Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger’s Life

Final cover-Kaminsky-web-2Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger’s Life

By Sarah Kaminsky
Translated by Mike Mitchell
Photographs by Adolfo Kaminsky


2016. Hardcover and paperback simultaneous release.
256 pages with 28 illustrations.
$26.95 (hc) | $18.95 (pb)
9780997003406 (hc) | 9780997003475 (pb)

Ebook also available.
Buy this book!

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.”

Watch the remarkable short documentary produced by The New York Times.
“If I Sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die” by Times Paris correspondent Pamela Druckerman
Published in the Sunday edition, October 2, 2016.

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.

“He grew to be a humanist forger, a utopian outlaw, the Robin Hood of false papers, preparing passports and identity cards for the world’s oppressed.”
– Jerusalem Post

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.


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

couverture Kaminsky small
Documents forged by Adolfo Kaminsky, including his own (lower right – “Julien Keller”). Photo: Adolfo Kaminsky.


Worthy of the best spy novels.

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

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 literary 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

La Repubblica Federal         

A touching story traversing a century in clandestine shadow crossings.

A thrilling, novelesque 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

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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 author photo credit Béatrice Cruveiller-web
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

Photo: Béatrice Cruveiller.

Adolfo Kaminsky, 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, but has only recently started exhibiting them. He lives in Paris with his wife, Leïla.
Ado et Sarah-photocredit Amit Israeli

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.

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