Ich bin ich. Die anderen sind die anderen.
(I'm myself. Everyone else is everyone else.)
-Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch
A German language film based on the true story of the Nazi Operation Bernhard, the largest counterfeiting operation in history. Jews and other concentration camp prisoners with artistic, printing, banking or counterfeiting experience are moved to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. They are forced to forge British pounds, in a Nazi plot to destabilise the British economy but the pounds are forged so well that the Germans decide to pay for the German war effort. Then the prisoners are told to print the American Dollar.
Burger, the communist collotype printer, resists the printing and together the prisoners manage to delay the printing until the war ends.
The subplot follows the main character, Sally Sorowitsch, a career forger and Jew as he befriends Berger and the young Russian artist, Kolya. Originally motivated by money and self-preservation, Sally begins to find honour in his existence.
This work provides examples of:
- Adaptation Name Change: Every significant character in Adolf Burger's memoir had their name changed in the film, except for the author himself and opera singer Isaak Plappler.
- Affably Evil: Sturmbannführer Herzog
- Bring My Brown Pants: Non-comedic example. Near the end of the film, a disarmed Krüger wets himself when Sally corners him with his own gun.
- Counterfeit Cash: Naturally.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Krüger. During Sally's visit to his house, he is shown doting on his kids, and, rarely for his time, is adamantly opposed to corporal punishment.
- Evil Versus Evil: How Sally, who had to flee his home following the Russian Revolution, views the conflict between the Nazis and Communists. It's the main source of his antagonism towards Burger.
- Gallows Humor: From one of the Sachsenhausen inmates, "Why is there no God in Auschwitz? . . . He didn't make it through the selection process."
- Hey, It's That Guy!: August Diehl plays a jew here, and a Nazi in Inglourious Basterds.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Sally and Kolya.
- Nazi Germany: Also partly set in Nazi Austria (although at the time that technically was part of "Greater Germany").
- Scars Are Forever: Sally's number.
- Those Wacky Nazis: SS Major Bernhard Krüger. He's creepy too but he certainly counts as wacky, what with the ping-pong table and all.
- While Rome Burns: The counterfeiters are shielded from most of the excesses of camp life, and live in relative luxury, and some of their merrymaking comes off as an attempt to suppress their guilt.