In any war, espionage and counter-espionage can determine the outcome. The Nazis knew this and used every method they could. Even mushrooms. You read that right. Today we’re going to talk about the mushroom that the Nazis used for espionage.
One of the easiest edible mushrooms to distinguish is that Coprinus comatus (bearded or hat). His hat is white with brownish scales, and his foot is long and thin. The generic name Coprinus it literally means to live on manure. Yes, it lives on organic matter that is rich in nitrogen. It is not toxic to humans unless it is consumed with alcohol. How does it relate to espionage? The same one you got with the ink.
Mushrooms and letter
There were basically two types of black ink used in the Middle Ages. One was made from coal. The other by oak galls and mushrooms. The beard was collected by monks from monasteries across Europe. It was stored for a reasonable amount of time for the self-digestion process to take place. The fungus spontaneously turns into a blackish spore soup.
Later this liquid was refined and used by the monks for scribbling and drawing in the scriptorium. You can say that the Coprinus comatus may protect a lot of medieval wisdom. Not only that was extracted from the mushroom. It has been used in chemical compounds with hypoglycemic, anti-tumor and antibacterial activities. A real pharmacy.
How did we get to the Nazis? During World War II, the line between life and death was very thin. Having a document or passport allowing freedom of movement through Nazi Germany or occupied France was a luxury. It was not available to anyone and could avoid a concentration camp.
This is the reason why forgers of marriage certificates, birth certificates and safe behavior have increased. One of the most famous and heroic was Adolfo Kaminsky. He was a member of the French resistance. But the National Socialist counterintelligence had an extraordinary ally in their ranks: the Coprinus comatus. The Germanic secret service discovered that its ink was used to identify false documents.
The Nazis and the mushrooms
The process carried out by the authorities was very simple. The mushroom that the Nazis used for espionage was added to the usual ink they used to create documents. They added the tincture that was obtained from Coprinus comatus. This made it easier to check the authenticity. If they found traces of spores, the legitimacy was undeniable. Otherwise they faced a fake. In this way the Coprinus comatus became an unwilling ally of the Nazis. An example of how even a profitable product can be used for evil … in the wrong hands.