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'The Counterfeiters' -- Latest Oscar-Winning Film About the Holocaust


An Austrian movie about the Holocaust recently received an Oscar for Best Foreign Picture. The Counterfeiters is the latest of a string of films about the Holocaust to win an Academy Award. It is set to be released in the American movie theaters this weekend [March 21]. VOA's Penelope Poulou has more.

Salomon Sorowitsch is no stranger to crime. The best counterfeiter of his time has a prison record for printing fraudulent banknotes. In 1944, at the height of the Nazis' power, Sorowitsch is sent to do a different kind of time.

He is taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany, once again for counterfeiting. But this time, his skills will save his life and the lives of others. He and a select few have been ordered to produce British and American currency. The cash is meant to fuel Hitler's military machine and the work will spare the counterfeiters from the gas chamber.

The Oscar-winning film The Counterfeiters, examines the moral choices of concentration camp prisoners, who lived comfortably and compromised their principles for survival while others next to them died.

Director Stefan Ruzowitsky says the movie has been greeted enthusiastically worldwide except in Germany. "Knowing that our grandparents have been Nazis and have been involved in all that… what do you do as an individual with this knowledge?" He asks. " And so, I think many people try to avoid been confronted. And this is why nobody goes to see the movie in Germany."

The film is a worthy addition to other Oscar-winning pictures about the Holocaust, such as Stephen Spielberg's Schindler's List, about an ethnic German entrepreneur who saved the lives of more than 1000 Polish Jews.

Roman Polanski's The Pianist, about a famous Jewish pianist who sees his world crumble under the Nazis.

And Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful, a comic tragedy about a father who will do anything to show his son the beauty of life amidst the ugliness of the Holocaust.

These movies are based on true stories. Just a few, taken from the inexhaustible repository of the Holocaust, says Murray Horwitz, director of the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre in Maryland. "There can never be too many pictures about the Holocaust," he says. "The Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has said, 'The only sin is not to remember.'"

These movies help with that. They are not just works of art. Each of them, one after the other, is a shared visual experience that adds new witnesses to the Holocaust, accountable not to let it happen again.