The Web    Google
The Counterfeiters
List Price: $28.96

Our Price: $11.68

You Save: $17.28 (60%)


Product Description

Winner of the Academy Award? for Best Foreign Language Film, The Counterfeiters tells the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a swindler who made a name for himself as Berlin's "King of the Counterfeiters." However, his life of women and easy money is cut short when he's arrested and placed in a Nazi concentration camp. With the German army on the verge of bankruptcy, Sorowitsch makes a sobering deal with his captors: in exchange for a comfortable bed, good food and fair treatment, Sorowitsch, along with the other hand-picked specialists, must counterfeit bank notes to fund the Nazi War effort. If he does as they say, he lives another day. If he rebels, he faces the same fate as the rest of the camp's prisoners. But if he lives, will he be able to live with himself?

A deft blend of suspense and docudrama, Stefan Ruzowitzky's sixth feature focuses on history's largest counterfeiting operation. Before World War II breaks out, Salomon Sorowitsch (the compact yet steely Karl Markovics), a Russian-born Jew, lives the good life in Berlin. He forges documents, like passports and banknotes, and sketches beautiful women to the romantic strains of tango records. Sorowitsch's dolce vita comes to an end when he's sent to Mauthausen concentration camp. Once Reich officials decide to deploy imprisoned printers, craftsmen, and bank officials to counterfeit foreign currency, they draft Sorowitsch for "Operation Bernhard" and ship him to Sachsenhausen. Though he and his colleagues receive preferential treatment, the threat of execution hangs over their heads at all times. First, they master the pound; then they tackle the American dollar. At this point, communist co-worker Adolf Burger (The Ninth Day's excellent August Diehl) suggests sabotage. As he explains, they're extending the conflict and increasing the death toll, but the entire team will suffer if they fail, even their SS supervisor, Freidrich Herzog (Downfall's Devid Striesow), whose career depends on it. As Jews, however, they stand to lose more than their jobs. Based on Burger's book The Devil's Workshop, Austria's Ruzowitzky (Anatomy) sheds a compassionate light on the guilt and complicity of survivors. Though The Counterfeiters plays more like a prison camp movie than a Holocaust drama--Stalag 17 comes to mind--that doesn't make it any less significant, just less wrenching than some of its counterparts. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Stills from The Counterfeiters (click for larger image)

Customer Reviews:

  • Close to perfection, amazing nonetheless
    It's interesting to see how in times of despair, comradry fails. A film about concentration camps with the most interesting of characters playing the lead. This film is more about counterfeiting and proposes a great reason Germany dominated the war. They counterfeited British currency to four times the actual worth and had in mind to do the same with the Dollar. What just happens then is a never heard before story of the world's history. Strongly recommended film. The Counterfeiters did something I never thought it would from the off set. Highly recommended. It's like the Pianist with not as much as emotion....more info
  • "I Won't Give the Nazis the Pleasure of Being Ashamed I'm Still Alive"
    There were seldom easy choices during The Holocaust. Survival meant everything, and those who did live past World War II had fascinating and harrowing stories to share. Such is the case of ladies' man and counterfeiter, Solomon Sarowitsch (Kal Makovics).

    When an S.S. agent catches "Sally`s" fake U.S. dollars, he puts him in a concentration camp. Savvy and a gifted artist, he creates a flattering pencil portrait of an SS figure head. From there he gets a ticket to more bearable living conditions, including soft bunk-beds and livable food rations. He does more portraits, including an outside mural until an officer announces his deportation to another camp. Easily perturbed by the change in plans, he discovers the Nazis have bigger fish for him to fry.

    At the new concentration camp, he encounters Holst (Martin Brambach), the officer who arrested him. The new camp still provides livable conditions including operatic music during work, but his new assignment is to create the most authentic counterfeit currency from the allies' side, making pounds and later dollars.

    Always desperate and under pressure, Sally's collected spirit is at odds with communist co-worker, Burger (August Diehl), who insists they "sabotage" the operation, noting that replenished funds could help the Nazis win the war. No easy dilemma, dissention hits within the group as Sally tries to keep informants from squealing while keeping a young lascivious friend from being detected for his infectious tuberculosis. Pressured by Herzog (Devid Stricson), a less menacing SS officer and a key bargaining chip, Sally must decide if he must do what is practical to survive or bend to Burger who sees his plan as the only way to help all.

    While the presentation of 'The Counterfeiters' is easily more tightly presented and creates more tangible Nazi tension than 'Black Book,' it's hard to say this Holocaust film has the same impact as some finer ones like `Au Revoir Les Enfants'. Not every Holocaust film has to be a `Schindler's List,' but this one manages to be highly engaging with immediate scenes, expert editing, and all around great performances. Best of all, 'The Counterfeiters' provides a great story and tells it well.

    (An Oscar nominee for "Best Foreign film, 'The Counterfeiters' was directed with laudable finesse by Stefan Ruzowitzky.)

    A J.P.'s Pick 4*'s = Very Good ...more info
  • Survival of the Shrewdest
    Die F?lscher (The Counterfeiters) deserves its Oscar as the Best Foreign Film of 2007. Based on a true story and singed with horrifying details of the Nazi treatment of 'detainees' (primarily Jews) during WW II, the inner story of this film is one of resilience and survival against near impossible odds and how one man turned his criminal gifts into a system so impressive that he served as a 'provider' of funds to the financially depleted Third Reich war effort. The story is in itself fascinating enough to hold our interest for the duration of the film, but it is the incredibly ingenious and wily character of Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch that burns a space in our minds of how one man survived the concentration camps and in his own way helped fellow Jews to likewise survive the Holocaust.

    Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a brilliant counterfeiter, a Russian Jew so gifted in his ability to forge documents such as passports that he is able to live the 'good life' - money, women, gambling, etc. - until he is arrested by the Nazis and placed in a detention camp Sachsenhausen north of Berlin. His facile mind sees his possible extermination and leads him to make a deal with the Nazis to spare his life (and the lives of his elected doomed accomplices) in return for making counterfeit money (British pounds) so desperately needed to fill the coffers of the dwindling Nazi resources. He and his confreres are afforded comfortable living space, good foods, and other amenities in a special sector of the concentration camp, a place where they can spend their time turning out volumes of money for the Nazis. In this way many of these 'selected' men manage to stay alive until the war is over, but the 'hero' character of Sally Sorowitsch remains an enigma of sorts: his cunning ideas are basically self centered and his focus remains on his own survival and ultimate gratification of yet another successful counterfeit business. In other words, his story leaves a feeling of uneasiness with the viewer - is this a survivor to admire or is this a 'player' whose sense of compassion is marred by his own selfish goals? The viewer is left to decide.

    Though Karl Markovics is very strong in the leading role, the supporting cast of some of Germany's finest actors brings a depth of humanity and perception to the major issue the film addresses - both death and survival in the onerous concentration camps of the Nazis. Director/screenwriter Stefan Ruzowitzky deserves kudos for the manner in which he shows both sides of the seminal situation. His cinematographer Benedict Neuenfels manages to capture the lurid light of the confined men and makes the intolerable almost tolerable to watch: the haunting musical score by Marius Ruhland completes the atmosphere. This is a powerful movie on every level, but it is a very disturbing film in many ways. It will make the viewer think - and that is most definitely a strong point of this film. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp, August 08...more info
  • A tense, fascinating true tale about a group of skilled Jewish counterfeiters, Nazi brutality and corrupt German self-interest
    Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a professional criminal, a master counterfeiter and a Jew. He winds up in a brutal Nazi labor camp because of all three. Sally also is a survivor. He's not idealistic about Judaism, he knows how prisons work and how to survive. His goal is simple: Do whatever it takes to stay alive and try to use every bit of guile and opportunism he has to get more food and to escape the work designed to kill the inmates. He winds up being jeered as a Jew but painting heroic portraits of SS officers and their families.

    One night you might say his luck changes. He's transported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and encounters Sturmbannfuhrer Freidrich Herzog (Devid Striesow), the man who arrested him. Now Herzog is in charge of Operation Bernhard, a top-secret project endorsed by Himmler: Find a way to counterfeit British pounds that are so perfect they won't be detected. These counterfeits will be used by the Nazis to flood Britain and destroy its economy. Sorowitsch and a group of Jewish prisoners -- skilled typographers, printers, artists, paper experts -- are taken to a top-secret, walled section of Sachsenhausen and put to work. If they succeed, they live, for a while. If they fail, they die. They succeed so well with the pound that the Nazis decide to use the stuff to buy their own war needs. But now the prisoners also have the task of counterfeiting American $100 bills. Same deal: Succeed, live; fail, die. One prisoner, Adolph Burger (August Diehl), says he will sabotage the project by deliberately showing it down. It makes for a tense moral dilemma. Burger is prepared to be shot. He's also prepared to take the others with him. The others, naturally enough, don't agree.

    For Sally the pragmatist, all he knows is that they are alive while others just beyond the wall are dead. They all can hear the pleading and the gunshots. By working, Sally and the others have better food, showers once a week, softer beds and some shaky security as long as their project is needed. They still endure brutal treatment by their SS guards, but at least they're alive. Sally intends to survive, but he probably surprises himself as he finds ways to help some of the other prisoners and to delay the project enough to matter but not enough to see people shot. And it should be said that Sally the expert is in a position to have the material and presses he needs to finally produce a perfect counterfeit, something he was never able to accomplish before. His British pounds are so good they're accepted by the Swiss and verified by the Bank of England.

    The Counterfeiters is an intriguing mixture of tense thriller and Nazi brutality. It is a taut story permeated with the fear of death, arbitrary and pointless. You're suspected of having tuberculosis because you cough? An SS guard simply takes you out to the courtyard, makes you kneel and fires a bullet in your brain. No matter how useful you might be, you're still just a Jew.

    The movie is based on Adolph Burger's memoirs, but was significantly tweaked, with Burger's approval, by the director/screenwriter Stefan Ruzowitzky. Karl Markovics as Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch gives an excellent performance. Markovics is a tough-looking actor who probably has had the best role of his career. Sorowitsch is based on Salomon Smolianoff, a wily Russian career criminal and master forger.

    Right after the war says Burger, "I told my friend Salomon, `Please promise me you will never counterfeit again.' He promised me he wouldn't do it any more. So we shook hands, and I have never seen him again." Now 91, Burger still gives talks to schoolchildren about the horrors the German's wreaked and, sometimes, about counterfeiting. ...more info
  • counterfeiting compromises
    Before World War II broke out, the Russian-born Jew Salomon Sorowitsch earned a well-deserved reputation as "the most charming scoundrel in Berlin." The Nazis arrested him as "the world's best counterfeiter" and sent him to Sachsenhausen where they forced him to forge identification cards, passports, documents, bank notes, and money. Lots of money, as in millions of pounds that the Nazis flooded into the British economy to destabilize its currency. The film focuses on Sorowitsch's role, but includes the many other Jews in the concentration camp whose skills as engravers, printers, and graphic artists landed them in a life of relative luxury that included clean beds, food, medicine, opera music and even a ping pong table. Avoiding extermination was one thing; betraying fellow Jews and, in effect, financing the Nazi war effort was another. All sorts of moral complexities plague these inmates, none more so than when one of their own sabotages their counterfeiting work on the American dollar. This film is based upon a memoir by Adolph Burger that describes his role in the operation. The Counterfeiters won an Academy Award in 2007 for Best Foreign Language Film. In German with English subtitles....more info
  • A Different Look at the Holocaust
    "The Counterfeiters"

    A Different Look at the Holocaust

    Amos Lassen

    Whether or not "The Counterfeiters" will be regarded as a great film will be decided by the test of time. It won the Academy Award as best foreign film for 2008 so it definitely has merit and I think that the reason it has been acclaimed is because it is a completely different look at the Holocaust. Based on truth, it is the story of Operation Bernhard and the printing of millions of currency pounds, a fascinating story in itself. Yet more than the story is excellent--the direction and the acting are wonderful as well.
    The movie is set in the most evil period the world has ever seen and deals with the greatest evil ever devised by man---the elimination of groups of people by genocide. In this film there are scenes of the horror but it does not dominate.
    A team of artists, forgers and printers was assembled by the Nazis to manufacture pounds and dollars in order to undermine the economies of enemy nations. The base of operations was at Sachsennhausenn concentration camp and the counterfeiters were spared the worst of the conditions there. The film is shot in washed out color and begins at the end of the affair and then moves backwards. This is extremely effective especially as it shows our hero, Sally, on a beach. We see Sally gambling after the war and he appears to be totally unappealing--ugly and hard-faced with little expression and there seems not much about him to care about. As the movie progresses, our opinion of him changes completely. He holds our attention throughout.
    There is a very powerful scene at the end of the war when we see the prisoners of the camp who are very, very thin and bleeding and dirty as they find their way into the barracks of those involved in the counterfeit scheme and they cannot believe that the counterfeiters are also prisoners in the camp. The horror can cause nightmares. Another scene that drives horror home is when the inmates of the camp go into the shower quarters and they are naked and have no notion they will not be taking showers but are choked by gas. No matter how often we see a picture like this, it reminds us of man's inhumanity to man.
    Another interesting point made by "The Counterfeiters" is the moral dilemma of how a Jewish prisoner survived by helping the murderers of fellow Jews. Sally had a tough line to walk upon--he had to decide whether to follow his own instincts to survive as well as to respect the demands of those who wanted to sabotage the project which would make sure the death of all those involved. Sally seemed so far gone that he was devoid of emotions. He was a broken man.
    The main point of the film seems to be is the survival of the human spirit and for this alone; this is a film that should be seen.
    ...more info
  • War and self-preservation
    Operation Bernhard was a secret Nazi counterfeit scheme and one of the lesser-known events of WWII. A group of Jewish printers, engravers, graphic artists, and commercial photographers were rounded up and taken to Sachsenhausen where a counterfeiting factory was set up specifically to produce English Pound notes and later, US dollars, with the Nazi goal of flooding and destabilizing Britain's economy. The resulting notes were so expertly manufactured that Nazi spies had them validated by the Bank of England, which confirmed them as authentic. "The Counterfeiters" (Die F?lscher) is based on this true story.

    The film opens in Monte Carlo after WWII. Salomon Sorowitsch (Sally) has a case filled with bank notes, which he carelessly spends at a posh hotel. The story flashes back to 1936 Berlin when Sally was a master forgerer and artist with a thriving underground business. He is captured by the Nazi police and taken to a hard labor camp where he cheats death by drawing portraits of SS officers. Five years later, he is moved to a concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, where he is ordered to supervise the production of what amounted to 132M in counterfeit notes.

    Sally is a realist and much as he is sickened by the Nazi's atrocities, he works hard at perfecting their product for no other purpose than self-preservation. "One adapts or dies," he says. The group is housed separately from other prisoners and is given sheets, soap, and clothing. Their participation, however, did not guarantee them their lives. To fully grasp the hopelessness, author Lawrence Malkin wrote in his book, "Krueger's Men," an account of this same story: "[The SS planned to keep the operation secret by killing them when the job was done. The prisoners worked with the knowledge that they were marked for death when they had finished their jobs.] From the start, they wondered whether they should stretch out their work and risk execution for sabotage, or perform efficiently and thus hasten their own deaths."

    The cries and shots from beyond their barracks can be distinctly heard and the group still suffers occasional beatings and humiliations by the SS. A young idealist and printer, Adolf Burger, whose wife was killed in Auschwitz, incites the group to sabotage the counterfeiting operations, arguing that they are party to the financing of the Nazi war effort. Sally manages to abort Burger's plans, insisting that dying for a principle is worthless. Despite being a swindler, Sally protected his mates as best as he could and refused to betray anyone of them, going so far as to barter with his barracks commandant for medicine for a sick mate and lying to save another's life.

    This story survived because Adolf Burger survived. He is 90 years old and still lectures about the Holocaust and Operation Bernhard in Prague, and served as consultant in the film. It does have an incredible level of authenticity to it. Karl Markovics as Sally was just superb. With very little outward emotion, he is able to project the nightmarish life in Sachsenhausen, where one mistake could mean the end of your life. He is clearly torn by his need to survive and the tragedies of his mates--Burger's wife and another's children killed by the Nazis--as well as the killings of prisoners beyond their barracks. His moments of grief are quite touching. The young August Diehl as Burger is excellent, too, and his idealistic stance was an effective contrast to Sally's pragmatism. Two very different men with divergent approaches, but both courageous and inspiring. When the story returns to Monte Carlo, Sally does something unexpected that's a fitting end to the story.

    I really think it's a perfect film. There's not a single thing I can find fault with. It's a quality drama about the moral dilemmas prisoners grappled with when faced daily with the prospect of death, and how wrenching these choices were. It certainly deserved its Oscar as best Foreign Language Film in 2007.

    DVD extras are: The Making of..., Interview with the director, Adolf Burger's Artifacts, and a Q&A with the director, all worth seeing as they provide an even deeper understanding of the true story of Operation Bernhard (named after the scheme's instigator, SS officer Bernhard Krueger). It's an excellent and compelling story and highly recommended.

    (Language: German with English subtitles)...more info