The Austrian picture The Counterfeiters, which won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign film, dramatizes yet another little-known story of the Holocaust. In “Operation Bernhard” the Nazis assembled a select band of prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and put them to work producing counterfeit versions of the English pound note and the American dollar bill. The prisoners were rewarded with food and clothes and soft beds to sleep in.
The operation was Heinrich Himmler’s idea for bringing down the British and American economies. According to Stefan Ruzowitzky’s movie, the scheme failed only because one of the prisoners, Adolf Burger (August Diehl)—whose memoir provided the source material for the movie—kept sabotaging it.