Adolfo Kaminsky, photographer and hero of the French resistance, died at the age of 97

A Jew of Argentine origin, Kaminsky was a gifted photographer who became a genius forger, supplying papers to members of the French Resistance and persecuted Jews.

French photographer Adolfo Kaminsky, a Jew of Argentine origin, a hero of the French Resistance and anti-colonial movements after World War II, died on Monday at the age of 97, his daughter said.

Kaminsky was a “French humanist, photographer and resistant, specialized in the manufacture of false identity papers,” said his daughter Sarah, who recounted her father’s life in the book Adolfo Kaminsky, the life of a forger.

A Jew of Argentine origin, Kaminsky was a “gifted photographer who became a forger of genius, supplying papers to members of the French Resistance and persecuted Jews, before becoming involved in other causes after the war,” noted the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.

From the Resistance to the anti-colonial movements, Adolfo Kaminsky was, in hiding, a provider of false identity papers for various movements of the 20th century. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, born in Buenos Aires before coming to France, he wanted to become a painter.

But at the age of 17 he committed himself to the Resistance in Paris, after leaving the Drancy internment camp. He offered his knowledge of chemistry and photo-engraving to make fake papers in a clandestine laboratory, thus saving thousands of lives.

Thus began a three-decade career, at the risk of his life, under the cover of an ordinary photographer’s activity in his Paris studios.

«I was lucky to save human lives. I worked day and night, with a microscope. I lost an eye, but I don’t regret anything,” he told AFP in 2012, who was then known as “Mr. Joseph.”

He worked for the French secret services until the capitulation of Nazi Germany and helped Jews fleeing the death camps to emigrate to Palestine.

Then he worked as a political forger, becoming an expert in false papers for anti-colonial and anti-fascist struggles.

In this way he helped the National Liberation Front during the Algerian war, the anti-Francoists in Spain, the anti-Salazar in Portugal, and those who fought against the colonels in Greece.

He also worked for the participants in the Prague Spring, those who fought against the dictatorships in Latin America, Guinea, Angola, the American deserters from the Vietnam War and even with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the famous student leader of May 1968 in France.

In 1971 he concluded his counterfeiting activities.

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.