By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:16 PM on 12th July 2011
A rare set of fake bank notes Hitler had printed in a bid to ruin the British economy during World War Two are expected to fetch £2,000 at auction.
Hitler hoped the £134million of counterfeit notes he produced in 'Operation Bernhard' would force a huge hike in inflation and spark a cash crisis if introduced to wartime Britain.
He ordered millions of the notes, in £5, £10, £20 and £50 denominations to be printed in 1942. Four bank notes recovered from Lake Toplitz in Austria will be auctioned next month.
The £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes will go under the hammer at Mullock's auctioneers at Ludlow Racecourse, Shropshire on August 18.
Nazi spies had been ordered to smuggle the cash into Britain and flood the economy with the fake money.
But Hitler's plan was foiled when British spies got wind of the idea and intercepted the shipment of the notes.
The Bank of England first learned of a plot from a spy as early as 1939. It first came across the actual notes in 1943, and declared them 'the most dangerous ever seen.'
The initial plan was to destabilize the British economy by dropping the notes from aircraft, but Hermann Goering's Luftwaffe declared it did not have enough planes to deliver the forgeries, and the assets were put in the hands of SS foreign intelligence.
Many were transferred from SS headquarters to a former hotel near Meran in South Tyrol, Northern Italy, from where they were laundered and used to pay for strategic imports and German secret agents operating in the Allied countries.
As late as the 1940s every banknote issued by the Bank of England was recorded in large leather-bound ledgers, still in the Bank's archives, and clerks first recorded the counterfeits from a British bank in Tangiers.
At the war's end the mint notes still in Germany were dumped in Lake Toplitz together with the printing plates made to produce them after 'Operation Bernhard' was abandoned with just a handful of notes having made it into British circulation.
But they were enough for the Bank of England to withdraw all banknotes of £5 and over from circulation after it had designed and printed a new set of paper money.
Auctioneer Richard Westwood-Brookes said: 'These notes are extremely rare.
'They never made it into circulation and were part of the batch that were dumped in the lake in 1945.
'They were taken out of the lake by divers but have amazingly stayed in great condition.
'Due to the quality they have been kept in and the fact they are so rare I think they are likely to garner a fair bit of interest.
'They rarely come up for sale and are very rare because most were destroyed.'
The Nazis forced Jewish prisoners, experts in engraving and printing, held at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp to produce the notes.
By the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945 the printing press had produced 8,965,080 banknotes with a total value of £134,610,810.
The notes are considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being almost impossible to distinguish from the real currency.
Mr Westwood Brookes added: 'It was a completely audacious plot by Hitler and if it had worked it would have been a serious blow to our economy.
'Luckily it did not and luckily for us we managed to capture their agents.
'It is a great story and these notes represent a major triumph for the British intelligence services over the Nazis.'
Treasure hunters have been drawn to Lake Toplitz ever since a group of diehard Nazis retreated to the Austrian Alps in the final months of the Second World War. With US troops closing in and Germany on the brink of collapse, they transported a set of wooden boxes to the lake by horse-drawn wagon, and sunk them.
Nobody knows exactly what was inside. Some believe they contained gold looted by German troops throughout Europe and carried back to Germany.
Others that they contain documents showing where assets confiscated from Jewish victims were hidden in Swiss bank accounts.
In 1959 a diving team financed by the German magazine Stern retrieved the forged sterling currency Operation Bernhard hidden in boxes, and a printing press.
No gold was found, although it does pop up in the James Bond movie Goldfinger, where Bond hands over an ingot from Lake Toplitz to tempt villain Auric Goldfinger.