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Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger's Life

Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger's Life

$ 26.95


By Sarah Kaminsky
Translated by Mike Mitchell
Photographs by Adolfo Kaminsky

Hardcover and paperback. 256 pages with 28 illustrations. Ebook also available.

$26.95 (hc) | 9780997003406
$18.95 (pb) | 9780997003475

Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger's Life is the gripping true story of an erstwhile forger who worked for the French Resistance, the Algerian Independence Movement, and numerous clandestine organizations over the span of nearly thirty years. A bestseller in France, the book has now been translated into seven languages and offers a rare look into the personal sacrifices of an idealist, the effect of one man's political commitments on his family, his ingenious methods for creating forgeries, and his unending hopes for peace and justice in an increasingly violent world.

My life as a forger is one long, uninterrupted resistance… against inequality, segregation, racism, injustice, fascism and dictatorships.

At the age of seventeen Adolfo Kaminsky had narrowly escaped deportation to Auschwitz and was living in Nazi occupied Paris, using forged documents to hide in plain sight. Due to his expert knowledge of dyes and his ability to masterfully re-produce official documents with an artistic eye, he was recruited to join the Jewish underground. He soon became the primary forger for the Resistance in Paris, working tirelessly with his network to create papers that would save an estimated 14,000 men, women and children from certain death.

Upon the Liberation and for the next twenty-five years Kaminsky worked as a professional photographer. But, recognizing the fight for freedom had not ended with the defeat of the Nazis, and driven by his own harrowing experiences, he continued to secretly forge documents for thousands of refugees, exiles, immigrants, freedom fighters and pacifists.

Kaminsky kept his past cloaked in secrecy well into his later life, until his daughter and biographer Sarah Kaminsky convinced him to share the details of the life-threatening work he did on behalf of people fighting for justice and peace throughout the world.

Watch the remarkable short documentary produced by The New York Times.

Read If I Sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die, written by Times Paris correspondent Pamela Druckerman, published in the Sunday edition, October 2, 2016.



Written like the best spy novels.
– TED.com

In the shadows, Kaminsky lived the brightest hours of the Resistance.
– Le Monde

Every resistance movement had its forgers,​but few have told their tales. Many, like​ ​Kaminsky, were very young technicians and​ ​chemists when they began their work. Sarah​ ​Kaminsky’s affectionate rendering of her​​ ​father’s life, with all the intricacies of his trade,​ ​is a book not just about a remarkable craftsman,​ ​but a man who strove to save "every life​ ​that​ ​was​ ​in danger​.​"
The Times Literary Supplement

Penned in unassuming, unembellished language, perhaps as discreet as Adolfo’s self-effacing personality, and rendered in a smooth translation by Mike Mitchell, […] Sarah Kaminsky dons her father’s persona seamlessly by transcribing Adolfo’s account to her in his own voice, so the book reads like a memoir. It is a powerful homage, written with a casual, if poignant, simplicity, often masking heartfelt conundrums.
Jerusalem Post

An engrossing debut … Writing in Adolfo’s voice gives this suspenseful narrative candor and immediacy.
Kirkus Reviews

Kaminsky’s career as a forger is remarkable by any standard. He served almost every major revolutionary or subversive cause in the world from the upheavals of the 1940s until the end of the turbulent 1960s. … He was driven by principles, took no payment for his work … and kept his secret well until the new millennium. Only then did he decide to tell his incredible story, under the gentle prodding of his youngest daughter, actress Sarah Kaminsky. … The result is a riveting book.

The pointed and sober biography … of one of the world’s best forgers.
Der Spiegel

A touching story traversing a century in clandestine shadow crossings.

– La Repubblica Federal                                                                                       

A thrilling, novalesque account of how a young man became a sought-after subversive force. […] A triumphant wartime biography, full of heroism and near-alchemistic craftiness.
Foreword Reviews

If made into a film, the life of Adolfo Kaminsky would have all the ingredients of suspense thriller, war movie, historical tragedy, intimate drama and scenes of terror.
– O Globo

Sarah Kaminsky has done a masterful job. A suspenseful, captivating, and thrilling account of an exceptionally brave and daring man. … So absorbing that I read it in one sitting. 
– Don Messerschmidt, Portland Book Review

Ably translated, the prose carries the tension of a spy novel. [...] Sights and smells of laboratories are vividly rendered, along with the nuances of photoengraving and careful interactions with strangers and colleagues. [...] This is a fascinating tribute to a humanitarian and a glimpse at the nuts and bolts of covert operations. 
– Hallie Cantor, Yeshiva University, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

This riveting story captures the reader’s imagination, bringing us back in time to Europe, Africa, and South America, including Nazi Germany, and the Algerian War of Independence. These harrowing moments of history are recreated through interviews with Mr. Kaminsky himself, offering rare insight from a forger’s perspective and how one person truly can make a difference.
– Eugenia P. Treadwel, Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

Kaminsky’s story has received attention internationally including coverage from outlets in Italy, Brazil, Germany, Algeria, Spain, Israel and Argentina. View a selection of these articles.


Sarah Kaminsky is an actress, screenwriter and author born in Algeria. She was three years old when she immigrated to France with her father Adolfo Kaminsky, two brothers and her mother Leïla, a Tuareg Algerian, law student, and anti-colonial activist whose father was a progressive imam. Sarah Kaminsky’s first book is the best-selling biography of her father, Adolfo Kaminsky, published by Éditions Calmann-Lévy in 2009 and now translated into seven languages. She has a son and lives in Paris.

Watch Sarah Kaminsky’s talk at TEDx Paris

Published with support from the Centre National du Livre and from l’Institut Français.