(1925 – 2023)
“Keep awake. The longer possible. Struggle against sleep. The calculation is easy. In one hour, I make 30 false papers. If I sleep one hour, 30 people will die.”- Adolfo Kaminsky.
Over the course of World War II, Kaminsky created documents that saved the lives of some 14,000 Jews.
TORONTO. January 15/23 – Adolfo Kaminsky was an Argentine-born member of the French Resistance, specializing in the forgery of identity documents. During World War II, he forged papers that saved the lives of more than 14,000 Jews. He later went on to assist Jewish immigration to the British Mandate for Palestine and then to forge identity documents for the National Liberation Front and French draft dodgers during the Algerian War (1954–62). He forged papers for thirty years for different activist groups, mainly national liberation fronts, without ever claiming payment for it.
He was born in Argentina to a Russian Jewish family. In 1932, when Kaminsky was seven years old, he moved with his family to Paris, where his father worked as a tailor. In 1938 the family moved from Paris, to Vire, in the Normandy region of north-western France, where his uncle lived.
Adolfo worked in a dye shop and became fascinated by the chemistry of colourants. He later created his own lab in his uncle’s house and worked in a butter-shop as an assistant to a chemist who taught him the basics.
In 1940, after the German invasion of France, the family house in Vire was taken over by the Germans and Kaminsky temporarily lived in another house. His mother was killed by the Nazis in 1941.
At the age of 17, Adolfo Kaminsky entered the French Resistance At first he watched the railway station at Vire from where railcars of the Organisation Todt, loaded with material for the Atlantic Wall. The Atlantic Wall was “an extensive system of coastal defences and fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe from the United Kingdom.”
Organisation Todt was a civil and military engineering organisation in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, named for its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi. Kaminsky sent messages to London about these trains.
In 1943 his family was interned in the internment camp of Drancy, as a prelude to deportation. “Drancy internment camp was an assembly and detention camp for confining Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps during the German occupation of France.” But thanks to diplomatic intervention from the Consul of Argentina, the family were freed during December 1943, and subsequently moved back to Paris.
Thereafter, Adolfo worked in an underground laboratory in Paris (17, rue des St Pères) where he spent the rest of World War II forging identity papers for Jews and people sought by the Nazis. He was introduced to the Resistance group network La Sixième while researching a false ID for his father. This group, made up of Jews from the Union Générale des Israélites de France included Marc Hamon, alias “the Pingouin”, Suzie, Loutre, and René. The group was having problems removing Waterman blue ink stains from papers.
Kaminsky suggested they use lactic acid, and thereafter joined the group, finally becoming responsible for the chemical forgery lab. They notably had to respond to the challenge of the invention of the watermark. Kaminsky also quickly learned photogravure under a false pretext, and set up a new lab in order to create “real-false” documents. The Kaminsky Lab became the main producer of false IDs for northern France and the Benelux.
In 2010, his daughter Sarah Kaminsky, at a TEDx Paris event, spoke about the extraordinary story of her father and his activity during World War II. Click on the link below to watch this event.
My father the forger
Kaminsky used to say: “Keep awake. The longer possible. Struggle against sleep. The calculation is easy. In one hour, I make 30 false papers. If I sleep one hour, 30 people will die.” Over the course of the war, Kaminsky created documents that saved the lives of 14,000 Jews.
After the Liberation of Paris in August 1944, he joined the French Army and marched to Germany. He was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance, and was engaged by the French military secret services, who entrusted him with making false IDs for spies sent behind the lines in order to investigate and detect the location of concentration camps before their dismantlement by the Nazis.
After the German capitulation, he helped forge documents for Jews attempting to immigrate to the British Mandate for Palestine from 1946 to 1948, in defiance of British immigration restrictions. He also assisted operatives from the anti-British militant groups Irgun and Lehi as they waged a campaign against the British.
Adolfo Kaminsky during his life was awarded the Croix du combattant volontaire de la Résistance, Croix du Combattant 1939-1940, and Médaille de Vermeil de la ville de Paris for his acts during the Resistance. He died aged 97 in Paris on January 9, 2023.♦
Credits. TEDx Paris/YouTube; Sarah Kaminsky; k-larevue.com; saphirnews.com; Wikipedia,
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