Sure, Monopoly is a fun and classic board game, but to some World War II veterans it means more than Boardwalk, Park Place and Free Parking.
The British secret service helped allied POWs escape German prison camps by smuggling maps and money using Monopoly board games. The Germans allowed Red Cross care packages to come to their prisoners. These generally included food and clothing, and the Monopoly boxes did not raise suspicion. Game manufacturers carved hiding places in the game’s cardboard. Inside they placed regional maps with marked safe houses. German, French and Italian money was also mixed in with the Monopoly money. Prisoners could use this cash for bribes during their escape.
Of course, the allies worried that the sound of paper maps crinkling might alert the Germans to an escape plan. So instead of using paper, the British enlisted the help of John Waddington Ltd., the same company that manufactured Monopoly, to create silk maps that wouldn’t make any noise.
More than 30,000 allied prisoners escaped German prison camps during World War II. It’s impossible to know how many used items smuggled in with Monopoly, but many are certain to have used this scheme.