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The Devil's Workshop (Paperback)

A Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWII Military > Prisoners of War WWII > Battles & Campaigns > Berlin 1945

By Adolf Burger
Frontline Books
Pages: 272
Illustrations: Illustrated throughout
ISBN: 9781399019156
Published: 15th July 2022



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One of the most remarkable episodes of WWII was the Nazi attempt to forge currency and trigger the economic collapse of the Allies. The counterfeit operation was one of the largest the world has ever seen and lead to the postwar reissue of sterling.

At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, 144 Jewish prisoners of 13 different nationalities were forced to work on producing counterfeit pound and dollar notes worth billions. The plan was known as Operation Bernhard.

The forgeries that were produced were virtually undetectable: only the most senior forgers were able to spot fakes, where even the Bank of England failed to do so.

In this extraordinary memoir, the sole surviving Czech counterfeiter Adolf Burger describes his wartime experiences, including the murder of his wife Gizela in Auschwitz and his time as a prisoner in four concentration camps. He was working as a counterfeiter until his liberation from the Ebensee camp on 5 May 1945 and was present at Toplitzee lake on July 5th 2000 when thousands of forged notes were brought to the surface.

Supported by hitherto unseen documentation and photographs that Burger took of his fellow prisoners after the war, this is a shocking account which sheds fresh light on the calculated barbarity of the Nazi war machine.

Adolf Burger was a consultant for the film The Counterfeiters, winner of the 2008 Foreign Language Oscar. His memoir has been published in Hungarian, Persian, Japanese and Czech. He passed away in December 2016.

Adolf Burger author of 'The Devil's Workshop' was interviewed by The Times' Miriam Craig during a visit to England and attended a special screening of the film 'The Counterfeiters' - based on the real life events detailed in his book, he also attended several interviews during his visit.

An invaluable and singular contribution to the growing body of World War II History/Biography collections, "The Devil's Workshop: A Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation" is an essential, important, and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Holocaust and World War II History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

Not only was he the consultant for the feature film “The Counterfeiters”, the winner of the 2008 Foreign Language Oscar, but also note that Burger’s memoir has been published in Hungarian, Persian, Czech, and Japanese. The “Jewish Book World” praised, “This book is essential for our understanding of a relatively unknown chapter of the Holocaust.” Meanwhile, “Goodreads”, the popular literary journal, adds, “Quite exciting. The details are absolutely astounding both in their enormity and abhorrence, but also in their clarity of recollection.”

ARGrunners Magazine

The Devil’s Workshop by Adolf Burger is fantastic. I give 5 stars to many books, but sometimes I wish I could give 6 and this is one of them. Burger was a Slovakian Jew in Auschwitz before being included in the largest counterfeiting operation in the world, in a camp near Berlin. The book is illustrated throughout and that makes it even more interesting. The chapters are short and he talks without embellishments, just presents the situation as it is. I think this is why I’ve enjoyed this book so much.

In the last 3 years of the war the Nazi forced over 140 inmates to forge both British and American banknotes, besides stamps, bonds, and some other documents. This extraordinary account tells his story starting before the war, intertwined with mentions of others who experienced the tragedy of being in the concentration camps. He was liberated from Ebensee concentration camp, but, before that, he is presenting clearly how the counterfeiting operation went, which is so interesting to read. He did not shy away from explaining the technical bits, such as how to source the right type of paper and what went through the process of preparing it.

Operation Bernhard, as it was called saw the production of notes worth billions. The forgeries were so good that even Bank of England failed to spot these fakes. In July 2000 Burger was there when thousands of forged notes were recovered from Toplitzee lake. Furthermore, the book was the basis of the award-winning film The Counterfeiters. Unfortunately it is not available in UK or I would have watched it. It’s well worth reading.

5/5 stars

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

A gripping narrative of one of World War II's most extraordinary events. Burger brilliantly combines energy, pathos and some remarkable archival evidence to provide the definitive counterfeiter's tale.

Historian and broadcaster Tristam Hunt - BBC Radio 4

Harrowing yet fascinating, 28 Feb 2009
By 13 (LONDON United Kingdom)

I came across this book when the author was interviewed in one of the broadsheets, in February 2009. He had just visited the Bank of England, some 60-odd years after he had been forced to forge British bank notes.

The book does not focus entirely on the forging aspect but is broadly autobiographical, including a harrowing account of the author's incarceration in Birkenau & Auschwitz. Indeed, the book is entirely worth reading just for this account in itself.

The latter half of the book describes the author's miraculous selection from the death camp and his subsequent deployment within the forging Kommando at Sachsenhausen. It's important to note that while living conditions were better - how could they not be - the forging inmates were all still utterly convinced they would eventually be executed. Given the secrecy surrounding the project, how could they be allowed to live?

The book is extremely well-written and for those with a more academic interest, includes documentary evidence, plus illustrations of the innocents and the guilty. The author clearly does not seek pity, yet achieves one of the most moving texts I have ever read. The factual episodes, such as the more technical aspects of forging are explained in a concise, intelligent and erudite manner.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly.

Amazon.UK - Five Star Review

The story of Adolf Burger, a Slovakian Jew forced by the Nazis to produce counterfeit British banknotes, is utterly compelling.

The Spectator March 2009
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 Adolf Burger

About Adolf Burger

Adolf Burger was born in Slovakia in 1917. He was arrested in August 1942 together with his wife and both were sent to Auschwitz. Burger was transferred to the forgery workshop at Sachsenhausen in Berlin in 1944. He is one of the last surviving witnesses of the Nazi counterfeiting operation and was a consultant for the film The Counterfeiters, winner of the 2008 Foreign Language Oscar. His memoir 'The Devil's Workshop' has been published in Hungarian, Persian, Japanese and Czech. He continues to travel to speak about his wartime experiences. He lives in Prague.

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