Adolfo Kaminsky: The Teen Forger Who Saved 14,000 Jews

Adolfo Kaminsky as a young man in France.
Adolfo Kaminsky as a young man in France.
Adolfo Kaminsky as a young man in France. Photo by Sarah Kaminsky

Born in Argentina to a Russian Jewish family in 1925, Adolfo Kaminsky is a former member of the underground French Resistance. During World War II, Kaminsky helped as many as 14,000 Jewish people escape persecution by forging identity papers.

At age 18, Kaminsky became the technical director of a clandestine laboratory in Paris, France creating false passports for Jewish men, women, and children about to be deported to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He never claimed money for his services; instead, he made a living as a commercial photographer.

Adolfo Kaminsky’s moving story is featured in Jacques Falck’s 52-minute documentary film “Forging Identity.” Apart from exploring the motivations and methods of a master forger during World War II, the movie also highlights his later efforts to help people escape atrocities around the world. “In the years after the war, Kaminsky aligned himself with the few stalwarts who remained underground. Working with a clandestine International Emigration Network, he used his skills to help Holocaust survivors trying to reach Palestine. In the 1950s, he joined the fight for the liberation of Algeria, creating forgeries for members of the National Liberation Front. While later, he assisted leftist, anti-imperialist groups operating in Latin America.”

In 2009, his daughter, Sarah Kaminsky, provided a brilliant biography of him, titled “Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life.” In one scene from the book, Mr. Kaminsky stays awake for two nights straight to fill a large rush order. “It is a simple calculation: In one hour I can make 30 blank documents; if I sleep for an hour, 30 people will die.”

Adolfo Kaminsky and his daughter Sarah.
Adolfo Kaminsky and his daughter Sarah.

“The New York Times” created a remarkable 16-minute documentary film, entitled “The Forger,” to accompany an online article about Adolfo Kaminsky’s secret life. You can view the short film below:

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