Adolf Burger, Counterfeiter, Dies at 99

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Adolf Burger, age 99, the last surviving member of the “Operation Bernhard” counterfeiting operation, died December 8 in Prague, the New York Times reported (see the obituary here).

Operation Bernhard was located for most of its existence in Sachsenhausen, and although the Jewish prisoners who were its members were never allowed out of their special barracks, and no outsiders were allowed in, everyone in the camp knew what was up.  As Odd Nansen wrote in his diary for November 29, 1943:

       “That printing shop is employed in forging documents and money, turning out all the   fraudulent printed matter of which the Third Reich makes use.  So much is beyond doubt. But the most horrible thing is that it’s taken for granted that the thirty-eight Jews employed in there will never come out to tell what they have done.”

Strangely enough, Nansen was wrong: the counterfeiting operation was so important to the Nazis that it was continued (and the Jews spared) until the final days of the war–when the members fell into the hands of the Allies–and thus almost all of them, like Adolf Burger, survived.

Several books have been written about Operation Bernhard in addition to Burger’s memoir. Moritz Nachtstern’s Counterfeiter: How a Norwegian Jew Survived the Holocaust (available here), has been called by Lawrence Malkin “the most reliable and psychologically acute version of the drama from inside of Sachsenhausen’s Block 19.” (Malkin also has written an excellent history of the Nazis’ counterfeiting program, Krueger’s Men, available here).  The movie “The Counterfeiter,” which is loosely based on Burger’s experiences, won the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (available here).

 

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