The Forger (Der Passfälscher), True Story

Berlin 1942. The Forger Der Passfälscher
The young Jew Cioma Schönhaus does not allow his zest for life to be taken away, nor does he allow himself to be intimidated by anyone – certainly not by the Nazis! He takes the proverbial flight to the front. Together with his good friend Det he goes into the middle of life and among people – because in his opinion the best hiding places are where everyone is looking! With ingenuity, charm, and a good portion of chutzpah, Cioma makes his way through life, inspired by Gerda, in whom he finds not only his great love but also his master of mimicry.

His talent – the perfect forgery of passports – helps numerous people to escape, but increasingly puts himself in danger.

Directed and written by Maggie Peren, The Forger is based on the true story of Samson “Cioma” Schönhaus, a Jewish graphic artist who forged documents to help others escape the Nazis. In this illuminating drama, Hofmann embodies Schönhaus’ indomitable optimism and determination, even in the darkest moments, to focus on the light. THE FORGER recently celebrated its world premiere in the “Berlinale Special Gala” series at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival. The Forger Der Passfälscher



Buch - der Passfaelscher

Samson “Cioma” Schönhaus (28 September 1922 in Berlin – 22 September 2015 in Biel-Benken) was a graphic artist and writer who lived illegally as a Jew in hiding in Berlin during World War II. He was responsible for forging hundreds of identity documents to help other Jews survive during this time. He worked closely with members of the Confessing Church, including Franz Kaufmann and Helene Jacobs. He ultimately escaped from Berlin to Switzerland by bicycle in 1943, where he remained until his death. For the escape, he used a military identity card that he had forged himself.

His memoir, “The Forger,” was published by Granta Books in 2007, translated from the German original (Der Passfälscher, published 2004).

Schönhaus was interviewed for the docudrama The Invisibles which was released after his death in 2017. The Forger Der Passfälscher

I read his book years ago and it is great storytelling. Very nice that we have now also the chance to see his amazing story, visually in cinemas.



The Movie

The Forger Der Passfälscher


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  1. Can’t wait for the release of this movie! The trailer was very promising (as is the actual story in the book: how he hid in plain sight). Bold move! These forged documents are historic gems. And in my opinion very collectible.

    We had a group of underground forgers in the Netherlands, located in Amsterdam: De Persoonsbewijzencentrale. They forged over 80.000 identity cards and numerous other documents… there are multiple movies and documentaries referring to this group and their activities.

    “Identity card center”

    Gerrit van der Veen set up the Persoonsbewijzencentrale, where people could order an identity card. This was done by members of Group 2000 [a resistance group] of which Van der Veen was a member himself. About 80,000 identity cards were produced in this way at Frans Duwaer’s printing office. During the war, thousands of people managed to avoid arrest by the occupying [German] forces thanks to these activities. Forging the real Identity Cards was an enormous job, which Gerrit van der Veen took on. His first forgeries were not of really good quality, but he soon found a way to reproduce the watermark in a very precise way. Applicants for a new identity card had to pay for this according to their means. People with a lot of money paid a lot, and people with little money sometimes got it for nothing. Gerrit van der Veen was not out for profit, he wanted to keep as many people as possible out of the hands of the Germans.

    1. During the war, such documents saved thousands of lives and it’s great that those people are being remembered today. Another collector reported that he just bought the book because of my article.

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