Counterfeiter (Hardcover)

How a Norwegian Jew survived the Holocaust

By Moritz Nachtstern

Osprey Publishing, 9781846032899, 288pp.

Publication Date: August 19, 2008

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (11/8/2011)

List Price: 24.95*
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Published for the first time in English, this is an enthralling personal account of the secret Nazi project, Operation Bernhard, devised to destabilize the British and, later, American economies by creating and putting into circulation millions of counterfeit banknotes. A team of typographers and printers was pulled out of the rows of prisoners on their way to the gas chambers and transferred to the strictly isolated Block 19 in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. There they were presented with the enormous task of producing almost perfect counterfeits to the value of hundreds of millions of pounds sterling. These notes were to be dropped from bombers over London, with the aim of causing financial chaos. When the time came the Luftwaffe's resources were fully committed in other campaigns and theaters but some of the currency was successfully used to fund operations in Germany's secret war.

Moritz Nachtstern (1902-1969), was a Norwegian-Jewish typographer deported from Oslo in 1942. This is his story, as told to his wife and written down by her, then edited by journalist Ragnar Arntzen. It was originally published in Norwegian in 1949. It covers the three terrible years from his arrest and transportation to Germany, through the horrors of life in Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen to his escape in the last chaotic and terrifying days as the liberating American forces approached. At the center of this personal tale of courage and endurance is Nachtstern's absorbing description of how, in order to survive, he participated in the creation of exquisite forgeries, while working as slowly as possible, both to frustrate the Nazi plan and to ensure that he and his fellow forgers never became expendable.

Nachtstern's daughter Sidsel contributes a moving foreword, "It cannot be erased," and essays by Lawrence Malkin and Bjarte Bruland place this sixty-year old document in its historical context.

The translator, Margrit Rosenberg Stenge, was born in Germany but spent five years of her childhood in hiding with her parents in Norway and Sweden during World War II. She has lived in Montreal since 1951 and has translated and published a number of Holocaust memoirs.

About the Author

Moritz Nachtstern (1902-1969), a typographer, was one of the 532 Norwegian Jews deported to Germany on the ship Danau in 1942. From March 1943 until February 1945 he was a prisoner in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany. He managed to escape in the chaos of the last days of the war as American forces approached the camp. The author lives in Norway.

Praise For Counterfeiter: How a Norwegian Jew survived the Holocaust

"...History is not just world changing events. History is not just stories of valor or sadness. History is what makes up a person ... To Moritz Nachtstern, the reluctant counterfeiter, WW2 was his fight for survival, and Counterfeiter told his story in a simple manner that nevertheless triggered deepest emotions." -C. Peter Chen, (November 2008)

"Counterfeiter: How a Norwegian Jew Survived the Holocaust is an addition for both general-interest lending libraries strong in Holocaust studies and for World War II or Judaic history holdings. It tells of the Nazi secret project, Operation Bernhard, which used prisoners to produce counterfeit British bank nots--considered some of the most perfect counterfeits ever produced--which were to be dropped over London to destabilize the British economy. Author Moritz Nachstern was one of those picked for the program: his story survival and the project offers unusual gripping insights." -The Bookwatch (October 2008)

"As far as Malkin is concerned, it’s the 'most reliable and psychologically acute' of the half-dozen memoirs written by participants of the counterfeiting operation. 'To me, it’s barely a Holocaust story,'said Malkin of the counterfeiting saga. “It’s a story of survival and deception in wartime.”-Jon Kalish, The Forward (August 2008)

"Arresting from start to finish, this harrowing memoir is full of compassion, pain and strength that illuminates from the inside a little-known episode in the Nazi effort." --Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

From the introductory essay by award-winning journalist Lawrence Malkin, author of Krueger's Men: the Secret Nazi Counterfeit Plot and the Prisoners of Block 19 (Little, Brown 2006)
"Of the half-dozen memoirs written by the prisoners who were conscripted into the greatest counterfeiting operation in history, Moritz Nachtstern's is the most reliable and psychologically acute version of the drama as seen from inside Sachsenhausen's Block 19. Shortly after he returned home in 1945, when his extraordinary experiences were still fresh in his memory, he dictated his reminiscences to his new wife, Rachel. Her typed notes (still in possession of their daughter, Sidsel) were later turned over to a Norwegian journalist, Ragnar Arntzen. He wove them into a story of deceit and survival by the counterfeiting crew of about 145 prisoners and their master, SS Major Bernhard Krueger."