Czechoslovak Man Behind ‘The Counterfeiters’ Dies

Adolf Burger, a Jewish typographer forced by Nazis to produce counterfeit money during the Holocaust, passed away in Prague earlier this week

Dave Park

Written by Dave Park Published on 09.12.2016 11:16:37 (updated on 09.12.2016) Reading time: 1 minute

Jewish typographer and Holocaust survivor Adolf Burger, whose memoirs served as the basis for the Oscar-winning 2007 movie The Counterfeiters, died in Prague on December 6. He was 99.

Burger was born in 1917 in Kakaslomnic, an ethnic German village in the High Tatras in what is now Veľká Lomnica, Slovakia.

While most of Burger’s siblings fled Czechoslovakia before the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews came to fruition, he stayed in Bratislava to work at a printing press, receiving a government waiver from being deported due to his trade skills.

There, he produced counterfeit baptism certificates for Jews scheduled to be deported, stating that they were Roman Catholic and saving them from extermination.

In 1942, however, Burger’s actions were discovered by the Nazi regime, and he and wife Gizela were deported to Auschwitz.

While the 22-year-old Gizela was killed there later that year, Burger was kept alive by the Nazis due to his printing skills. They put him to work in Operation Bernhard, a secret plan that produced counterfeit British pounds on a mass scale in an effort to destabilize the nation’s economy.

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It stands as one of the largest counterfeit rings in the history; Burger’s memoirs became the basis for his 1983 Czech-language book Komando padělatelů (The Commando of Counterfeiters) and the 2007 Austrian movie The Counterfeiters, starring August Diehl as Burger, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

After WWII, Burger settled in Prague and continued to work in the printing industry, and later in the city’s municipal offices. He remarried and had three children, and remained in Prague for 70 years until his death this week. 

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