The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 31, August 2, 2015, Article 33


An article by Fred Schwan in the July/August 2015 issue of Paper Money (a publication of the Society of Paper Money Collectors) includes a great account of how collector and Holocaust educator Danny Spungen met with a survivor of Operation Bernhard, the Nazi WWII counterfeiting operation manned by Jewish concentration camp inmates. Many thanks to editor Benny Bolin for forwarding the text and image. -Editor

Danny Spungen is a great collector. A bit eccentric. Crazy perhaps, but look who is writing this! I first met Danny in 2007 at an ANA summer seminar.

... Danny told me that he had just been to the annual convention of the APS—American Philatelic Society. Furthermore, he had made a major and completely spontaneous purchase there. It was a large award-winning exhibit of Holocaust material created by the well-known philatelist Ken Lawrence. Of course it was mostly philatelic. He mentioned the many covers from a wide variety of concentration camps that were in the collection. That really got my attention. I asked him if he knew that for many of the camps represented in his collection there were also paper money issues and that there was a numismatic book on the subject? That really got his attention.

Within two minutes I handed Danny my cell phone with Steve Feller on the other end. Danny did not even finish his lunch.

Fast forward a year. We are in Colorado Springs again for the seminar. This time Danny is in our class.

On the critical day in question, I ever so slightly introduced Operation Bernhard, Nazi counterfeiting of Bank of England notes. Danny was smitten. I could tell it instantly. Operation Bernhard is of course an important and fascinating numismatic story, but it is just one of many that we cover in the class. I moved on, but Danny refused. First he studied every word that we have in World War II Remembered, then Brian Burke’s book on Operation Bernhard, which I had in the classroom. Along the way he was scouring the Internet for more. I had lost him for the class, but we had also won him over to the community long term.

Danny told me recently that at the time of the class he actually owned a Bernhard note in the Holocaust philatelic collection, but that he had neither appreciated nor understood it until the class. Therefore, I think that I can claim credit (or blame) for setting him on the path that he has taken.

Jump forward a few weeks (24 August 2008). Danny called me that he was on the road heading for Ohio. Danny said that had found a survivor of Operation Bernhard. He lived in Mansfield, Ohio. Danny was going to visit him, did I want to go along? Oh my, what a request. I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Danny picked me up and we were on our way.

We arrived in Mansfield (just the two of us) in good order, bursting with enthusiasm and questions. We were greeted by Hans Walter, who was indeed a survivor of Auschwitz, transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as a member of Operation Bernhard.

Until our meeting, Hans’ story, from what we gathered, was printed only a few times in the local Plain Dealer and The Daily Record newspapers. We were surely going to change that!

... Hans became a final inspector of notes. Likely he had other jobs along the way, but it was the inspector job that he described the most to us. Hans was very proud to say that he was in charge of the final inspection stages (of which there were about five).

After the war Hans came to the United States, where he married, raised a daughter, and worked at the General Motors factory in Mansfield.

We showed Hans a few Bernhard notes that Danny had taken along. Hans confirmed that they were indeed Bernhard notes, although I do not know how he identified them. Danny was quick to tell Hans, that “we collectors can pretty easily distinguish a genuine from a counterfeit note.” Hans was disturbed by this “accusation,” because he said he would not be living today if it was easy to detect the differences. In fact, he started to shake his little four-legged card table, saying it was not easy. After a discussion, we back-tracked and told him that “today,” given all the information we have, it is easy, but of course back in 1944 it was not easy at all, and that is why the operation was so successful!

Hans indicated that these were the first examples that he had seen since the war.

Hats off to Danny for seeking out an Operation Bernhard survivor. Through Hans he was also able to meet survivors Jack Plapler in Berlin and Adolph Burger in Prague. -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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