Monday, December 10, 2012

Becoming Henry

We are excited to announce the end of a long chapter in the making of our friend’s life story. We have completed work on the short film with the working title, Bashert. We have renamed our short, Becoming Henry. We are grateful that The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust came on board as our fiscal sponsor earlier this year. A huge thank you goes out to Mark Rothman for all his help and encouragement. Now that we have completed our film, we are going to wind down this web site as well as our former non profit, 6Mfor6M, including the Twitter handle of the same name, by the end of the year. We will be using the new web site, for promoting the short and selling Henry’s book for his family. We will continue to use our Unbroken Chain Facebook page, and you can follow our news and screenings for 2013 there as well. Thanks for all of your support! We hope you will come out to theaters to see the short when we are in your area. Film Synopsis: Henry, like many Holocaust Survivors, originally never wanted to talk about his experiences during that dark time in his life. He immigrated to Minnesota in his 30′s with his wife, Inge, and new baby, Stephanie, and began to make a new life for his new family. However, he and Inge attended a party where Arnold Fink, one of the guests was very nosy and kept pestering him with questions. Finally, Arnold extracted the information he was looking for– the time and place of Henry’s liberation. They discover that both of them were at the same place at the exact same time! Arnold was the American officer who stopped his vehicle in front of Henry’s tired marching group of survivors after a three-day death march outside of Flossenberg. This prompts Henry to share his story of survival publicly for the first time. A schoolteacher named Mrs. Reese overhears their conversation and asks Henry to speak to her students. Although Henry initially says no, he goes on to speak to students and community groups for the next 40 years.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust to Sponsor Short Film

Hollywood, Calif. December 15, 2011– Launch flix, a production and digital media company, today announced that the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, has become their new fiscal sponsor for a special Holocaust film project. This relationship is timely as launch flix is gearing up to shoot a short film, Bashert, next month, from a book that they had optioned from Survivor, Henry Oertelt. Oertelt’s grand daughter, Dr. Corey Samuels will act as associate producer on the short.

Launch flix, CEO, Stephanie Houser has been a volunteer docent since the museum opened their new location in October, 2010. This year the museum is celebrating their fiftieth anniversary.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to end the year. What made this especially attractive was that we could help an important project move forward while working with Stephanie, who has distinguished herself through her volunteer work with us,” said Mark Rothman, Executive Director of the museum. “It was an easy yes.”

Bashert, which means "meant to be" in Yiddish, is about a story that happened after Henry Oertelt immigrated to Minnesota from Berlin. In the 1950’s he attended a party where he met an American soldier who had been in the exact place, at the same time of his liberation from a three-day death march. This exchange is documented in Oertelt’s life story.

Oertelt’s award-winning book is called An Unbroken Chain, My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust. Born in Berlin Germany, of Jewish faith, Heinz (Henry) Oertelt was twelve years old when Hitler came to power in 1933. Oertelt died earlier this year at age ninety on January 27, the International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust, and the anniversary of the day Auschwitz was liberated. One year later, January 27, 2012, the museum is also planning an elaborate community event called the “Mapping Auschwitz Project.”

Launch flix is partnering with the museum so people can make tax-deductible donations for the film project. Visit and click on the blue button the right that says “Donate Now.” Then choose “Bashert: A Short Film by Stephanie Houser” in the drop down menu for the “Designation” option half way down the page.

Henry Oertelt was liberated by General Patton’s Third Army during the Flossenburg Death March in April, 1943. He arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1949 and spent 40 years speaking about his experiences and the importance of tolerance, political involvement, and confronting hatred. Oertelt was past chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council and Holocaust education committee. He was recipient of the JCRC’s “Volunteer of the Year” award, as well as the distinguished “Eleven Who Care” honor from KARE 11 TV in Minnesota in May, 2006. Additionally, the city of St. Paul, Minnesota proclaimed “Henry A. Oertelt Day” on April 23, 2006. Oertelt participated in Stephen Spielberg’s University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education in Los Angeles, California. In 2005 Stephen Spielberg’s Shoah Visual History Foundation made Henry’s story one of five selected survivor testimonials featured on their Web exhibit from among over 55,000 collected stories.

Additionally, Henry’s half brother, ninety-six year old Maine resident, Kurt Messerschmidt, is currently featured in the first chapter of a new teacher’s curriculum called Echoes and Reflections that was recently put out by the Anti Defamation League, USC Shoah Foundation and Yad VaShem. You can learn more about the brothers and their story at

Launch flix has been fundraising and developing a feature film with a $6 million total budget based on the life story of Holocaust survivor and author Henry A. Oertelt. Since they were raising $6 million dollars, the filmmakers created a grassroots campaign called $6M for 6M. The concept was that even if they received a dollar per person, they could reach six million people with their story and raise awareness for Holocaust education at the same time.

About the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMH) has a two-fold mission that has remained constant since its inception in 1961: commemoration and education.

About launch flix
launch flix is an award-winning production company in Los Angeles. Launch flix creates and produces original content like films, shorts, and Web videos that inform, entertain and educate diverse audiences. They focus on "green" production, Internet marketing, and profitability to give partners the highest return on their investment. For more information on launch flix or the movie, An Unbroken Chain, visit

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dear LA Parks and Rec: LA Museum of the Holcaust Must Remain Open On The Weekend

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust has submitted a request to the City of Los Angeles to amend the Museum's lease to increase weekend operating hours. Approximately 3,000 visitors have come to the Museum on Sundays since opening in October 2010. Sunday is their most popular day of the week. In order to better serve the Los Angeles community, the Museum hopes to open on Saturdays.

pictured: two of our LA Holocaust Survivors speaking to students

The Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recently voted to keep the Museum closed on Saturday and to push for Sunday closure. Their decision was based on a concern over a possible increased demand for parking at Pan Pacific Park. The Museum provided the Advisory Committee with a parking strategy that would not require a single space to be used in Pan Pacific Park's parking lot, but this was dismissed.

The museum was in the works for several years. I wonder why they wouldn't have anticipated this concern sooner? Most museums get the bulk of their visitors on the weekends.

Help them convey to the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Board of Commissioners the importance of being open on weekend days! The Board of Commissioners will vote on this issue at their April 6th meeting and they can choose to ignore the advice of the Park Advisory Board.

Below you will find sample text for an email to the Board of Commissioners. Please contact RAP.COMMISSIONERS@LACITY.ORG and CC on your email.

The support of their visitors and the community will help educate the Board of Commissioners about the importance of weekend visits to the Museum.

Please also consider attending the April 6th meeting. The Museum will provide free transportation to the meeting.

Sample Email:

_____, 2011
Dear Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Board
of Commissioners,

I support the opening of the Los Angeles Museum of the
Holocaust on weekend days. The Museum is a vital part of
our community as it provides free Holocaust education to
the public. To not allow the Museum to open on weekend
days would be a mortal blow as it decreases the opportunity
for the public to visit. Due to work, the only available time I
have to visit the Museum is on weekend days. Weekends
are also the only time when I can bring family and friends to
the Museum.
Please add a personal note here:
Please provide your contact information:

Thank you for your support!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Come down to the 2011 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival is off to a great start. As you might have heard, we've expanded to three locations: Scottsdale, Chandler and Peoria in the West Valley. Saturday night we showed, the comedy, Oh What a Mess, which the trials and tribulations of an interfaith relationship as well as a love story with Orthodox Lesbians. It was preceded by a short called Gelfite Fish. Apparently there’s some Jewish tradition where the women are supposed to make their own gelfite fish for their husbands before their wedding. Yikes.

Yesterday, my friend and fellow Phoenix Holocaust Survivors Association supporter, historian Paul Wieser, (pictured) led a fascinating discussion after Against the Tide, a documentary that tells the story about the lack of a U.S. response to the Holocaust. It is really sad to realize that American Jews spent more time fighting each other than they did trying to fight the Nazi’s. Additionally, Paul Bergson and a few other men who were largely responsible for trying to do more to save the Jews of Europe were never recognized while they were alive. You can catch the 7pm screening at Scottsdale Camelview and hear Paul yourself.

Tonight there’s a Valentines Day screening of The Klezmatics, a feature-length documentary about the Grammy Award-winning, New York-based, klezmer band. followed by filmmaker Erik Greenberg Anjou.

Wednesday at 3pm in Chandler I am looking forward to seeing my favorite film of the festival, Berlin 36. Berlin 36 tells the true story of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the fate of Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann in the 1936 Summer Olympics. She was replaced by the Nazi regime at the eleventh hour by an athlete later discovered to be a man. We actually have Bill Goodykoontz, the film critic of the Arizona Republic moderating a discussion afterwards.

Wednesday and Thursday we are showing Savoirs in the Night at Camelview. Savoirs in the Night is based on the memories of Marga Spiegel. In her narrative, published in 1965, she describes how courageous farmers in southern Münsterland hid her, her husband Siegfried and their little daughter Karin from 1943 until 1945, thus saving them from deportation to the extermination camps in the East. The film tells this story of survival with a sense for the absurd in daily life and not without the typical Westphalian humor.

In Yad Vashem the farmers’ names are immortalized: Heinrich Aschoff, Hubert Pentrop, Bernhard Südfeld, Heinrich Silkenböhmer, Bernhard Sickmann. The Savoirs film wants to create a memorial in honor of these silent heroes.

For the entire line up, visit and be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

KinderTransport Exhibit Opens Today at LA Museum of the Holocaust

My friends and fellow docents, Child Survivor, Michelle Gold and Holocaust Survivor and Speaker, Gabriella Karin are showing their KinderTransports installation publicly today for the first time today at the LA Museum of the Holocaust.

See some photos I took of Gabriella with the rest of the docents at a recent training where she told the story of how she came to collect over 700 black and white photos of children ages 0-17 who were saved, including Michelle Gold’s mom, who's photo is featured in one of the first train cars.

Be sure to hear Gabriella speak at our museum or at the Museum of Tolerance where she is a regular on the circuit. She also makes and wears her own beautiful jewelry. Where does she get the energy?

The exhibit is here until May, 2011. Be sure to see it when you come check out the new museum!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sobibor Camp Survivor Thomas Blatt Speaks at LA Museum of the Holocaust

This week I returned to the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. It’s only been a few days since my friend, Holocaust Survivor, Author and Lecturer Henry Oertelt’s death but I wanted to renew my commitment to our film project, now more than ever. Henry's family is generously loaning some of his artifacts to the museum and donating a signed copy of his book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust, to the museum's library.

Tuesday, I had the pleasure of listening to Holocaust Survivor, Thomas Blatt, the Holocaust Survivor who built the Sobibor Concentration Camp model that is now housed in the new museum. Thomas was on site at the museum for the first time. In 1943, Thomas escaped Sobibor during the prisoners’ uprising. He was only 15 years old. Today, he is 83 years old.

After his presentation, I learned that he is the author of at least 3 books and was a witness in a recent trial against a war criminal. He also was responsible for changing the plaque at the camp that read that thousands of Russians, Poles and others had died there. There was no mention of Jews. After Thomas protested, the plaque was changed to read that Jews, Russians, Poles, and others died there.

The museum director, Mark Rothman gathered Thomas for a photo with the only surviving original founder of the museum, Masha Loen along with another Survivor whose name I did not get, their friends and family, Marcia, a museum curator, and Jon Kean, a filmmaker (Swimming in Auschwitz). Masha was part of a group of Survivors who met at Hollywood High School taking English classes fifty years ago when they decided they should start a museum with a two fold mission: to commemorate the victims, and educate people about the Holocaust. Masha had earlier made the point that Thomas should donate any of his remaining artifacts to the museum, ”This is our home now,” she said. After they took a few pictures, I was invited to join in the photo as a new volunteer and docent. It was an honor to stand with them.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Henry Oertelt, 1921-2011, St. Paul, Minnesota.. Inspiration, Teacher to Many

Today around 9AM Central Time, my friend and mentor, Henry Oertelt, died at age ninety at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Henry had recent cancer treatments and started having increasing complications, weakening and needing more and more help with day-to-day care.

Today, coincidentally, is also the International Day of Remembrance and the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated this day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day (IHRD), an annual day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era. Every member nation of the U.N. has an obligation to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and develop educational programs as part of an international resolve to help prevent future acts of genocide.

For the past few years, I have been privileged to get to know Henry and his family. I first heard about Henry when I met his granddaughter, Corey, in St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, of all places. Soon, I read his book. It changed my life and I felt a pull that I still can’t explain towards the material – his personal journey and its message. I wrote him a letter to ask if I could option his book, An Unbroken Chain, My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust. Today, we have started a non-profit for Holocaust Education, Six Million for Six Million, and are developing a feature film with the same name.

Henry’s name comes up daily as I regularly discuss my project with potential investors, colleagues, family and friends. I even ended up joining the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s Association at their request. Many members ask me if I am a second generation survivor – why else would I show up? At one point, I said to him, “Henry, I might as well call you my adopted grandfather,” and he laughed and agreed.

Henry’s life story will do more than just inspire and educate young audiences. It will remind adults to be grateful for the blessings in their own lives. No matter what our daily challenges bring, there’s nothing that can put things in perspective more than considering the plight of a Holocaust Survivor who had everything, even their identity, stripped away from them.

Henry is an inspiration simply by the fact that he rebuilt his life, and had a family, including 3 great, grandchildren, Haylie, Taylor, and Chance. He and his wife, Inge, lived the American Dream in St. Paul, where they originally immigrated from Berlin. He told his story to groups at schools, churches, and organizations in the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Dakotas and earned three honorary doctorates from St. Olaf, South West State University and St. Cloud State University. He didn’t originally want to recount his story, but after one teacher persisted he relented, and continued – for forty years.

Oertelt was a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) Holocaust Education Commission, a recipient of JCRC’s “Volunteer of the Year” award, as well as recipient of the distinguished “Eleven Who Care” honor from KARE 11-TV in Minnesota. On April 23, 2006, St. Paul, Minnesota, honored him with the key to the city and proclaimed “Henry A. Oertelt Day.”

Additionally his story is one of only five highlighted on USC Shoah Foundations’ online exhibit, Surviving Auschwitz.

His family is asking that in lieu of flowers you donate to his local temple, Congregation Beth Israel, or Six Million for Six Million, to help make the movie about his life story.

I am forever grateful that I got to know Henry and his family and I am honored to carry on his mission of Holocaust Education and teaching acceptance and hope, for the rest of my life.