French photographer Adolfo Kaminsky, an Argentine-born Jew and hero of the French Resistance and anti-colonial movements after World War II, died Monday at the age of 97, his daughter confirmed to the press.
Kaminsky was a "French humanist, photographer and resistance fighter, specialising in the fabrication of false identity papers", said his daughter Sarah, who recounted her father's life in the book Adolfo Kaminsky: Life of a Forger.
Born to a Jewish family in Buenos Aires, Kaminsky was a "talented photographer who became a genius forger, supplying papers to members of the French Resistance and persecuted Jews, before becoming involved in other causes after the war," the Shoah Remembrance Foundation said.
From the Resistance to the anti-colonial movements, Adolph Kaminsky supplied false identity papers to various movements in the 20th century. For three decades, he helped those persecuted by different dictatorial regimes escape with falsified bills and documents created in a clandestine laboratory without ever charging for his services.
Born in Argentina’s capital, Kaminsky moved to France to become a painter. But in 1941, the Kaminskys were arrested and sent to the Drancy internment camp outside of Paris, a stopover to the death camps. After escaping thanks to their Argentine passports, the family sent 17-year-old Adolfo to secure false documents from the French Resistance to disguise their Jewish heritage. After the Resistance learned of Kaminsky’s skills, he was recruited to join.
"I was lucky enough to save human lives. I worked day and night, with a microscope. I lost an eye, but I have no regrets," the man then known as "Mr Joseph" told AFP in 2012.
Kaminksy’s forging resume grew to include political movements across the world. After the capitulation of Nazi Germany, he left the French Resistance and served as a political forger, becoming an expert in forged papers for the anti-colonial and anti-fascist struggles. He aided the National Liberation Front during the Algerian war, the anti-Francoists in Spain, the anti-Salazarists in Portugal, and those fighting against the colonels in Greece.
He also worked for participants in the Prague Spring, those fighting dictatorships in Latin America, Guinea, Angola, American deserters from the Vietnam War and even with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the famous student leader of May 1968 in France.
In 1971 he ended his activities as a forger.
His photographic work, whose humanism is reminiscent of the French photographer Doisneau, was exhibited at the Museum of Art and History of Judaism in 2019.
While his story is worthy of a film, he did not acquire great fame in his lifetime. Still, he will undoubtedly have his place in the pages of history for his clandestine work that saved so many lives.
– TIMES, AFP and Perfil