Doing some research on youth resistance during WWII, I fortunately stumbled across a name: Adolfo Kaminsky. His face stared out at me from my screen. Who was he and what did he do during the war, and more importantly how had I never heard of him? I immediately thought about my students, as I always do–how could I engage them with his story?
Adolfo Kaminsky was born in Argentina, to a Jewish family from Russia. In 1932, when he was seven, his family moved to Paris, where his father worked as a tailor. In 1938, the family moved to northwest France to live near his uncle, and Kaminsky worked in a dye shop, where his interest in chemical dyes began. In 1940, after the German invasion of France, his home was taken over by the Nazis and they were forced to move, and a year later, his mother was killed. At this point, at the age of 17, Kaminsky joined the resistance. After being interred in a camp, his family returned to Paris, where Kaminsky went underground to work as a forger, creating identity papers for Jews and others sought by the Nazis.
Focusing on Kaminsky’s heroic work brings up perhaps the most essential question in any classroom:
What can one person do to make a difference?
“If I hadn’t been able to do anything, I wouldn’t have been able to bear it. My hope for the world? Human beings are all equal. These words can’t be empty. They have to be reality.”
Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life written by his daughter, Sarah Kaminsky.
My Father the Forger, a Ted talk by Sarah Kaminsky
Saving Jews During the Holocaust a 2 minute “History Bites” video
How A WWII Era Forger Saved Lives One Fake Document at a Time 60 minutes story
The Forger Who Saved Thousands of Jews From the Nazis: CBS news story
If I Sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die NY Times article