This remarkable film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. It stars Karl Markovics as "Sally" Saloman Sorowitsch, a Jew transferred from Auschwitz to Sachsenhausen because he's the greatest counterfeiter in the world. The Nazis need him and a roomful of his fellow death-camp inmates to counterfeit British pound notes and American dollars. Markovics as the leader and moral force keeping the counterfeiters together is simply outstanding.
Karl Markovics by Siebbi, at Flickr Commons
The supporting cast, including Devid Striesow as Sturmbannfuhrer Friedrich Herzog in charge of the counterfeiting effort, is also outstanding.
The plot is simple. Originally the Nazis plan to flood the British economy with pounds to bankrupt it. But after the inmates succeed in reproducing the British pound so well it's authenticated by the Bank of England, as the Soviets roll across eastern Europe and the end of the war looms, Herzog and the Nazis in charge of the project (and doubtless some of their superiors) decide to use counterfeit dollars to escape the advancing Allies. So after the inmates have succeeded in counterfeiting the British pound, the Nazis in charge step-up the schedule for counterfeiting the American dollar, and they begin executing the counterfeiters.
This is not a
simple-minded or prettified Hollywood
production. Nor of course would the word
"nuanced" apply. The movie is about murder and domination and survival by humans living
in the most excruciating circumstances imaginable. And for me, the film made "The Pianist" by Roman
Polanski seem like a stroll in the park.
The Jewish characters include a Communist printer who became a printer to "print the truth" not to salvage the Nazi war on Britain, much less to save a few Nazis' asses. And a young artist who escapes into his work who doesn't care if his work is appreciated by anyone else. And a potential suicide who simply cannot accept the fact that working for the Nazis is necessary for his personal survival. And in addition to the remarkable Devid Striesow, the Nazi characters include the stupid guards who can not believe that the Jews in their custody could actually be serving the Reich (and indeed, they were right, regarding both the inmates and their own Nazi superiors). And the other Nazis, including the simple sadists, and Herzog's complicit wife with her perfect Little-Hitler children.
The most moving scene of many very moving scenes, for me, was near the end when the other Sachsenhausen inmates were liberated and broke into the private compound of the Counterfeiters, and were on the point of shooting them all...only to be stopped by the Counterfeiters' showing the tattoos on their forearms. And the most moving line, for me, was spoken by the head counterfeiter, Sally Sorowitsch: "I will not give the Germans the satisfaction of knowing I feel guilty to be alive."
This is it, OEN readers. Check the DVD out of your local library, and if you admire it as much as I did, buy it.