Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger’s Life
By Sarah Kaminsky
Translated by Mike Mitchell
Photographs by Adolfo Kaminsky
First English Edition of the French Best-Seller
as seen on 60 MINUTES with ANDERSON COOPER
256 pages with 28 black and white photographs.
2016. Hardcover and paperback.
Ebook also available.
$26.95 | 9780997003406 First Edition Hardcover
$18.95 | 9780997003475
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. At the age of seventeen Adolfo Kaminsky had narrowly escaped deportation to Auschwitz and was recruited to join the Jewish underground. Due to his expert knowledge of dyes and an artistic ability to reproduce official documents, he soon became the primary forger for the Resistance in Paris, creating 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.
“At a moment when someone’s passport, or religion, can still mean the difference between life and death, Mr. Kaminsky’s story remains painfully relevant, but inspiring.”
– Filmmakers Samantha Stark, Alexandra Garcia and Pamela Druckerman
Watch the Emmy-award winning documentary and read the New York Times article.
“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.”
More press and praise from around the world.
Documents forged by Adolfo Kaminsky, including his own (lower right – “Julien Keller”). Photo: Adolfo Kaminsky.
Adolfo Kaminsky and Anderson Cooper in Kaminsky’s Paris apartment, April 2017. Photo © CBS News.
Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger’s Life was published in English with support from the Centre National du Livre and from l’Institut Français.
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. Photo: Béatrice Cruveiller.
Watch Sarah Kaminsky’s talk at TEDx Paris
Adolfo Kaminsky (1924–2023), of Russian Jewish origins and carrying an Argentinean passport, made his living in Paris as a photographer in various fields: postcards, advertising photos, and photo reportage while, at the same time, working clandestinely as an unpaid forger for humanitarian causes. He photographed numerous works of art for exhibition catalogs and posters, and he was the regular documentarian for French painters who were precursors of kinetic art. As a specialist for giant-format photography Adolfo Kaminsky produced film sets for Alexandre Trauner, the set designer for Marcel Carné, René Clair and others. He also took thousands of artistic photographs throughout his life, featured in books (DoppelHouse, Cent Mille Millard) and several exhibitions, including at the Museum of Jewish Art and History. When asked about “the origin of this secret passion, Kaminsky replied shyly, whispering, ‘I had wanted there to be an artist somewhere, voluntarily repressed, because it was important not to be known, nor recognized’,” reported Le Monde in an obituary.
Tributes and articles from around the world appeared in the days following his death, including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Times of Israel, Forward, The Financial Times, The Economist, Buenos Aires Times, Le Monde (English article here) , and a very special appreciation of his artistry in Blind magazine, “The Guardian Angel Photographer.”
Adolfo Kaminsky and Sarah Kaminsky. Photo: Amit Israeli.
Mike Mitchell is an award-winning translator of French and German who has been active as a translator for over thirty years. He is the recipient of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translations of German works published in Britain, has won the British Comparative Literature Association translation competition twice for translations from German and received commendation for a translation from French. He has been shortlisted for many awards including the French-American Translation Prize, the Weidenfeld prize, the Aristeion prize, the Kurt Wolff prize, and the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. In 2012, the Austrian Ministry of Education, Art and Culture, awarded him a lifetime achievement award as a translator of literary works. He lives in Scotland.
What an incredible human being of such a rare integrity. And congratulations to his daughter for ensuring his modesty did not leave in a forgotten anonymity. He deserves the highest honours any human society can award. Furthermore, he needs to be better known by the European/Uk Left who are too often all talk and no action on anti-colonial struggles.
I sent the short shadow-art film about him to a friend whose father survived the war, having talked his way out of the Velodrome before everyone there was deported. They were very moved. Your father is an inspiration – thank you for telling his story. zichrono livracha.
A man who did so much for others! My deepest condolences to Mr. Kaminsky’s family. His deeds will live on, as will the descendants of those whose lives he saved. You will be Remembered Adolfo Kaminsky, your memory will live in many hearts.
My students were so honored to have you join our class a few years back, Sarah, to share your father’s powerful life story. His bravery and brilliance live on through this book and your lectures. I feel as if I knew him. Sending heartfelt condolences, Joanna Roche
What a wonderful truly unselfish human being. Thank you for saving so many lives and for wanting to help those who would have perished without you. You are a pillar of a man and I am honored to read your story. I only wish I knew about you Earlier. Your legacy will live on forever in the lives of the descendants you saved and in print which will teach the world about your bravery. Thank you again and my deepest condolences to your family.