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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published on 2 Jan 2009 by C. O. DeRiemer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'The Counterfeiters' by John O'Loughlin
A gritty no-holds-barred concentration camp film largely revolving around the counterfeiting, under the tutelage of an expert counterfeiter by name of Salomon Sorowitsch, played if I am not mistaken (for the credits on the DVD box are difficult to read) by Karl Markovics (who also figures as a doctor in 'Unknown'), who forges both pound notes and dollars, though the...
Published on 5 Oct 2011 by joholin


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tense, fascinating true tale about a group of skilled Jewish counterfeiters, Nazi brutality and corrupt German self-interest, 2 Jan 2009
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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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.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Drama, 26 July 2008
By 
L. Davidson (Belfast, N.Ireland) - See all my reviews
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"The Counterfeiters" is an excellent German language film set in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the latter stages of World War Two. Karl Markovics plays a Jewish counterfeiter who ,together with other Jews from a printing background, are forced by the Nazis to forge English pound notes and dollar bills to help finance the Nazi's increasingly desperate war efforts. The strengths of this Oscar winning film are it's realistic characterisation and superb acting especially that of the mercurial Markovics.The brutality and inhumanity of the Nazis treatment of the Jews is vividly conveyed as is the survivalism of the Jewish prisoners. Definitely one of the best foreign language films that I have seen for some time.As good as "The Lives of Others".
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Film, Gripping and Thought Provoking, 8 July 2008
I thought this was a really gripping film and one that raised more complex ethical questions than is usual in this context.
The story centres on two central characters who are part of a group of prisoners in a concentration camp chosen by the Nazis to carry out a counterfeiting operation which could go far to aiding the Nazi war effort.
Burger is an idealistic communist, willing to sabotage the operation and sacrifice his life for his principles, unfortunately this would also mean sacrificing the lives of the others in the group. 'Solly' on the other hand is a criminal, a master counterfeiter whose pragmatism has ensured his survival throughout the war and before. He walks a tightrope between self preservation and honour towards his fellow inmates. He does not have the black and white outlook of Burger and sees partial coersion with the Nazis as the best way to preserve his life and the lives of the other prisoners in his group. He is a complex and interesting character suberbly played by Markovics. In fact all the acting in this film is excellent. Overall the film manages to operate both as a tense, involving drama and one that raises an interesting debate about what would be 'the right thing to do' in such harrowing circumstances. Highly recommended.
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50 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pounds, 3 Mar 2008
By 
MICHAEL ACUNA (Southern California United States) - See all my reviews
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The New Germany and Austria by extension have been in the process, these past several years, of divesting themselves of National Guilt in regards to the atrocities of World War 2: "Sophie Scholl," "Downfall" and also the superb "Lives of Others" (though set in post WWII East Berlin, it reeks of submission and totalitarianism) speak to the redemptive qualities of confession and penance.
And now we have "The Counterfeiters," the story of Solomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a Russian-born Jew who spends his life forging documents thereby attaining the reputation of a master counterfeiter. Ultimately he is arrested and sent to a Camp at which he is given the assignment of forging the British Pound note for The Third Reich. This is 1945 and the disastrous German War effort is in dire need of cash to carry on its war effort.
"Counterfeiters" is all about survival and to what means we, as human beings will do to comply in order to live: anything pretty much sums it up and anything pretty much is the reality of our collective desire to live despite the cicumstances.
Director Stefan Ruzowitzky is walking a slippery slope here as the counterfeiting was done in the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen and the technicians involved were almost all Jews, "The Counterfeiters" raises some provocative moral dilemmas.
Also, the Sorowitsch of Markovics is no paragon of honor. Instead he is a squirrelly, only thinking for himself, con man. He's happy to do what the Nazi's ask of him in order to get the perks of his "exalted position" in Sachsenhausen: clean clothes, good food, soft bedding, and weekly hot showers. "The Counterfeiters" begins with a post war sequence of Sorowitsch spending thousands of counterfeit British Pounds in Monte Carlo: gambling, grooming himself, dining, dating...basically enjoying the fruits of his labors and those of his fellow counterfeiters.
Sorowitsch is one who feels that: "Only by surviving can we defeat them."
"The Counterfeiters" is a difficult film to like but ultimately it speaks to something in all of us: the drive, the desperate need to survive despite the circumstances in which we might find ourselves. Sorowitsch is flawed, a nasty piece of work actually but he's intelligent, crafty and grudgingly and ultimately deserving of our respect.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collaboration or Annihilation., 3 Mar 2010
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Counterfeiters [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
The last German made film I watched was the very impressive, "The Lives of Others". One of the finest films I have seen in a very long time. "The Counterfeiters" may not be quite as good, but is a very impressive film none the less. The last holocaust film I saw was "The boy in the Striped Pyjamas", which I was less than impressed with. It was a film that failed to tackle the sheer brutality and the moral dilemmas that faced inmates of the concentration camps. This is a criticism that could not be levelled at "The Counterfeiters". The great dilemma that faced many who found themselves in such appalling circumstances was, just how far were you prepared to go to save your skin. As the great Italian writer Primo Levi, an Auchwitz survivor himself, pointed out in his profoundly moving book "If this is a Man", it was the very worst who often survived. An example of this was the feared Kapos, who although usually jews themselves were often more brutal to the inmates than the guards themselves. To survive some were prepared to sacrifice all notions of justice and decency. It poses that awkward question to the watcher. Just what would I do in those circumstances? Pray that it is not a question you will have to answer in your lifetime!

In the film we follow the fortunes of a master forger Salomon Sarowitsch, played by the brilliant Karl Markovics. The story commences in Berlin in 1936 when Sarowitsch is arrested by Berlin CID. He is subsequently sent to Mauthausen concentration camp, where he uses his artistic skills to survive. He temporarily sacrifices his preference to make money instead of art, for the sake of survival. He is later sent to the Sachenhausen camp, where his unique skills are used to assist in Operation Bernhard, a true life operation where the Nazis hoped to forge the pound and the dollar to keep up their crumbling war effort. His nefarious work is threatened by the idealist Adolf Burger, who sabotages his work and is prepared to give his life to fight this great wrong. It is clear from the outset that Sarowitsch has the hallmarks of a survivor. He is unprincipled and is prepared to do what the Nazis tell him to do, just in order to survive one more day. His past life also makes him tough, as we see when he puts a blade against the throat of a kapo. But as time goes on we also find that deep down in that stony heart there is a good man striving to get out. A man who will not inform on others, even if they imperil his own life. A man who will even risk his own life, to get medicine for an ill man, and grieve inconsolably when he dies. This is what makes him such a compelling and fascinating character.

The film is based on a book by the real Adolf Burger who survived the war. He spent time in "The Golden Cage", where the privileged workers on Operation Bernhard enjoyed comforts only dreamed of by the other inmates. The film does not shirk from making it clear what life was like in the camps outside the cage. Arbitrary shootings are an everyday occurrence, and death is an ever present. The very worst of humanity is shown, but thankfully this is more than compensated for by showing the nobility that some individuals can achieve in impossible circumstances. The acting in the film is especially good. Markovics in the lead role is a revelation. August Diehl as Burger is nearly as good. His haunting features reminded me much of that fine American actor Christopher Walken. The writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky handles his subject with great sensitivity. Holocaust films often struggle to tackle the awkward issues. The violence is often averted for fear of alienating audiences, or on the other hand is studiously avoided. In the case of "Life is Beautiful", even comedy was controversially introduced. A brave misfire in my opinion! But Ruzowitzky approaches his subject cleverly. Although no gratuitous violence is shown, we are made very aware of the atrocities that are going on outside the gilded cage.

During the Nuremburg trials, many of the Nazi leaders protested their innocence by saying that they had no choice other than to carry out the orders given to them, or face the grim prospect of execution. This could also include their families. It was an excuse that was not accepted. People like the German Christian pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who protested against the regime and refused to co-operate was executed for his beliefs. That was the price he was prepared to pay to reach his calvary. His writings are still avidly read to this day and his reputation continues to grow. Others were not prepared to pay such a high price for their beliefs. As the film heads to its finale, Sarowitsch attains a nobility that few screen heroes ever achieved. Like the dying thief on the cross, his life is transformed. But our noble rogue is not quite finished with the old life. Watch out for the films wonderful closing scenes. Money definitely is not everything! An important film, and a deserved five stars.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars counterfeiters, 27 Feb 2008
The counterfeiters is a truly mesmerizing movie with an utterly compelling performance from Karl Markovics who plays the main character 'Sally' an artist turned counterfeiter par excellance.

When he is arrested by the Berlin police Sally finds himself in a concentration camp to survive he must adapt to his surroundings and he uses his artistic skills as a means of survival by painting portraits of the prison guards. Soon he is moved onto another camp and finds himself face to face with the man who put him in the concentration camp only now he wants Sally to work on a project to counterfeit the British pound in an attempt to flood the British currency market and ruin the economy.

The washed out colours and grainy film add to the archive feel of the film utterly compelling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'The Counterfeiters' by John O'Loughlin, 5 Oct 2011
By 
joholin (London, England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Counterfeiters [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
A gritty no-holds-barred concentration camp film largely revolving around the counterfeiting, under the tutelage of an expert counterfeiter by name of Salomon Sorowitsch, played if I am not mistaken (for the credits on the DVD box are difficult to read) by Karl Markovics (who also figures as a doctor in 'Unknown'), who forges both pound notes and dollars, though the latter is less forthcoming in view of stalling tactics engineered by August Diels' character. This is not a particularly pleasant film, and you won't feel anything like the emotions associated with films like 'The Lives of Others' or 'Atomized'. But it is great in its stark way and would rank alongside 'The Grey Zone' for its frank portrayal of conditions only occasionally punctuated by lighter or pleasanter moments, as when the inmates are rewarded for having successfully pulled off a counterfeiting operation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a morally compelling movie, 25 July 2014
By 
Stanley Crowe (Greenville, SC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Counterfeiters [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
******* NOTE: I try to avoid spoilers in the comments below *****

Before I saw this movie and read some historical background on it, I had never heard of Operation Bernhard, the Nazi plan to flood the Allied Countries with counterfeit pounds and dollars, and to establish a counterfeit production station in the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, manned by prisoners, some of them Jews, who had skills in printing and counterfeiting. Based on a book by one of the counterfeiters, Adolf Burger, the movie focuses on Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a Jewish forger, who is arrested just before the World War 2 and imprisoned. He impresses his captors with his skill as an artist, so when Operation Bernhard is conceived, Sally is moved to Sachsenhausen and effectively put in charge of the counterfeiting operation.

The movie's interest is in Sally's moral consciousness. He's keeping himself alive -- and in relatively comfortable conditions -- but he's also helping keep his fellow prisoners alive. The counterfeiters all know that there is a whole other population in the camp who are treated with great cruelty and arbitrariness. But the counterfeiters also know that they are "helping" the Nazis, whose politics they despise, and to the extent that Operation Bernhard works, they could well be prolonging the war. So there's the makings of a moral dilemma here -- for if one sabotages or in any way slows down the counterfeiting production, one can claim to be fighting the good fight, but one might also be endangering the lives of the other counterfeiters if the Nazis become aware of the deliberate slowing-down. If one wants to be a martyr, that's one thing -- but who gets to decide that all your fellow-counterfeiters ought to be martyrs too? These moral and existential dilemmas are registered through Sally's relations with his fellow-prisoner Adolf Burger (August Diehl) and with the Camp Commandant, Herzog (Devid Striesow). The counterfeiters manage to produce all the Pounds Sterling the Nazis need, but the US dollar is a harder nut to crack -- and is one of the group sabotaging the effort and thus putting them all in jeopardy?

Markovics plays Sorowitsch as a man of few words and great alertness of mind, and while he is alive to the better chances of survival that his work makes possible, he has to decide how to relate on a human level with prisoners like Burger, who want to resist the Nazis at every turn and see themselves as principled, as well as with the Kommandant, Herzog. Interestingly Burger and Herzog are both much more verbal than Sorowitsch. They articulate their agendas -- and one wonders of Herzog, who has a lot to lose if Operation Bernhard doesn't succeed, whether one can believe him or not. He can seem humane and even sympathetic, but he's also running a camp in which "normal" prisoners are very cruelly treated and even killed. Sorowitsch is very guarded with these characters -- and, in fact, with everybody -- and one has to gauge his moral stance as much from what he does or doesn't do as from what he says. Markovics is superb in the role -- and he says so little that the viewer should check out the interview with him among the "special features," where he is articulate and cogent (in English!) about the role, its appeal for him, and his approach to acting in general.

Diehl and Striesow are equally compelling as Burger and Herzog respectively, and indeed the whole cast is splendid. The other prisoner/counterfeiters are presented without resort to stereotype, and their meeting near the end with the "normal" prisoners, with whom they have never been allowed to fraternize, is a tense and touching moment. The pictorial qualities are striking too -- the film has a not-too-polished look -- a documentary look? -- that fits the story well. It's tempting to compare this movie to "Schindler's List," and it's less sentimental and less back-and-white. The Kommandant is no obvious monster, although whether or not he is really conflicted about the treatment of the prisoners or merely pretending to be as a means of manipulation is an open question.

The "framing" device has Sorowitsch bringing a boatload of money (forged) to Monte Carlo, where on his first night his gambling prowess impresses a lovely young woman, who in bed notices the tattoo on his arm. Switch to the story of life in the camps. At the end, we're back in Monte Carlo, the day after that shown at the movie's beginning -- the ending is surprising, and right.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Is Not Your Average Holocaust Movie., 3 Feb 2008
By 
Mr. B. A. D. Plowman "Brendan" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I sincerely hope and pray that this astonishing movie wins an Oscar at this year's awards ceremony. "The Counterfeiters" is a remarkable achievement by director Stefan Ruzowitzky and all involved. So why, as far as I can gather, does this film seem to have passed some folk by? For, quite frankly,this is not a film that one SHOULD see, it is a film that one NEEDS to see!

So what makes "The Counterfeiters" such a stupendous movie? Well... I'm not about to reel off the SYNOPSIS, as Amazon have delivered the goods there! However, here are some reasons as to why this movie is, I believe, an undisputed masterpiece:-

1. The stark images within "The Counterfeiters" are often captured on hand-held cameras, adding to the realism of the movie, and plunging the viewer head-first in to the horror of the concentration camps. It makes for a very dizzying, gut-wrenching visual experience.

2. The two lead actors, August Diehl and Karl Markovics, perform out of their skins as the two lead characters with opposing ideals. We feel we can empathise with these characters. We share their dilemma. We as viewers are sucked in to the moral whirlpool that they inhabit.

3. "The Counterfeiters" is suffused with a real nail-biting tension and has the vice-like grip of a first-rate thriller. (Also, lest we forget, this movie is based on true incidents. This makes the drama all the more remarkable.)

4. One of the things that really thrills me about "The Counterfeiters" is that it expertly presents a story rarely told - "Operation Bernhard" - The Nazis' insane plot to flood the British and US economies with counterfeit notes.

5. Needless to say, this movie is highly emotionally charged, often to the point of being deeply, deeply painful. I went to see "The Counterfeiters" in my local movie theatre twice. At each viewing, there were many audience members openly weeping. We have shockingly offhand, violent scenes here that are as impactful as the best in the genre ("Come and See", "Schindler's List", "The Pianist"...)

...And, so...in summation, I would declare "The Counterfeiters" as an utterly magnificent film. A masterpiece, no less. As I stated previously, it is not a film that SHOULD be seen, it is a film that NEEDS to be seen.

Basically, in 2007 I saw two particular movies that simply stood head and shoulders above the rest. The first movie was "The Lives Of Others". The second was "The Counterfeiters". Both are cinematic experiences that I will never, ever forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroes we never knew about, 2 Dec 2013
By 
SBno1 - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Counterfeiters [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Based on a true story of Operation Bernhard, a Nazi operation designed to flood the British market with counterfeit banknotes and destabilise the economy thus weakening the UK from within.

The story centres mostly upon a Russian counterfeiter Salomon Smolianoff (named Sorowitsch in the film) who was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. It follows a band of men that were tasked with completing counterfeit goods. If they didn't comply they were killed. It becomes a battle of survival whilst also knowing that what they were doing could seal their own fate and win the war for Germany. They needed to make a stand, but in doing so could get themselves killed. What follows is a game of stalling without being obvious and hope that they can be rescued.

Whilst these men were trying to survive, they were also aware of the implications of what they were doing. They risked their lives and that of their companions in a game of delays
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The Counterfeiters [2007] [DVD]
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