Adolf Burger

01.07.2009 | 00:00
Adolf Burger

Number 64401 Speaks
During World War II, the leaders of Nazi Germany came up with a plan to obtain foreign currency. For this purpose they set up a counterfeiting plant in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the largest note forging scam ever dreamt up. This project was called “Operation Bernhard”. One of the workers there was the “famous” counterfeiter Salomon Smoljanov.

Adolf Burger was born in Veľká Lomnica in Slovakia on August 12, 1917 and today this 92 year old man is the last “counterfeiting” survivor. As he says himself, his childhood was happy, even though the family was poor and his father died when Adolf was four. Then he and his whole family including his grandparents, mother Gizela, siblings Malvína, Izabela and Izidor moved to Poprad and later to Bratislava. Adolf trained to be a printer and from 1939 he worked in the Bratislava printing house Horváth and Co. He and his siblings were attending the youth organization Hashomer Hatzaird, where they were preparing to move to Palestine. His siblings managed to leave the country before the war. In 1942, Adolf Burger was arrested, sent to Žilina and then deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The day after his arrest was arrested also his wife Gisela, who, shortly before Christmas, was murdered in the gas chambers at Birkenau. She was only 22 years old.
Thanks to his profession, Adolf was chosen to work in the counterfeiting plant in the Sachsenhausen camp, where he was deported in 1944. He became directly involved in “Operation Bernhard” and participated in counterfeiting pounds, dollars, postage stamps and other documents. In spite of their slightly better living conditions they all knew only too well that none of the prisoners would leave alive from the tightly guarded area of blocks Nos. 18 and 19. As the Allies drew closer, he and the others were transported to Mauthausen, Austria in February 1945 and later to Ebensee. Thanks to the rapid advance of the Americans and the activities of Austrian partisans the SS plans to bury everything and everybody in the underground workshops failed. Immediately after returning to Prague, he gave a shocking testimony of “Operation Bernhard”, to the Prague criminal police. By this act he helped to identify one third of the forged pounds, deposited in the national bank. Unfortunately, he did not meet his family in Slovakia. A week before the arrival of the Red Army, the Hlinka Guard had deported his mother to Ravensbrück, where she died. Her second husband Alexander Kočiš voluntarily followed his wife and then died in Sachsenhausen. Adolf went back to Prague, where he ran a printing works until the communist purges of the early 1950s. Then as a Jew he was deployed to work in a shipyard and municipal services, later to become a director of taxi services.
He devoted all his life to sharing his experience with others. In 1953–2007 he gave lectures to more than 103,000 students throughout the whole of Germany, and in 1987 he testifi ed in a trial of war criminals. He wrote an astonishing non-fi ction book called Devil’s Workshop, which was translated into many languages. In it he truly described everything that he had gone through. The book was adapted into a fi lm of the same name and, although is only certain artistic exaggeration, it won an Oscar in 2008 in the Best Foreign Language category.

Recorded in July 2009
Died on December 6, 2016

Luděk Sládek

Pre-war photo of Adolf Burger Wife Gisela Portrait of A. Burger painted by a fellow prisoner Permission to emigrate to Palestine – came too late Obrázek č.5 Counterfeit money was recognizable just through this perforation Counterfeit money was recognizable just through this perforation Obrázek č.8 Obrázek č.9 Obrázek č.10 Obrázek č.11 Obrázek č.12 Obrázek č.13 Obrázek č.14 Obrázek č.15 Obrázek č.16

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