The Counterfeiters is the true story of Operation Bernhard, a cunning plan by the German military to use highly skilled Jews (namely bankers, printers, artists and Counterfeiters) to produce enough counterfeit money to financially destroy Britain and the US.
The plan was so audacious, and the Jewish talent so good, that they almost managed to pull it off.
As a movie, The Counterfeiters uses Operation Bernhard as the setting for a story, a story of opposing ideologies. The most obvious would be that of the German Military having to use Jews – who they saw as subhuman and not worthy of living – as their salvation, their last effort attempt at winning a war that was already turning against them.
Then there was the ‘luxurious’ lifestyle this group of Jews had – they lived in a special walled off area of Sachsenhausen concentration camp – where they enjoyed sleeping on soft mattresses with sheets and warm blankets, were fed and allowed space to work and play and were protected from the cruelty of day to day life of the ‘other’ inmates. This weighed heavy on their hearts, as it was common knowledge that Germany was systematically killing off the Jewish population.
The biggest battle of ideologies however was between master counterfeiter – the main character – Sally Sorowitsch and Adolf Burger, a printer. These two men were both essential to the operation, and ideologically different from everyone else. To start with, Sally not only had the yellow triangle sewn on his clothes to denote that he was a Jew, but also a green triangle showing that he was a habitual criminal. Sally looked for opportunities that he could manipulate in order to assure he remained useful to the Germans and therefore, alive. Adolf however had a red triangle, indicating that he was a communist. He did everything in his power to subtlety sabotage the operation and wasn’t afraid to become a martyr for his views. He believed that they shouldn’t be helping the Germans and struggled more than the others with the special privileges.
The funny thing is, and if you take the time to go through the special features, you’ll discover this, and much more, even though the main character in the movie is Sorowitsch, the movie is actually based on the book, The Devil’s Workshop, written by Burger.
As Burger mentions in one of his interviews, the movie does take liberties with the story, but the essence, the spirit of the story is there.
Having already seen the movie on the big screen, I can attest that it looses none of its impact viewing it for the second time one the small screen. The production, storytelling and acting is first class. It’s a story that will captivate as well as educate you, and one that you will probably want to watch more than once. It made it to number five on my top ten movies for last year and I have no doubt it will be in my top ten DVD list for this year.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Rating: R13 – Contains violence and content that may disturb.
Released on: February 12th, 2009
Year of Original Release: 2007
Stars: Karl Markovics, Devid Striesow
Length (Minutes): 98
Media Format: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Languages: German, Russian, English, Hebrew
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 2.0