For a few years, the residents of the leafy city of Cochem within the German Rhineland went about their day by day enterprise with no thought they have been dwelling on a gold mine.
Through the Chilly Conflict, the German central financial institution stashed away virtually 15 billion marks’ value of an emergency forex in a 1,500-square-metre nuclear bunker beneath the city.
A intently guarded state secret, the forex was codenamed “BBK II” and meant to be used if Germany was the goal of an assault on its financial system.
After the Chilly Conflict, the bunker handed into the fingers of a regional cooperative financial institution after which an actual property fund. In 2016, it was purchased by German couple Manfred and Petra Reuter, who turned it right into a museum.
In the present day, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stoking fears of nuclear battle, curiosity within the bunker is rising once more.
“Many individuals we all know have identified that we have now a secure bunker and requested whether or not there can be room for them in case of an emergency,” stated Petra Reuter.
On excursions of the bunker, “questions are naturally requested in regards to the present scenario”, which seems like “a leap again in time 60 years”, she stated. “The fears are the identical.”
Inside, behind a heavy iron door, lengthy corridors result in decontamination chambers and workplaces outfitted with typewriters and rotary telephones.
The principle room consists of 12 cages the place, for nearly 25 years, some 18,300 containers containing tens of millions of 10, 20, 50 and 100 mark banknotes have been saved as much as the ceiling.
On the entrance, the banknotes have been virtually an identical to the actual deutschmarks in circulation on the time, however on the again they have been very totally different.
Beginning in 1964, the notes have been delivered to the bunker by a whole bunch of vehicles over a interval of about 10 years, with nobody suspecting a factor — not even the East German Stasi secret police.
The bunker was accessed through a secret passage from what was ostensibly a coaching and growth centre for Bundesbank staff in a residential space of the city.
Cochem, positioned about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the border with Belgium and Luxembourg, was chosen as a result of it was such a good distance from the Iron Curtain.
“The residents of the neighborhood have been astonished to find this treasure, which had been hidden for therefore lengthy close to their properties,” stated Wolfgang Lambertz, the previous mayor of the city, which has round 5,000 inhabitants.
Together with the 15 billion marks saved within the bunker, slightly below 11 billion marks’ value of the choice forex was additionally saved within the vaults of the central financial institution in Frankfurt.
Altogether, this added as much as round 25 billion marks — roughly equal to the full amount of money circulating within the German economic system in 1963.
Maybe an excessive measure to chase away a merely hypothetical assault, however the German authorities had been guided by classes from historical past.
Throughout World Conflict II, the Nazis had launched “Operation Bernhard”, during which prisoners in focus camps have been pressured to fabricate counterfeit kilos with the intention of flooding England with them.
“Essentially the most believable rationalization was in all probability the worry that counterfeit cash can be smuggled via the Iron Curtain with a view to harm the West German economic system,” in accordance with Bernd Kaltenhaueser, president of the Bundesbank’s regional workplace for Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.
However making a backup forex immediately “would now not make sense as a result of there’s much less counterfeit cash in circulation and there are fewer money funds”, in accordance with Kaltenhaueser.
Within the Nineteen Eighties, with the Chilly Conflict winding down and know-how evolving, it was determined that the alternative forex now not met Germany’s safety requirements.
By 1989, the 12 months the Berlin Wall fell, all the notes had been taken out of the bunker, shredded and burned.