" memo from Dr. Beck (head of PWE's French desk) to Rex Leeper (head of SOE's SO1 propaganda unit) reports on black propaganda to France for the week ending 23 May: about 1000 letters per week containing La France Libre and Weekly Times are being distributed in France. The memo further states that "We are now adopting the method of using fake business envelopes to avoid the internal censorship. (Specimens attached for information.) Stamps are manufactured by ourselves." This almost certainly refers to the forgeries of French stamps. The specimen business envelopes are from "Compagnie Generale des Tabacs, Marseille (H.69)," "La Voix de France," and "La Nationale, Paris (Ixe)." The covers were intended to be inserted into the French mail system, where they would be postmarked by French postal service. It seems that none of these covers survived the war, but this memo provides evidence that the forged stamps were actually used in France. The "Most Secret" memo was discovered in the British National Archives by Lee Richards in 2002 during his research for his forthcoming book on Black Propaganda. He also supplied the majority of the PWE "H" code numbers and printing statisics for this article.

Propaganda stamps - The Mercury Vignette
The Mercury Vignette

There are two British forgeries bearing the image of Mercury. The 25 centimes green Mercury of 1938-42 is PWE No. H.156. 10,000 copies were delivered to the French Section on 12 October 1942. There is also a 30 centimes scarlet Mercury 1938-42.

Propaganda stamps - The Iris Vignette
The Iris Vignette

The 1 franc 50 centimes red-orange Iris 1939-40 is the only forgery with this image.

Propaganda stamps - The Petain Bareheaded Vignette
The Petain Bareheaded Vignette

The 30 centimes scarlet Petain bareheaded 1941-43 is PWE No. H.195 (November 1942). It was retouched and reprinted as PWE No.H.355A in April/May 1943. 15,000 copies of H.195 were delivered to the French Section 5 November 1942; 10,000 copies of H.355 were delivered on 11 March 1943. The 1 franc 50 centimes red-brown Petain bareheaded 1941-43 is PWE No. H.191. 10,000 copies delivered to the French Section 21 October 1942. The 2 francs green Petain bareheaded 1941-43 is PWE No. H.271 (November 1942); retouched and reprinted as PWE No. H.355B in April/May 1943. 10,000 copies of H.271 delivered to the French Section on 30 November 1942. We depict the 2 francs above because it is one of the rarer denominations.

Propaganda stamps - The Petain Bareheaded Vignette
The rose-carmine Petain Bareheaded Vignette

The 1 franc 50 centimes rose-carmine Petain bareheaded 1941-43 is a very rare color oddity. Only 4 sheets (3 perforated, 1 imperforate) were printed. One perforated sheet is in the Paris Postal Museum; the other 2 perforated sheets were broken up. Therefore, at most 80 copies exist. The 1 franc 50 centimes red-brown Petain bareheaded 1941-43 is PWE No. H.191 (reprint). 10,000 copies delivered to the French Section 21 October 1942. The 2 francs green Petain bareheaded 1941-43 is PWE No. H.271 (November 1942); retouched and reprinted as PWE No. H.355B in April/May 1943. 10,000 copies of H.271 delivered to the French Section on 30 November 1942.

Propaganda stamps - The Petain with Cap Vignette
The Petain with Cap Vignette

The "Petain with cap" was forged multiple times. The first is the 50 centimes green Petain with cap 1941-43. The 70 centimes red-orange Petain with cap 1941-43 is PWE No. H.172. We don't know the code of the 1 franc scarlet Petain with cap 1941-4 The 1 franc 20 centimes red-brown Petain with cap 1941-43 is PWE No. H.171. 10,000 copies were delivered to the French Section 12 October 1942.


Propaganda stamps - The Laval Propaganda Parody
The Laval Propaganda Parody

The British also prepared a propaganda parody of the France 1941-43 30 centimes scarlet Petain bareheaded. They added a sinister Nazi-collaborating Prime Minister Pierre Laval peering around from behind Petain. The vignette implies that Germany is running the French government. It was probably produced in November/December 1942. It is perforated 14 and printed in a sheet of 20.

Propaganda stamps - Forged French Postcard
Forged French Postcard

The British also forged at least one French 80 centimes postcard. Little is known about this item but it can be identified by three shading lines in the mustache instead of the usual 5 lines of the genuine.

Propaganda stamps - The British PWE Morocco Overprints
The British PWE Morocco Overprints

One of the more interesting British propaganda operations involved a PWE black propaganda overprint on the French Morocco 50 centimes and 1 franc stamps of 1939-40 overprinted Deutsches Reichspost in Marokko. The overprinted items were produced in May/July 1942 in an attempt to persuade Petain and Laval that their Nazis masters were deceiving them and were preparing to occupy French possessions in North Africa. The overprint exists on two stamps, in both thick (Type I) and thin (Type II) forms; the two types are usually found vertically se-tenant. One authority maintains that proofs of the thick and thin overprints were prepared, with the thin overprint being chosen for production. The story is that 1 sheet each of the two denominations were sent to the United States Embassy in Paris, who then showed the stamps to Petain or Laval.

We should mention that this use of an overprint in a propaganda operation was used as early as WWI. Although the origin is uncertain, and may be nothing more than a practical joke, there is a Germania 10 pfennig red stamp overprinted with the denomination Schweiz 10 Centimes and a Germania 20 pfennig ultramarine stamp overprinted with the denomination Schweiz 25 Centimes. They were apparently intended to persuade neutral Switzerland that they were about to be invaded and become a German puppet state. The stamps were first depicted in the French Newspaper Le Matin ("The Morning"), 12 December 1914. The article claimed that there were a number of other denominations in the set. The German embassy in Berne refuted the charges and said that the paper had been hoodwinked.

Another overprint that is certainly a fake is a Germania 10 pfennig red stamp overprinted with Die Welt ("The World"). These stamps appeared shortly after the Marokko stamps and were intended to show the world that Germany expected to conquer all.

The Marokko productions are certainly genuine British PWE products, and we can probably say with assurance that the Schweiz and Welt overprints are complete frauds.

Propaganda stamps - Himmler parody
The Himmler Parody

The PWE produced two black "Himmler" parodies of the Germany 1941-1944 6 pfennig violet Hitler-head stamp that depicted SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler full-face. Both were printed typographed in violet in sheets of 20 (5x4), perforated 14:14 1/4 comb. I first wrote about and illustrated the parodies in "A philatelic view of Heinrich Himmler," The American Philatelist, February 1970.

The first, PWE No. H.279 (December 1942), has facial shading of narrowly spaced lines that are rough and ill-defined with white uncolored patches around the eyes, cheek, and chin. The hair is poorly defined and appears to run into the background.

The second, PWE No. H.388 (April/May 1943) has facial shading of widely spaced lines, sharp and clear; the hairline is well defined and stands out clearly from the background. The wide-line variety is by far the more handsome parody, and resulted from a redesign of the narrow-line variety. However, because the wide-line item was reported first, it was designated Type I, and this nomenclature has persisted and confused philatelists for 50 years. Let me say again, the attractive stamp is type I; the crude stamp is type II. 5,000 copies of the wide-line variety were delivered on 3 May 1943.|

Proofs of the Himmler exist in black and in violet. Three different imperforate proof sheets of 8 (4x2) exist of the narrow-line variety. A British stamp dealer owned the proof sheets, which were said to have come from the estate of an assistant to Sefton Delmer. In 1976, he sold the sheets to a collector in Arizona. The proof sheets are discussed in L.N. Williams, "Britain's black propaganda bogus stamp," British Philatelic Bulletin, August 1986; the sheets are depicted in Werner Bohne, GPS Reference Manual of Forgeries, Release #26, April 1988.

A British PWE report dated 7 January 1943 states that the parodies were submitted to the SOE for quantity order on 15 December 1942, but that an order had not been received by the time of this report. The order from SOE was placed on 15 January 1943. The PWE began the operation in the first week of April 1943. The parodies were prepared by Ellic Howe under the direction of Sefton Delmer. An obituary for British stamp dealer Julian Clive in Linn's Stamp News, September 1993, credits Clive with the idea of the Himmler parody. The intent was to spread a rumor that Himmler was preparing himself to be Führer and had ordered the printing of the parodies, thereby fueling Hitler's paranoia. Delmer recalls in Black Boomerang that, although British agents in Sweden and Switzerland distributed numerous letters and newspaper wrappers stamped with the Himmler parody, no one seemed to notice. Even letters sent to known philatelists brought no response! Possibly the British production was too good, and was accepted as a German stamp. Delmer eventually acknowledged that the propaganda effort had been a flop. However, postwar information shows that samples of the parody were delivered to Himmler, who, enraged, retaliated in 1944 by initiating Unternehmen Wasserwelle (Operation Watermark), the German parodies of British stamps. In my original article I point out that although Delmer did not fool any philatelists, he did fool the American Office of Strategic Services. I quote a report to Washington that mentions the stamp and suspects that there is a pro-Himmler, anti-Hitler underground at large in Germany. Those gullible Americans!

There are a number of PWE black propaganda envelopes and postcards franked with the "Himmler" parody (PWE No. H.388) of the 6 pfennig German Hitler-head definitive issue of 1941-1944. In 1943, Ellic Howe prepared a number of covers for distribution to individuals in the neutral countries of Switzerland, Sweden, and possibly Portugal. The covers and cards were franked with one or more of the Himmler parodies and one or more of the British forged Hitler-head definitives. British forgeries of German cancellations, censor strips, and censor handstamps were applied to the covers. Most items show typewritten addresses, but at least one cover shows a handwritten address and at least one unaddressed cover is known. These covers and cards were probably placed into the mailboxes of the addressees by British agents operating in the neutral countries. The covers could not have gone through the German mail system since (a) at that time, all mail from Germany to neutral countries had to be presented unsealed and without any stamps to the post office, where the identity of the sender would be checked and postage would be applied by the postal clerk; (b) the covers (as contrasted to the postcards) do not show the mandatory name and address of the sender.

A letterhead and rubber stamp were prepared (PWE No. H.389) for use in the Himmler postage stamp operation. The letterhead bears the text "Der deutsche Volkswirt / Berlin-Charlottenburg 2 Kantstrasse 162" and other business text in black ink on white paper.

Postwar fabrications of covers bearing the Himmler parody are known. Numerous postwar forgeries exist of both types of the parody. Most postwar frauds of the parody are clumsily prepared and are easily identified. One dangerous fraud may be detected by the presence of 6 distinct dots in the small rectangle on Himmler's forehead. The legitimate parody has only 5 dots; a horizontal shading line extends into the rectangle's upper left corner.

Propaganda stamps - Frank parody
The Hans Frank Parody

The PWE produced a parody of the genuine Hitler stamp, instead depicting Hans Frank, the General Governor of occupied Poland. I first wrote about this parody in depth in "The Hans Frank stamp parody," S.P.A. Journal, February 1970. The stamp is a black parody of the General Government 1941 20 groschen sepia Hitler-head stamp showing Hans Frank full-face. The propaganda parody is PWE No. H.308. The design was started in early January 1943. It was printed by Waterlow & Sons in sheets of 20 (5x4), perforated 12 1/2 comb. 5,000 copies were delivered on 11 March 1943. The British airdropped the Frank stamps in containers between the end of January and the end of April 1943, during the RAF's second drop period, which had the code name "Intonation." In June 1943, the Polish Underground prepared a small number of canceled covers bearing the Frank parody and two genuine General Government 2-groschen Hitler-head stamps and containing a propaganda leaflet. The sheets are also known imperforate.

The "Action Frank" envelopes were prepared by the Polish Underground for occupied Poland and had a British PWE 20 groschen Hans Frank stamp parody (PWE No. H308) and often a propaganda leaflet. In June 1943, a small secret group called "Wawerczyke" (loosely, "Pinprick Sabotage Organization") that was a part of the Polish AK (Armii Krajowej - the Home Army) prepared and distributed the letters in an operation known as "Action Frank." This action was a part of a larger operation known as "Action N" (the "N" stands for "Niemcy," which is Polish for "Germany"). Each letter was stamped with one copy of Ellic Howe's Hans Frank parody and two copies of the 2 groschen Hitler-head issue of the General Government. The covers were addressed to individuals in various Polish towns. Inside the envelopes was placed a printed leaflet with voluminous text on both sides. A cover with original insert sold for $6850 in a mail sale of November 1990, and for $3150 in another sale of September 1998. A cover (without insert) sold for $5250 in an auction of summer 2000.

Propaganda stamps - The Witzleben Parody
The Witzleben Parody

The British PWE produced a "Witzleben" black parody of the Germany 1943 24+26 pfennig brown-red Hitler Putsch stamp, PWE No. H.1227 (November 1944). I first wrote about this product in "More propaganda parodies," German Postal Specialist, April 1977. The parody shows General Field Marshall Erwin von Witzleben, whom the Germans hanged for his role in the unsuccessful plot to blow up Hitler. Text is "Gehangt am 8 Aug 1944: und ihr habt doch gesiegt," ("Hanged on 8 August 1944: and despite all you were victorious."). The British product parodied an earlier genuine German stamp depicting a Storm Trooper.

Propaganda stamps - The Witzleben Parody
The complete sheet of Witzleben parody stamps

Propaganda stamps - The Storm Trooper original
The original German stamp
- the basis for the Witzleben parody

The parody was printed photogravure in sheets of 20 (4x5), perforated 14. 5,000 sheets were sent to Major Wintle for the SOE on 7 December 1944. In 1940, von Witzleben (1881-1944) was Commander of Army Group D in France, and was in overall charge of Army West when he was relieved by Hitler. Witzleben was an active conspirator against the Hitler regime, and was chosen as the military head of the resistance group that was to have formed a new government had the plot to assassinate Hitler succeeded.

Propaganda stamps - Witzleben's show trial
Witzleben's show trial

Propaganda stamps - The "Winter Relief Fund" parodies
The "Winter Relief Fund" parodies

No mention of British parodies would be complete without a look at the "Winter Relief Fund" parodies. These stamps have been talked about in the philatelic press for years, the one stamp often called "Himmler talking his head off." I first wrote about these stamps in "A philatelic view of Heinrich Himmler," The American Philatelist, February 1970. The background story is wonderful with the image being used by both the British and the Germans, each for their own propaganda purposes. I also depict some of the items in my article on "Death and Disfigurement" as a PSYOP Theme here.

A pane of Winterhilfe stamps
A pane of Winterhilfe stamps

The British PWE "Winterhilfe" black propaganda stamps were modeled vaguely after the Germany 1938 Winterhilfe stamps. The Nazi Party maintained a winter charity, for which there was an annual fund drive. Those who contributed received a variety of small items in return. The "Winterhilfe" had for a motto "No one shall go hungry or cold." Anyone could apply for aid, and according to their needs might receive cash or food, fuel, or clothing. The parodies are PWE No. H.292 (December 1942). Printed offset in booklet form, perforated 14 comb, in quantity 10,000 in January 1943 and delivered to the SOE on 7 and 8 January 1943. 100 additional booklets were sent to the Free French on 28 April 1943. The booklets were issued to Free Polish units operating aircraft in the Mediterranean area. The PWE also prepared propaganda covers bearing these labels, destined for Poland. The stamp and cover propaganda operation was halted, and the items recalled to Great Britain and destroyed. Only a few booklets and covers survived, retained by some of the Polish pilots. A Belgian underground newspaper, "La Voix des Belges," No. 36, January 1944, has a short article (in French) entitled "Wintershilfswerk" that reports a correspondent who returned from Germany with two clandestinely sold vignettes that appear to be the British propaganda stamps. If true, this would be the only indication of the use of the stamps inside Germany. However, this report may have originated with British intelligence, who often inserted propaganda misinformation to encourage the resistance. We should add that the stamps did not just appear on the scene full blown. In late 1942, as PWE No. H235, the British produced a set of five 3x4 1/2-inch gummed leaflets using the Winterhilfswerk theme. The five leaflets show (H.235A) Goebbels talking; (H.235B) Himmler with a businessman; (H.235C) soldier with his face shot off; (H.235D) Himmler holding a gun and a collection tin; (H.235E) Hitler. Leaflets (C) and (D) depict the basic vignettes subsequently used on the stamp parodies. As a part of its counteroffensive in February 1945, Germany dropped a related leaflet on U.S. troops. The German leaflet bears the "face shot away" picture, as in leaflet (C), with a message on the horrors of war. I illustrate and describe this item in "Conversations with a master forger," Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, January 1980 and here.

Propaganda cover sent through the mail with Winterhilfe stamps
Propaganda cover sent through the mail with Winterhilfe stamps


Propaganda stamps - Germany 50 pfennig Railway Fiscal Stamp
Germany 50 pfennig Railway Fiscal Stamp

The British also parodied and forged a number of German stamps, labels and ration coupons. This is one of the rarest forgeries known. The British PWE forgery of a Germany 50 pfennig buff railway fiscal stamp, displaying a stylized imperial eagle within a circle containing text Deutsche Reichsbahn. The genuine stamp is No. M3a in Martin Erler & John A. Norton, Katalog der Stempelmarken von Deutschland (Catalogue of the Adhesive Revenues of Germany), Vol. 1: Deutsches Reich/Bundesrepublik, ORA Verlag, Icking, Germany, 1988. The forgery is printed in a miniature sheet of 4, perforated 14 3/4:14; the genuine stamp is perforated 14. The forgery was presumably prepared for use on forged Reichsbahn employee identity cards. The German identity cards required a current "evidence stamp." (In some cases, for instance with Ostbahn evidence stamps, there was a different colored stamp for each month.) Employees of the Reichsbahn (the German national railway) were issued an identification card with a stamp placed on it. A corner margin copy was offered at the 28th Henry Passier auction on 6 July 1968, but was not sold. It was offered again at the auctions of 28 June 1969, 31 January 1970, and 29 August 1970, before being sold at the 41st Passier auction on 8 January 1972 for DM 180.

A 1972 DBZ magazine article reported that the buyer was C. von Schubert. This same item was sold by the 227th Interphila / Grobe & Lange auction on 29 June 2001, in a mixed lot of "private forgeries" that sold for DM 2100.

Propaganda stamps - The Luftfeldpost Military Air Permit Stamp Forgery
The Luftfeldpost Military Air Permit Stamp Forgery

The British PWE forged the German 1942 blue Luftfeldpost military air permit stamp, PWE No. H.349 (February 1943); reprinted as PWE No. H.516 (August 1943). I first wrote about this forgery in "Allied Forgeries of the Postage Stamps of Nazi Germany," The American Philatelist, February 1971. The stamp was printed typographed in sheets of 20 (4x5). Perforated 12 1/2 comb (the genuine item is perforated 13 1/4:14, rouletted, or imperforate). Although the quality of the forgery is excellent, it may be easily distinguished from the genuine by the presence of an open rather than closed radio antenna and by breaks in one of the shading lines in the sky behind the tail. (The breaks form "...-", Morse code for "V," and it has been suggested that this was introduced as "V for Victory" propaganda.) Under PWE No. H.349, 25,000 copies were delivered to the SOE on 23 March 1943, 37,500 on 2 April, and 62,500 on 5 April; an additional 12,500 were sent to the Free French on 28 April. Under PWE No. H.516, 30,000 copies were delivered to the SOE on 11 August 1943, and 50,000 on 16 August.

The original German model was used to enable soldiers in Russia and Norway to communicate to and from their families at home by a faster method than the normal feldpost system. An early memorandum dated 26 February 1943 from Sefton Delmer describes the intended purpose of this and other forgeries:

Memorandum re H.349...

These air field-post stamps give soldiers the right to send mail home by air post. Distribution of these stamps among soldiers in occupied territories would not only prove very acceptable to the soldiers, e.g. as a bribe, but hamper the German field postal authorities, who, as part of a campaign for the isolation of the front from the home country, are cutting down, as far as possible, field post in general. It would also swell the volume of airmail, that is, burdening the German air mail to an extent undesired by the German authorities... Every forgery of this kind that we can get circulated increases the sense of instability and insecurity and has a demoralizing effect.

It has been stated that the forgery was intended to be used to mail propaganda literature to Germany from occupied Norway. Whatever the intended uses, there is no evidence that mail bearing this forgery was ever sent through the German feldpost system.

Propaganda stamps - The Dutch "Seagull" Forgery
The Dutch "Seagull" Forgery

The British also counterfeited the stamps of the occupied Netherlands. I first wrote about this operation in "Those Doughty Dutch Decoys," The American Philatelist, October 1970.

The British forgery of the Netherlands 1935 1 1/2 cent slate "seagull" stamp was produced in sheets of 20 (5x4). The round head and point eye of the seagull (really a carrier pigeon) and the short height of the letters are similar to those in the redesigned series of 1941 [Mi.380-391], which does not contain a 1 1/2 cent item.

The time of production of this forgery is not definitely known, but is surely between April and November 1941: the redesigned series of Dutch stamps did not come into existence until April, and the quality of the work is too poor to attribute it to PWE's Ellic Howe, who began his work in November. The most probable originator is Section D. A.J. Pekelharing, whose article "British 'propaganda' forgery of World War II - The 1 1/2 cent 'Lebeau'", is translated in The Cinderella Philatelist, October 1986, page 78, speculates that the British assumed that the 1 1/2 cent would also be reissued in the new design, and mistakenly adopted the new design.

Propaganda stamps - The Dutch "Seagull" Forgery
The Dutch Forgery on Cover

The forgery is known used on cover addressed to a firm in Den Haag. A large (25x18 cm) business cover exists from Instituut voor Individueel Onderwijs, postmarked Gravenhage Station H.IJ.S.M. 20-5-43N, addressed to E. Rutsma-Brenks, Voorburg (Z-Holland) Princes Mariannelaan 32.

Propaganda stamps - The Italian King Victor Emmanuel Forgery
The Italian King Victor Emmanuel Forgery

The British PWE forged the Italian 1929-42 25 centesimi green Victor Emmanuel III stamp in sheets of 20 (5x4), perforated 14 3/4:14. The genuine stamp is perforated 14. Prepared by Ellic Howe, probably in 1942 or the first half of 1943, but possibly as late as summer or fall of 1943. It is possible that this stamp was prepared to assist in the dissemination from Italy of the so-called "Naples letters" (PWE No. H.298) in the first week of January 1943, although this has not been confirmed.

The British "Robert Ley" Propaganda Postcard

The British "Robert Ley" Propaganda Postcard
The British "Robert Ley" Propaganda Postcard

I believe that it is common knowledge that the British counterfeited the 3, 4, 6 and 8 pfennig stamps of Nazi Germany. I have not bothered to add them to this story because they are fairly common and everyone is already aware of them. I wrote about them as early as February 1971 in "Allied Forgeries of German Stamps," The American Philatelist. The British placed the 3-pfennig forged Hitler head stamp on a number of different propaganda cards. The Robert Ley postcard is certainly the best known and most well referenced in the literature. I considered adding one of the rarer British productions such as the Scheel, Halder, or Schieber postcards to this story but the webmaster thought that we should depict the Ley card because there is so much information known about it.

The British PWE black Robert Ley propaganda card is known in two formats, one imprinted Drucksache (printed matter) and the other imprinted FELDPOST. I first illustrated these and other British postcards in "Venomous propaganda post cards," The American Philatelist, May 1969; and later updated the story in "Black British Propaganda Postcards," The American Philatelist, June 1988. Also see my internet article here. Those imprinted Drucksache were often franked with the British forgery of the Germany 3 pfennig red-brown Hitler-head stamp. They sometimes have an address; sometimes a forged postmark. Large numbers of the Ley cards with forged stamps were dropped by Allied planes on 8-9 January 1944 in the vicinity of Hombourg, Belgium. The PWE code is H.623. It was prepared November 1943 to early 1944. 80,000 were sent to the R.A.F. on 1 December 1943. As Q24 it was balloon-dropped from 8 January 1944 to 19 March 1945. The front features an obviously well-fed Reich Commissar Ley giving a speech at the left and a 15-line message in German at the right:

The Normal Consumer and Reich Commissar, Reich Leader Dr. Robert Ley, said in The Angriff of 12 October 1943: '...We National Socialists know no such thing as diplomatic rations. Every man, whether he is a Reich minister or a Reich leader, has to live on rations just like any ordinary workman, mechanic, and official. The normal rations are enough. I myself am a normal consumer and live on them... (See other side).'

On the left of the address side is a lengthy German text citing the regulations that legalized diplomatic rations for Nazi officials. The text shows that officials received special rations. It says in part:

... (1) for themselves and their families... (2) for their co-workers, domestic and foreign... (3) for special unavoidable parties...

The text concludes with a pun that compares a big meal to a hanging:

Good appetite, Herr Ley - the last course is the heaviest.

The Ley Feldpost card does not bear the counterfeit 3-pfennig stamp. It was PWE No. H.641 and Q30. It was reprinted as PWE Nos. H.734, H.743, H.773, and H.792. Erik Gjems-Onstad (in charge of the British SOE Operation Durham in Norway 1943-1945) reports that his unit received 200 copies of H.641 on 11 August 1944.

The GPS author and expertiser Werner Bohne had a Ley card stamped with the British Luftfeldpost forgery. He had sold it by the time I found out so there was no way to tell if this was truly a British product, or just a interesting conversation piece made by some collector who placed an airmail stamp on the card to make an instant rarity. Forged reprints of the Ley cards appeared in Europe in the late 1980s. The forgeries have darker printing of the picture and writing, and either have no stamp or have a genuine German 3 pfennig Hitler-head stamp.

Propaganda Stamps - The British Parodies of the Italian-German Friendship Issue
The British Parodies (above) of the Italian-German Friendship Issue (below).

Propaganda Stamps - The British Parodies of the Italian-German Friendship Issue complete sheet

Besides the British forgery of an Italian stamp; the PWE also parodied the Italian 1941 Italian-German friendship issue in perforated sheets of 20 (4x5). Both parodies call attention to the notion that Hitler is in full charge of the Axis partnership. They were probably prepared in fall 1943. I first mentioned these parodies in "More propaganda parodies," German Postal Specialist, April 1977.

There are two British productions. The first is a 25 centesimi green parody, with Hitler snarling at a surprised Mussolini. The Latin text "Duo popoli / Un führer" ("Two peoples, one leader") replaces the original "Duo popoli / Un guerra" ("Two peoples, one war"). Mussolini's ceremonial axe and sword are chipped. It is known perforated 13 1/2 and imperforate.

The second stamp is a 50 centesimi green parody of the Italian violet, with the German text "Zwei Volker / Ein Krieg" ("Two peoples, one war") inscription replacing the original Italian text "Poste Italiane." Otherwise, the rendition of the parody is faithful to the original. This is a more subtle expression of German dominance than the other parody. It is perforated 13 1/2 and known imperforate.

Fakes have been offered for sale in bright green, described as fraudulent; and in washed-out green with oversize margins between the perforations and the stamp design, described as reprints.

British PWE Parody of German 50 Reichspfennig Auxiliary Payment Certificate H.692B

British PWE Parody of German 50 Reichspfennig Auxiliary Payment Certificate H.692B
British PWE Parody of German 50 Reichspfennig Auxiliary Payment Certificate H.692B

Before we leave the British propagandists I want to mention that it was not just stamps and postcards that were caricatured and forged. Besides philatelists, numismatists can also enjoy studying and collecting in this field. I always like to point out that the very same people that were producing the postage stamps were also producing propaganda and forged banknotes. When I exhibited I always added a few banknotes to the display frames to show the variety and the scope of the Allied and Axis propagandists. Just as the British produced black propaganda banknotes along with their stamps, the exact same people who were producing the parodies of British stamps that we illustrate below were also counterfeiting British currency. I have written 25 articles on propaganda currency for the International Banknote Society Journal that discuss this thematic in great detail. More detailed information on the banknote depicted above is found in my article "Psywar currency against Germany", Whitman Numismatic Journal, January 1967 and later in "Propaganda Currency of Great Britain and the Allies, IBNS Journal, Volume 24, Number 3, 1985.

There are four different British PWE parodies of the German 50 reichspfennig armed forces auxiliary payment certificate with propaganda messages in German on back prepared under PWE No. H.692. The four notes are designated PWE No. H.692A through H.692D. The notes were reprinted as PWE No. H.917. All are red and brown on white paper, 12 x 6 cm. The parodies are excellent reproductions of the original certificate, complete with watermark. 10,000 each of H.692A through D were sent to the SOE on 24 February 1944; 80,000 each were sent to the R.A.F. on 1 March 1944. 210,000 of reprint H.917 was sent to the R.A.F. on 19 May 1944. They were also distributed by balloon from 13 March to 16 July 1944. I selected this note to depict because the text on the back is down to earth and very basic.

I am a piece of Hitler's ass paper. Nobody accepts me because nobody can buy anything with me

Czechoslovakian forgery of the Czechoslovakian 5 koruna red-brown fiscal stamp of 1938
Czechoslovakian forgery of the Czechoslovakian 5 koruna red-brown fiscal stamp of 1938

I said at the start of this article that I would show the reader many of the rarest propaganda stamps of WWII.

This item is extremely rare, and I don't think it has ever been depicted before. It was originally in the collection of my friend Swedish Specialist Ulf Gunnarsson. I knew Ulf well and we had talked of writing an English-language book on propaganda stamps shortly before his sudden death. He had previously written a Swedish-language booklet on the subject. The above sheetlet was printed by the Czechoslovakian Government-in-Exile. The forgery is known from a single sheet of four. The construction of this sheet is highly unusual. The four items are separated by wide gutters, with line perfora­tions 13 3/4 passing through all the margins of the stamps. The forgeries are printed on pelure paper - a thin, tough, nearly transparent paper with a grayish cast, which allows a somewhat vague see-through view of material printed on the back side. Two side-by-side stamps separated by gutters are printed on each side of the sheet. For the pair of stamps on each side, the printing seems to have been done in two passes - a light red-brown print for the border color, and a slightly darker red-brown for the main design. A 1948 letter attests that the stamps were produced by the Czech government-in-exile in London during World War II in order to provide fake passports for Czech parachutists dropped into occupied Czecho­slovakia. This sheet is probably a proof of an item whose production was discontinued. The forgery is a faithful replica of the original 1938 Czech fiscal, except that the colored under printing for the stamp border is done on the top side of the stamps, rather than on the back side as in the original.

Czechoslovakian Hitler Poo-Poo Souvenir Sheet
Czechoslovakian Hitler "Poo-Poo" Souvenir Sheet

As long as we are talking about Czechoslovakia we should mention another item that my old pal Herman "Pat" Herst Jr. mentions in his book Nassau Street. Years ago I used to visit him in Shrub Oak N.Y. and we would discuss these stamps while sitting around his pool. I am not saying that I believe the story, but Pat believed in and as a result I bought the sheets years ago and wrote about them in an article entitled "Secret Czech patriotic marks on Bohemia, Moravia stamps," Linn's Weekly Stamp News, 30 August 1965. According to Pat, there is a secret anti-Hitler message on the unofficial Czechoslovakian propaganda souvenir sheet produced by the Czecho­slovakian stamp trade for an exhibition in Brno on 19 September 1942. This sheet has a photograph of the back side of a statue of a large man with his buttocks exposed. Curiously, directly under the exposed buttocks one finds a copy of a 1942 Bohemia and Moravia stamp featuring the head of Adolf Hitler. Although the Germans were allegedly delighted with the honor, the message conveyed by the patriotic designers of the sheet was anything but complimentary. The sheet exists in green and brown.

The French "Faux Petain" forgery
The French "Faux Petain" forgery

The French underground produced a "Faux Petain" forgery of the France 1941-43 1.50 francs red-brown Petain bareheaded stamp. I first mentioned this stamp in "World War II's Most Mistreated Postage Stamp," S.P.A. Journal, November 1969. The forgery is rather crudely executed and is printed ungummed on poor-quality white paper that shows yellowing from age. The stamp was printed on several occasions and is found in nine shades of red-brown varying in the depth of the color and the degree of reddish cast. The forgery was printed in sheets of 96 (12x8) consisting of 4 panels of 24 (6x4) separated by gutters. The forgery is perforated 11 1/2, rather than the 14:13 1/2 of the original. It is also known imperforate and with various partial perforations. The back of each quarter-sheet panel of 24 stamps contains a hand stamp covering from 4 to 9 stamps, varying in color from red to violet and consisting of a 37 mm circle enclosing the Cross of Lorraine and the text "Defense de la France - Direction / Atelier des Faux" ("French Underground - Directorate / Forgery Bureau"). It has been suggested that the Faux Petain was produced by a Vichy-oriented resistance group in order to avoid acquiring postage from the French PTT, which was viewed as too closely allied with the FFI. The Faux Petain was produced in early 1944, and was allegedly used to frank clandestine literature from 25 January to 30 May 1944. The stamps were prepared by photogravure. Allegedly, attempts to perforate the stamps by a sewing machine and by using perforations called "bread coupons" were disastrous. Finally, an old perforation machine was found and used. The forgeries were left ungummed since no gumming machine was available; a glue pot was used to stick the labels to envelopes. Despite the poor quality of the forgery, which would seem to make actual wartime postal usage unlikely, several covers bearing the forgery, including one dated 22 May 1944 addressed to Madame Rollin of Paris, are in the collection of the French War Museum.

The Faux Petain on a Post-war Brussels Souvenir Sheet
The Faux Petain on a Post-war Brussels Souvenir Sheet

The Faux Petain appeared on several postwar souvenir sheets for the Brussels Exposition in November 1945. On these sheets, the Faux Petain stamps bear a circular cancel "D.F. / Atelier des Faux."

The FFI DeGaulle "profile" Sheet
The FFI DeGaulle "profile" Sheet

I call this the "DeGaulle Profile" because the French also prepared a DeGaulle stamp in "full face." The French underground - Forces Frangais ` l'Intirieur (FFI) DeGaulle parody of France 1941-1943 1.50 francs red-brown Petain bare-headed depicts Charles DeGaulle in left profile. I first wrote about this parody in "World War II's most mistreated postage stamp," S.P.A. Journal, November 1969. The parodies are of poor quality, printed in brown on pale cream paper or on grayish paper, in sheets of 9 (3x3) with clear margins all around. They are known perforated and imperforate. The denomination of the parody is 1.50 francs and the text in the central oval is "Postes Francaises," as on the genuine stamp used as a model. They were produced in Nice by the FFI Combat resistance group. Robert Thirin was the engraver; Georges Fonat and Mlle. Georgette Houde did the printing; Mlle. Houde did the perforation. The stamps were originally meant to be used in "pin-prick" operations - stuck on shop windows, doors, and prominent objects. The parodies were successfully used on some mail in 1944 among Nice, Marseilles, and Lyon in Vichy France, and many covers are thought to exist, bearing the parody and genuine postage. Canceled covers showing only the DeGaulle parody without proper postage are probably souvenirs prepared by the FFI.

The FFI DeGaulle "Full Face" Stamp
The FFI DeGaulle "Full Face" Stamp

As I mentioned above, the Forces Frangais ` l'Intirieur also prepared a stamp showing General Charles DeGaulle in full face. This was a much more ambitious operation and the patriotic labels were placed between genuine stamps. Once again the propaganda stamp is a parody of the France 1941-1943 1.50 francs Petain bareheaded. It depicts Charles DeGaulle full-face, printed 10 per sheet in the vertical gutter between the central columns of genuine French Petain or Mercury stamps, thereby emerging "pre-per­forated." The denomination of the parody is 1.50 francs, as in the original model; however, the text in the central oval of the parody is "Republique Francaise" rather than "Postes Francaise." The parody appears on 4 different Mercury sheets and on 20 different Petain sheets. These parodies are of much higher quality than the left-profile DeGaulle production. They were prepared in May 1943 by the FFI in Marseilles. The full-face DeGaulle parodies were heavily used on mail in the Alps-Maritimes, which was under German occupation at the time, and in Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, and other centers of population. However, these parodies are quite rare, and covers are extremely scarce. One complete set exists in Europe.

The Norwegian Stamp Collection

We have discussed "black" postage stamps so far, those whose origin was hidden from the finder. Sometimes the stamps are "white," or clearly marked so that the finder will know where they came from. The Norwegian stamps are a perfect example. They appear in the official Complete Index of Allied Airborne Leaflets and Magazines, and the finder would have no question but that they were British productions. I first wrote about these stamps in "Those Scandalous Scandinavian Labels," S.P.A. Journal, July 1967. Four different stamps exist. The British SOE (Department EH) propaganda labels for Norway, officially known as the "Norwegian Stamp Collection," were issued in 132x215 mm gummed sheets, with one large label and three or four smaller perforated postage 'stamp'­size labels. The sheets are SOE code number EH (N) 811. They were prepared 7 June 1941, and were circulated in Norway by agents and through two air drops. 200,000 sheets were printed by rotogravure, probably 50,000 of each type. Proofs of the leaflets were available on 9 May 1941. It is probable that the date of first drop was to have been 17 May 1941, Norwegian National Day, but delivery was delayed, and the drop was made over Bergen in daylight on 7 June 1941. The remaining stock was to have been destroyed on 19 July, but the sheets survived, to be used in a second drop on 19-20 September. In addition to Bergen, leaflets were found in Askoy, Osteroya, and Fusa Fjord. All four sheets have the common text in Norwegian "Essay for the Norwegian Postage Stamp Competition. Three others follow by air mail." Propaganda leaflets depicting the vignettes from the gummed labels were prepared at the same time.

EH(N).811, Alt for Tyskland
EH(N).811, Alt for Tyskland

Sheet No. 1: 15 xre green, "Alt for Tyskland" ("All for Ger­many", a parody of the King's slogan, "All for Norway"), showing a fat Nazi officer with a pig under his arm, confiscating a Norwegian farmer's live­stock. Includes four small perforated labels.

EH(N).811, Wir fahren gegen Engelland
EH(N).811, Wir fahren gegen Engelland

Sheet No. 2: 30 xre blue, perf. "Wir fahren gegen Engelland" ("We're sailing against England"), showing Hitler wearing a Viking helmet, swimming with the aid of a life preserver. Includes three small perforated labels.

EH(N).811, Lofoten 4 Mars 1941...
EH(N).811, Lofoten 4 Mars 1941...

Sheet No. 3: 20 + 20 xre orange, "Lofoten 4 Mars 1941..." ("Lofoten 4 March 1941 / Contribution to the fine"), showing a sailor stuffing little Nazis into a bag. Includes three small perforated labels. The label celebrates a successful raid by British commandos on the Lofoten Islands off the northwest coast of German-occupied Norway.

EH(N).811, Vanaere og forakt har Quislings faerd ham bragt
EH(N).811, Vanaere og forakt har Quislings faerd ham bragt

Sheet No. 4: 30 stk solv (pieces of silver) blue, "Vanaere og forakt har Quislings faerd ham bragt" ("Quisling's conduct has brought him dishonor and contempt"), showing Vidkun Quisling, the notorious Norwegian traitor, with a noose around his head. Includes three small perforated labels.

The Azad Hind Stamps
The Azad Hind Stamps

I mention these stamps although there is some question what we should call them. They are not espionage forgeries or propaganda parodies, but they might be called "unissued stamps." They were apparently produced in good faith by Germany to be used by its Indian Legion. Hitler despised the Indian troops and was happy to send their leader to Japan. The stamps are interesting and we just mention them in passing and show a few of the vignettes. I first wrote about them in "The Azad Hind Labels," The SPA Journal, December 1971. That article was later expanded and became a booklet entitled Azad Hind and Chalo Delhi Stamps, published by Jal Cooper, Bombay, 1972. For those that are interested in currency, I also wrote about alleged banknotes of the Azad Hind movement in the International Banknote Society Journal, Volume 40, Number 3, 2001.

The Azad Hind Stamps

The Azad Hind (Free India) stamps were produced by Germany in 1943 for Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army movement. Under the direction of Bose and with the approval of the German government, the noted German team of Werner and Maria Von Axter Heudtlass designed the stamps; their "Ax-Heu" mark appears in the upper left corner of all the stamps except the 1 Rupee, where the mark is located at bottom left center. Twelve million stamps were printed and gummed by the Reichsdruckerei in Berlin (in the mid-1990s, some Indian sources have claimed Vienna as the origin). The failure of the Free Indian Army to achieve any military success left the stamps without a reason for use, and the entire issue was still in storage in Europe at the end of the war.

The Azad Hind Stamps

The denominations known are 1/2 anna yellow-green; 1 anna lilac-red; 2 1/2 anna orange-red; 1+1 anna dark brown; 2+2 anna carmine; 2 1/2+2 1/2 anna dark blue; 3+3 anna red; 8+12 anna blue-violet; 12 anna + 1 rupee lilac-purple; 1+2 rupee black/orange/green; 1+2 rupee black; and 1+2 rupee black/orange. None of the stamps was ever placed in use. Postwar forgeries exist, printed offset rather than photogravure, with a washed-out and somewhat unclear appearance; in these forgeries, the "Ax-Heu" designers' mark is missing or very blurred. So-called "proofs" were produced by Sam Tiger Productions of Thailand in the mid-1990s.

Germany's Unternehmen Wasserwelle (Operation Watermark)

While on the subject of Germany, perhaps we should mention the three propaganda vignettes that were produced by Jewish forgers confined in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. These are the same people that forged the British 5, 10, 20 and 50 pound notes of Operation Bernhard. There are just three vignettes, each a parody attempting to show that Great Britain is secretly ruled by Communists and Jews and bearing such symbols in the stamps. The King George definitive series was the main target, but several other stamps were subjected to attempts to portray the Jews and the Soviets as the culprits in the war. In preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy, the King George definitive parodies were given a long series of propaganda overprints. I have written about these stamps extensively, as have many others. I first mentioned them in "German wartime parodies of British stamps," S.P.A. Journal, February 1974.

A counterfeit 5 pound note forged by the Jewish Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp prisoners
A counterfeit £5 note forged by the Jewish Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp prisoners

In 1940 Hitler authorized a scheme to counterfeit British currency. The German SS (Department VI-F-4) established a forgery operation in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at Oranienburg bei Berlin, using forced Jewish skilled labor. SS officer Bernhard Krueger was in charge and from his name arose the unofficial name of the currency forgery operation: Operation Bernhard. The currency counterfeiting was highly successful, providing a rich source of readily negotiable notes to pay for various German operations. Enraged by the British propaganda parody of a German Hitler-head definitive stamp, showing Heinrich Himmler in place of Hitler, Himmler in 1944 ordered the Sachsenhausen unit to undertake Unternehmen Wasserwelle, the preparation of propaganda parodies of current British stamps. The stamp parodies were made from paper taken from old ration books with a wavy-line watermark. All were offset printed, perforated 11 1/2 without gum. The conspicuously watermarked paper inspired the German name for this stamp parody operation: Unternehmen Wasserwelle (Operation Watermark). The parodies are also found on commemorative sheets and with cancels in both blue and black ink.

The German "Jubilee" Parody
The German "Jubilee" Parody

I will mention the "Jubilee" parody first because it is my favorite and rather nicely done. This German parody of the Great Britain 1935 1/2 pence dark green Silver Jubilee stamp, has a bust of Stalin in place of King George VI, and misspelled English text "This war is a / Jewsh war" replacing "Silver Jubilee / Half Penny." The dates have been altered to read 1939-1944 instead of 1910-1935. The Star of David and the hammer and sickle appear prominently in several places (3 times each). The parody is printed in sheets of 120 (10x12). There has always been a question about the misspelling of the word "Jewsh" and if this was an attempt by the Concentration Camp prisoners to embarrass their German masters. In my article "Conversation with a Master Forger," Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal, January 1980, and later published in a modified form on the Internet, Major Bernhard says that it was simply a mistake. To purposely seek to embarrass the German SS would have meant instant death to the prisoners.

The German "Coronation" Parody
The German "Coronation" Parody

The German parody of the Great Britain 1937 1 1/2 pence brown-lilac Coronation stamp has a bust of Stalin replacing Queen Elizabeth, and altered text. The text "S.S.S.R. Britannia / Teheran 28.11.1943" replaces "Postage Revenue / 12 May 1937". The ornate script "G E R" at center has been modified to read "S S S R". The Star of David appears at upper left and right, and the hammer and sickle appears within the Soviet star in the right border.

Germany's Unternehmen Wasserwelle (Operation Watermark)
The German "Definitives" Parodies

The six German parodies of the Great Britain 1937 King George VI issue have the Star of David and Soviet hammer and sickle inserted into the design. The Star of David appears atop the crown at top center and in the thistle at top right. The hammer and sickle appears in the flower at top left and replacing the "pence" symbol in the value field. Each value was printed in sheets of 192 (two sections of 96, arranged 8x12). There are six values known; 1/2 pence green, 1 pence red, 1 1/2 pence lilac-brown, 2 pence orange, 2 1/2 pence blue, and 3 pence violet. Some of these parodies are found with a cancel "LONDON / AAA O / -6 JUN / 44 / SPECIAL-STAMP". I mention the meaning of the overprint in "The mysterious 'AAA O'," The American Philatelist, August 1969. A short version of this story by Jerry Jenson can be found on the Internet at

These definitives were heavily overprinted with a number of different propaganda slogans. The first is Bombs with "MURDER" and "RUIN" between two bombs, with various place names below (6 varieties). The second is Extremes in World Politics with various Allied, Jewish, and Bolshevik events and legends (6 varieties). The third is Invasion with the "AAA O" symbol at top with various slogans below (6 varieties). The fourth and fifth series are Liquidation of Empire with a border containing the "Liquidation of empire" legend at top, with various British possessions at bottom (14 varieties in all). If my math is correct, one would need to collect 192 overprinted parodies to complete the series. As I said earlier, the parodies also exist on German propaganda souvenir sheets for Great Britain, usually with stamps of the foregoing parodies attached, and with text in English and Russian. The sheets have printed borders for the stamps, and text "Special-Stamp in Memory of the First Day of Invasion". The stamps often bear the "AAA-O" cancel. In addition, I had Bernhard Kruger autograph one set of the definitives with comments in the margins.

German Parody with Kruger Autograph and Comment
German Parody with Kruger Autograph and Comment

The stamps often bear the "AAA-O" cancel. In addition, in 1975 I had Bernhard Kruger autograph one set of the cancelled definitives with comments in the margins.

Forgeries of the German Parodies
Forgeries of the German Parodies

The two imitations of the German parodies above are clearly marked. They are sometimes offered with "replica" or Fälschung printed on the front or the back. However, there may be some unscrupulous sellers who will offer these fakes without such warning marks, so let the buyer beware. Fakes of many of the propaganda parodies are abundant.

The Fehling Churchill Postcard.
The Fehling Churchill Postcard.

The Germans also produced a number of different civilian propaganda postcards bearing mock stamps. I first wrote about these cards in "Those Nasty Nazi feldpost cards," S.P.A. Journal, April 1970. The best known are the postcards ridiculing the Allied leaders; Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain and Josef Stalin. The Stalin card is by far the most rare, but I have chosen the Churchill because the Germans hated him the most and produced a number of different cards to ridicule the man Hitler called "The old Jew." In the first illustration the Germans attack Churchill and his navy by depicting a British destroyer being broken over his head.

The cards were designed by Heinz Fehling, with imprinted stamp-like labels bearing a crossed-out denomination "1" and text in German Wert keinen Pfennig ("Not worth a penny"), with caricatures ridiculing the Allied leaders. There are also some folded letter sheets imprinted Feldpostbrief. The cards and letter sheets have a vertical central spine on the address side that contains imprinted text.

Many varieties exist of the Fehling items. The "Feldpost" imprint occurs in at least six type styles, reflecting different printings. These six "Feldpost" type styles are most easily distinguished by the shape of the letter "F". Another variation of this card depicts Churchill "upright with medals," in naval dress, smoking a cigar, with a warship breaking over his head. A third variety depicts Churchill in a black suit, with a black derby and a bow tie.

The reader should know that there are a great number of postwar fakes with reprints of the Heinz Fehling "Wert keinen Pfennig" vignettes, imprinted "Feldpostkarte" without printer's imprint, and bearing wartime German or General Government stamps with faked cancels.

German unofficial Wertlose marke
German unofficial Wertlose marke

There is also a German unofficial Wertlose Marke ("Worthless stamp") depicting Churchill smoking his cigar and looking downcast. To Churchill's left are the letters "WC"; above and in the background is what probably a British Spitfire is falling into flaming ruins. The label often appears on unofficial cards imprinted "Feldpostkarte" and with the printer's imprint "Verlag Paul R. Matthes, Leipzig, D5, Grusiusstr. 3" on the vertical spine (known as the "Matthes card"). At least two varieties of the Matthes card are known, differing in typeface and in orientation.

German unofficial Churchill with Derby Postcard
German unofficial Churchill with Derby Postcard

These items first came on the philatelic market in 1997. There are just a few known copies. These cards show Churchill wearing a derby. Most of the used copies were sent by Soldat Hans Hadlich, - a member of a stamp dealing family.


Propaganda stamps - The "Spitler" Propaganda Parody
The "Spitler" Propaganda Parody

Sometimes propaganda parodies of postage stamps are made by civilians for either patriotic reasons or for profit. The "Spitler" is a perfect case in point. I first wrote about this civilian parody in Scott's Monthly Stamp Journal of September 1980. We will just discuss it briefly here. I first bought a perforated and imperforate block of the Spitler from Warner's Stamp Store on Nassau Street about 50 years ago. The salesman took me aside and whispered that he had something special. He charged me $9 for the two. Today the price would be several hundred dollars. Herman Herst talked about these stamps in Nassau Street and said that the government had confiscated them. I always wondered why years later you would still see them occasionally offered for sale. It was only after much research that we figured out that there were two sets, and most offered today are reprints.

This "stamp block" is a private patriotic parody of Germany 1940 12+38 pfennig brown-red Hitler's birthday stamp, with a child spitting in Hitler's face and the legend "Deutsches Ziel" ("German aim"). The German original shows Hitler receiving a bouquet of flowers from a young girl, with the legend "Deutsches Reich." The parody was produced in America by Lawrence & Graves, Los Angeles stamp dealers, in miniature sheets of four (2x2). The sheets have full margins bearing the small inscription "Copyright 1943 / Lawrence & Graves" beneath the left label and "Hollywood / California" beneath the right label.

The labels were distributed to prominent stamp dealers and collectors, including U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The mailing to President Roosevelt resulted in the Secret Service and postal inspectors being notified and confiscation of the printer's Spitler stock, plates, and production supplies. It appears that after the Secret Service confiscated the original supplies, Lawrence and Graves (or another party) reissued the label in the original sheet format. The original Spitler is a browner red than the reprints. The original can be distinguished immediately from the reprint by the nature of the design that forms the red background in the top and bottom color bars containing the lettering. In the original, the background is formed by a grid or mesh of red with un-inked dots in the holes of the mesh. In the reprints, the background is formed by diagonal lines of connected dots from top right to bottom left, with un-inked areas between the lines. These distinctions do not show in routine photocopies or in full-size halftone photographic reproductions.

The original printing was perforated 12. Examples are known tied to a 1-cent postal card with a circular cancel from Berlin, Oklahoma, April 20, 1943. (April 20 is Hitler's birthday).

The cards have Lawrence & Graves's imprint on the message side, accompanied by a handwritten inducement of the general form, "Is this B170? Price 10 cents. Miniature sheet of four 35 cents." Handwritten addressees include H.E. Harris of Boston; Mr. Billy Muir, 6727 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif.; Hobbs Stamp Co., 38 Park Row, New York City, N.Y.; and a Denver, Colo. address. The reissue is perforated line 11 3/4. The legend in the bottom margin is in a silver-gray ink that does not photocopy well. A cover showing a U.S. 3-cent stamp and a Spitler reprint was mailed from Kansas City, Missouri, on 2 November 1945 to Mr. E. Iment in Kansas City.

Propaganda stamps - The "Göring Imprisoned" Propaganda Parody
The "Göring Imprisoned" Propaganda Parody

Unlike the civilian patriotic label above, the "Göring imprisoned" label was apparently produced privately for profit. Some individual who knew of the British propaganda stamps showing Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank apparently thought that he could swindle a gullible public by producing a Hermann Göring stamp. Forty years ago at the old Interpex Stamp Show in New York City one dealer had a brick of these sheets about an inch thick. He was selling them for $3 each. A few years later when they became better known they were being offered for $25. They are complete frauds, but interesting enough that I suspect the price might approach $100 today. Stamp collectors will buy anything! I first wrote about this parody in "Truth about stamps that lie - forgeries," Stamp Weekly, 28 September 1967 and later in "Propaganda frauds," S.P.A. Journal, November 1968. We believe that it was privately produced in Germany after the war. The parody is an imitation of the German 1943 Hitler's birthday issue. It represents an unissued 54+96 pfennig denomination in deep purple, showing Field Marshal Hermann Göring, Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe, behind a wire fence. The wire fence is in the form of a pale pink quadrille. Printed in imperforate miniature sheets of 4 (2x2). Around the stamps on the sheet is a lavender border of leaves displaying, at top and bottom, the date 12 Jan 1944 - the date of Göring's 51st birthday. The original German stamp shows the date of Hitler's 54th birthday - 20 April 1943. The stamps were printed by collotype; margin and quadrille printings were added in two separate typographic steps. Thus, stamps and sheets lacking the quadrille and margins are remnants of incomplete printings. The producer, a German stamp dealer, was convicted in 1959 in Berlin for selling (but not for printing!) the "Göring imprisoned" sheet and the Narvik stamp. Curiously, there are fakes of this fake. A variety printed crudely in green was offered for sale in Germany.

The Narvik Propaganda Parody
The Narvik Propaganda Parody

As long as we are talking about fakes, we might as well depict the Narvik label. This "stamp" has always caused great confusion because it has been claimed to be both a German and an American propaganda parody. However, Narvik was not a victory for the Germans or Allies, and especially not for the Americans who had no part in it at all. It is clearly a fake, but a good one and often offered for a price of well over $100. The label has been advertised as Allied propaganda against Germany, but was certainly privately produced in Germany after the war. It is found imperforate, and known in two varieties, differing notably in the presence or absence of a swastika watermark in the paper. Narvik, in far northern Norway, was the scene of several indecisive skirmishes between the Germans and the British in the spring of 1940. The Germans occupied the town on 9 April after a sneak attack. A joint French-British force recaptured the town in May, but withdrew from their untenable position on 9 June, leaving the Germans in control. The phantasy depicts the "Narvik Shield" that Hitler awarded to participants in the campaigns around Narvik. The fraud surfaced in the late 1950s, advertised as having been produced by the United States for use against the Nazis. Why someone on the Allied side would wish to commemorate the Narvik encounters, for either internal or external propaganda, is hard to grasp. The mystery was explained in 1959, when the producer, a German stamp dealer, was convicted in Berlin for selling (but not for printing!) the "Göring imprisoned" sheet and the Narvik stamp. As I mention above, this stamp was mentioned along with the Göring in "Truth about stamps that lie - forgeries," Stamp Weekly, 28 September 1967 and "Propaganda frauds," S.P.A. Journal, November 1968.

The label appears in two varieties. The first on plain paper watermarked with swastikas as in Michel Deutschland-Spezial-Katalog Germany watermark 4, printed in medium blue. The figure "19" on the Narvik shield is clearly readable. It has been said that this label was printed on the margins of 1937 Hitler's birthday souvenir sheets. These sheets provide sufficient space to print Narvik multiples up to 3 (horizontal) or 2 (vertical). The second variety is on woven, unwatermarked paper, printed in dark blue. The figure "19" on the Narvik shield is difficult to read.

Since we have mentioned the United States of America in our description of the fake story regarding the Narvik label, we should briefly discuss American philatelic propaganda. The United States forged two German Hitler head stamps. They also prepared two propaganda parodies showing Hitler as a "Deaths Head." Unfortunately, there are probably 100 fake Hitler skulls offered for sale for every one that is legitimate. I considered doing a brief review of the American Operation Cornflakes here, but since I have already written about it elsewhere on the Internet it is more efficient just to link to that article here. I believe that it gives a good history of what the American Morale Operations unit in Italy produced in the last years of the war. I first wrote about this operation in "Allied forgeries of the postage stamps of Nazi Germany," American Philatelist, February 1971, and later in "Poison Cornflakes for Breakfast," The SPA Journal, February 1972.

The Len Deighton SS/GB Fantasy Stamps
The Len Deighton SS/GB Fantasy Stamps

A Fake German-occupied British Postcard Produced by the Publicists of SS/GB
A Fake German-occupied British Postcard Produced by the Publicists of SS/GB
Note: The official postcard has text at the bottom. This card has been trimmed for artistic purposes.

On the subject of interesting and expensive fakes and fantasies, we should mention the 1978 Len Deighton fantasy stamps produced to advertise his book SS-GB. The story told of a Great Britain that had been conquered by Germany, and the book pictured a British postage stamp bearing the head of Adolf Hitler. Besides the book cover, the clever publicists printed a booklet of stamps and a picture postcard to go along with the advertising campaign. The "stamps" show a familiar right-side view of Hitler lifted from the German stamp issue of 13 April 1938 for Hitler's 49th birthday, with "SS" and "GB" in the upper corners and "Postage Revenue" along the bottom edge. Denominations were 1/2, 2, and 2 1/2 pence. The parodies were printed in booklet panes of six (3x2) and enclosed in a booklet containing one pane of each. The British post office quickly confiscated all the booklets they could locate. Remember, these are complete fantasies, mere conversation pieces. However, propaganda collectors sent them through the roof. Of those remaining in dealer's hands, two complete booklets immediately sold for 300 pounds each. In a Hanover auction in mid-1998, a booklet sold for 1250 marks plus surcharges. Collectors will buy anything!

Fakes of the Len Deighton SS/GB Fantasy Stamps
Courtesy of Wolfgang Baldus

What may even be more interesting and a second reason to show these advertising labels in this article is that they have been heavily counterfeited and offered for sale. Whereas the original labels were printed in green, orange and blue, the fakes also offer a red 2 1/2 denomination in a set of four stamps. In fact, all of the labels are 2 1/2 in this reproduced set. Whereas the genuine stamp panes had two staples (four holes), one of the fake varieties has only one staple (two holes). There are also other variations such as the original labels having the "SS" in normal font while on the fakes have a fancier rune-like font. The second set of reproductions does not have the "SS" in the upper left corner at all. So, to sum it up, the original labels are a civilian advertising ploy of no philatelic value that are very rare and have sold for hundreds of dollars, and as a result, some very poor imitations were produced that have sold quite well for as much as a hundred dollars on eBay and similar sites. My friend Wolfgang Baldus has made a study of these labels and reproductions and we illustrate his comparisons above. Let me say it again. Collectors will buy anything!

OSS Counterfeit French Fiscal Stamp
OSS Counterfeit French Fiscal Stamp

The United States also prepared fake fiscal stamps for use in France on passports and other documents. I first wrote about this stamp in "The Rarest Forgery of WWII?" The SPA Journal, April 1977. I was very proud of myself at the time because the stamp espionage operation had not previously been mentioned in the American philatelic press. Twenty-four years later my friend W. David Ripley III discovered an entire imperforate sheet of the forgeries in the estate of a former OSS employee.

The United States OSS forgeries of French fiscal stamps were prepared for use by the French underground on various identity papers. The genuine stamps are 35x19 mm, and depict the head of Ceres in a medallion on the left, and "TIMBRE / FISCAL" in two lines at the right above a denomination in another color. The forgeries are excellent reproductions, and are perforated and watermarked. Whereas the genuine French fiscals are perforated 13.5, the forgeries appear to be perforated either 12 (as reported in the Yvert & Tellier fiscal Catalog) or 13 (as reported by author Herman Herst and another owner for 5 francs specimens). The printing format is known for the 13 francs and 15 francs forgeries: twenty-eight stamps in a 4 x 7 arrangement, with the left-hand two columns being 13 francs and the right-hand two columns being 15 francs. An imperforate sheet of the 13 francs/15 francs is described in W. David Ripley III, "New discoveries in World War II espionage philately," German Postal Specialist, March 2001.

The known forgeries are 40 centimes (Useful for birth certificates, which required a 5 francs and a 40 centimes stamp); 2 francs; 5 francs (Used on municipal certificates such as marriage licenses); 13 francs (Useful on identity cards issued between 1940 and 21 April 1943, when the rate was raised to 15 francs); and 15 francs (Useful on identity cards issued after 21 April 1943).

Propaganda stamps - OSS Counterfeit Nazi Party Stamp
OSS Counterfeit Nazi Party Stamp

The OSS printed counterfeit Nazi Party stamps for use on Party membership cards. The Party stamps were prepared as part of Operation Sauerkraut, another OSS operation that occurred near the end of the war after the assassination attempt on Hitler's life. I mention them in my Internet article here where I say:

The Sauerkraut printed material was prepared in two qualities; very good or very crude. There is a reason for this. 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 these stamps by carefully studying a photograph found in an official OSS wartime presentation booklet entitled The Story of the Sauerkrauts, which reports on MO Rome's Operation Sauerkraut. 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. For many years, the Sauerkraut document was the only hint that the OSS had forged Nazi party dues labels, until W. David Ripley discovered an entire imperforate sheet in the estate of a former OSS employee.

The United States OSS forgery of German Nazi Party dues labels were prepared for use on forged identity documents distributed to Germans Prisoners of War in Operation Sauerkraut. The label measures 20x17 mm, and has a violet background with un-inked design and text featuring the Nazi spread-winged eagle atop an enclosed swastika. The text "Partei Betrag" ("Party contribution") is above the eagle's wings; "N.S.D.A.P." is at bottom. The denomination "1.-" is at left, and "-.30" is at right, representing 1.30 Reichsmarks. A thin, black overprint "1940" covers the wings of the eagle. Ripley's find is a miniature sheet of 20 (4x5), measuring 123 mm square, imperforate. Dave illustrated it in "New discoveries in World War II espionage philately," German Postal Specialist, March 2001.

I should point out that readers might be confused to find many of the same items in both the Cornflakes and Sauerkraut article. The reason for this is that both operations were run by the same unit with much of the same manpower. As a result, there were cases where leaflets prepared for one operation were used by the other. It probably made good sense at the time.

British Propaganda Leaflet G.53
British Propaganda Leaflet G.53

It is interesting to note that the Allies did not just produce propaganda parodies and espionage forgeries of stamps. Sometimes they placed a regular postage stamp on a propaganda leaflet because it illustrated their theme so well. The Complete Index of Allied Airborne Leaflets and Magazines 1939-1945 states that the British Political Warfare Executive printed leaflet G.53 with a first dissemination of 9-10 August 1943 and a last dissemination of 30-31 August 1943. The Index always gives two dates because the aircraft left Britain on one evening and returned early the following morning. I first wrote about this leaflet in "More propaganda parodies," German Postal Specialist, April 1977. The leaflet is entitled Die Erste Diktatur Gesturzt ("The first dictator has fallen"), depicting the Germany 1941 12+38 pfennig brown-red Italian-German Brother­hood stamp. It tells the Germans that Mussolini has fallen and Hitler will be next. British PWE propaganda booklets also depicted stamps of the Italian 1941 Italian-German friendship issue. The stamps depict Hitler and Mussolini. The 16-page booklets, in Italian, are entitled "Here are your allies" and "Here are our enemies". The booklet coded I.44 Ecco I Vostri Alleati ("Here are your allies") depicts the 50 centesimi violet. Booklet I.52 Ecco I Nostri Nemici ("Here are our enemies") depicts the 1.25 lira blue on a booklet showing Hitler and Mussolini smiling and talking in an open car.

Years later, during the Suez Crisis of 1956, the British produced a propaganda leaflet featuring a "stamp" showing a caricature of an unhappy Gamal Abdel Nasser in helmet and military uniform. The "stamp" is inscribed "Egypte" at top and "Defense" at bottom. Two lines of Arabic text appear beneath the stamp: "I am ready to fight for the canal to the last extremity, for the liberty of Egypt and its peoples. November 1956."

I said at the start of this story that the Russians did not forge any stamps during WWII. However, they did produce fake German postcards that had a forged imprinted stamp on them. The set consisted of five postcards all with a Christmas theme. I first wrote about them in "Postcards to the enemy," S.P.A. Journal, July 1971. I went into more depth in a second article, "Russian WWII Propaganda Postcards for Germany," German Postal Specialist, September/October 1987. We depict two of them here.

Russian Postcard Lebensraum im Osten ("Living space in the East")

Russian Postcard Lebensraum im Osten ("Living space in the East")
Russian Postcard Lebensraum im Osten ("Living space in the East")

The propaganda message on this Russian postcard is:

This is the living space that the German soldier found at the Eastern Front. Six feet under the soil and a birch cross on the ground. Like a shroud the snow covers the fallen, the wind whistles, the crows can "K-r-r-Kraut, Kraut." Hitler has lied to you, German soldiers. He has promised you the capture of Moscow but gave you maiming and death. On Christmas Eve German women weep for Hitler's victims. You, who are left alive, finish with Hitler! Finish with the war!

The Russian postcards were imprinted on the address side with a 6 pfennig Hindenburg stamp and the word "Postkarte." To the left of the stamp is an imitated express label "Des Führers Weihnachts­bescherung" ("The Fuhrer's Christmas Present"). Below the express label is a short propaganda paragraph. All printing on the address side is in green. The picture side contains a drawing in bluish-black. Although the Russians printed over 50 propaganda postcards with various markings, these are the only Russian postcards with an imprinted postage stamp. 500,000 of each card were printed in Moscow on 10 December 1941. Being strategic leaflets, these cards could be used throughout the Eastern Front. Other cards were entitled O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum ("O Christmas Tree..."); Sie wird Dich suchen ("She will be searching for you"); and Brot, Brot ("Bread, bread").

Russian Postcard Die Heimkehr ("The homecoming")

Russian Postcard Die Heimkehr ("The homecoming")
Russian Postcard Die Heimkehr ("The homecoming")

The text on this card is:

Healthy and with whole bones he went to war on Hitler's orders. This is how he returns; a cripple, broken, battered, a ruin of a man. For what has this unfortunate offered his limbs, his health and his fortune? What is really worth it? German Soldier! Before it is too late - come to your senses. Allow yourself to be taken prisoner and the war will be over for you.

There were some early pioneers in this field and we should mention them. The first serious English-language booklet on the subject of propaganda philately was the 1954 Williams Brothers' 52-page paperback Forged Stamps of two World Wars. The first author who really discussed the propaganda stamps in detail was Joachim Hosang who wrote four German-language paperback booklets between 1954 and 1959 entitled Gezdhnte Kriegspropaganda. Peter Rickenback later translated Hosang's first booklet into the English language Stamps in Battledress. About 10 years ago I met a young German researcher and author named Wolfgang Baldus. His work was so impressive that I opened my files to him and today he has become the recognized expert on the subject of propaganda philately. He has written numerous articles, paperback booklets and the two-volume German-language Schwarze Propaganda. Another author, Wolfgang Prdtzsch, has written extensively on the German productions, most notably in the 40-page paperback booklet Ubternehmen Wasserwelle. These authors are directly responsible for what we know today about these clandestine programs.

As I stated at the start of this article, it is just meant to be a very general introduction to espionage forgeries and propaganda parodies. Readers that wish to comment may contact the author at

22 April 2006



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