Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, Martin Brambach
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

This is a brilliant, important film about how the Nazis tried to profit from the skills of a Jewish counterfeiter during the Second World War. Describing the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, the film is brave in the sense that it doesn’t shy away from the concentration camp issue, whilst skilfully examining conflicting emotions, double standards, and the meaning of loyalty.

Towards the end of war, the German Reich, fearing that they were ever nearing defeat, came up with a new tactic – flooding their enemies’ economies with fake banknotes, leading to certain economic disaster for their foes, whilst simultaneously using it to fill their own empty war coffers.

At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, two barracks were separated from the rest of the camp and a make shift counterfeiter’s workshop was set up. Jewish prisoners who were known to be professional printers, bank officials or craftsmen were brought specifically to Sachsenhausen to implement the plan. Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), before the war a major counterfeiting criminal, was put in charge of replicating perfectly the British pound and US dollar, a plan with which he succeeded. But there were sabotaging forces within the workshop, and the threat of death and confusion about a cause to die for was ever present.

The film is especially good in its depiction of complicated relationships, such as the one between Sorowitsch and the Camp Kommandant Herzog, which remains ambiguous, and that between Sorowitsch and Adolf Burger (August Diehl). Burger is a man with strong political opinions who also toils in the workshop, and the film is based on his memoirs, “The Devil’s Workshop.”

Along with THE LIVES OF OTHERS amongst other recent impressive works, German films seem to be hitting a fine renaissance. A must-see.

6 out of 6 stars