The Counterfeiters
The Counterfeiters (2007 film).jpg
Directed byStefan Ruzowitzky
Written byStefan Ruzowitzky
Based onThe Devil's Workshop: A Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation
by Adolf Burger
Produced byJosef Aichholzer
Nina Bohlmann
Babette Schröder
StarringKarl Markovics
August Diehl
Devid Striesow
CinematographyBenedict Neuenfels
Edited byBritta Nahler
Music byMarius Ruhland
Aichholzer Film
Magnolia Filmproduktion
Babelsberg Studio
Distributed byFilmladen (Austria)
Universum Film (Germany)
Release dates
  • 22 March 2007 (2007-03-22) (Germany)
  • 23 March 2007 (2007-03-23) (Austria)
Running time
98 minutes
Box office$20,199,663[1]

The Counterfeiters (German: Die Fälscher) is a 2007 Austrian-German drama film written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. It fictionalizes Operation Bernhard, a secret plan by Nazi Germany during World War II to destabilize the United Kingdom by flooding its economy with forged Bank of England pound notes. The film centres on a Jewish counterfeiter, Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch, who is coerced into assisting the operation at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

The film is based on the 1983 Czech-language memoir Komando padělatelů ("The Commando of Counterfeiters") by Adolf Burger, which would eventually be published in English as The Devil's Workshop. Burger was a Jewish Slovak typographer who was imprisoned in 1942 for forging baptismal certificates to save Jews from deportation, and was later interned at Sachsenhausen to work on Operation Bernhard.[2] Ruzowitzky consulted closely with Burger through almost every stage of the writing and production. The film won the 2007 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 80th Academy Awards.


The film begins shortly after the end of the Second World War, with a man arriving in Monte Carlo. After checking into an expensive hotel and paying with cash, he takes in the high life of Monte Carlo, successfully gambling in a casino and attracting the attention of a beautiful French woman. Later, she discovers tattooed numerals on his arm, revealing him as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.

The film then flashes back to Berlin in 1936, where the man, Salomon Sorowitsch, is revealed as a successful forger of currency and passports. Caught by the police, he is imprisoned, first in a labour camp, then in Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz. In an effort to secure himself protection and meagre comforts at the camp, he turns his forging skills to portraiture, attracting the attention of the guards, who commission him to paint them and their families in exchange for extra food rations.

Sorowitsch's talents bring him wider attention, and he is transferred out of the concentration camp. Brought in front of the police officer who arrested him in Berlin, he finds himself put together with other prisoners with artistic or printing talents, and begins working in a special section of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp devoted to forgery. The counterfeiters are kept in relatively humane conditions, with comfortable bunks, a washroom and adequate food, although their guards continue to subject them to brutality and insults. His fellow prisoners have a range of backgrounds from Jewish bank managers to political agitators, and while some are content to work for the Nazis to avoid the extermination camps, others see their efforts as supporting the German war effort.

At first, self-preservation appears to guide Sorowitsch, but his motives for forging for the Nazis are complicated by his growing concern for his fellow prisoners, his awareness of their role in the wider war against the Nazis, and his professional pride in counterfeiting the US dollar, a currency he was previously unable to forge.

Sorowitsch juggles the Nazi demands for progress, his co-counterfeiters' determination to sabotage the operation, and his loyalties to his fellow prisoners. The prisoners successfully counterfeit the British pound but intentionally delay the forgery of the US dollar. Gradually, the inmates discern slivers of evidence that the war has turned decidedly against the Nazis. One day the camp guards suddenly announce that the printing machines are to be dismantled and shipped away, which leads the counterfeiters to fear that they will finally be killed. Before anything happens to them, the German guards flee the camp in advance of the Red Army. Starving prisoners from other parts of the camp, armed with confiscated weapons, take over and break into the compound where the counterfeiters had been held in relative luxury. Until the insurrectionists see the well-fed printers' prison tattoos, they believe them to be SS officers and threaten to shoot them. The counterfeiters then must account for their forging actions to the half-dead prisoners.

The film then returns to post-war Monte Carlo, where Sorowitsch, apparently disgusted by the life he is now leading on the currency that he forged for the Nazis, intentionally gambles it all away. Sitting alone afterward on the beach, he is joined by the French woman, concerned after his seemingly disastrous losses at the table. Dancing slowly together on the beach, she continues to remark on all the money he has lost, to which he replies, laughing, "We can always make more".


Karl Markovics, Andreas Schmidt, Adolf Burger and August Diehl at the Premier of The Counterfeiters at the Berlinale 2007
Karl Markovics, Andreas Schmidt, Adolf Burger and August Diehl at the Premier of The Counterfeiters at the Berlinale 2007


Except for the score music by Marius Ruhland, the soundtrack consists of classical tangos recorded decades ago by Argentine harmonica player Hugo Díaz, and opera recordings from the 1930s and 1940s.


Critical response

The Counterfeiters holds a score of 78/100 on Metacritic, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3] The Counterfeiters has an approval rating of 93% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 127 reviews, and an average rating of 7.76/10.The website's critical consensus states, "The Counterfeiters is a gripping account of one prisoner's moral dilemma, superbly portrayed by Karl Markovics".[4] The film appeared on some critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Josh Rosenblatt of The Austin Chronicle named it the 4th best film of 2008,[5] and Ella Taylor of LA Weekly named it the 8th best film of 2008.[5]


Home media

The Counterfeiters was released (with English subtitles) on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom by Metrodome Distribution on 17 March 2008, and in the US by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on 5 August 2008.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Die Fälscher".
  2. ^ "The Counterfeiters Tell Their Tale". 24 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  3. ^ "The Counterfeiters Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  4. ^ "The Counterfeiters".
  5. ^ a b "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
  6. ^ "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards Database 2007 (80th)". 29 January 2010. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2014.