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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.
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.
The World War I British forgeries of the German Germania issue were produced in September 1918. They were printed in sheets of 100 (10x10). The forgeries have 15 horizontal perforation holes, whereas the genuine stamps have 14 holes. The forgeries have less shading (more white space) along the brow and nose line as compared with the genuine, giving Germania a somewhat fierce look. The imperforate color proofs tend to be paler, flatter in appearance, without gum, and printed on mildly tinted paper. The proofs are known as "Watford proofs" from the manuscript notation "Printed at Watford" found in the selvage of the sheets.
The actual printer of course was the British firm of Waterlow. There is much documentation for this statement and among them is a sheet of directions for perforating the forgeries discovered in the company's archives. It is written in technical jargon but appears to have such comments as: G or B Stamp (German) also A(ustrian)... Dimensions taken across sheet (longway). Dimensions taken way sheet travels (shortway). P.S. Waterlow B.& L. could not wait while MP [machine perforations?] was made so used MP 102/2 Edward VII, worked from dowel pin holes & centre stamp & put extra hole each way in each stamp.
There is much more of course, but clearly Waterlow and the people doing the perforations are discussing what machines to use and the number of perforations on each stamp.
The British also counterfeited the 5 pfennig green, 10 pfennig carmine and 15 pfennig vermilion Bavarian 1916-1920 King Ludwig III issue. The forgeries were printed in sheets of 100 (10x10) or 110 (11x10), both perforated and imperforated. The perforated forgeries have 15 horizontal perforation holes, whereas the genuine stamps have 14 holes. In the forgeries, the wavy lines in the watermark are 3 mm apart at their closest, whereas in the genuine the lines are 4 mm apart. All items are known in imperforate color proofs. The proofs tend to be paler, flatter in appearance, without gum, and printed on mildly tinted paper. The proofs are known as "Watford proofs" from the manuscript notation "Printed at Watford" found in the selvage of the sheets. One block of nine 5 pfennig stamps which I bought many years ago had comments in the lower right selvage that said:
From Watford Friday 11 October 1918 (mid day) Block of 6 left with Mr. Earl who is to go down there this afternoon.
"Watford" was the home of Waterford and Sons printers and Murray Teigh Bloom states in The Man Who Stole Portugal that Sir William Waterford was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his counterfeiting of German, Austrian and Bavarian stamps... and his facsimiles of Imperial German banknotes.
The above photo postcard is a British propaganda reproduction showing happy German soccer players in a prisoner-of-war camp. This card is addressed to John Von Possel of Altoona and gives his POW camp address in Great Britain. It is coded H/6 and was disseminated in September 1918.
This folded air letter was sent from Karl Scholz to Josepha Scholz in Peterwitz. It was disseminated in February 1917.
During WWI the British reproduced a large number of German prisoner-of-war postcards and air-letters. They took genuine postcards and letters that had pictures or text favorable to the British and reproduced them to airdrop over the enemy by both aircraft and balloon. According to the History of M.I. 7 (B) (March 1916 - December 1918), Captain Chalmers Mitchell produced the following type of philatelic propaganda.
1. Reproductions of German prisoner of war letters and postcards, received either from General Headquarters, France, or through the Postal Censorship (M.I. 9), and selected by M.I. 7 (b) (4), as showing the good treatment of prisoners in England.
2. Reproductions of photo postcards of prisoners of war or groups taken in prisoner of war camps in England.
In 1917 the British produced 594,000 reproductions of 88 prisoner of war letters and 7 postcards and 90,000 reproductions of 17 photo postcards.
By the end of the war, the total number of leaflets, prisoner of war letters, cartoons, and other items produced by M.I. 7 (b) (4) was 25,986,180 products.
German Parodies of Russian "Currency Stamps"
From 1915 to 1917, Russia issued eleven so-called "currency stamps," postage stamps printed on thin cardboard instead of the usual stamp paper. They were meant to be used as coins to save metal so the stamps were not gummed. The original 1913 stamp printing plates were used so they looked exactly like the genuine postage stamps. Several denominations were printed; the most common are the 10, 15 and 20 kopeks. The Germans counterfeited the 15 and 20 kopek, stamps changing the last three lines to an anti-Russian message on both stamps. The purpose was to undermine the value of Russian money and to destroy confidence in the Imperial Government. The back of the genuine Russian stamps had a five-line message stating:
Has the circulating equivalent of silver coins.
The two forgeries have the last three lines changed to alter the message:
Has the circulating equivalent with bankrupt silver coins.
Has the circulating equivalent of a robbing deceitful ruler.
I bought a single 20 kopek counterfeit in 1984 for $300. I bought the 15 and 20 kopek counterfeits se-tenant (Connected) in 1989 for $583. In May 2006, a pair of 15 and 20 kopek counterfeits was sold for US $350 each by Raritan Stamps Auctions. In May 2012, Cherrystone Auctions of New York sold a pair of the counterfeits for US $1,900.
After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, several peoples fought the new "Red" regime. The Don Cossacks elected a "Ataman," the official title of the supreme military commander of the Cossack armies. On 15 December 1917, the "White" Cossack Army occupied the important city of Rostov-on-Don. During 1918, a number of Russian postage stamps were surcharged for the use in the Don area. A stamp with a face value of 25 kopeks was planned depicting Ermak, a legendary Cossack leader of the 16th century, but was never issued. In July 1918, a currency token in the same design with a face value of 20 kopeks in olive green color was printed by the Rostov-on-Don section of the State Bank. On the front it was inscribed "Ermak." The back bears the imperial eagle and the text:
Change stamp issued by the Rostov-on-Don branch of the State Bank
In 1919, the Bolsheviks printed a propaganda forgery of the "Ermak" currency stamp. It is printed on yellowish thick paper and the wording on the reverse had been changed to refer to the period when the Don Cossacks under their "Atamans" ruled over the area. The new text was:
Change stamp issued by the Rostov-on-Don office of the Ataman gang
A copy was offered by Raritan Stamps in September 2008 and sold for US $800. In May 2011, the same auction house offered a block of four for US$ 1000 that did not sell.
My thanks to Wolfgang Baldus who corrected my own write-up of this "stamp" with better background information and an improved translation.
The propaganda parody appeared in the 1920s and was a forerunner to anti-Semitic propaganda. The genuine Austrian 1920 80 heller stamp is rose or red-orange, perforated, and bears the Austrian eagle and text Deutschosterreich (German Austria). An unknown party produced an interesting parody of this stamp in a slightly deeper red, known both perforate and imperforate, with the Austrian eagle and the text changed to Judischosterreich (Jewish Austria). The parody is a good copy of the original. Aside from being obviously anti-Semitic, the origin and motivation for this parody is unknown. The stamp has been offered at auction a number of times on at least three covers, usually on an envelope franked with genuine stamps and often postmarked Wein (Vienna).
We should note that although Germany is often considered the center of post-WWI anti-Semitism, Austria can contest that title and produced hundreds of anti-Semitic postcards and other items. For instant, the Jewish-owned Bruder Kohen Wiener Institut (B.K.W.I.) produced countless cards depicting tongue-in-cheek caricatures illustrating various aspects of Jewish life. With the rise of the Nazi Party, the Germans reprinted selected cards that portrayed Jews in an especially unfavorable light. For example, for the Der ewige Jude (Eternal Jew Exposition) one card depicted a very unflattering caricature of composer Oscar Strauss.
Perhaps one of the most pictorial of all the Austrian anti-Semitic postcards is the one entitled Mander s'ischt Zeit! The card depicts five people, three of whom have a distinctly Jewish look, fleeing an array of Nazi flags. The title is Tyrolean slang: "Men, it's time!" a quote from Andreas Hofer, a 19th Century Tyrolean freedom fighter. The title on the address side is Abzug des Herrn Schuschnigg und seiner Verbundeten ("Departure of Herr Schuschnigg and his allies"). This refers to Kurt von Schuschnigg, the mildly fascist but anti-Nazi Austrian chancellor just prior to the Anschluss, (German annexation of Austria) who appears in the central position of the group of five. The other four are a monk, representing the Catholic Church, an aristocrat, a boy wearing an Austrian armband, and a Jew carrying his moneybox. Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg was forced to resign on March 11, 1938 after the annexation and was imprisoned by the Nazis shortly thereafter. He survived the war and was liberated by American troops in May 1945. The card was designed by Artist is F. Kock. Card exists in two printings, one on bright white paper and the other on gray paper. Artist is F. Kock.
World War II
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 book The Black Art. He also supplied the majority of the PWE "H" code numbers and printing statisics for this article.
In further research in the British National Archives Lee found evidence that over a thousand propaganda envelopes a week were sent into France, and one of the regular enclosures seems to have been the propaganda leaflet Lettre d'Angleterre. There were requests for additional envelopes (9,000 in three different colors) and even requests for additional stamps:
1.20 franc brown Pétain (2nd type with Képi),70 centimes same type (orange or dark blue - which one has yet to be decided) - engraving of first type - used for values under 40 centimes - has also been ordered.
Lee points out that the postage stamps were forged for the French section of the Political Warfare Executive and their job was propaganda, not agent-running or intelligence-gathering. The letter-writing unit was distributing thousands of envelopes inside Vichy France and Northern France. The letter-writing unit was shut down in 1942; the forged French postage stamps ceased being produced soon afterwards.
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.
The 1 franc 50 centimes red-orange Iris 1939-40 is the only forgery with this image.
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.
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.
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.
There are some interesting reprints of these British forgeries. In 2011 some of the values appeared on gummed paper in blocks of four. They were identified as "France 1942 Resistance forgeries." One buyer suspected they might be essays. One never truly knows about such things but they appear to be fakes. Fakers seem to like blocks of four. I have never heard of Ellic Howe doing any blocks of four, and believe the quality is much too poor to be British. And of course, the color is not right either. The above stamp should be green. There was also a 1.50 F Petain bare-headed block of four on gummed paper in red in this lot.
There are already numerous fake blocks of four of the American OSS "death's head" parodies of the 12 pfennig Hitler stamp. They appear in various colors, perforated, imperforate, and on covers.
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. Pierre Laval met an ironic death. As the end grew near, he fled first to Germany, then to Spain, then to Austria, where he was arrested and sent back to France to be tried on the charge of treason. He was sentenced to be shot by firing squad on 6 October 1945, but swallowed cyanide before the sentence could be carried out. A physician saved his life so that he could be stood up in front of the firing squad and executed a little less than two weeks later.
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.
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 setenant. 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. In 1992, two se-tenant pairs with the Morocco overprints sold for $9,000. In October 2009, two pairs of the Morocco stamps in se-tenant pairs showing both overprints sold for $18,000. However, because of the value of these parodies, forgeries do exist. In April 2009, a fake pair of the stamps with the dark overprint were offered on EBay for $4.95. The vendor received no bids.
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. A complete mint sheet of the wide-line variety was offered in a June 2008 auction estimated at 15,000 Euros ($23,395 dollars).
Proofs of the Himmler exist in black and in violet. Above, we depict proofs of the Type II Himmler parody stamps. They originate from a German collector who found them in Denmark decades ago. They are printed in black on heavy, smooth, very white cardboard with a chalky surface that resembles an old, hard photo paper.
The better looking parodies (Type I) exist in sheetlets of four (2 across x 2 down), sheetlets of eight (4 across x 2 down) and as single stamps. A German friend told me many years ago that he was offered a sheet of four of the type I proofs for $2250.
Three different imperforate proof sheets of 8 (4 across x 2 down) exist of the narrow-line variety (type II) with hand-written comments "V. Rough Proof - 1st Print" and "2nd Proof." The third proof was almost perfect and is nearly identical to the finished parody stamps in black ink. British Stamp dealer Ron Shelly 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 apparently using dealer Zbigniew Bokiewicz of Continental Stamp Supplies Company of London as a middleman. 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 single proof stamp of type II was sold by a London firm who purchased it in 1980 from a "Mr. Stephens who claimed to have been in Intelligence during the war at the head of some 20 colleagues and in that position to have taken part in making the plate for printing the Himmler stamp..."
The British forger Ellic Howe first used a small printing shop called Index Ltd at 56 Victoria Street, London, SW1. The Managing Director was George Critchley, who had been the Secret Intelligence Service's printer since WWI. David Stephens managed the shop.
Eventually, Howe took over the engraving process and spread out the jobs to Fanfare Press for printing, Spicer's for the paper, and the Monotype Corporation for loans of the various matrices which were otherwise unavailable in England. By 1943, Stephens was in charge of Howe's private process engraving plant off Chancery Lane.
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:
The next document I asked Hull to produce for me was utterly beyond the bounds of possibility, and I ought never to have ordered it. This was a set of German postage stamps showing, instead of the head of Hitler, that of Himmler. From the counterfeiting point of view it was a masterpiece. The Himmler head was engraved in exactly the same style as the head of Hitler on the ordinary German postage stamps. Which was not at all surprising. For Hull had been producing scores of thousands of Hitler postage stamps over the past three years. We used them for our posting jobs in the Reich because our agents quite understandably felt it beneath their dignity to subsidize the German war effort with even the price of a postage stamp.
Unlike the stamp itself, however, the story that went with it was entirely unconvincing. Philatelist Himmler, it said, eager in his vanity to taste in advance the pleasures of Fuhrerdom, had secretly ordered these stamps to be made in readiness for the day of his accession. He loved looking at them. But owing to the mistake of a subordinate official a few sheets had been prematurely issued to the Post Office and the public and despite the frantic efforts of trusted Gestapo and SD agents to hunt them down and retrieve them, quite a few were still in circulation.
My friends of the underground went into operation with considerable enthusiasm for this silly Delmer stunt and posted letters and newspapers bearing the Himmler stamp in letterboxes all over Germany. S.O.E. agents delivered German newspapers with wrappers bearing the stamps with counterfeited cancellation marks to subscribers in Sweden and Switzerland who we knew were regular recipients of German newspapers. But no one noticed the Himmler stamps. Not even when in my gloom at the lack of an echo to the operation I asked that the newspaper wrappers with the Himmler stamps should be delivered to known philatelists. The trouble was that Hull's counterfeit was far too excellent, the Himmler stamp much too similar to the Hitler stamp, and the public-including the philatelists-far too unobservant. Finally, in sheer despair, my friends in S.O.E. sold some wrappers to stamp dealers in Stockholm and Zurich, and that way, the story of the Heinrich Himmler stamp did at last percolate into the neutral press. But as an operation that stamp campaign had most sadly and badly misfired.
Not, however, for the stamp dealers. A set of these Himmler stamps commands a high price in philatelistic auction rooms today. I wish I had some.
It is interesting to note that although Delmer was an excellent spy-master, he wasn't much of a philatelist. He says that the parody was "a set," when it fact it was a single stamp, later reprinted to improve the image. He also says that they are identical to the Hitler stamps and yet the pose is quite different with Himmler in full-face rather than in profile. We find this over and over in wartime biographies, when individuals try to discuss stamps and actually know very little about them.
Delmer acknowledges that the propaganda effort was 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!
Allen Dulles to Washington D.C.:
As to the Himmler stamp, I do not know whether there are any copies available. Far as I know, only one turned up in Switzerland…It may have been a black propaganda stunt by one of our allies or it may have been a slip by Himmler or some of his friends of which they quickly refuted.
On 10 June 1944 Berne reported to Washington D.C:
The Himmler stamp 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 it might be nice to honor Himmler this way…In any event, the mystery of the stamp has not been cleared up.
Speaking of the Americans, we now know that General Donovan of the OSS sent American President Roosevelt at least one Himmler parody with a Stuttgart cancellation. He sent the stamp to Roosevelt on September 29, 1944.
A "thank you" note from Roosevelt says:
October 5, 1944
Ever so many thanks for the Himmler and Hitler stamps. I had heard that there was such a stamp as the Himmler one and it will be an interesting addition to my collection.
My best to you,
Very sincerely yours,
What is interesting is that as we have just shown, the Himmler parody was produced by Armin Hull for the British Political Warfare Executive starting in December 1942. One wonders if Donovan took credit for this stamp as an American product, or did he tell the President that it was made by the British years before.
Fredric Boyce says in SOE's Ultimate Deception: Operation Periwig, Sutton Printing, UK, 2005, that the Himmler stamp was produced as part of the black Operation Periwig campaign to convince the German people that there were anti-Nazi resistance movements within the Third Reich. However, since we know that the Himmler stamp operation started in April 1943, and the deception campaign started about November 1944, it would appear that the author is incorrect.
Charles Cruickshank mentions the Himmler stamp and other forged documents in The Fourth Arm: Psychological Warfare 1938 - 1945, Davis-Poynter, London, 1977:
Black leaflets included a whole range of ingenious forgeries: posters purporting to be of German origin; currency notes; clothing coupons; ration cards; postage stamps, usually imitations of the real thing, but including one issue with Himmler's head to support the rumor that he was angling to become Fuehrer; official notices headed "Heil Himmler!" for the same purpose...
The Rumor Campaign
Of course, the British did everything they could to make this rumor appear to be genuine. In an attempt to raise the morale of occupied Europe and lower the morale of the German military, civilians and their allies, the secret British "Underground Propaganda Committee" produced well over 8,000 thousand rumors, (they called them "Sibs" from the Latin sibalare - to hiss). Researcher Lee Richards mentions the whisper campaign and many of these rumors in his book Whispers of War, Psywar.org, 2010. In regard to British propaganda rumors about Himmler wanting to replace Hitler he lists several moral-destroying rumors. I have selected a few of the more interesting ones:
20 August 1943 - Take the line that Himmler is trying to negotiate with the generals in order to succeed Hitler... The generals want to make peace with Britain and the U.S.; Himmler wants to make peace with the USSR, renaming himself Gauleiter of Soviet Germany.
27 August 1943 - Himmler has established himself in so strong a position that Hitler had to accept his explanation about the Himmler stamp which was prematurely released...
17 September 1943 - Continue to push the line that Himmler is trying to make peace with Russia...
1 December 1944 - An attempt was made to assassinate Hitler. Himmler organized it. Himmler is preparing to canonize Hitler and prepare the way for a new leader - himself.
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.
Researcher Lee Richards reports that in an attempt to ascertain the effects of its clandestine psychological warfare, the British Political Warfare Executive routinely monitored neutral and enemy media looking for comment and reaction to its radio broadcasts, underground rumor-mongering and leaflets. The comments of enemy prisoners of war, captured documents and other intelligence sources were also studied. Any comebacks to PWE propaganda campaigns were circulated to interested parties through Evidence of Reception reports. The following reports mention the Himmler parody:
August 1943: The stamp bearing the head of Himmler has now been referred to in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which carries a reproduction of it in its issue of 28 July 1943 with the comment that it is very unusual for a politician's head to be used on a stamp during this lifetime when he is not the leader of the country.
November 1943: A paragraph in Stanley Gibbons Stamp Monthly (October 1943) refers to a Lisbon report that Himmler had ordered the arrest of the director of the department responsible for printing German postage stamps. Himmler had ordered the preparation of stamps bearing his effigy but they were printed too soon, and some of them leaked out. Himmler therefore vented his wrath on the printing department. The paragraph continues by pouring ridicule on the whole story on the grounds that the preparation of a stamp involves dozens of people, and in a spy-ridden country like Germany the news of such work would be bound to leak out. A similar story was sent by a journalist in Lisbon to the Editor of the North American Alliance on 14th September.
December 1943: The Himmler postage stamp has had considerable publicity this month. It arose from the arrival in Switzerland of a letter franked with this stamp and postmarked "Stuttgart - 23 September 1943." An article appeared on it in the National Zeitung, Basle (22 December 1943) and also in the Berner Briefmarken Zeitung. The Daily Telegraph (1 January 1944) under a Zurich dateline reports that the German radio had announced that a batch of these stamps, not yet in circulation, had been stolen from the Stuttgart GPO. Swiss philatelists were said to have paid as much as £35 for a copy.
February 1944: The Himmler stamp continues to be a subject of discussion in the Swiss press. The Berner Briefmarken Zeitung has further correspondence about it and declares that an official notice from the Reichspostminister has denied the authenticity of the stamp. The Journal de Geneve (28 January 1944) connects Himmler's possible wish to liquidate Hitler...The Daily Mirror (29 February) gives a long story about the stamp under a Lisbon dateline, and winds up by saying that it is estimated that a couple of the stamps in good condition would fetch $5,000 in America.
March 1944: The Himmler stamp continues to provide news and the Evening Standard (11 April) claims to have unearthed the "facts." It is a normal issue of the German Post Office, and forms one of a series of four, designed to commemorate Hitler's tenth anniversary, the other three bearing portraits of Hitler, Goebbels and Ley.
April 1944: The Himmler stamp continues to be talked about. The Swiss paper Journal D'yverdon (3 February 1944) tells the usual story about it, and adds that it caused the disgrace of Himmler and the coming into power of Martin Bormann. It is also mentioned in the Weekly Illustrated of India (26 March) which says it is puzzling British Intelligence Officers.
We mention the envelope addressed to Dagens Nyheter above. I have more data on that cover from a 1978 letter from the individual that opened the envelope. He said:
“My own Himmler stamps arrived on a brown envelope. The envelope contained a number of stenciled pages containing information on the situation in Germany… Unfortunately, I cut the stamp off the envelope on arriving home… The franking was very poor, and consisted of a few undecipherable lines…. ”
It is interesting to note that the British production of these Himmler parodies apparently led directly to the Germans producing propaganda parodies of British stamps. Adolf Burger, one of the Jewish counterfeiters held by the Germans in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp says in the Devil's Workshop: a Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation, Frontline Books, 2009:
In the middle of 1943 stamps turned up in the Ruhrgebiet that were purple imitations of the real 6-pfennig Hitler stamp. However, they did not bear the image of the Fuhrer, but that of Heinrich Himmler. The Gestapo discovered the stamps and handed them over to headquarters in Berlin, together with a counter-intelligence report which stated that the stamps had been found after an attack by British planes.
As usual we (the counterfeiters) were shown the Himmler stamps as a model. Anyone who thought that Himmler would be delighted to see himself unexpectedly on a stamp was mistaken. On the contrary, he was indignant and felt that he and the National Socialist state were being mocked, and started looking for revenge. He knew exactly how it was to be carried out. He intended to strike back using the same weapon as was used against him, namely stamps.
For more on this propaganda campaign see "Operation Watermark" below, in the German section of this article.
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. In the past, the parodies sold for about $100-150 each. In October 2009, a lot bearing the two types of Himmler parodies sold for $1300 at auction.
A less-classic British PWE parody of Himmler depicts him shackling a civilian. This parody of the German 9 November 1944 red Hitler Putsch stamp shows Himmler leading a manacled civilian man, who represents Germany in the chains of Fascism. The stamps were printed offset in sheets of 20 stamps (5x4). They are known both perforated and imperforate, although the latter are quite rare. Postwar forgeries exist. The parody was probably produced in December 1944. I first wrote about this parody in "A philatelic view of Heinrich Himmler," The American Philatelist, February 1970.
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 image used on the Frank parody is found on several Allied propaganda leaflets.
This one is entitled "Announcement." It is gummed so that it can be stuck on a wall or a lamp pole. Some of the text is:
It is our intention to administer a just and effective punishment to the leaders for the organized murder of thousands of innocent people and for the cruelties which violated all principals of Christian faith.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
President of the United States.
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 $5,250 in an auction of summer 2000.
When I first wrote my article on this parody we knew of about a half-dozen covers. We now know of more than 30.
Many of the covers contained this black propaganda message. It is entitled "Germans of the Reich." It pretends to be written by a group of Germans living in occupied Poland. It berates the Nazi Party for the "wild, thoughtless and indeed stupid methods" used against the Poles which have just made them more fanatical in their hatred toward Germany. Some of the extremely long text on both sides of the leaflet is:
At this time when everything is at risk and the Russian Bolsheviks infiltrate the hinterland of the front with saboteurs and gangs it is a purely irresponsible action on the part of the High Police Director to have entire villages in the district of Zamsoc forcefully relocated... It is easy to explain and understand why resistance occurred. Prepared for the worst, the angry farmers turned to resistance. Police measures taken during this campaign caused 2000 innocent humans to lose their lives... This is the fruit of unpardonable and foolish PARTY POLITICS... To those of us Volksdeutsche who have lived peacefully and untroubled among the Poles for decades, these measures are so alienating that they provoke only true terror at the thought of this degeneration of German culture...
British Political Warfare Executive Leaflet G.49 uses the same portrait of Hans Frank in a wanted poster. The Royal Air Force airdropped it over the enemy for two consecutive nights starting 9 August 1943. The leaflet is printed in black and red and the "G" in the code indicates it targeted German military and civilians. The folded leaflet opens up on one side to show German troops supervising the digging of mass graves for murdered Polish civilians with the caption:
After a Mass Execution in the Lublin District
Some of the text is:
Will the war criminals ever admit that the war is lost?
No, never. As long as they can find anyone stupid enough to die for them they will exploit this. They will never capitulate. Who in their position would do so? They will stop at nothing in order to make others die for them to the last possible moment, in order to prolong their own lives. For this they will be prepared to go to any lengths. They will lie as long as lies are effective. When lies no longer help them they will use brute force. For they have, according to Goebbels' own words "destroyed all their bridges behind them".
The war criminals are the war prolongers.
The other side of the leaflet is entitled:
For them war means life, peace means death
The leaflet depicts six documents with photographs of high Nazi officials charged with war crimes. They are Geppert, Alvensieben, Zörner, Fischer, Wächter and Frank. Beneath the Frank document is the caption:
Wanted for murder. The number of victims is not completely established; but probably more than one million. He is co-responsible for the mass murder of Jews in special extermination camps in Belzec and Treblinka. He is solely responsible among other things for the murder of 430 Poles in Iza, 23 in the district of Grojec (March 1943), 94 in Warsaw, 180 in the district of Miechow, 4 in the district of Milec, and 60 in the district of Sandomierz (May 1943).
A similar leaflet is coded G.70 with the title "The Accounts are being Kept." It was airdropped by the R.A.F. from 22 September 1943 to 18 October 1943. This second leaflet was black and white and depicted just five wanted criminals instead of the six of G.49. They are Geppert, Zörner, Fischer, Alvensieben, and Frank. The caption beneath the Frank photograph is the same as G.49 above.
True to their word, the Allies executed Hans Frank by hanging after the end of WWII. This is his official photograph, released by the U.S. Government. Howard K. Smith wrote that:
He was the only one of the condemned to enter the chamber with a smile on his countenance. Although nervous and swallowing frequently, this man, who claimed to have returned to his childhood Catholic faith after his arrest, gave the appearance of being relieved at the prospect of atoning for his evil deeds. In October 2009, a single copy of the Hans Frank stamp with margins on two sides sold for $1,000 at auction.
There is an entire field of collecting that we call "Secret Posts." These are various secret addresses that were used during WWII to get mail to and from agencies in the Axis and Allied camps. They allowed people on different sides to correspond and conduct business. There are literally hundreds of such addressed, some to low value civilian organizations, and some to extremely important military agencies. The 22 February 1944 card above was mailed from German-occupied Warsaw, Poland, to Rus Alexandre Herculano 41 in Lisbon, Portugal. Since Lisbon was a hotbed of intrigue as a neutral country on the Continent, there are over 50 such addresses in that nation alone. This particular card would have been picked up and forwarded to the Polish Red Cross in London. This is a very important field and deserves an article of its own. We just show one card to whet the appetite of the reader.
I first wrote about this forgery in "Allied forgeries of the postage stamps of Nazi Germany," The American Philatelist, February 1971. The British forged the 1934 German 12 pfennig carmine Hindenburg medallion stamp to mail propaganda tracts to Germany. The forgery is printed by typography on unwatermarked paper in sheets of 4 (2x2), and possibly in sheets of 15 (3x5) or 20 (4x5). They were perforated 14 x 14 1/4 comb, very close to the genuine. The forgery is excellent, but may quickly be distinguished from the genuine since the unshaded area of the throat is wider in the forgery, and the forgery shows a red border around the head (particularly the face) that is absent in the genuine.
A declassified memorandum found in the British Public Records Office by Lee Richards may cast light on this item. The text reads:
4 April 1941 - 10 April 1941 / German Stamps. We have sent D/H Section [SOE Balkans & Middle East Section] 5,000 12 pf. stamps, including a few genuine ones, for the purposes of posting letters in Germany, for use of the Middle East.
This must refer to the Hindenburg forgery, as there is no other known British forgery of a 12 pfennig stamp. The SOE may have inherited the stamp forgery project from an earlier propaganda unit such as Section D under Major Lawrence Grand. Another probable reference to the Hindenburg forgery is in Charles Cruickshank's SOE in Scandinavia. Cruickshank reports the use of forged German stamps by what must have been Section D in Stockholm, and that section existed only from 1938 to July 1940. He also mentions a courier taking 10,000 envelopes with forged stamps into the Third Reich each week.
The Hindenburg forgery appears on envelopes containing propaganda messages. The propaganda messages are a series of numbered and dated pamphlets entitled "Tatsachen / Informationsblatt für Deutsche" ("Factual Information Sheet for Germans"). The German-language propaganda messages in the envelopes include the following subtitles: "German mothers: What will become of our children?"; "To Germany's thirty million Catholics"; and "German youth are on the march... but where?" The known titles of the propaganda fit well with the main propaganda themes used by Section D: attacking the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact, attacking the anti-Christian policies of the Nazis, propaganda aimed specifically at German women, and propaganda to cause division between Germany and Austria. Several envelopes containing propaganda and bearing uncanceled stamps exist. A single canceled example appeared in 1998 from Brachelen dated 26.4.41.
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.
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.
We mentioned earlier that spies seldom get it right when they talk about stamps. Ewan Butler was in charge of the German Section of the British Special Operations Executive in Stockholm, Sweden. In regard to the Witzleben parody, like Delmer, he calls the single stamp a set:
London provided us with another set of forged stamps. These bore the head of Field Marshall von Witzleben, who had headed the military element of 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 on November 1923...
A full sheet of 20 British parodies of the German Witzleben stamp was sold in June 2013 for 5,000 Euros ($6725 US) and another was offered in December 2013 for 9500 Euros ($12,835 US).
THE WINTER RELIEF PARODY STAMPS
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.
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. The stamps are not exceedingly rare but the complete booklets are. Several have been sold over the years. In 1987 a complete booklet was sold for $2,000. In 2013, another such booklet sold for $4,700.
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. An envelope exists dated 13 September 1943 that bears two of the parody stamps (heavily cancelled "O.K.I. 689" by a German administrative department) and a Belgian stamp addressed to "Headquarters in Nivelles." Philatelic specialists believe that this envelope was prepared by the Belgian Underground. Between 1941 and 1943, over a hundred British PWE and SOE agents were sent to Belgium, so bringing the parody stamps in would be no problem.
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.
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.
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.
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 1½ cent slate "seagull" stamp was produced in sheets of 20 (5x4). This was the standard pattern for the forgeries produced by Waterlow and Sons printers for the British Intelligence service, and thus the stamps are often called British products. 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 1½ 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 1½ cent 'Lebeau'", is translated in The Cinderella Philatelist, October 1986, page 78, speculates that the British assumed that the 1½ cent would also be reissued in the new design, and mistakenly adopted the new design.
I should add that the Dutch Government in Exile worked with the PWE and SOE in Great Britain and Abraham Elzas, the owner of one strip of the Seagull forgeries stated in 1974 that “These stamps were printed in England during the war by the Dutch Government in Exile and were handed to parachutists who were dropped over occupied Holland.” I have found no mention of this stamp being printed by the British, but that is not definitive since there are many black items printed by the British that were given no specific job number. On the other hand, A Dutch specialist told me in 1970 that a large group of about 240 copies of the forgery were sold by a former officer of British Intelligence who had been ordered to destroy them at the end of the war. I know that such an order was given because I spoke to Ellic Howe years after the war when he visited me and asked to photograph my collection because the government had destroyed all of his productions under the Official Secrets Act at War’s end.
There were also a number of British forgeries of French stamps in the lot which does indicate a British hand in the project. A dealer by the name of Trager originally purchased the entire lot. A Dutch dealer named Manuskowski then purchased about 220 of the forgeries. The Dutch forgeries were all in vertical strips of four which indicate 12 broken sheets. No full sheets exist as far as we know. One alleged franked postcard was in the lot and sold to a South African collector. Some envelopes are known but considered post-war fakes.
The Dutch Speciale Catalogus 2016 says that this forgery was fabricated during WWII by order of the British Ministry of War at Waterlow and Sons Ltd. Printers in London. I have no idea where they got that information though it is probably true. I have not seen that printed in any wartime documents. German specialist Wolfgang Baldus commented that the forged stamps could have been used by a parachutist to send a postcard to a contact stating that he had arrived safely since they were legal on postcards bearing no more than five words. Another theory is that printed propaganda was sent in envelopes inside the Netherlands franked by the forged stamp. The British forgery of the German Hindenburg stamp was routinely used for that purpose.
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.
There is a private patriotic overprint Houdt Goeden Moed ("Have Good Courage") on two values of the Netherlands Queen Wilhelmina issue of 1940. The stamps are known in various arrangements of canceled and uncanceled, on and off cover, and on cover with or without address. They were produced by Mr. Pieter Jacob van den Ban, a Schiedam stamp dealer, using his remnants of two values of the still-valid Wilhelmina issue. To lessen the likelihood of casual detection, the overprints are applied with a light shade of the basic color of the stamp. I illustrated and discussed these stamps in "Those Doughty Dutch Decoys," The American Philatelist, October 1970. According to published data, 90 copies of the 5 cents dark green stamp with light green overprint and 45 copies of the 12 1/2 cent dark blue stamp with light blue overprint were produced. About ten copies of each stamp on cover are known.
These stamps fall into a gray area. They were privately produced and that makes them suspect, but apparently van den Ban was a member of the Dutch Underground and as far as is known he never sold a stamp for profit. The copies on the market turned up after the war when his belongings were sold to pay his taxes. As a result, although made by a private individual. They probably can be considered legitimate propaganda parodies.
Allegedly, the Dutch used the phrase "houdt goeden moed" as a test to detect German agents, since the Dutch "g" in "goeden" is pronounced with a harsh glottal "h" that was difficult for Germans to voice.
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.
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 Germans were aware of the propaganda postcards and forged stamps. The Sonderausgabe zum Deutschen Kriminalpolizeiblatt (Special Edition of the German Criminal Police Magazine), dated 2 May 1944, number 4868 says:
Lately Anglo-American bombers have spread large amounts of propaganda postcards with forged 3 Reichspfennig post stamps.
Description of the forgery: The printed section is just a little bit smaller than the original. The paper of the forgery is a little bit more yellow. In UV-light the genuine post stamps light blue, where as the forgeries light yellow. The original post stamp has sharper edges printed. The letters of the forgery are also of a less sharp printing. The hairs, eyes, nose chin and moustache are different. It has to be reported when these items are distributed or collected. No public warning should be done.
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 an 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.
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.
The British PWE produced two propaganda booklets depicting 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.” It seems likely that these similar yet complementary booklets were intended to be dropped together, so as to provide the Italian recipients with an ironic comparison between the formal alliance of the two leaders and the actual effect on the people of the country. I first wrote about these items in the German Postal Specialist, April 1977.
The 50 centesimi violet stamp is depicted on the booklet entitled Ecco I Vostri Alleati. (“Here are your allies”) showing Hitler and Mussolini smiling and talking in an open car. Code I.44.
The 1.25 lira blue stamp is depicted on booklet entitled Ecco I Nostri Nemici (“Here are our enemies”), showing Hitler and Mussolini smiling and talking in an open car. Code I.52.
During WWII Verona was a hotbed of Axis propaganda. Many of the German and Italian PSYOP items were printed there. Apparently, after the fall of the Fascist government in Italy the Allies used the same printing plant.
This U.S. Army propaganda postcard depicts a caricature of Benito Mussolini in an open car with Claretta Petacci (Bibi), his 33-year-old mistress. Text on the front in English, Italian and French is "Bibi's Escape." A suitcase in the open truck is labeled "Shining gold."
Il Duce was denounced at a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council on 25 July 1943 and jailed, but rescued on the order of Adolf Hitler and returned to Northern Italy where he ruled a Republican Fascist state. On 28 April 1945, Mussolini, along with his mistress was caught by Communist partisans as he tried to escape to Switzerland. He and Claretta were summarily executed without judicial procedure and hung from lamp poles. Hitler was so shocked by the brutality of the execution and public humiliation that he ordered his staff to burn his body after his suicide. The back of the postcard bears the text: "Authorized 8-6-45 Psychological Warfare Branch - Press Office - Verona - Reproduction prohibited."
I often add items other than purely philatelic pieces to my propaganda collection, especially if they are in the form of postcards or air letters. This very interesting piece was produced by the Germans and is in the form of a postcard to be used by prisoners to notify their family of their fate. I first wrote about and illustrated this item in "Postcards to the enemy," S.P.A. Journal, July 1971. The German postcard inscribed "Siegfried Frontline-Service," was delivered by rifle grenade to British and American troops at the Siegfried Line about July 1944. One side has space for addressee and sender, and has a small winged shell containing the text "By rifle-grenade mail" in the lower left corner. The other side has a space for a 15-word message, and instructions for use. The card is code numbered SW-31 and printed in bright red, white, and black. The postcard-leaflet was produced by the German propaganda agency Skorpion West.
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
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.
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 German Army occupied the Channel Islands on 1 July 1940. During the occupation, the letters "AAAA" and "AABB" were placed in the corners of the Jersey low value postage stamps. The letters AAAA appear in the four corners of the Jersey 1941‑42 1-pence red postage stamp and are alleged to represent the phrase Ad Avernum, Adolphe Atrox ("Go to hell, cruel Adolf"). The letters AABB are alleged to represent the phrase "Adolphe Atrox, Bloody Benito." The "A" appears in the two top corners, the "B" in the two bottom corners of the Jersey 1941-1942 1/2-pence green postage stamp.
This story sounds like absolute nonsense and I really do not want to believe it, but the British designer and engraver of the stamps, Colonel (then Major) N.V.L. Rybot, stated in a letter that he included the secret letters in an effort to lift the spirits of those few patriots who were in on the plot:
I did not produce the stamps to support the enemy. The commission gave me the opportunity to play a trick on them. I inserted tiny "A"s in the corner meaning "Ad Avernum, Adolphe Atrox," that is "Go to Hell, Cruel Adolf" in Latin. When I engraved the 1/2d stamp I inserted "A...A" and "B...B" in the corner dots, meaning "Adolphe Atrox" and "Bloody Benito."
I had always heard that the letters "AA" meant "Atrocious Adolf," but I think we must use the meaning that Rybot intended. Wolfgang Baldus points out that the letters are so small and often so blurred that they cannot be propaganda because without a magnifying glass they can hardly be seen. He thinks that propaganda that is undetectable is senseless. He concludes:
Rybot's subversive act was just for his own satisfaction. The stamps are just a curiosity.
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 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."
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.
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.
This is not strictly propaganda; its ostensible purpose was to aid in the conduct of business during the liberation of France. However, it is so closely tied with the FFI's forgeries and propaganda parodies that I include it here. I first wrote about this item in an article entitled "Parodies of WWII French stamps," Linn's Weekly Stamp News, 11 April 1966.
The "stamp" is a blue label with DeGaulle full-face and the inscriptions "Poste Speciale / F.F.I // M.L.N.". M.L.N. stands for Mouvement de Liberation Nationale (National Liberation Movement). It was prepared in Paris and used on covers to transport mail during one week of August 1944 when the normal post was not functioning and the Resistance took control. Many envelopes were prepared as souvenirs at that time and later.
An FFI document exists entitled Explications des adresses portees sur les enveloppes ("Explanation of addresses used on envelopes"), presenting coded addresses for 14 FFI/MLN functions. The document further states that for reasons of security during the period of their clandestine activities, the FFI could not use the real addresses of service units. Some other addresses are; Credit Agricole pour la Region de l'Eure is really the Centre d'Action des Resistances Etrangeres, the Credit Foncier Lyonnais is the Corps Francs de la Liberation, and the Direction Affaires Orientales is the Direction de l'Action Ouvriere.
Just as the Germans were printing and sending propaganda postcards into France, the French were retaliating with their own postcards. The card above depicts a caricature of Hitler making a speech:
Three years! Five years! Eight years!
Below, two children ask:
Please, Mr. Leader, how much longer will your Lighting War last?
These cards were produced before the German occupation of France and were used by the French in airdrops on German civilian areas. I first described this propaganda postcard in "Postcards to the enemy," S.P.A. Journal, July 1971. Three French squadrons dropped 587,500 cards in 10 raids between 23 March and 8 May 1940. The invasion of France began on 10 May 1940. Two varieties of the card exist: a version with black and red printing (with red "Drei", "Funf', "Acht", and "Blitzkrieg"), and a later redrawn British version with black printing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
According to the propaganda philately specialist Dave Ripley, the 1R + 2R image above depicts the most well-known Indian martyrs of the time: Sukhdev Thapar at left, Bhagat Singh as flag bearer and Shivaram Rajguru at right. All were all hanged on 23 March 1931 for violent acts against harsh British rule and their bodies were secretly cremated on the banks of the River Satluj.
My good friend Wolfgang Baldus found five photographs in the German Bundesarchiv by a photographer named Aschenbroich. He photographed the swearing-in of Indian volunteers of the Propaganda-Ersatz-Abteilung Potsdam (“Propaganda Replacement Unit Potsdam”) in 1942. It appears that Axster-Heudtlass used some of these photographs for the stamp.
Buyer beware! We should also note that reproductions of these stamps in India are known. One 2015 auction advertisement offered the above stamp (normally priced at around $100 U.S.) for $12.50 U.S. and said:
Azad Hind Propaganda Postage Stamp on Japanese PSYOP during WWII India:
Azad Hind, 1943, 1r + 2r Soldier with Free India Flag (Michel VII. Singer 8), imperforate copy, composed of green and orange. Reproduced Copy.
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 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. One million stamps of each of the low values were printed. The 1 + 2 rupees high denomination values are much scarcer, thought to be printed in the order shown above: 7,000 copies, 4,500 copies, and 2,000 copies. 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.
The Chalo Delhi Stamps
There is a second set of stamps for the Free Indians; these known as "Chalo Delhi" ("On to Delhi"). I wrote about them in Azad Hind and Chalo Delhi Stamps in 1972, and later sent all of my reference notes to Andrew Freeston who wrote a booklet entitled The Azad Hind and Chalo Delhi Stamps of the Indian Legion and Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose in 1999. A third booklet appeared in 2008 by Richard Warren entitled Chalo Delhi, the Real Story. The search for the real story has been difficult because there was very little known about the stamps and there were two sets, either or both of which might have been fakes.
The story was that the issue was sponsored by the Indian National Army when the Japanese were preparing to attack Imphal. If true, these stamps would have been used when the INA returned to India. The denominations are 1 pice, magenta and 1 anna, green (there is some question because other colors exist). I pointed out back in 1972 that the stamps are extensively forged and very expensive. The stamps have a common design showing a corner of the Red Fort in Delhi. I also quoted W. H. Adgey-Edgar who said "Unfortunately the two original plates are in the possession of a dealer in Calcutta who has been producing colored prints of them for his friends." This is not the only alleged printing plate that survived the war. Flight Lieutenant Tom Broomhead also was known to have a plate which he said was used to print the stamps.
Two versions of the "Chalo Delhi" stamps exist; one inscribed "PROVISIONAL GOVT. OF FREE INDIA" and the other "PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF FREE INDIA." Curiously, although no significant proof exists, the "Government" printing is usually considered genuine while the "Govt." printing is called a forgery. Yet, it appears that the earliest reports of these stamps always mention the "Govt." issue. That would lead most researchers to believe that it is probably the original genuine issue. I have no idea. I just want the reader to know that these propaganda stamps were probably prepared for the return of the Indian National Army to its homeland, perhaps in two types, perhaps in two colors, but after that everything seems to be a mystery.
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.
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.
Adolf Burger tells us more of this plot in The Devil's Workshop:
The stamp printing was finished. It was the summer of 1944...We (The counterfeiters) could not understand why the Nazis wanted to use the stamps, so we asked one of the SS men: "It is quite simple; to arouse hostility towards Jews and Russians."
The secret service published various articles in the occupied countries in which they blamed others for the forgeries; this was a characteristic Goebbels ploy.
Burger depicts some fake correspondence which appears to come from the Special Stamp Distributing Center in Stockholm dated 15 September 1944 and says in part:
We are in a position to offer you a special issue of stamps, which you may consider useful and may present a business opportunity. On the day of invasion in the West special commemorative stamps were issued to mark the cordial relationship between the Allied forces and the soldiers of the Red Army. The British government has documented the spirit of the alliance with the Soviet Union with this special issue.
Apparently, they either received or pretended to receive at least one order. Another note dated 23 September 1944 says:
We are pleased to confirm your order and enclose the special stamps herewith. We would be grateful for recommendations to assist further sales.
The Stockholm Expressen dated 21 September 1944 mentions a police investigation:
Postmaster General Ornes received a card in an anonymous letter containing perfect reproductions of the English penny stamp with the image of King George. The forgery can only be detected by the quality of the paper and the watermark that shows the stamps must have been produced in Sweden.
Clearly, the postmaster bought the story of the stamps coming from Stockholm and even more surprising, he entirely missed all the propaganda symbols on the stamps.
Articles that did identify the stamps as propaganda parodies ran in the French magazine Du Monde Entier and the Czech newspaper Politika of 31 January 1945.
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 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.
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 http://www.gps.nu/jerry/odds02.html.
After the war these parodies were fairly inexpensive. I mention buying them for $1 each below. Some “wise guys” tried to make instant rarities. They would place the Parodies on an envelope next to a Genuine King George stamp and mail it. Often the post office people would miss it and let it go through the mails. In theory, this is a propaganda stamp on a civilian envelope mailed well after the end of the war and should have little value outside of being a conversation piece. Like all propaganda though, a market grows and this cover mailed from Bexleyheath to Braunschweig, West Germany sold in 2016 for 225 Euros.
Moritz Nachtstern talks about forging the stamps in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Counterfeiter - how a Norwegian Jew survived the holocaust, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K., 2008. The counterfeiters talk about their work:
Maybe you counterfeit something else? Certainly! All types of important documents, Russian identification cards and English stamps. Stamp collectors all over the world will fight over those stamps, as we have placed a Star of David on the royal crown and along its sides you will find the hammer and sickle. But you have to use a magnifying glass to see it...
I found this braggadocio amusing because although some of the German items became very expensive as time went by, in the 1950s I would visit the Subway Stamp Shop near Nassau Street in New York City and they would bring out a big brown paper bag full of the definitives, dump them on the counter and let me select those I liked for $1 each.
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. I should point out that all the overprints I show are in black. However, they also exist in red on specific values. In general, the red overprints always appear on every stamp of the same value in a set, in some cases the 1/2, the 2 1/2 or the 3 pence denominations.
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.
The Germans also placed their propaganda parody stamps on souvenir sheets. The two commemorative stamps appear on one sheet, the six definitive stamps on the other, and rarely the six King George VI parodies overprinted "Liquidation of Empire." The sheets bear both English and Russian text and have printed borders for the stamps and the text "Special-Stamp in Memory of the First Day of Invasion." The stamps often bear the "AAA-O" cancel. Some sheets are found without attached stamps and some rare sheets are known to exist without text.
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.
There are also some very colorful and blatantly fake souvenir sheets. They are so interesting that I show two here.
During WWII the British used the "V for Victory" sign on a regular basis, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was often photographed with his fingers making a "V," and the BBC propaganda broadcasts opened with the first four bars of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 — three short Gs followed by a long E-flat, which in Morse Code could be construed as the letter "V."
The Germans counterattacked. They claimed that all those V symbols that were appearing in the occupied counties of Europe were actually pro-Nazi symbols that mean "Viktoria," or victory. It is doubtful that anyone believed the propaganda, but it was a nice attempt at turning a very effective British campaign into one that seemed to support the German occupation.
As part of this operation, a "Viktoria" propaganda label was prepared in 1941 for use in Norway by the German Ministry of Propaganda. The label, red with a large black "V", was used on letters by Germans and their sympathizers in Norway. It is an attractive piece and was very popular among collectors shortly after the war.
In 1942, Lieutenant General Andrei Vlassov surrendered his entire command to the German Army and began forming a "Great Russian Army" to fight on the side of Germany against the Communists. He called for desertions from the Soviet armies with considerable success. His hope was to establish an autonomous republic in the Ukraine or Byelorussia for non-Russian peoples. Hitler showed little interest in the Vlassov Army at first, but after Stalingrad, with the surrender of General Paulus's German 6th Army in February 1943, Hitler renewed his interest in the project. The original force was named Russkaia Osvoditelnaia Armiia, (Russian Liberation Army). The Vlassov Army stamps are mundane in appearance, and perhaps were designed to give the impression of peace and normalcy. Five stamps were prepared for Vlassov's Liberation Army during the Soviet Russian campaign in 1943. They were produced by the Lindacker printing plant in the Ruhr area, under order No. 412 of 12 July 1943, authorized by Propaganda Abteilung (Propaganda Section) "W." They were allegedly delivered in September 1943. It is reported that 16,300 sets of the stamps were printed, but most were destroyed. The 10 rubles value is extremely scarce. Canceled labels from the town of Sloboda in the Ukraine are known, but there is no reliable record of actual usage of these stamps. The stamps in the set are:
50 kopecks green, depicting workers building a log house.
1 ruble red-brown, depicting a farmer plowing a field with a horse.
2 rubles black-blue, depicting a rural scene in winter.
4 rubles violet, depicting a medieval city with walls and battlements.
10 rubles dark brown, depicting an aerial view of a town or barracks.
The German propaganda services produced a number of very interesting propaganda postcards. One series targeted the Arab nations of North Africa in an attempt to ally them with Germany through their mutual hatred of the Jews or their "enslavement" by the British. I first wrote about and illustrated these cards in "Postcards to the Enemy," SPA Journal, July 1971. There are about seven such cards known. The above card is my personal favorite from this group.
This postcard illustrates Muhammad Amin al Husaini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, with German Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler in Berlin. The postcard is captioned on the right margin:
Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German people, and His Eminence, the honorable Amin al Husaini, the Grand Mufti, at their second meeting in Berlin
The Mufti was a great admirer of the Third Reich. He said in April 1944:
Salaam Aleikum, Children of Allah, Moslems of the world. This is your leader talking to you wherever you may be. This is Amin al Husain calling on you in the name of Allah, beside who there is no God and Mohammed is his messenger, to take up arms in this Jihad holy war against the infidel British who want to subdue all the children of Allah and kill all his soldiers, and against the cunning Jews who desire to rob you of your sanctuaries and rebuild their temple on the ruins of our Mosque of Omar in al-Quds. Children of Allah, this is a holy war for the glory and honor or Allah, the merciful and beneficent. If you die in this war, you will sit in Heaven at the right side of the Prophet. Children of God, I call on you to fight. Heil Hitler.
The Nazis considered the Arabs Untermensch (sub-human), but because they needed him, the Mufti was medically examined and determined to be not an Arab, but a Caucasian. He was appointed a Gruppenführer-SS (Lieutenant General) by Himmler with Hitler's approval and helped raised an SS Division of 30,000 Bosnian Muslims.
Another very rare full-color German propaganda postcard to the Arabs depicts American President Franklin Roosevelt holding a pointer in front of a map that shows an expanded Palestine that encompasses the current Israel, Jordan, Syria, a bit of eastern Iraq and a small piece of northern Saudi Arabia. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill beams and a satisfied Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann smiles. Weizmann had met with Arthur Balfour in 1917, which led to the Balfour Agreement that said in part that the British government "views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." The text on the postcard is:
Roosevelt, Churchill and Chaim Weizmann divide the Arab world for the Jews...
---- The border of the new Jewish kingdom.
The Germans also prepared a set of propaganda postcards for Italy. This set is larger, about two dozen in all; and many are coded with a slashed zero similar to the Scandinavian letter Ø. Four series of postcards were printed by this organization, coded ØI through ØIV.
Many of the German postcards were meant to convince the Italian people that Germany was their close friend and German soldiers were dying for their freedom. The cards also attacked the partisan movement and attacked the Allies with racial slurs and claims that they were looting Italy's treasures. I selected card ØI 109 from the group that depicts Benito Mussolini meeting with Adolf Hitler.
The 6th of June has found them ready!
The Tripartite powers are determined to finish the war against the Bolsheviks in the East and the Jews and Plutocrats in the West to a final victory in order to guarantee all nations a life in a new and just order.
Führer-Duce meeting, April 22/23, 1944
Other cards were coded N.P., PAI, PAJ, or WPr. Readers who want to know more about the cards and their codes should read my article, "German Propaganda Post Cards in Italy During World War II," The American Philatelist, July 1990.
In brief, the German Propaganda Abteilung Italien (Propaganda Department Italy) used the codes "PAI" or "PAJ." It produced three series of propaganda postcards for Italy. Each shows the destruction caused by Allied bombers. The series consist of 26 different postcards that are coded "PAJ 184" to "PAJ 209." The most famous postcard series is probably the Monte Cassino series consisting of ten postcards produced shortly after the allied attack on Monte Cassino Abbey in February 1944.
A second series of ten propaganda postcards is called the Treviso series. They feature photographs of the North Italian town of Treviso attacked by allied aircraft on 7 April and 14 May 1944.
A third series of six propaganda postcards is called the Rimini series. It featured the town of Rimini, which was attacked by allied bombers on 29 January 1944.
Other pro-fascist postcards were printed by the North-Italian pro-German propaganda organization Nucleo Propaganda (N.P.), the official propaganda organization of Mussolini's Repubblica Sociale Italiana. The N.P. was led by the Italian Minister Mazzasoma. Cards coded WPr were produced by the propaganda sections within the German military (Wehrmacht).
Just as they did for North Africa and Italy, the Germans also produced a series of propaganda postcards for use against France in March 1940. I first mentioned these in "Postcards to the enemy - Part II," S.P.A. Journal, November 1975. There are three cards known in this series; one showing a mother and her children, one showing a dead French soldier ("Why, gentlemen, tell me: why?"), and the last one showing a crippled French soldier watching a civilian "slacker" drive by with his girlfriend ("The hero - afterwards"). The Germans printed 100,000 of each card. The text on the above postcard coded 120 is:
Tell me, mother, why is papa dead?
Another interesting German propaganda postcard mailed to America in 1940 is depicted above. There were actually three postcards in this set, all anti-British in nature. Typical envelopes bear a 40-pfennig Hindenburg stamp, which was the correct postage for foreign mail up to 40 grams. The envelopes were shipped by way of the Siberia-Japan mail route to avoid British censorship. The German propaganda described the British government as corrupt and controlled by Jews who had held power for many years. These postcards were meant to convince America to stay out of a Jewish-inspired European war. This is rather ironic considering that Hitler will eventually declare war on the United States.
The cards are printed black on white stock; they show no legends or codes identifying the preparers so they are considered to be "black" propaganda. The first set of postcards was sent in a letter from Germany to "Mr. Fermone Richardson, 246 Summer, Boston Mass., USA" and cancelled 1 March 1940. Besides the postcards it contained a large leaflet entitled "Hitler and his friends" on one side. The other side shows "How Hitler spent Christmas Day" with a drawing labeled "According to the Daily Mail" showing Hitler dining alone next to a photo labeled "in Reality" showing Hitler dining happily with his soldiers in the field. Another postcard set was sent to W.J.C. Cosslebone, 99 Main, Woonsocket, R.I., USA. also dated 1 March 1940. A third set was found in Avon, New York. It is likely that hundreds of such sets were mailed to the United States.
The Ave Belisha card depicted above is a parody of the Gladiator salute with the text:
Hail, Belisha, we who are about to die salute you!
The caricatured Roman nobles in the front row are Winston Churchill at the far left, the Jewish politician Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister for War Affairs giving the "thumbs down" sign, and Foreign Minister Anthony Eden. The British soldiers march into a dark tunnel inscribed "To France and death."
The British later retaliated with a propaganda leaflet with similar vignette showing Hitler sending Italian troops to their doom.
The second postcard that was enclosed in the envelope depicts Neville Chamberlain, dressed as a doorman; standing in the entrance of the House of Commons inscribed "Secret Session." He holds back the public saying:
Chamberlain: "No admittance! All seats reserved for the ruling class and their friends."
The third postcard features a blonde British dancer wearing a British soldier's helmet, posing in front of a mirror. Her dress is inscribed "The Times." The reflection in the mirror is a caricature Jewish female with black hair and big nose. The word "Times" on the blonde girl's dress reads "Semit" in the mirror, with an added small "e," making the word "Semite." The illustration is captioned "War-Times." The message of all the postcards was to blame the ruling British aristocrats and the Jews for the war.
The Germans later produced a full-color leaflet variant of the "War - Times" postcard in the form of a cut up puzzle showing a nude blond girl holding a copy of "The TIMES" facing a mirror. The image in the mirror shows a nude girl with black hair, holding a newspaper entitled "SEMIT eht." The pieces of the leaflet were contained in an envelope entitled "Puzzle" and dropped on French soldiers in the Maginot Line.
It was not only postcards that the German sent in an attempt to propagandize Americans and make them believe that there was justification for the military buildup of the Third Reich. Just as the British were sending propaganda behind German lines, the Germans sent their propaganda to America. This is one of the most famous pre-war propaganda leaflets. It depicts a starving German child. Nazi propaganda insisted that after the end of WWII the British continued a blockade that killed many Germans. This leaflet shows that German children are healthy today and this is only because they are able to defend themselves and are immune to any British blockade.
The letter was mailed from Cologne, Germany, to Hudson, New York State, on November 11, 1939. I wonder if the fact that it was "Veteran's Day" in the United States was significant. It was postmarked January 5, 1940 at some point in the United States and forwarded to Leeds, New York. Notice that no street address was entered on the envelope so it was stamped "Not on Routes" and probably never delivered.
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.
Here we show another example of the Churchill imprinted parody stamp. Note there is something a bit different from the postcard above. The Churchill and Chamberlain images also appear on folded letter sheets. Instead of Feldpostkarte they are entitled Feldpostbrief. They are much rarer than the postcards. As far as we know, there is no Stalin letter sheet.
Here is a German propaganda postcard used in Russia. Since the unofficial imprinted stamp had no value, a regular postage stamp was added.
Because the Germans invaded Russia much later in the war, there are fewer Stalin cards and they are more rare that the first two. The Stalin card was released after Germany attacked Russia on 22 June 1941. The earliest known cancellation on a Stalin card is 22 June 1941.
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. They are quite common and worth only a few dollars as a conversation piece.
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.
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.
This particular German propaganda stamp is hardly ever seen. It was placed on this card on 1940, cancelled and went through the mail. The stamp has the words Feldpost, and what might be translated as: Not only Churchill will cry!
There are three very interesting "double portrait" propaganda postcards prepared by Germany for use against the Poles in the occupied territories that pictured the "Big Three" Allied leaders as caricatures. When turned upside down, a second portrait is seen, that of a caricatured big-nosed Jew. The cards depict the caricatured portraits of Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin. The portraits have Stars of David in the four corners and below the portraits are short paragraphs in the Polish or Russian language. Some of the postcards are franked with the postage stamps of the Polish General Government. I first discussed these in "Postcards to the Enemy - Part II," Society of Philatelic Americans Journal, November 1975.
The Josef Stalin card has text below the portrait:
"Stalin is just a 'puppet of communism," wrote the Jewish weekly. 'The American Hebrew' on June 8, 1938. Turn this card and you will face the true leader of the Soviet Union."
When the card is turned over, additional text says:
"The Jews damage the Soviet Union. They are the ones who determine the destiny of the Soviets." The Jew Cohen in 'The Communist' of April 12, 1919.
There is also a Churchill-Hertz card with text:
This is Churchill, Prime Minister of England. The members of his government are exclusively people of the rich upper class who gained their wealth by brutal exploitation and deception of the simple and working men. Turn the picture and you will see the intimate friend of these people, the de-facto ruler of England.
Rabbi Hertz, London 1926: "The British Isles are the basis for the royal rule of Israel over the world."
The final item is the Roosevelt-Ross card. The text is:
Roosevelt, President of the USA. He is a submissive tool in the hands of world Judaism and surrounds himself almost exclusively with Jews. Turn the picture and you will see the true President of the USA.
"To fill influential posts with Jews, Roosevelt appointed more of them in the administration of his country than any other government in America's history did before." Rabin Louis Ross in the ' Brooklyn Jewish Examiner' of October 20, 1933.
We should mention that the exact same images appear on German 110 x 162mm propaganda posters to the Poles. The posters bear a small safe conduct pass on the back.
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.
About 1950 or so, I bought a perforated and imperforate block of the Spitler from Warner's Stamp Store on Nassau Street, NYC. A young salesman took me aside and whispered that he had something special. He charged me the grand total of $9 for the two sheetlets. In 1967, a perforated single stamp was sold at auction for $40. A cropped imperforate sheetlet sold in 1984 for $380. In 1988, another perforated sheet sold for $575 and a postcard with the "Spitler" tied to 1-cent card with a Berlin, OKLA cancel for $150. In 1998, an imperforate single stamp sold for $67 and an imperforate sheet for $500. In April 2015, a perforated sheet with the Lawrence and Graves imprint sold for 720 Euros (US $800) in a European auction.
Originally I depicted a single image of the perforated Spitler sheetlet in this article, but recently a collector paid 1,500 Euros ($2026 US) for a perforated single copy (Götz auction) and another paid 1,700 Euros ($2,337 US) for an imperforate single stamp (Gartner auction). In 2016 a perforated sheet without the printer’s imprint was auctioned by Schlegel starting at 3000 Euros ($3287 US). Amazing! This is not an official government parody; it was made by civilians for profit. It is actually what we call a “Cinderella.” Since there is that much interest I will add some more photos from my collection.
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 decided that most likely the dealers or their friends had produced a second set of stamps, removing the dealer’s names from the plates and sheets so that in theory they could not be prosecuted for printing them. These stamps really should not be in an article about legitimate propaganda stamps, but they are so well done and so popular that like the Goering and Narvik stamps below I have depicted them all, though we probably should have a different title for those stamps that are not officially condoned by any government.
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 but without their imprint on the sheetlet. During my conversations with Raymond Lawrence in 1965 he told me:
This wretched stamp was conceived, and executed by Mr. Graves and myself during the last war. It cost us quite a bit of money to get it printed and everyone but ourselves have made money out of it. Very shortly after it was printed we received a visit from two charming gentlemen from the Secret Service who demanded instantly the plates, make up, every copy of the stamp we had and a list of everyone to whom we had sold a copy.
Lawrence seems to be saying that the second printing without his imprint was made by outsiders. That could be true, or he could have been spreading some disinformation to assure that the Secret Service would not pay him a second visit.
There are a number of postcards known to exist. I have seen three; one addressed to Hobbs Stamp Company of New York City; one to H.E. Harris Stamp Company of Boston, MA, and one to a Billy Muir of Los Angeles, California. I have read a report of another postcard sent to Denver. All bear a single "Spitler" canceled "Berlin OKLA" on 20 April 1943. The back always bears the same message:
Can this be No. B-170?
Price 10 cents per stamp, plus postage
Miniature sheet of four 35 cents
So a single stamp cost a dime in 1943, and the most recent price for the same thing is $2000+. Who says that fake stamps are not a good investment?
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. The reissue is perforated line 11 3/4. The imprint in the bottom margin is in a silver-gray ink that does not photocopy well.
Like 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. They are sometimes offered to buyers as errors. 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.
Göring was the second-highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg, behind Reich President (former Admiral) Karl Dönitz. Göring was found guilty on all four counts and was sentenced to death by hanging. Göring made an appeal asking to be shot as a soldier instead of hanged as a common criminal, but the court refused. Defying the sentence imposed by his captors, he committed suicide with a potassium cyanide capsule the night before he was to be hanged.
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.
The United States Office of Strategic Services printed a 6 and a 12 pfennig forgery of the German 1941-1944 Hitler-head issue. They are believed to have been produced in both Rome and Bern. The forgeries were used as part of "Operation Cornflakes," an elaborate scheme to airdrop mailbags filled with propaganda near bombed railway mail cars. The United States Office of Strategic Services also printed a "Futsches Reich" Hitler skull parody of the Germany 1941-44 12 pfennig carmine Hitler-head. All three stamps were printed in sheets of 50 (10x5). 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 at http://www.psywarrior.com/Cornflakes2.html. 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 “Infamous” Cassenverein Envelope
The OSS in Rome sent hundreds of covers stamped with the Hitler forgeries behind German lines. Much of the mail bore business return addresses, among the better known “The Prussian State Bank,” “The International Corporation for Transport and Traffic Affairs,” “The New Deutschebank,” “The Credit Reform Company,” and the very important “Wiener Giro - und Cassenverein.”
During the war the Americans believed that none of the fake envelopes had been discovered. They were wrong. The “Cassenverein” cover became famous because it was the first of the OSS items to be identified as a forgery by the German postal authorities. At the conclusion of the 16 March 1945 raid on the train near St. Poelten, German security police found the OSS mailbags. The bags were opened and mail addressed to citizens in the Cologne area was discovered. As the mail was about to be forwarded, a sharp-eyed postal clerk noticed that the return address on the envelopes was “Wiener Giro-und Cassenverein.” The correct spelling of the final word should have read “Kassenverein.” For the want of a “K” the game was lost. The Nazis became suspicious, the envelopes were opened and the propaganda placed inside was discovered.
There is an interesting variant of the OSS Hitler skull stamp that was produced by U.S. agents in Berne. The 45-pfennig propaganda variant depicts Hitler more crude, skull-like and horrific than the regular OSS parody stamp, and the "45" denomination probably indicates the year 1945. The text on the stamp is Futsches Reich. There is what appears to be a hand-written propaganda message in German just below the stamp that says:
New for philatelists!
45 - Third Reich with plate flaws
The German is oddly written so was probably penned by an American. Specialist Wolfgang Baldus thinks that the OSS might have planned to make people believe that German stamp dealers were offering the "45" stamp. To make it look like a real stamp they drew the perforation and added a black area around the perforation. The German inscription was added to give the impression that the stamp was offered by German dealers.
Specialist Lee Richards saw a copy of the above variant in the OWI collection in the Hoover Institution Archive. Researcher Wolfgang Baldus also found a copy during his research. It is important to point out that although this appears to be a stamp stuck on a piece of paper (what a philatelist calls a "cut square" when one wants to save a stamp and cuts it from an envelope), the stamp is actually printed on the gummed sticker as is the text. Although it was made to look like a stamp glued to paper, it is simply an image of a stamp printed on paper. The overall size of the label is 7 cm x 9 cm. The stamp printed on the label is 6 cm x 7.5 cm. The stamp appears to be about twice the size of the normal Hitler-head, and this was probably done to make reading the text easier.
A black and white image of a similar 45-pfennig Hitler parody was depicted in the January 1945 United States 12th Army Group propaganda newspaper Frontpost. The Twelfth United States Army Group European Theater of Operations history book entitled Publicity and Psychological Warfare 1943-1945 says about this newspaper:
The Frontpost was made up and written like a newspaper, not a leaflet. It contained news, a map of the western front, features, a news picture, a column, a bit of German sport news, a riddle — but no propaganda harangues, no editorializing, no overt preaching. The first issue also contained a feature which continued in every subsequent copy and later was transferred with success to the radio: a column called "Der Yankee Spricht" — "The Yankee Speaks."
An illustration of a Hitler skull stamp almost identical to the OSS variant above, but labeled Deutsches Reich appears on page 4 of the propaganda newspaper. The caption of the illustration is:
This draft of a new German postage stamp for 1945 was drawn by a German prisoner of war.
Werner Bohne says in his May 1996 GPS Reference Manual of Forgeries that the above variant is a postwar fraud privately produced after the war. I believe Werner made this assumption after reading an offer by an American philatelic dealer who offered the above red stamp with the comment:
The stamp must exist but a copy has never been found.
Wolfgang Baldus believes that the red Futsches Reich variety was done first because the lines of the drawing are much finer. When he placed one "stamp" over the other the perforations matched exactly so he believes that the black and white Deutsches Reich variety was simply redrawn with the new words and the image retouched with thicker lines to make it stand out in the coarser newspaper printing.
Two such labels with the image of the 45-pfennig stamp have been found with the block-stamp code "242." The OSS filed all of their Berne productions with large block numbers in either blue or black ink. This indicates that it was filed in the OSS archives and although the American dealer did not realize it, he probably had a very rare and valuable propaganda parody in his stock.
On 5 April 1937, Germany issued a souvenir sheet in honor of the 48th birthday of Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler. In the center were four identical dark green 6-pfennig stamps showing the face of the German leader. An inscription at the bottom of the sheet read WER EIN VOLK RETTEN WILL KANN NUR HEROISCH DENKEN ("He who wants to save his people must think heroically").
The OSS produced a propaganda parody of this sheet meant to attack and ridicule Hitler and the Nazi Party. Hitler is shown in full face over a field of 13 burial crosses. The 6-pfennig denomination has been replaced by a gallows at the top of the columns at the upper right and left of the stamps. There has been a slight addition to the text at the bottom of the stamp. Deutsches Reich ("German Empire") has been changed to Deutsches Reich 1944. The Berne file number for this parody was 192.
I first wrote about the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) parody of the Hitler 48th birthday sheet in the German Postal Specialist of August 1989 in an article entitled "The Infamous OSS Hitler Skull Sheet." I published all the data that was currently known about the rarest and valuable of the wartime philatelic propaganda stamps. I wrote a second article entitled "The Hitler Sheet - Revisited," in the March-April 2002 German Postal Specialist. I am currently aware of 16 genuine red sheets, and one or two more seem to turn up every few years.
In 2008, researcher Lee Richards learned that a collection of OSS propaganda originally belonging to Gerald Mayer of the OWI who worked hand-in-hand with Allen Dulles of the OSS had been donated to the University of California, Berkeley. The collection was studied by author William Warren Wertz Jr., who in 1949 published a dissertation about the theory of propaganda analysis, entitled: Clandestine propaganda from Berne (1942-1945): United States leaflets subverting Hitler. The book illustrated and identified a good part of the Mayer collection. Just one copy of the dissertation exists in the Berkeley library. There is an illustration of a Hitler sheet with the official OSS hand-stamped file number "192" on page 121 of this dissertation. No text accompanies the illustration, just the image of the genuine German sheet and the OSS parody. The poor photograph is in black and white and it is impossible to tell if this is a red or green sheet, but since we know two red sheets already exist with the hand-stamp I feel secure in saying this must also be a red sheet. This is the third sheet to bear the "192" hand-stamp, and the first to have the numbers totally above and to the left of the block of four parodies. The Mayer collection is no longer at Berkeley and apparently nobody knows what happened to it. That probably means that at some point it was sold by the university.
Before we leave this particular propaganda item, the Hitler birthday sheet, we should point out the amazing difference between collectors of leaflets and collectors of stamps. The average American leaflet dropped on Germany is normally priced at about $20. Most Americans cannot read German and as a result have little interest in owning a piece of paper that has text they do not understand. If the illustration is really interesting, perhaps showing Hitler, or the SS or even an anti-Semitic vignette, collectors might spend as much as $50. In general, none of the WWII leaflets to Germany has any great value.
However, if the leaflet is in the form of a stamp or a postcard, philatelists now enter the field. They will pay an enormous amount for a leaflet in the form of a postal product. I have seen Russian propaganda postcards bearing fake stamps sell from anywhere from $500 to $1300. I have watched the Hitler birthday sheet over the years and the genuine copies have sold at auction for anywhere from $360 (the very first one in 1946) to $42,700 in 1995 at the height of its value. As additional sheets were discovered the price dropped to $17,400 in 1967 and as little as $5,046 in 2009 when three sheets came on the market. To be honest, I should point out that they were still offered estimated at $18,300.
Cherrystone Auctions of New York City on 28 October 2009 offered an uncut sheet of two of the American OSS Hitler birthday sheets estimated at $47,500. The sheets were a vertical uncut pair in brown violet, never hinged, and described as very fine.
The sheet was accompanied by a 23 September 2009 Gerhard Krischke (Hannover) certificate stating that:
...this is the absolutely unique complete sheet and without question the most important rarity of the World War II Propaganda issues.
So, if this were a simple leaflet showing Hitler in red it might be worth $25. As a philatelic item it is worth $47,500. Go figure!
This propaganda sheet was sold for $50,000 in October 2009. The same sheet was apparently resold by Cherrystone in February 2012 as lot 2799, this time realizing a price of $30,000. Apparently the slowing of the American economy in the three intervening years cost some unlucky collector $20,000.
There is also a green version of the OSS Hitler birthday sheet. They are rarer than the red sheets and only a little over a half-dozen are known to exist. Unlike the red sheet, the green sheet is not perforated. Instead, the stamps are separated by rouletting.
The green sheet was considered to be a fake for about 40 years. Sometime prior to 1978, German Philatelic Society expertizer Werner Bohne acquired a green sheet with staple holes in the right margin. Bohne claimed that an official memorandum had been attached to the sheet. The memorandum allegedly mentioned the fact that the original German sheet was green and therefore the OSS parody also should be green. In addition, the memorandum questioned the advisability of producing the parody, since it would not fit on a standard German envelope while still leaving room for an address. Bohne said he was under a constraint never to release this memo. I argued with Werner one day in his Florida home and told him that he must show the alleged memorandum as proof that the sheet was genuine. He refused and as a result there was little belief in the existence of the alleged memorandum.
In 1983 a green sheet was found in 50 kilograms of scrap paper bought by a collector searching for postcards and autographs. Among the paper was a scrapbook that contained documents from an OSS forger to his superior at the French 2nd Bureau. Most importantly, the scrapbook contained pages that bore specimens of the OSS forged Hitler stamps, the genuine German Hitler birthday sheet, a red OSS Hitler birthday sheet, and a green OSS Hitler birthday sheet.
In 2008, researcher Lee Richards discovered a specimen of the OSS green Hitler birthday sheet in the Hoover Institute Archives at Stanford University. The collection consists of about 400 leaflets. Although the origin of this collection is unknown it was originally in an album as many of the leaflets were still attached to a backing paper and missing items from the collection were acknowledged with a paper label saying, "Supplies of this number exhausted." The collection contains both OWI and OSS propaganda as might be expected from Berne, since both agencies worked closely together and used the same printing shops. As a result of this find and the earlier Gasquiel discovery, we can now say with some certainty that the green sheet is a genuine OSS philatelic parody.
Because of the latter finds of the green sheet and the sudden realization by philatelists that it probably was a legitimate OSS propaganda product, the price of the sheet skyrocketed in 2012. Werner Bohne had originally sold his green Hitler sheet to an Italian collector for $4,000. That collector died in 2011. The Swedish company Postiljonen Auktion offered Bohne's green sheet in its auction of 28-29 September 2012. The sheet sold for an amazing 17,500 Euros ($22,605 US). Propaganda pays!
The OSS prepared at least two colorful propaganda postcards attacking the Axis in conjunction with the U.S. Office of War Information. All the reference material says that the cards were an OWI project, but both of these cards have been found with OSS letter file codes stamped on them, so there is some question about whether it was the OSS or OWI really behind this project. Both cards were prepared in Bern, Switzerland about 1943 and feature vignettes by the famous Polish caricaturist Arthur Szyk. Syzk had authored a book of his anti-Fascist carictures called The New Order in 1941. In it, he printed 38 of his illustrations. Both Colliers and Esquire Magazine used some of Szyk's drawings as cover illustrations. Esquire also printed six full-color postcards featuring the drawings of Szyk in June 1942. The set was called the "Esky Cards" I first wrote about these in my article "The American Propaganda Postcards of WWII," German Postal Specialist, February, 1987. I only had black and white photocopies of these extremely rare cards but when they were prepared by Szyk they were printed in full color.
The first card depicts Hermann Göring, Hideki Tojo, and the Grim Reaper leading a chained and reluctant Benito Mussolini. Notice that the Japanese leader Tojo wears a Nazi Party swastika armband. This vignette was originally on a 1942 Szyk Esquire Magazine 4.6 x 7-inch postcard; (Set 6 - Esky No. 3) entitled "Il Duce." The title Stahlpakt (Pact of Steel) is on the back of the propaganda postcard along with the code "TDWD." The Esky cards were in English. The OWI cards have German captions, possibly to imply that they were produced by an anti-Fascist movement within Germany. The military "Pact of Steel" between Germany and Italy was signed on 22 May 1939. Although these cards are usually considered to be products of the Office of War Information, the OWI and the OSS often shared the same printing plant in Switzerland. The OWI printed white propaganda during the day and the OSS secretly printed black propaganda after dark. They had to be very careful because Switzerland was neutral and the Swiss police often raided the printing plants. These cards have an OSS file code. Usually such codes are numeric, but this card is coded with the file letter "R."
The second card depicts two individuals wearing swastika armbands riding on horseback. Traditionally they have been identified as Heinrich Himmler and Hideki Tojo but closer inspection shows that the "Himmler" figure is wearing a Wehrmacht uniform and an Iron Cross rather than SS paraphernalia so it is more likely that this is someone like Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces). The Tojo figure again wears a swastika, but the indications that he is Japanese are the Imperial chrysanthemum crest on the horse's bridle and the samurai sword he carries. Mussolini lags far behind on what may be a mule. In front of the Axis leaders we see various collaborators and puppet troops being forced toward the war zone by a Gestapo member. Hidden away on their armbands, saddle bags, belts and even one animal's body are tiny German words that identify the individuals and their nations: "Spain;" "Hungary;" "Romania;" "Italian;" "Japan;" "Gestapo;" "Vichy;" and "Finland."
Overhead a symbol of death holding forth a swastika sits astride a vulture. There is no text on the front, but the back is entitled Triumphzug Unter den Linden Berlin 1943 (Triumph [or Triumphal Procession] under the Linden Trees, Berlin 1943) and the code "RLD." The Unter den Linden is a wide boulevard in the Mitte district of Berlin. It is named for its linden (lime) trees that line the grassed pedestrian mall and was sometimes used by the Nazis to stage parades and marches. The vignette was originally on a Szyz Esquire Magazine 4.6 x 7-inch postcard (Esky Set 6 - No. 2) entitled "The New Orderlies." The OWI/OSS file code for this propaganda postcard is "Q."
Both illustrations depict Mussolini as a weak and ridiculous leader. The OWI/OSS selected these pictures to discredit the German-Italian alliance and to divide both countries.
The American Office of Strategic Services also forged the stamps of the Empire of Japan. The stamp chosen was the Japanese 5-sen brown-carmine Hiehachiro Marquis Togo stamp of 1942. Admiral Togo was the hero of the defeat of the Russian Naval fleet in 1905.
The Counterfeits were printed in sheets of 9 (3 x 3), perforated 11½ instead of the 13x13½ of the genuine and without watermark. They were printed from April to June 1945 by the Morale Operations Production Unit, China Theatre of Operations, with printing performed at the OSS facility Detachment 505 in Calcutta. About 4,800 stamps in all were printed to fill three orders from OSS Detachment 203. Major Donald B. Monroe, in charge of the Production Unit in Calcutta supervised the printing of the stamps. They were intended as postage on "poison pen" letters. Unknown to the MO staff, the 5-sen rate was no longer valid for postage in Japan, and it is possible that none of the propaganda letters were delivered. The Japanese had raised the postage needed for a letter from 5-sen to 7-sen on 1 April 1944. OSS files contain two envelopes addressed to Japanese nationals bearing 5-sen stamps - presumably the OSS forgeries.
The propaganda envelopes were prepared at the Morale Operations Advanced Base 31 in Nanp'ing. The commanding officer of Detachment 202 (Chungking) mentions the commander of the advanced base in a memorandum:
He mails propaganda letters and Japanese postcards to enemy troops and to Japan.
The remainders were allegedly destroyed in 1945, except for a few sheets retained for reference. I say "allegedly" because many of the stamps seem to have survived, probably souvenirs kept by members of the OSS. For instance, when researching in the National Archives several years ago an envelope holding 15 of the sheets was found. The Archives had no idea of the rarity of the stamps. Another sheet was found by a Columbus, Ohio stamp dealer in "several bags of loose stamps, covers and rodent droppings." It is believed that this sheet was from the collection of ex-OSS agent Jim Withrow's father.
Dr. Paul Michelsen told me:
I was a student at Deep Springs College, California in 1976. Of the many colorful alumni who visited, Jim Withrow stood out. He was a high-powered New York lawyer and had been in the OSS during WWII. He handed out sheets of red stamps which he said had been printed to undermine the Japanese occupation of China.
A second student named Brian F. Lanter who was present at that same talk also received one of Withrow's sheets. He said:
After he spoke he handed out souvenirs to the students, including several panes of the forged Togo stamp.
A lawyer named Eric J. Lobenfeld who worked with Withrow at the law offices of William Donovan (Head of the wartime OSS) in New York City was given two sheets with the note:
Eric, these were manufactured at my plant in Tollygunge (a suburb of Calcutta) in early 1945.
To get a better idea of how the stamps were to be used, I quote a 20 April 1945 Letter from Morale Operations in Calcutta to the Commander of OSS Detachment 203:
We are pouching you today under separate cover the 1,000 sheets of Korean writing paper and envelopes you ordered in your letter of 21 March 1945. The 5-sen postage stamps will be delivered from Reproduction in two weeks, at which time we will pouch them to you.
On 2 May 1945 a second letter said:
We enclose herewith 1,000 Japanese 5-sen postage stamps ordered by you on 21 March 1945.
Another letter was sent on 22 May 1945 stating:
We enclose herewith the additional 1,000 Japanese 5-sen postage stamps which you ordered by cable on 16 May 1945.
It seems clear that the OSS was very active at the time in preparing the "poison pen" letters to be sent to the Japanese. Other documents indicate for instance, the order of 3,500 sheets of Japanese writing paper, 2000 envelopes, and 1,800 counterfeit postage stamps in May and June 1945. A second memo states that Korean writing paper and envelopes were forwarded on 20 April 1945.
There are two different items that we usually label Philippine Propaganda stamps. They were both prepared for use in the occupied Philippines by the American-supported partisans fighting the Japanese. The first is the 2 centavos "Free Philippines Guerrilla Postal Service" propaganda stamp, prepared for the 10th Military District Guerrilla Forces on Mindanao in November 1943 by Allied forces in Brisbane, Australia. The "stamps" are printed in sheets of 25 (5x5), with roulette perforations. They were prepared as a morale builder for the guerrilla forces. Although there are no definite numbers for production, it has been estimated that 5,000 were originally printed and 2,000 authorized for distribution. It is believed that about 20 sheets or 500 of the propaganda stamps actually were delivered to Mindanao by the U.S. supply submarine Narwhal. Covers to the United States exist bearing the Mindanao guerrilla stamp and showing various postmarks, censor hand-stamps, etc. Genuine covers were carried by courier, along with other guerrilla communications, probably from Mindanao to General MacArthur's headquarters in Australia by submarine, then to Washington in a military pouch. The normal price range for the stamp is $300-400. However, one particularly handsome specimen sold for $600 in 2001.
In the early days of WWII, newly promoted Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Wendell Fertig, a civil engineer by profession was sent from Bataan to Mindanao to assist the military commander, General Sharp. Soon afterwards, General Sharp surrendered to the Japanese. Fertig decided to fight on and took to the hills. He believed that thousands of American soldiers and Philippine scouts could be used as guerillas to continue the fight against the Japanese. Fertig was a master of psychology so immediately promoted himself to the rank of Brigadier General and began the formation of his guerilla army. For the next two years, "General" Fertig created and led the United States Forces, Philippines. He built an army of over 30,000 armed men, the equivalent of a regular Army Corps. With no formal military training and limited supplies, General Fertig conducted commando type raids against the Japanese to obtain weapons and ammunition, food, medical supplies, and communications equipment. In time, General Fertig's forces became the best equipped and most effective irregular fighting force of World War II. Their communications became MacArthur's eyes and ears in the Philippines. When the Americans finally returned to Mindanao, they found Fertig virtually in control of one of the world's largest islands, commanding an army of 35,000 men, and at the head of a civil government with its own law courts, currency, factories and hospitals. The amazing envelope with guerrilla postage stamp and propaganda cancel above was written by Fertig and sent to his wife in the United States by U.S. Submarine.
This very rare sheet of the Guerrilla stamps was offered for auction in October 2012 estimated at $4,500. The sheet measures 9 1/4" x 6 1/8". Owner said:
The original issue of these guerrilla stamps consisted of 20 complete sheets, for a total of only 500 stamps. The sheets were originally given to Col. Wendell Fertig by Commander Charles "Chick" Parsons, as he landed at Butuan in November 1943, by the submarine Narwhal. I understand that the idea for the stamps came from Commander Parsons.
In 1996, I contacted the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee, and I tried to have a stamp made in honor of "Chick" Parsons, who Gen. MacArthur referred to as "The Bravest Man He Ever Knew". My efforts were not adopted, but Peter Parsons, one of Chick's sons contacted me, and through years of correspondence, we became friends. In February of 2005, Peter Parsons gave me this sheet, and told me that there was one other complete sheet that he donated to the MacArthur Memorial in the Philippines.
William Wise said in Secret Mission to the Philippines, E.P. Dutton and Company, Inc., N.Y. 1968):
By 1943, the government in Tokyo, Japan realized that a mysterious "Mr. X" was operating in the Philippines. Arriving by submarine, he was supplying the American-Filipino guerrilla forces with medicine, ammunition and arms. By early 1944, Tokyo had established his identity, and from then on, there was a reward of $50,000 for the capture of Commander Charles Parsons - dead or alive. Through a secret organization called "Spyron," "Chick" Parsons helped to organize and supply one of the most successful undergrounds the world had ever seen - the American-Filipino guerrilla movement of World War II...He was a collector of psychological and political warfare - a shadowy will-of-the-wisp figure, who sought to remain invisible. By the end of the war, however, he had become one of America's most decorated heroes.
The Cebu stamps are far less clear as to origin. The 2, 4, 16, and 20 centavos "Cebu" stamps were allegedly produced by the Southern Cebu Forces in the village of Dumanjug in late 1942. The "stamps" show heavy lines at top and bottom, containing "USAFFE" at top, the value in center, and "SCF" at bottom. The "USAFFE" is "United States Armed Forces in the Far East"; and "SCF" is "Southern Cebu Forces." The 16 centavos label shows additional text, "Registered Mail", and the 20 centavos label shows "Special Delivery." The labels are printed imperforate and without gum, allegedly in the enormous quantities of about 100,000 each. The 2 and 4 centavos labels are printed in sheets of 10 each (5x2), on thin, pink paper. The 16 and 20 centavos labels are printed together on sheets of 8 on plain bond paper. Despite several articles in the literature and a half-dozen interviews with wartime Guerilla fighters attesting to the genuine nature of these items, they are still considered dubious private collector-inspired productions by some specialists. Covers exist bearing the handwritten comment "by Courier" over the stamps. Most of the guerrilla stamps were ordered destroyed during and after the war and as a result they are quite rare today and a set of all four can sell in the range of $1000 dollars.
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!
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
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 OSS agents and 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.
Veritas, the Journal of the Army Special Operations History, Volume 5, Number 1, 2009 depicts a forged ID card bearing the Fake 13 franc stamp. The card was used by Second Lieutenant Herbert R. Bruckner (code name Sacha) using the alias Albert Jean Brugnon.
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).
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.
We know for sure that the OSS printed propaganda products in Washington DC, London, Italy and Switzerland. They also had a section in Stockholm that might have printed products, but little is known about their actions. There could be additional forgery sections, but if so, they are unknown. The Washington office is known to have printed counterfeit enemy currency, but there is no documentation that they counterfeited postage stamps.
A Research and Development Department (Dirty Tricks) agent named Major Willis C. Reddick was in charge of establishing the OSS printing office in a 100 x 100-foot former laboratory space at 25th and E Streets in Washington DC. He told me:
With the exception of the operation I was in charge of, printing large quantities of Japanese occupational banknotes, we counterfeited no additional currency. Our efforts were limited to documents for individual agents. This was no simple task. The British were doing the same thing. I feel that we were successful in besting our British friends.
Notice that I did not ask him about stamps. I was interested in currency at the time and should note here that the United States allegedly counterfeited several currencies for the Pacific Theater of War, including four values of the Philippines, the 10 rupees Burmese banknote, at least three Chinese "puppet" banks, the Malayan 10 dollar note and three denominations of the banknotes of Thailand. Others were on order, such as Japanese military notes and French Indochina banknotes, but they were never delivered. Notice also that Reddick did not counterfeit German currency. Rumor has it that there was a WWII "gentleman's agreement" between Germany and the United States that they would not forge each others currency. Reddick made friends with employees of the Bureau of Engraving and also was able to pick draftees with printing experience from basic training units in the Army. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel at the end of the war.
Reddick also says that he prepared documents for individual agents. I assume that many of these documents would require many different and varied NAZI Party and official stamps.
One of the OSS agents working in the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Strategic Services Unit, OSS, Washington DC was Master Sergeant Francis Varacalli. His initial job in the Army was as a cook and a mess sergeant but after almost two years he was transferred to intelligence. That seems a strange change in military occupational specialty until you know that he had been employed by the Truart Reproduction Company of New York City where he engraved letters or designs on printing plates. It is clear that he had the ability to engrave a printing plate and would be valuable in producing propaganda material. His discharge states that he served with the office of Strategic Services where he assisted in the preparation of propaganda to be disseminated to enemy territories.
Upon his death, his estate included about two dozen sheets of German stamps, Nazi Party dues stamps and other such items. Upon inspection, all the stamps appear to be genuine. Varacalli had implied during his later years that he had counterfeited enemy stamps so his collection would seem to indicate that these were reference copies meant to be used as a guide during counterfeiting operations. We know that the OSS counterfeited some regular and Nazi Party stamps, so it is possible that there are more forged values that are still unknown. What is interesting is that the OSS forged sheets of twenty of the 1+30 Nazi Party dues stamp, and in the Vacarelli file we find two full sheets of 100 copies of the 1+30 genuine Nazi Party stamp. We also find the 6 and 12 pfennig regular German stamps that we know were forged by the OSS. Some other official stamps that are found in the collection are the 3 pfennig National Socialist Workers Party franchise stamp (Partei-Dienstmarken), a 40 pfennig official stamp (Dienstmarken), and a bill of exchange tax stamp. It has been suggested that the 3 pfennig stamp could be used for printed matter up to 20 grams including up to 5 written words. A pair of them could be used for postcards. The 40 pfennig could be used for special delivery mail or small packages from 250 to 500 grams and the bill of exchange tax stamps might be used for "stamp duty" on financial promissory notes which could be used in lieu of currency avoiding a need for the OSS to counterfeit or collect large sums of German banknotes.
The United States Office of Strategic Services also considered the use of genuine stamps and currency in a PSYOP campaign against the Third Reich. Postage stamps and money would be placed inside envelopes along with a small 4 x 6-inch card with a propaganda message. The message would compare current events to the hyper-inflationary period after World War One.
The plan was first discussed at the end of June 1944 and known as Special Plan C-5 / U.S. Postage Stamps and Coins / Target German Civilians with Cash. It called for the printing of one million small envelopes that would contain a stamp, a coin, or a one-dollar bill. Each envelope would be preprinted, "A Gift to the Finder from German-Americans." The following items would be collected to be placed in the envelopes: 40,000 5-cent stamps; 266,000 3-cent stamps; 664,000 1-cent stamps; 10,000 U.S. $1.00 bills and 20,000 10-cent silver coins. Each envelope would state the value of the object in the value of 1923 German marks. The message on the envelope with the 1-cent stamp was:
This one-cent stamp was worth 400,000,000 marks in 1923. Participation notes with a face value of one American cent actually circulated in Germany that year. American money came to your rescue.
Other suggested messages were:
When you remember walls papered with German bank notes in 1923, you understand, do you not, why people who lived through the last inflation are now spending what money they have on the open market where they can buy something tangible before it is too late?
Do you know what the internal debt is in Germany today? What will it be when you reimburse those who have suffered losses in the war? Where is the money coming from?
Do you know how much currency is in circulation today? It increases while production declines. Is it any wonder that prices on the black market - which is the true measure of inflation - go up every day? Your money will buy less and less.
This PSYOP operation apparently never got past the planning stages.
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.
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").
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.
During the Cold War years these postcards were extremely rare and at one time they sold for about $1,350 each. After the fall of the Berlin Wall a glut came on the market as the Soviet archives were looted and the price dropped to about $500. The prices have now leveled off as the surplus has disappeared and as recently as October 2009, several of these cards sold for $750 each.
Although there are dozens of known Russian propaganda postcards prepared for use against Germany, two different postcards came to light in the late 1980s in Czechoslovakia. There was some debate about their genuiness for a while because of the late arrival on the philatelic scene, but eventually they were accepted as legitimate propaganda. Both cards mention the Crimea Conference held in early February 1945, so these cards were prepared late in the war.
This card depicts Adolf Hitler being punched from every side and the flags of the United States, Great Britain and the USSR. The text is:
We agreed upon and planned the time, extent, and coordination of new and even harder blows which our Army and Air forces will strike against the heart of Germany from east, west, north, and south. (From the declaration of the Crimea Conference.
The card has a pre-printed address to a Frau Anna Rosenbauer, and of course, a propaganda message from a happy husband in Russian captivity.
A similar vignette appears on a Russian poster attesting to the combined might of the Allies. The poster's Cyrillic text is in the form of a poem:
The devil howled, for he hears
the coming hour of our vengeance.
Blows from three sides are bringing
an end to Fascist Germany.
Although the title of this article is Propaganda and Espionage Philately, we have arbitrarily just discussed WWI and WWII up to this point. It occurs to me that there were so many more postal propaganda items that I am aware of, perhaps in the hundreds, that we should mention a few of the more interesting ones. Please use this link to part II of the article.
As I stated at the start of this article, this study is meant to be a very general introduction to espionage forgeries and propaganda parodies. Readers that wish to comment are encouraged to contact the author here.