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.
Whilst The Counterfeiters takes a few liberties with historical accuracy, it does bring to light a little know aspect of World War Two, showing just how warped the German ideology was. It shines an interesting light on humanity, our instinctive fight for survival and the power of belief.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Rating: R13 – Contains violence and content that may disturb.
Duration: 85 mins.
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky.
Actors: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow.