I would hardly be the first to compare Nazi concentration camps to Hell, but this film brought to mind an interesting way to do so: the notion of contrapasso, from Dante's Divine Comedy (the first volume, Inferno, if that wasn't obvious).
Quite simply, contrapasso is when the sinner in Hell is punished by having to continually commit his or her sin for eternity... or at least until enough prayers get the spirit out of Hell and into Purgatory and then Paradise.
The lead character, Sally, is a master counterfeiter, both a criminal and a Jew, and as such he finds himself arrested. The punishment, in a Dantean sense, fits the only one of the two qualifications that is actually a crime: the counterfeiter is doomed to continue counterfeiting.
When Dante and Virgil reached the very depths of Hell and discovered Satan, it was not fiery, but effectively frozen solid, and though incredibly powerful, all Satan could do was flap his wings. This is what circulated the air in the Inferno, and effectively kept the whole system moving. The point? In a Dantean world view, even the greatest evil has a role to play in God's plan.
No, I'm not about to defend the Nazis, I hope you didn't stop reading. Like Oskar Schindler, the master counterfeiter Sally is able to keep a staff and thereby save his workers' lives. Much to the chagrin of Burger, another inmate who can't bear the thought of bankrolling the Nazi's war effort, Sally and his crew print forged British Pound and American Dollar notes simply to stay alive. And so, in a larger sense, printing the money - though aiding an evil force - had a benevolent role to play, as it allowed the group to stay alive until the camp was liberated. And Burger, being a deceiver and continually sabotaging the Dollar project just enough to delay them longer, was also a hero despite his seemingly reprehensible actions making him persona non grata by the end.
(Bit of a spoiler, I know, but Holocaust movies are so depressing already, it's almost unheard of to kill the main character... if you watch a lot of them you generally know that they'll survive.)
Other Holocaust films have moved me more (Fateless) or had a bigger/better production values (Schindler's List), but this might be the one of the best plots among those that that I've seen: the contradiction is exciting, as you spend the whole film unsure if you want them to "crack the Dollar" or not, as neither succeeding nor failing guarantees survival. I also found it interesting that the counterfeiters were first artists, for some would argue that to attempt to make a film about the Holocaust in and of itself is, like counterfeiting money, a perversion of artistic talent.
It always blows me away to see a director entertain the notion of what humanity will do when reduced to its basest level of existence, and in this case, it was the flaws of the counterfeiters that made them human, and separated them from the faceless and automatic Nazis.
A well written and acted film that certainly deserved its Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, one that you can either just watch as a good, straight-forward Holocaust movie, or if you want, think a ton about it - the film lends itself to both approches, and should be on your list.