Speaking of passing worthless banknotes,
Pablo Hoffman and Andy Singer forwarded this article from the December 8, 2016 Washington Post about the death of Operation Bernhard counterfeiter Adolf Burger. Thanks!
The experience, Adolf Burger would later recall, was like being “corpses on holiday.” Imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, he was detailed to Operation Bernhard, a massive Nazi plot that relied on concentration camp inmates to forge British currency.
The fake bank notes — a total of more than 130 million pounds — were to be dropped by Luftwaffe airplanes over England in an attempt to upset the British economy. Although ultimately aborted, the top-secret plan, unknown at the time even to the camp commandant, is believed to have been one of the largest attempts ever at financial sabotage. “It was a forgery factory,” said Margaret Shannon, a Washington-based research historian who collaborated on a book about the episode.
Because the scheme depended on the labor and skill of inmates — craftsmen, bankers, at least one professional counterfeiter and book printers such as Mr. Burger — the prisoners received some special privileges, such as the provision of blankets, civilian clothing, cigarettes and extra food. But they knew that at any time they might be killed, and it was only amid the chaos as the Allies advanced in 1945 that they escaped execution.
“In a way, it was worse than Auschwitz because we knew for certain they were going to kill us because of what we had done,” Mr. Burger later told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Mr. Burger, whose account of Operation Bernhard was later dramatized in the Oscar-winning Austrian film “The Counterfeiters,” died Dec. 6 in Prague. He was 99.
Mr. Burger was born on Aug. 12, 1917, to a Jewish family in Velka Lomnica, a village in what was then Austria-Hungary and is now northern Slovakia. Trained as a typographer, he did his earliest counterfeiting as a member of the Communist underground, producing false baptism papers in an effort to help Jews survive persecution.
Mr. Burger was arrested in 1942, the day before his 25th birthday, and deported with his wife, Gisela, to Auschwitz, where she perished.
“I had two choices: either to go and touch the barbed wire with 1,000 voltage in it and be dead in a second, or stay alive,” Mr. Burger later said in a radio interview cited by the AP. “I chose life, so I can tell everyone what they have done here.”
Mr. Burger spoke frequently with students about the Holocaust and was interviewed along with other survivors in the book “Taking the Stand: We Have More to Say,” by Bernhard Rammerstorfer.
Mr. Burger expressed conflicting emotions about his experiences in the counterfeit operation. In 2007, he told Haaretz, “the important thing was to survive. We didn’t care about the others in the camp. I did not sell my soul and was not a hero. I worked in order to survive.”
But two years later, speaking with the Telegraph, a British newspaper, he said that “of course it was terrible and I think we all felt guilty about it.”
To read the complete article, see:
Adolf Burger, survivor of Nazi counterfeiting operation, dies at 99
Wayne Homren, Editor
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