Adolf Burger

Today in Mailbox we disclose the identity of March's mystery man and read from your correct answers. Listeners quoted: Henk Poortvliet, S. J. Agboola, Ian Morrison, Colin Law, Cheng Meng, Richard Chen, David Eldridge, Charles Konecny, Hans Verner Lollike.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. The time has come again to reveal the identity of last month’s mystery man and read from your correct answers. We received many more of them than we can actually quote in the short time we have, so let’s hear at least a few:

Henk Poortvliet from the Netherlands wrote:

“The name of the writer must be Adolf Burger, who published his memoirs in 1983 in a book called ‘The Commando of Counterfeiters’. Screenwriter and director Stefan Ruzowitzky adapted the book as the screenplay for his Austrian-German co-production ‘The Counterfeiters’ that received an Oscar in 2008.”

S. J. Agboola from Nigeria writes:

“Adolf Burger was born on August 12, 1917 in the community of Kakaslomnic. He was a typographer and a memoir writer. I pity him because he was unfortunate to have spent his most productive years in one of the most terrible periods in human history. The loss of his father and wife at so early a period in life could have thrown other mortals out of balance. He was a man of courage, who braved all odds and managed to make an indelible name for himself in the annals of history.”

Ian Morrison follows Radio Prague in Beijing:

Bernhard Kruger
“The movie in question was ‘The Counterfeiters’ about Operation Bernhard, the Nazi plot to destabilise the British economy during World War Two by flooding the UK with counterfeit banknotes. Burger, who was imprisoned at Sachsenhausen concentration camp, himself worked on Operation Bernhard.”

Colin Law from New Zealand supplied more details:

“Adolf Burger was part of a secret Nazi operation at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, run by SS Major Bernhard Kruger, involving over 100 Jews and other skilled craftsmen. ‘Operation Bernhard’ produced counterfeit English pounds and US dollars, intended to disrupt the economies of those countries. Burger was responsible for the ink and the printing of the bank notes. Although the Nazi operation produced some 9 million notes with face value totaling over 130 million pounds sterling they had little effect as the Luftwaffe did not have enough planes to drop them over Britain.

“When the war ended, Adolf Burger settled in Prague and in 1945 Sylva and Oskar Krejčí wrote a short book entitled ‘Číslo 64401 mluví’ (Number 64401 Speaks) based on Adolf’s experiences.

The Counterfeiters
In 1970 he began to write his own memoirs which were published in 1983 in Czech as ‘Komando padělatelů’ and Slovakian as ‘Komando falšovateľov’ (Commando of Counterfeiters) and in German as ‘Des Teufels Werkstatt’ (Devil’s Workshop). It was not until 2009 that the English version of Burger’s book was published.”

Cheng Meng listens to Radio Prague in China:

“According to the clues disclosed in your Mailbox programme, the mystery person of this month must be Adolf Burger‏. He's a great author! Through reading his book, we know that peace is more valuable than gold. I wish all people in this world would live harmoniously with each other forevermore! Long live peace! Down with war!”

Richard Chen lives in Trinidad & Tobago:

“My answer for this month's quiz is Adolf Burger, a Jewish Slovak typographer who was imprisoned in 1942 for forging baptismal certificates in order to save Jews from deportation and whose memoir was the basis for the film ‘The Counterfeiters’ which won the 2008 Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film.”

David Eldridge writes from the United Kingdom:

“In April 1945 Sachsenhausen inmates were evacuated and Burger was sent to Ebensee, a camp in the Mauthausen concentration camp complex, Austria, and was liberated there by the US Army on May 5, 1945. After the war Burger settled in Prague where he still lives… His memoirs were published in 1983 as ‘The Commando of Counterfeiters’. Another English language edition was published in London in 2009. Adolf Burger attended the launch the book in London, and visited the Bank of England on 24 February 2009 where he met the Chief Cashier, Andrew Bailey and was presented with one of the notes he had forged in the concentration camp more than sixty years earlier.”

Charles Konecny from the USA writes:

“Burger's life parallels the lives of so many in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation and especially the Jewish Czech and Slovak people as there was always a constant threat. His life is both fascinating and disturbing. But because of his printing talent he did survive and would become another voice for those who did not.”

And finally Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark:

“My wife and I actually spent eight days in Velka Lomnica [the birth town of Adolf Burger]. We walked around the village, both the old and the new part. It is hard to believe that in those days the majority of the population were Germans with a few Jewish families to which Adolf Burger belonged. Now Slovaks live in the village together with Roma inhabiting the oldest houses. We heard absolutely nothing about Adolf Burger. We spent a whole day in Poprad, visited the town museum, churches, parks etc. – also no word about Adolf Burger. That is too bad, because his story is Oscar worthy.”

Thank you very much for your time and effort in researching the answer to last month’s question. A Radio Prague parcel is on its way to Cheng Meng from China. For those who haven’t been lucky this time, here’s an easy question for June.

“This month we would like to know the name of the Czech-born American film director born in 1932 who won two Oscars as best director.”

Send us your answers as usual to [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague by the end of June. Until June 15th you can still send us your answers to Radio Prague’s annual writing contest whose details you’ll find on our website at Please tune in again next week for a regular edition of Mailbox. Until then take care.