Adolf Burger, last of “Hitler’s counterfeiters,” dies at 99

Jan Richter

A memoir by Adolf Burger provided the basis for the Oscar-winning film

A memoir by Adolf Burger provided the basis for the Oscar-winning film “The Counterfeiters.” (Thierry Caro/ Creative Commons)

PRAGUE (JTA) — Adolf Burger, a Holocaust survivor who was forced by the Nazis to counterfeit British banknotes during WWII, has died in Prague at the age of 99, his family said.

Burger, a native of Slovakia, was a typographer by profession. He was arrested in 1942 for producing false baptism records for Jews scheduled for transports to Nazi extermination camps, and was deported to Auschwitz.

In 1944, Burger was selected to take part in Operation Bernhard, a Nazi effort to destabilize the British economy by flooding the country with forged pound banknotes. He was moved to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he worked in a special section of the camp devoted to the counterfeiting operation.

“I thought somehow I would survive Auschwitz, but was sure I was a dead man in Sachsenhausen,” Burger said. “The Nazis planned to kill us so we would never tell anyone what they were doing,” Burger told JTA in 2008. He was eventually liberated by the U.S. army in May 1945.

After the war, Burger settled in Prague. His memoirs, titled “Number 64401 Speaks,” were first published in 1945. He later rewrote his story, which was released in 1983 under the title “The Commando of Counterfeiters.” The Austrian-German film “The Counterfeiters,” based on Burger’s memoirs, won the 2007 Academy Award for best foreign language film.