One consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is renewed fears that another “hot war” will spread to other parts of Europe.
On March 13, the German news site, thelocal.de, cited an Agence France-Presse report that interest in accessing the underground bunkers refuge was on the rise in the region. An existing bunker, in a residential area of the small town of Cochem in western Germany, is now a museum with an important connection to coinage.
At the height of the Cold War, the German government, perhaps informed by its experience of Operation Bernhard, when the Nazis used concentration camp prisoners to forge English banknotes in an attempt to ruin the economy of the enemy, feared that the Russians would do the same. for them. The Bundesbank, as a countermeasure to this eventuality, printed and stashed 15 billion Deutschmarks worth of emergency money, codenamed “BBK II” deep in a nuclear bunker directly beneath Cochem. It was such a classified secret that no one in Cochem knew about it for years. In addition to the Cochem hoard, approximately 11 billion Deutsche Marks were stored at the bank‘s headquarters in Frankfurt.
Starting in 1964, for 10 years, trucks delivered 10, 20, 50 and 100 mark notes that ended up filling 18,300 boxes in 12 floor-to-ceiling cages in a space accessed via a secret passageway from what was called an employee training and development center. The faces of these banknotes were almost identical to the real ones then in circulation, but the backs differed considerably. Among the notes of 100 marks illustrated, the note of urgency is at the bottom.
In the 1980s, as the Cold War drew to a close and banknote technology became more sophisticated, secret money no longer met Bundesbank security standards. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, all money ever used had been destroyed. It is said today that all these notes are facsimiles.
After the Cold War, the bunker became the property of a regional cooperative bank and then of a real estate fund. It was bought in 2016 by German couple Manfred and Petra Reuter, who turned it into the Bundesbank Bunker Museum, which is still open to visitors.
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