Monday, December 21, 2009

Seasons Greetings from Henry Oertelt!

I am very grateful for all the tremendous support we are receiving, nationally and internationally for our film project. We are more determined than ever to make our story into a feature film and we look forward to seeing you all out at the theater, soon! Happy new year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Henry’s turning 89 next month: Help Make this his Best Birthday Ever!

Our friend and living treasure, Holocaust Survivor and author, Henry Oertelt, is turning 89 years old on January 13.

We are adapting his book, An Unbroken Chain, My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust, into a feature film. In his book, Henry examines the eighteen separate but crucial links in the chain of events that kept him alive and ultimately led to his freedom.  From the Nazi foreman who helped him escape the Gestapo, to the SS General who gave him the medical treatment he needed, Henry’s powerful voice retraces the encounters and situations that changed his destiny.  Although often sad and shocking, the remarkable events of Henry’s life, as well as his amazing strength and hope, will touch the lives and hearts of movie goers everywhere.

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 has spent 40 years speaking about his experiences and the importance of tolerance, political involvement, and confronting hatred.  Henry has been married to his sweetheart, Inge, for 63 years and has two children, 4 grandchildren, and one great grandson. 

Oertelt is past chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) and Holocaust education committee and recipient of JCRC’s “Volunteer of the Year” award, as well as receiving the distinguished “Eleven Who Care Honor” from KARE 11 in Minnesota in May, 2006. St. Paul, Minnesota honored him with the key to the city and proclaimed “Henry A. Oertelt Day” on April 23, 2006. Oertelt was also of 52,000 video survivor testimonies filmed for the Spielberg/Shoah project, “Survivors of the Shoah” and from that he became one of five showcased survivors in “Surviving Auschwitz: Five Personal Journeys” for the Shoah Foundation. 

Oertelt is one of the five hundred real life identities given out at the U.S. Holocaust Museum.  He was featured in Dr. Rhoda Lewin's book "Witnesses to the Holocaust, an Oral History" and quoted in Nick Strimple’s “Music in the Twentieth Century.” He was interviewed for NBC News and the "McNeil-Lehrer Report", as well as various Twin City and other TV and radio stations and has been the subject of countless write-ups in a variety of newspapers and magazines.  Oertelt is also one of the more than thirty survivors featured in Robert Sutz’ “Living History exhibit” of life masks. Oertelt is additionally a recipient of three honorary doctorate degrees from St. Cloud State University, South West State University, and St. Olaf College, all in Minnesota.

We also started a 501(c)(3) education fund, Six Million for Six Million, for the film project that will provide tax deductions to donors.  We have estimated the film and marketing budget to be six million dollars. If six million people donate one dollar each, we can make this film.

You can wish Henry a happy birthday and contribute to our campaign in several ways!

Help wish Henry a Happy 89th birthday and be a link in An Unbroken Chain

  • Donate a dollar to the film project at
  • Tweet about our project
  • Post a note on Facebook or MySpace
  • Write a story and post to your blog
  • Invite us to speak to your group
  • Introduce us to a potential investor
  • Share your thoughts in a comment

Thanks for all your continued support! Let’s give Henry a trip to the red carpet for his 90th!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Suicide Bomber Victim is Jewish Film Festival Speaker

One minute filmmaker and freelance journalist Jack Baxter was behind the camera, and the next second, thanks to a suicide bomber, he was in front of the lens. Some would say that Baxter was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but fate has a strange way of handing out destiny. The blast made Baxter a physical victim of random violence, but it also gave him the opportunity to focus his camera on the reality of senseless terrorism. Although severely injured, Baxter and his team lived to film the aftermath of the attack on the beach of Tel Aviv.

This is a story that must be told. “Blues By The Beach,” one of the premier selections of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, will be shown on February 21 at Harkins Chandler Crossroads at 7 PM.  This film is an Arizona exclusive and has never been shown in the state.

In April, 2003, Jack Baxter traveled to Tel Aviv to film the international background and free spirit of the patrons who flocked to the bar Mike’s Place and to bask on the beach surrounded by vibrant, live blues. Jew, Arab, and European sat side by side, linked by their youth, sense of adventure, and love of music.

After midnight on April 30, a suicide bomber attempted to enter the bar but was pushed from the entrance by the security guard. The terrorist blew himself up, killing three people.  Severely injured, suddenly Baxter was on he other side of the camera as two of his team, Joshua Faudem and his girlfriend Pavla Fleischer, continued to film. Audiences will have the opportunity to hear it firsthand from guest speaker Jack Baxter, who is flying from New York City to the East Valley specifically for this film. The producer has reason to be proud. His film is the recipient of awards in the Hamptons, Fire Island, and Avignon-New York Film Festivals where it was voted Best Documentary.
Writes David Mamet: “This is a very, very important film. Terrorism is the directed, purposeful taking of innocent life for supposedly political purposes …To which fact this film bluntly and incontestably testifies.”

Echoing his sentiments, film selection committee chairman Nancy Stutman says, “Our mission is to spotlight films that would not normally be available to our audiences. This premiere screening  of “Blues By The Beach” by the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival is the only opportunity for our audiences to see this landmark movie.” Stutman and her committee spent more than eight months previewing scores of films before choosing the ten that appear in the 2010 Festival lineup. “The goal of our festival is for our ticket holders to experience unique one-of-a-kind cinematic events reflecting the culture and traditions of the Jewish people,” says Stutman.

If there is any quality that links the films in the 2010 roster, whether they are documentary, comedy, tragedy, it is the survival of the Jewish people for over five thousand years. Mike‘s Place has reopened and the security guard is out of the hospital and back on duty. “Blues By the Beach” resonates with recovery, perseverance, and hope. For more information, go to

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just back from: NY/DC

We spent the last two weeks meeting with people at the Jewish Federations of North America conference in DC and then we spent some time in NYC. We were able to attend a lecture at the 92Y in NY on "American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust."  This discussion included a panel of experts (Hasia Diner, Deborah Lipstadt and James E. Young with Stephen Whitfield, as moderator) who basically agreed that it was a myth: there were many grassroots efforts nationally to speak out. In addition, memorials and Survivor groups were formed, and ultimately the US Holocaust Museum was founded as well as many other similiar museums around the country. There's even been talk of a Holocaust musuem finally coming to Arizona!

We also talked with a few different people and foundations (Rockerfeller Philanthropy, the Whelan Group, Joshua Group, and the Gesher Foundation) to talk about our film project and fundraising, among these were Slava Rubin of Indiegogo is a great resource for filmmakers and film enthusiasts to come together to create platforms for different projects, including fundraising and getting distribution.

In addition to meeting with prospective investors, we are now looking to hire a line producer to scrutinize our script and budget to see if we can make some adjustments. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our supporters! Thanks for being a link in our Unbroken Chain.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly

Well, I’m finally catching my breath from attending the whirlwind event formally known as the UJC (United Jewish Communities) GA (General Assembly) now the Jewish Federations of North America.

I decided not to lug my laptop around for three days, since each day for over a twelve hour day. Unfortunately that just makes for a huge pile up of content. Here then are highlights along with a few outstanding videos. The first, is president Jerry Silverman’s inclusion to commemorate Kristallnacht by asking for a moment of silence at the end of a plenary where a mass exodus had already begun. People stopped in their tracks and it actually seemed much more meaningful then if they had already been sitting. (And yes, I take some responsibility for this after having asked the PR team as well as Jerry what, if anything, they were doing to honor the occasion. And I give Jerry a lot of credit for inserting it into his program after getting feedback from me and presumably others with the same concern. If the Jews can't recall Kristallnacht while the survivors and eye witnesses like my partner Survivor Henry Oertelt are still here to remind us, then who the heck else is going to?)

The other video is the winner of the Jewish Community Heroes, which I didn’t know until yesterday was a program of the Jewish Federations. Actually its one of the smartest campaigns they have run in while and probably the best online campaign they have ever done. The winner of the $25,000.00 for his non profit efforts is a guy named Ari Teman from JCorps, a group that pulls together young volunteers for a myriad of different community activities.

There were so many other things that caught my attention, I might just have to keep sharing them over the coming weeks. They include:  visiting with Julian, a Mexican American Jew who shared some of his experiences in growing up Jewish in Mexico, Torahs for our Troops, the Jewlicious festival, The Jewish Channel (TJC), Steve Roberts new book, “From Every End of the Earth”, and The Capital Steps, a hilarious political spoof acoustic music & performance troop.

It was a good use of my time and I appreciated getting a chance to learn a little more about the Federations and what they are currently doing and the challenges they are facing. I was also lucky enough to talk with some real experts on national Jewish philanthropy like Joel Fleishman and even visit with a few kind philanthropists, including a few of the donors of the US Holocaust Museum, who might be able to eventually help connect us with some capital. Thanks to Joe, Jeremy and the others on their team for a good experience. Maybe I'll see you at DisneyWorld (where the conference will be next year!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

An 88 Year Old Eye Witness to KristallNacht Hopes His Film will Keep Story Alive As He Continues to Promote Acceptance and Hope

Henry Oertelt pictured, Oct. 2009, with his third honorary doctorate from St. Olaf

You may know that I’ve been closely working with 88 year old Henry Oertelt, a Holocaust Survivor and author of An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust. But did you know that Henry lived in Berlin in 1938 and can tell you first hand about what he and his family witnessed that night, called KristallNacht (the night of broken glass) and the following day?  More importantly, do you realize that in a few years, when Henry and other eye witnesses aren’t here, why we need to keep telling this story for the generations to come?

In his book, Henry, a teenager at the time, described the evening of November 9, 1938. 

“Around midnight my mother proceeded to prepare our apartment for bedtime.  She began to draw the curtains but suddenly beckoned my brother and I to take a look through the window. 

‘Just look at that red sky! There must be a fire nearby,” she uttered with a hint of amazement in her voice.  We waited to hear sirens of fire engines, but there were none. When all remained quiet, we said goodnight and went to bed.  Wondering why the sky was so red, we fell asleep.”

Of course, as we know now, there were no sirens because the fires were deliberately set by Nazis and black uniformed SS, Hitler’s personal guard buddies, By dawn the Nazis had rounded up and transported the first  Jewish 30,000 men to concentration camps. who vandalized and burned every Jewish business and temple that they could.  This event is thought by many to be the prelude of the Holocaust.

The next day, Henry tried to ride his bike to work but eventually had to get off and carry it over the shards of shattered glass that were strewn everywhere.  A few blocks away his family’s synagogue had been completely demolished.  The Jewish owned stores in the neighborhood had all been completely ransacked and destroyed as well. He also remembers the guards forcing Jews to clean up the glass while their neighbors stood by and in some cases, laughed and made fun of them.

We are raising money slowly but surely to adapt Henry’s story into a feature film.  Henry experienced 18 events, or 18 links, in his chain of survival – his “unbroken chain.” We plan to aim for younger audiences who haven’t yet heard about Kristallnacht or the Holocaust. Witnessing Kristallnacht is only one thing that makes Henry’s story different – there are many others, as readers of his book can attest, or you can watch our short film to find out more. We plan for the film to have a theatrical release and then be used by middle and high schools as an educational supplement when World War II is taught.  Most importantly, we hope to reach as many people as we can with this story of acceptance, and hope. Henry is a witness to Kristallnacht and the horrors of the Shoah, but we can all help keep his and others testimony alive for generations to come. We must.

Thank you, Henry, for sharing your story for the past 40 years.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

UJC GA kicked off Sunday with a new Film Festival in the Mix

I have been excitedly planning my schedule for the UJC (United Jewish Communities General Assembly from November 8-10 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. It’s hard – there are a lot of amazing sounding sessions happening that we are very interested in. Unfortunately President Obama just cancelled his keynote so he can attend the Fort Hood memorial service. We are fortunate that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will address the GA on behalf of the Obama Administration. In addition, a small group of top leaders from The Jewish Federations will meet with President Obama at the White House.

The Foundation for Jewish Culture Film Fest presented two simultaneous programs of new Jewish film. The film I saw was called Four Seasons Lodge, the moving account of a group of Holocaust survivors who come together each summer to relive their tragedy and celebrate their lives. It was such a great film, and the director, New York Times writer Andrew Jacobs really captured the essence of a very special slice of what a second generation survivor at the screening called "Catskills Americana." It opens Wed. in New York! It seems to be the only event at the GA for commemorating the anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9. They really should have billed it as a much bigger event with a better time and venue. Earlier today I chatted with the new National President Jerry Silverman that the GA should really do something. My idea was that he could announce my film project tomorrow, to make some kind of statement about the date - if he likes, since Henry was an eye witness to Kristallnacht but I don't know if he'll take me up on it. He should at least mention Andrew's film though.

Other sessions and events I went to or going to

The Endowment and Foundation Roundtable
The Social Venture Fund Reception
A social media tweet up Monday night at Lebanese Taverna
Campaign and Women’s Philanthropy Chairs and Directors Breakfast
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key note
Innovations in Philanthropy
Durban, Darfur, and the Goldstone Report: Defending Israel and Advocating for Human Rights

More later. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

IFP Phoenix Names Houser Member of the Month

We were thrilled to receive the news that Stephanie is Independent Film Project's "Member of the Month!" See this great video with IFP Executive Director, Amanda Melby as she talks with Steph about An Unbroken Chain and our progress with Six Million for Six Million. Please take a minute to view and even better, share this story with your friends so that our Unbroken Chain continues.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s Association Celebrates 25 Years

Pictured, Second Generation Holocaust Survivor, Joan Sitva, incoming president, of the Phoenix Holocaust Survivors Association with founder and honorary board member, Holocaust Survivor, Carl OFisher.

Last night the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s Association celebrated their 25th year anniversary. Many of the group’s one hundred Holocaust Survivors were in attendance including founding members Carl O’Fisher and Harry Adler, now honorary members of the board. Second generation leader Joan Sitva was nominated as the incoming president as Judy Searle stepped down after 3 years.

As a surprise to Survivor members, after dinner, students from various local schools showed up to join the adults for desert. Then, local Anti Defamation League representative, and Director of the Braun Holocaust Institute-Glick Center for Holocaust Studies and PHSA member Paul Wieser called the students to the podium to thank them and point out the significance of their attendance, to carry out the legacy of the group. The students then passed out commemorative pins to Survivors and guests. This legacy of teaching acceptance, of course, is the one of the most important contributions of the group.

Finally, a ten minute short film, We Chose Life, was shown to the group. We had been asked by the group to make this film back in the spring. After numerous hours of reviewing Yom HaShoah tapes from past years, videotaping the past two dinner meetings, called Café Europas, as well as visiting Carl and Harry’s homes for personal interviews, and making a fruitless visit to the local newspaper for archival photographs; we finally edited the footage down to showcase as many of the Survivor members and board members as we could. The film celebrates the lives and accomplishments of our members – their children, books, professions, and friendships that they shared over the years, as well as highlighting their contributions to the community by holding an annual Yom Hashoah service and regularly speaking to local schools. We will plan to post the short on the Internet soon.

Our friend, second generation Survivor, artist Robert Sutz celebrated his 80th birthday and showed pictures of the numerous life masks he’s created of over 50 Survivors. And one of our members who attended, Regina Blank of Surprise, Arizona, was honored as she is over one hundred years old. She told us that she hid in the woods during the Holocaust. Her family told us that on her hundredth birthday she vowed to live until she's one hundred and ten years old. Now, that's a Survivor.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Video of Memorable Acceptance Speech from Survivor and His Granddaughter/ Four generations of family present

St. Olaf College | Chapel Service Archive

Last week, St. Olaf College awarded Henry Oertelt an honorary doctorate degree. After he spoke for a few moments, his granddaughter, the lovely Dr. Corey Samuels took the stage and shared how she is passionately continuing his mission.

Oertelt was joined by four generations of his family including his wife of 63 years, Inge, his children, David and Steffi, and his great grandson, 10 year old Chance.

See the ceremony for yourself, courtesy of St. Olaf.

Friday, October 9, 2009

St. Olaf to award honorary degree to Holocaust survivor

Henry Oertelt pictured with his great grandson, Chance

St. Olaf College News
reported this week that will award honorary degrees to Henry Oertelt, a Holocaust survivor and regular speaker on campus, and Roderic Camp, one of the most distinguished experts on Mexico in the United States, during a convocation ceremony Thursday, Oct. 15, at 11:10 a.m. in Boe Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public and will be streamed live and archived online.

In addition to Thursday's event, Camp will lecture on "What It Means to Me to Be a Latin Americanist" Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Valhalla Room of Buntrock Commons, and on "Leadership in Mexico: Has Democracy Made a Difference?" Wedneday, Oct. 14, at 3:15 p.m. in Viking Theater, Buntrock Commons. Also on Wednesday, at 6:45 p.m. in Holland Hall 501, Oertelt's story will be shown in films prepared by the Shoah Foundation and through portions of a current film project that is based on his book, Unbroken Chain: My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust.

Henry will be accompanied by his granddaughter, Dr. Corey Samuels, and Stephanie Houser, CEO of launch flix, the Phoenix production company that is producing the film. Dr. Samuels has joined launch flix as an Associate Producer.

Oertelt has already received similar honors from St. Cloud University and South West State University, both in Minnesota.

You can see a short film about An Unbroken Chain here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Collecte de dons pour adapter l’histoire d’un survivant de l’Holocauste

6 Millions pour les 6 Millions
Collecte de dons pour adapter l’histoire d’un survivant de l’Holocauste

(Merci Sebastian R. por la Francias!)

Santa Monica, Californie, 2009 - MarVista Entertainment, société internationale de production et de distribution, a dévoilé aujourd’hui une nouvelle campagne de collecte de dons appelée « Six Millions pour les six Millions ». Ce projet vise à éduquer les générations futures sur les victimes Juives – six millions de pères, de mères, de sœurs, de frères, d’oncles, de tantes, de cousins et de grands-parents – qui ont péri dans l’Holocauste. A l’instar du documentaire Paper Clips, l’objectif est de sensibiliser sur le nombre considérable de victimes.

Avec un objectif de 6 millions de dollars, les dons récoltés serviront à réaliser un long métrage pour adapter la vie du Dr. Henry A. Oertelt, survivant de l’Holocauste de 88 ans et écrivain, telle que racontée dans son livre intitulé : Une Chaine Ininterrompue, mon parcours à travers l’Holocauste Nazi. Né dans une famille juive à Berlin, le Dr. Henry A. Oertelt avait douze ans en 1933, lorsque Hitler prit le pouvoir.

« Depuis 40 ans, chaque fois que je m’adresse à des étudiants, je leur dis systématiquement : si vous devez absolument haïr, alors haïssez la HAINE”, déclare Oertelt. « Je suis très heureux de toucher davantage de personnes avec ce message ».

« Personne ne nait en haïssant les autres, cela doit être enseigné. Nous avons réalisé que si l’on peut enseigner la haine alors on peut aussi enseigner la tolérance. Avec cette campagne, nous voulons montrer les atrocités commises sur les victimes juives de l’Holocauste », dit Michael Jacobs, le Président de MarVista Entertainment, « et finalement utiliser ce film pour sensibiliser les générations futures aux conséquences de la haine ».

MarVista a établi un partenariat avec la productrice Stephanie Silverman Houser de launch flix et Eitz Chaim, une association à but non-lucratif basée à Phoenix en Arizona. L’association Eitz Chaim a ouvert un fonds d’éducation qui offrira des réductions d’impôts pour les donateurs.

« Launch flix a travaillé en collaboration avec MarVista pour élaborer le budget du projet. Lorsque tous les éléments ont été additionnés, nous avons atteint la somme de 6 millions de dollars, ce qui paraissait astronomique – un nombre impossible. Nous sommes restés interdits lorsque nous avons réalisé qu’il s’agissait du même nombre que les victimes juives de l’Holocauste » explique Houser.

« Même si nous recevons un dollar par personne, nous aurons réussi à attirer l’attention sur cette question » dit Houser. « Avec le soutien de nos donateurs, le film portera l’histoire d’Henry à un public plus large qu’auparavant ». Elle ajoute que « l’effort de collecte de fond a déjà soulevé un grand enthousiasme. Il sensibilise à l’enseignement de l’Holocauste et nous sommes impatients d’atteindre notre objectif pour commencer la production dès cet hiver ».

Dans Une chaine Ininterrompue : mon parcours à travers l’Holocauste Nazi, le jeune Henry présente 18 « maillons » distincts mais tout aussi importants, de la chaine des événements qui l’ont gardé en vie et finalement mené vers la liberté. Du contremaître nazi qui l’a aidé à échapper à la Gestapo jusqu’au général SS qui lui a donné les médicaments dont il avait besoin, Henry a fait face à des situations qui ont changé son destin de l’âge de 12 ans à 24 ans. Souvent tristes, les événements de la vie d’Henry ainsi que son incroyable force et son espoir inaltérable toucheront la vie et le cœur de tous les cinéphiles.

A propos de MarVista Entertainment
MarVista Entertainment Inc, est impliqué dans la production et la distribution de différents types de programme : actions, thrillers, drames, famille et enfants. Elle exploite ses programmes à travers son propre réseau mondial de distribution. Depuis sa création en septembre 2004, les activités de MarVista se sont développées et intègrent aujourd’hui la production de différents programmes de divertissements pour la famille. L’entreprise possède son siège social à Los Angeles, Californie. Pour plus d’informations, visitez
- more-

A propos du Dr. Henry Oertelt
Âgé de 88 ans, Henry Oertelt fut libéré par la Troisième Armée du General Patton, durant la marche de la mort de Flossenbürg en Avril 1943. Arrivé à St. Paul, Minnesota en 1949, il a passé 40 années à parler de son expérience et de l’importance de la tolérance, de la responsabilité politique et du combat contre la haine. Oertelt est ancient président du Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) et de la commission de l'enseignement de l'Holocauste. Il a reçu la distinction du « bénévole de l’année » par le JCRC ainsi que la distinction des « 11 qui comptent » par KARE 11 TV au Minnesota en mai 2006. La ville de St. Paul, Minnesota, l'a également honoré avec la clé de la ville et a instauré un « jour Henry A. Oertelt », le 23 avril 2006. Le Dr. Oertelt a participé à la Fondation pour l’Histoire Visuelle et l’Education de la Shoah de Steven Spielberg à Los Angeles, Californie. En 2005, cette fondation a fait de l'histoire d’Henry l'un des cinq témoignages de survivants mis en avant sur leur exposition en ligne, parmi plus de 55.000 histoires collectées. Voir la vidéo sur notre blog :

A propos de launch flix
Launch flix est une société de production primée avec des bureaux à Phoenix et Los Angeles. Launch flix crée et produit des programmes originaux comme des films, des courts métrages et des vidéos sur internet qui informent et éduquent différents publics. Ils se concentrent sur des « production vertes » ainsi que sur le marketing internet et la rentabilité des projets pour que leurs partenaires bénéficient du meilleur retour sur investissement. Pour plus d’information sur launch flix ou sur le film Une Chaine Ininterrompue, visitez

A propos de l’association Eitz Chaim
Fondée en 2006, l’association Eitz Chaim sert les besoins de la communauté juive de la vallée de Phoenix et de ses environs. Tout en respectant la tradition juive, ils participent activement à un monde juif en mutation. Eitz Chaim, qui signifie Arbre de Vie, offre des programmes et services religieux, spirituels, éducatifs et communautaires a des personnes de tous âges et de toutes confessions. Visitez

Monday, September 14, 2009

$6M for 6M video about How We are raising $1 per Person to make An Unbroken Chain

We are very happy to “launch” our six minute short about An Unbroken Chain. It’s called $6M for 6M.

Thanks to all of our In Kind Partners
Ken Leshin, Beyond Motion, Editor, Graphics
Louise Jorden, Rivers Run Red, Creative Director, Logo
Lonnie Elbaum, Original Music
Barrie Schreiber, Photography
Misty Lester, University Chronicle, Photography
Andi Barness, Voice Talent

Special Thanks:
Oertelt and Samuels families
Gene Ganssle

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New Link in the Holocaust Chain

We have a guest Hollyblog on
this week. It is a personal essay about why we're making the film An Unbroken Chain and financing it this way with our microfundraising campaign at $6M for 6M. Check it out!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Yesterday after a fabulous keynote, I picked up a copy of Mitch Albom’s new book “Have a Little Faith.” I had him sign it for Henry Oertelt, "Mazel Tov on your 3rd honorary doctorate and An Unbroken Chain, Mitch Albom." Dr. Oertelt will be getting his degree from St. Olaf in Minnesota on October 15.

Mitch and I actually have a lot in common. We both work closely with our Rabbis, have both founded non profits, and both worked with a guy named Henry. His Henry is now a preacher, a former drug dealer and convict who is trying to rebuild his church in Michigan; my Henry, an 88 year old Holocaust Survivor and author of An Unbroken Chain, our charity, 6M for 6M is about raising six million dollars to make a film about his life story and raise awareness for acceptance at the same people by merely asking for $1 per person.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

High School Grads Come Together 20 yrs later to Make a Holocaust Film


So, what can I add to the following news release for our readers? Well, it turns out that the President of MarVista Entertainment went to high school with the CEO of launch flix in Sharon, Massachusetts. Then, they hooked up with Lonnie Elfbaum, who provided beautiful music for their short films on this topic. Sharon High School ended up bringing these people together for a simple cause, to eradicate hate.

Someone call the Sharon Advocate!

Santa Monica, California–A new 501(c)(3) fundraising campaign called “Six Million for Six Million” ( in an effort to increase awareness about the Holocaust, was unveiled by MarVista Entertainment, an international production and distribution company.

The firm is raising funds to make a feature film with a $6 million total budget based on the life story of eighty-eight year old Holocaust survivor and author Dr. Henry A. Oertelt. Dr. Oertelt’s award-winning book is called An Unbroken Chain, My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust. Born in Berlin Germany, of Jewish faith, Dr. Oertelt was twelve years old when Hitler came to power in 1933.

This project is about educating future generations about the Jewish victims – six million fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents - who perished in the Holocaust. Like the popular documentary Paper Clips, the group hopes to raise awareness about the enormity of the total number of victims and promote acceptance.

“When addressing students over the past forty years, I have always said, if you absolutely have to hate, hate HATE,” stated Oertelt. “I am very pleased to reach even more people with this message.”

In An Unbroken Chain: My Journey though the Nazi Holocaust, young Henry experiences eighteen separate but equally crucial “links” in the chain of events that kept him alive and ultimately led to his freedom. From the Nazi foreman who helped him escape the Gestapo to the SS General who gave him the medical treatment he needed, Henry faces the encounters and situations that changed his destiny from ages twelve to 24. Although often sad and shocking, the remarkable events of Henry’s life, as well as his amazing strength and hope, will touch the lives and hearts of movie goers everywhere.

"We realized that if you can teach hatred, then you can also teach understanding. With this campaign, we want to demonstrate the atrocity of Jewish victims in the Holocaust,” said Michael Jacobs, President of MarVista Entertainment, “and ultimately use this film to educate the next generation about what hate can lead to.”

MarVista is partnering with producer Stephanie Silverman Houser, CEO of launch flix and a non profit who has started a 501(c)(3) education fund for the film project that will provide tax deductions to donors.

About MarVista Entertainment
About launch flix & Henry

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Great Press response from Minnesota and Phoenix on $6M for 6M campaign

pictured producers Stephanie Houser and Dr. Corey Samuels, granddaughter of Dr. Henry Oertelt.

We are thrilled at the amount of press coverage $6M for 6M is generating! We literally can't keep up with posting it all to our web site, but we will get r done. So far, we've seen over 30 stories including print, radio, TV, online coverage including blogs and Tweets!

We are also getting requests to translate the site into other languages. If you can do this, or want to help with a certain language as a volunteer, please get in touch.

We are also looking for social media volunteers to help with Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you to everyone who has expressed interest in our project. Our next announcement? The mystery producing partner and distributor who is involved now. Hint? The president went to high school with Stephanie - yup, it's a small world after all!

Friday, August 14, 2009

E.V. Jews raising money for Holocaust movie

Thanks to Mike Barnes at The East Valley Tribune for this piece. It is not enough to hear a Holocaust survivor's tale, the rabbi said - you must help tell it to others.

Congregation Eitz Chaim in Chandler is gladly taking on the task of sharing one such man's story. A fundraising campaign is under way there to adapt into a movie the autobiography "An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust."

The goal is to collect $6 million - in other words, a dollar for every Jewish man, woman and child lost to the Nazis' genocide.

"No one is born hating others; it has to be taught," said the congregation's rabbi, Victor Beck. "We realized that if you can teach hatred, then you can also teach understanding.

"With this campaign, we want to demonstrate the enormity of the number of Jewish victims in the Holocaust and ultimately use this film to educate the next generation about what hate can lead to."

"Unbroken Chain" is the work of Henry A. Oertelt, who was 12 years old and living in Berlin when Hitler came to power in 1933. He was seized in June 1943; in April 1945, Oertelt and thousands of others were liberated by Gen. George Patton's Third Army.

Oertelt, now 88, describes in his book 18 "links" in the chain of events that kept him alive and ultimately led to his freedom. For example, as a teen he was employed as a furniture maker; in the concentration camps, he continued that relatively safe work while his fellow prisoners were dying of hard labor.

Beck, in his career, has met many survivors of the Holocaust. Oertelt, he said, is like the others in that they had an uncommon faith that they would emerge alive from this world of death.

"It comes down to an indomitable spirit, a will to survive and a deep-seated belief they will succeed," Beck said.

But as time passes, the survivors' numbers dwindle - which makes telling their stories all the more crucial for Beck.

"We're losing these people, so we're losing the eyewitness accounts," Beck said. "And that eyewitness has such a palpable touch and feel to people, it makes it that much easier to explain and understand the story."

How the chain stretched from Minnesota, where Oertelt has lived since 1949, to Chandler involves a film producer and family ties.

Stephanie Houser is not only the chief executive of launch flix, a production house with offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles, but also the daughter of Eitz Chaim's vice president.

To aid launch flix in bringing "Unbroken Chain" to the screen, Eitz Chaim has established a nonprofit education fund that will provide tax deductions to donors. The fundraising campaign is called "Six Million for the Six Million," and its Web site can be found at Congregation Eitz Chaim can be reached at or by contacting Beck at (602) 595-3618.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Casting Agent Excited by An Unbroken Chain

"Here's the thing: as a casting office we're looking to have our name associated with work we can continue to be proud of and your enthusiasm and dedication to this story and it's author only furthers my resolve that this is precisely our mission, too.

As I mentioned on Friday, I'm further encouraged by the fact that this story has not really been told in a manner that is truly uplifting, positive and inspiring as this one is.

I'm excited to be a part of telling a story that offers so much in terms of what a true survivor really means. I honestly think that's a universal concept that plays to the heart of everyone. This story is a Life is Beautiful meets a young Indiana Jones. I think that's got legs!!"


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Announcing NEW Non Profit Partnership for An Unbroken Chain

(Stephanie pictured with Henry and his wife, Inge at our 1st mtg, almost one year ago.)

It was one year ago that Dr. Henry Oertelt called me at my sister's in Hawaii to officially invite me to work with him to adapt his book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust into a feature film. What better way to celebrate than to share this exciting milestone for our project?

We have partnered with a non profit organization to open an education fund allow us to collect tax deductible donations towards the making of our film project (in addition to looking for investors). Ultimately they will invest those donations into the film, then, when they receive a return on the investment, we will put those monies towards continuing Holocaust Education in a number of ways: a traveling comprehensive Holocaust education seminar for students, supporting local non profit organizations in bringing educational films to schools, supporting Survivors personally including their efforts in schools, or ideally building the first Holocaust museum in Arizona to house original photos, artifacts, and documents that Henry has acquired over the past 40 years, as well as potentially housing a collection of 53 and counting life masks of Survivors from artist Robert Sutz.

Currently our attorney is reviewing the press release, email communications and our business plan to sign off and then August 14 we plan to announce our campaign to the world. We have deliberately chosen that date, a week before Inglourious Basterds, by Quentin Tarantino is released. The film stars BRAD PITT and is a fictional portayal of 8 American Jewish Soldiers who want revenge on the Nazis. As we get closer I will start sharing information about our key players as well as providing tools to our supporters who may want to spread the word. Thanks for your support and stay tuned.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Speilberg's Shoah Foundation chose Henry as Top Story

In compiling research for our film project, An Unbroken Chain: The Movie, we discovered that Henry was selected by Steven Speilberg's University of South California Shoah Foundation as one of the top 5 testimonies of over 55,000 for an online exhibit that is still available today.

Surviving Auschwitz: 5 personal journeys follows the lives of 5 Holocaust survivors before, during and after their deportation to Auschwitz, and other concentration camps. It also traces their experiences to five different continents after their liberation. In addition to first person video testimonies, the exhibit includes an interactive map glossary, photographs, and biological profiles that provide further context and understanding. Surviving Auschwitz is designed for students grades 8 through 12, as well as the general public.

There is also a teacher's guide available with the exhibit.

Many people have suggested that we contact Speilberg himself about Henry's amazing story, and we plan to do just that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Welcome to my World: Religious Movie Fest.

This holiday weekend I caught up on some research, albeit heavy research in preparation for our upcoming film project, An Unbroken Chain: The Movie. I started by reviewing 4 hours of footage from recent years of the Phoenix Yom Ha’Shaoh commemorations for the 25th Anniversary Video that we are filming for their organization in October. President Judy Gittel said it best in 2007, “the Holocaust was a premeditated mass murder, the most unique atrocity of all” and “this memory must be protected not just for Jews, but for the sake of all people..”

After that I watched Symbol by Professor Gregory S. Martin of St. Cloud State University (Symbol film poster pictured, courtesy of Gregory S. Martin.) It’s an interesting documentary on how St. Cloud Cathedral in Minnesota actually had swastikas in their outer construction since before the Holocaust, as the symbol was around for centuries. Eventually this church raised the money to remove the swastikas. My partner, Dr. Henry Oertelt was quoted in the piece, and talked about his experience with the swastika.

Next up was Constantine’s Sword. This powerful documentary explored how religions have been killing people to keep power and control in the name of God and among other things, how an Evangelist mega church of about 14,000 congregants was doing some hard core recruiting at the nearby American Air Force campus. In fact, they put out 3 flyers at day in the mess hall to help promote Passion of the Christ when the film came out. It got so bad for one Jewish student that ultimately his father ended up suing the academy. He said he felt awful, like it was the end of the film Old Yeller, that he was, by suing the institution that he and his three sons had been loyal to for decades, was like shooting his own dog.

Finally, it was time to lighten up. I decided to switch gears and watched Steal this Film II, a fantastic documentary on the evolution of film distribution over the Internet. They compared the invention of the printing press to the backlash from torrenting and community sharing and collaboration on the Internet. In the past weeks I have picked up a lot of information on the new methods and philosophies of distribution and we are very excited to apply much of this to our business plan for An Unbroken Chain. The key to this film was that online pirating is happening now, and there is no way to stop it so filmmakers and the industry might as well just figure out how they want to play in this new game.

Our last movie of the weekend was Religulous by Bill Maher. Bill is fearless and goes after everyone: Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and Muslims. We thought the man must still be getting death threats after the footage he included. Still, he made his points, and ultimately concluded that the non religious 16% of the U.S. must have their voice heard politically or the religious groups will continue to lead us down a path of destruction, and that all religions are based on fairy tales and power trips. He says doubt is the only honest philosophy and way to look at the afterlife. I highly recommend this one as a fantastic way to step back and take a long hard look at your own religion.

Monday, June 22, 2009

MSNBC Should Take Responsibility for Pat Buchanan's Remarks

President Phil Griffin
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

Dear Sir,

I was a strong supporter of your network , until finally Pat Buchanan's hateful gibberish made me sick to my stomach. I hardly ever found anything to be in agreement with him and his often outrageous opinions.

Miracles of Miracles! At last, I found something on which I can agree with him.

I am an 88 year old survivor of the five Nazi concentration camps, born in Berlin, Germany.

As such , I am receiving the periodical Holocaust survivor's newspaper "TOGETHER ." In their recent edition (volume 23, number 2) they are quoting Buchanan as saying: "Most Historians Believe it was logistically impossible to gas 6 million Jews , and reduce their bodies to ashes ."

What do you know, I am in full agreement with this statement!

Those "historians" and their wonderful buddy Pat Buchanan , must have gotten their information from another wonderful friend, "the great Iranian humanitarian" Ahmadinejad.

I have never seen a claim that 6 million Jews were were killed in the gas chambers. I have seen statistics that 6 million Jews were murdered in the concentration camps, including those horrendous numbers that perished in the gas chambers. (Murdered by starvation, hard labor, beatings, executions, lack of medical assistance, locked for days in cattle cars witout food or sanitary implements, just to name a few.)

I know all about "the First Amendment" and such. If I'm not mistaken, the First Amendment also allows bosses and employers to act responsibly when such idiotic gibberish is put on the air.

It would be nice to hear a response from you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Anne Frank's 80th Bday and 50th Anniversary Edition Film

“Just imagine how forgetful I’ll be when I’m eighty!”

Anne Frank, May 11th, 1944.

Friday was Anne Frank’s 80th birthday so I decided to reread the book this weekend. It is amazing to see this book withstand the test of time. It is as powerful and relevant today as ever. Anne’s desire to leave a lasting mark on the world is confirmed by her book, the film, and the Anne Frank House, the organization that continues to teach her legacy.

In my opinion, one of the most beautiful passages in the book, was written on February 23, 1944:

“When I looked outside right into the depth of Nature and God, then I was really, really, happy. And Peter, so long as I have that happiness here, the joy in nature, health and a lot more besides, all the while one has that, one can always recapture happiness.

Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you are pure within, and that you will still find happiness.”

Tomorrow, June 16, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release a special 50th anniversary edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, 50 years after the film’s theatrical debut.

The studio worked closely with George Stevens Jr., son of the film’s legendary director, to create the anniversary edition, available on both standard DVD ($19.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.98). Bonus features include an audio commentary with Stevens and Millie Perkins, who portrayed Anne Frank in the film; reflections by the surviving cast members; a documentary on the film’s history; and a featurette on the letters between Stevens and his son written during the making of the film.

Other extras include Perkins’ original screen test, several Movietone news clips about the film; a documentary on the film’s score, which was written by composer Alfred Newman; and the original theatrical trailer.

We aspire to make such a lasting educational tool for the world with our project.

Photo of Anne Frank taken in 1941 by Frans Dupont. Copyright Anne Frank Fonds/ Anne Frank House’.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A look at two 88 year olds' legacies: Holocaust Museum shooting illustrates need for Education and Acceptance

“Regrettably, this is an example of what hate can do. This is why I was preaching at high schools and universities (for the past 40 years.) The worst four letter word is H_A_T_E – it’s the most destructive word of them all. All these horrible killings and disasters are based on hate – religious, political, racial HATE.” Dr. Henry Oertelt told me when I called him tonight and asked for his comments.

I was shocked when I heard the news of James von Brunn, 88, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier, who opened fire on Stephen Tyrone Johns, a six-year veteran of the Washington D.C. Holocaust museum's security staff, who "died heroically in the line of duty," according to Sara Bloomfield, museum director.

This is not just a Jewish issue, this concerns everyone.

My friend, 88 year old Dr. Henry Oertelt, is a Holocaust survivor. He didn’t want to spend his life discussing the worst time in his life, (who would?) but a teacher insisted he come speak to her students 40 years ago and the invitations haven’t stopped since. And Henry has done his duty, trying to educate kids from middle school through college students as well as adults at civic groups, churches and other community organizations.

Both Dr. Oertelt and Van Brunn are 88 years old. And while Henry was spreading education and love, von Brunn was seething with hate and that will be his legacy.

Henry’s motto is, “If you absolutely have to hate, hate HATE.” He was actually an honored guest when the Holocaust Museum was opened and his identity is used in the museum experience, which allows guests to receive a passport when they enter the museum and find out at the end of their visit if that person lived or died.

Dr. Oertelt has already received two honorary doctorates from St. Cloud State University and South West State University, in Minnesota and he will be receiving his third from St. Olaf College on October 15, 2009.

And so, Dr. Oertelt and I will forge ahead with our feature film project, An Unbroken Chain: The Movie. Not because the world needs another holocaust movie, but because the world needs to understand what hate can do.

We have been asked to speak at the Holocaust Educator’s Conference next year in Phoenix at the Bureau of Jewish Education. I’ve joined the Phoenix Holocaust Survivors Association, a group who celebrates their 25th anniversary October 25. These survivors chose life over hate, and as Helen Handler, one of the surviving women so eloquently put it, "We didn’t put a gun in our children’s hands, we put a book in their hands."

Please help spread the word about our project. We will need all the support we can get. Join us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter (see link on this page) to stay in the loop. Thanks. Shalom.

(Photo courtesy of Francis B. Schreiber, St. Cloud State University)

88 year old Holocaust Survivor Comments on Holocaust Museum shooting

“Regrettably, this is an example of what hate can do. This is why I was preaching at high schools and universities (for the past 40 years.) The worst four letter word is H_A_T_E – it’s the most destructive word of them all. All these horrible killings and disasters are based on hate – religious, political, racial HATE.”

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Will Facebook follow Obama's lead on Holocaust denial?

President Obama went to Germany this week, including Buchenwald concentration camp. His own great uncle was part of a unit that liberated the camp. He has said that his great uncle was greatly affected with POST (post traumatic stress syndrome) when he returned to civilian life. You might have seen or heard that Obama also said he "has no patience for people who would deny history."

Chris Matyszczyk of Cnet wrote a great piece today in his Technically Incorrect blog, Will Facebook follow Obama's lead on Holocaust denial? Basically Facebook says that Holocaust denier groups are not hateful. Obama said, "To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened--a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful," he said. "This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history."

Facebook, get a clue, and follow your own policy: "You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Australian Teen Reaches Out to Henry

Henry just received ANOTHER letter from a teenager who was touched by his story. (In this photo, Henry is pictured wearing a cherished possession, a sweatshirt signed with sentiments and inspirational notes by an entire class that he spoke to in Minnesota.)

"Dear Mr. Oertelt,
May I start out by introducing myself? My name is Tasman, I’m 16 years old and am writing to you from Australia. I was not sure whether you were able to read English, so I have included a translated copy along with this letter.

Perhaps I should explain the purpose behind this letter, for the past few weeks I have been studying concentration camps and the evil that was Hitler for my modern History class. I came across your name in a book I was reading entitled “The Holocaust” by Judith Sandeen Bartel. I was amazed by the way you described your survival. I cn’t imagine the amount of courage and determination it must have taken you in order to survive the death camps.

I must ask, if you do not mind, where you found the strength to keep on living? From what I’ve read it must have been horrid. Also, what did you encounter at the camps? How was your life afterwards? I read that your happily married, I’m glad it’s worked out well.

I apologize if I have upset you at all. It is not my intention to bring up bad memories. I merely wish to understand your emotions at the time. I hope to hear from you, if you feel like discussing it.

Yours sincerely,
Tasman A."

So, Henry is reaching teens in Australia.. Meanwhile today, the FBI arrested 4 in alleged New York City synagogue bomb plot. We clearly need to make this film (and others) until we can eradicate the hate that is going on in the world..

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dr. Henry Oertelt featured in SYMBOL, a new documentary

A short form 30 minute documentary film, entitled SYMBOL, began research and production in 2006 after public announcement of plans to remove and replace the swastika symbol disks on St. Mary’s cathedral in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Dr. Henry Oertelt is featured prominently in the SYMBOL documentary. He is often used to help viewers understand the historic context surrounding the swastika, as a symbol, and its changed meaning after the Holocaust. Henry knows this subject far too well, as a survivor, and he speaks very well and succinctly in an accessible manner. This helps people to “get it”, historically, culturally and personally.

Documentary filmmaker Gregory Martin said, “I have actually know Henry for some years now. I first interviewed him as a guest Holocaust Survivor speaker at SCSU, sponsored by the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Education, about five years ago. Some of those comments are included in SYMBOL. I also used excerpts from Henry’s presentation about the swastika and racism at SCSU, in his live webcast to Canada last year, and an interview we completed at that time.”

SYMBOL was created by Gregory Martin, who is a St. Cloud State University (SCSU) Associate Professor of Mass Communications, with the help of many former and current students. Production and research continued for three years and were completed recently, in spring 2009.

SYMBOL is co-sponsored by SCSU Jewish Studies and the SCSU Center for Holocaust & Genocide Education. Additional sponsorship support was provided by the office of SCSU Provost & Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Michael Spitzer, Ph.D., the SCSU Graduate School, and the office of the Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities. The Department of Mass Communications provided technical resource support.

Our supporters in St. Paul can attend the movie:
Wednesday, 27 May 09, in St. Cloud at 7:00 p.m. @ Pioneer Place on Fifth Theatre, 22 Fifth Avenue South, St Cloud, @ 320-203-0331. Tickets are $5.

Gregory Martin owns and generously shared the info and artwork for this project for our blog. Good luck to you, Gregory, on this important project.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Meet Ray Baxter, one of our Advisors

Ray acted in numerous television shows and movies over his acting career in the 1950’s and 1960’s, including Mission Impossible and The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, among others. He too, has a large network of entertainment industry professionals and celebrities. He is retired, and divides his time between Los Angeles and Phoenix.

When he heard about my project, he reached out and has been giving me advice every now and then. We met briefly yesterday and gave me a controversial book on the Holocaust.

Ray speaks German, and with his blue eyes, he has promised to act as a German in our film project so you will see him in action again soon enough. Thanks, Ray, for all your support and hope to see you soon!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Photo Industry's Schindler/THE LEICA FREEDOM TRAIN

The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. It is a German product - precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient. Behind its worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially oriented firm that, during the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty. E. Leitz Inc., designer and manufacturer of Germany's most famous photographic product, saved its Jews.

And Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the closely held firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such a way as to earn the title, "the photography industry's Schindler."

As soon as Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ernst Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help in getting them and their families out of the country. As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany's Nuremberg laws, which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities.

To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as "the Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leave Germany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas.

Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the United States .

Leitz's activities intensified after Kristallnacht of November 1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned across Germany.

Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz Inc., where executives quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry.*

Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a new Leica.

The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic press.

The "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks. Then, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany closed its borders.

By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America, thanks to the Leitzes' efforts. How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it?

Leitz Inc. was an internationally recognized brand that reflected credit on the newly resurgent Reich. The company produced range-finders and other optical systems for the German military. Also, the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single biggest market for optical goods was the United States.

Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. A top executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help Jews and freed only after the payment of a large bribe.

Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in the course of questioning.

She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s.

(After the war, Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts, among them the Officier d'honneur des Palms Academic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the European Academy in the 1970s.)

According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the "Leica Freedom Train" finally come to light.

It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz
Family: The Leica Freedom Train," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living in England.

Thanks to Roni Z. for sharing this with us.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"This book has really garnered my attention..."

Over the past 40 years, Dr. Oertelt frequently received letters from both students and teachers, alike. Here's excerpts from one he received recently from Daniel Moddes, a teacher at Pequot Lakes High School.

"Dear Mr. Oertelt,

I am currently reading An Unbroken Chain and I must say that it was really garnered my attention. As a history teacher, I often come by books dealing with the Holocaust, so when I checked out your book from the local library, I must admit that I was expecting the same basic, yet saddening information that one would come across in other books.

However, you write in a fashion that glues the personal with the factual; the emotional with the rational (or irrational, too.) Furthermore, your book is written in a fast flowing style that most students can comprehend, and that is to be congratulated. Students can visualize themselves in your shoes you define and explain key concepts succinctly, but effectively."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A tribute to Holocaust Remembrance Day

A writer in Minnesota posted this story about Henry today:

As a tribute to Holocaust Remembrance Day, I interviewed Holocaust survivor Henry Oertelt whose story is being made into a feature-length film. This is his story.
Growing up as a Jew in Berlin was not particularly dangerous, Henry Oertelt said, but his life changed at the age of 12 when Hitler came into power.

Now, 85 years old, Oertelt tells a story he has told hundreds of times to thousands of people, a story where “all these things are based on hate,” he said.

Oertelt is also one of the 52,000 survivors documented by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation Institute. The University libraries are in discussion with the foundation to license access to the full collection this winter.

Barred from attending school for being Jewish, Oertelt was a furniture designer and builder apprentice for four years. Soon after finishing his training, Oertelt did forced labor duty, constructing roads in Berlin.

In June 1943 Oertelt and his family were given 15 minutes to gather their belongings and leave their home behind.
“It was as simple as that,” he said.

That day, Oertelt began a journey to Theresienstadt, the first of five concentrations camps he lived in until the end of the war.
Theresienstadt was different than other camps, Oertelt said, because the Nazis put it on display for the world to dispel rumors of mass killings.

The administration scheduled concerts, operas and theater performances, Oertelt said, to hide the misery of the camp.
“We didn’t know what we had more of: lice, fleas or bedbugs,” he said.

While others worked hard labor, Oertelt designed furniture, saving the few calories he could to survive.

One day, Oertelt was shoved into a railroad car with other deportees and taken to another camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, which Oertelt called, “the killing machine.”

Camp workers separated the old and the sick from the healthy, Oertelt said, and “children were taken away first.”

Chosen for the healthy line, Oertelt continued to the showers, but was forced to stand in the cold night air, naked.

A finished painting by Rwandan sisters Alice Tuza and Floriane Robins-Brown depicts their cohesive experience of genocide.

His hair was shorn and he was tattooed with “B-11291,” which still marks his left arm.

Oertelt was later moved to a camp in Flossenbürg where he would stand in role call for hours on end. He survived a grueling death march and was liberated by American troops.

Oertelt weighed 82 pounds.

For the last 35 years, Oertelt has made it his mission to bear witness to those who perished in the Holocaust, including his mother, who died at Auschwitz. He published the book “An Unbroken Chain” in 2000 which chronicles his life as a persecuted Jew. His story is now being made into a movie.

For more information on Henry Oertelt and his film, please visit:

Monday, April 20, 2009

You never really know what impact your words may have on some people!

As  you know, I have been lecturing at universities and high schools for almost 40 years. I know that, over the years, I have had some impact on a good number of students and teachers at those institutions of teaching and learning. I know that for a fact, because of the numerous letters and profound comments I have received over the years.

While I was talking to a great extent about my personal experiences, I always stressed the all-important recognition, that a greatly unopposed and widely supported Hatred was the culprit of dehumanizing and killing millions and millions of human beings. This was not only the fact during Hitler's Nazi régime. Regretfully, it is even going on as we speak, in many parts of the world today. Almost always I ended my lectures by reciting a little verse of my creation :

"if you absolutely have to hate, hate HATE." I usually left a print-out of it with the teachers, who often copied and distributed it to the students.

About three years ago I was invited to come to Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls, a town in northwestern Minnesota. The wonderful music teacher, Darcy Rees, was practicing with a huge choir for a performance of the "Butterfly Songs". (They are from the book "I Never Saw Another Butterfly". These are a collection of poems that were written by children in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt/Terezin. Only two or three of these children survived the camp.) Jeannie Brindley-Barnett, a Minneapolis composer, set some of these poems into beautiful and soulful music. These songs were performed many times not only in the US , but also in the Czech Republic, the former Czechoslovakia, where this concentration camp was located. Jeannie and her musician/conductor husband, Steve Barnett , were there to assist and and to help with the technical side of the performance.

I was asked to relay my story to the students, and again, finished off with my little verse. I have been speaking at many smaller towns in the country areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas, and was always aware of the fact that the vast majority of people that were facing me, had never seen or ever had any personal contact with a Jewish person before. So it was in this town of Thief River Falls.

Just a few days ago I received a call from Darcy Rees telling me that something extraordinary had occurred with her daughter Tevia. Tevia, age 18, came home for the spring break from the University of Fargo, North Dakota, telling her that she had a surprise for her. She told her that my little verse made such a lasting impact on her, that she wanted to do something with this important message. This wonderful Christian young woman decided to look up a rabbi in Fargo to have my message translated and written out in Hebrew. With this she went to a tattoo artist who tattooed it on her back along the spine - in Hebrew letters! 

What a story!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Jewish National Fund and Sun Devils for Israel

Recently, I attended a breakfast for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in Scottsdale. They had a packed ballroom full of supporters. Our speaker was Dr. Jonathan Adelman, Senior Felow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, Washington, D.C. He was also the dissertation manager for Dr. Condoleezza Rice and a professor at the Graduate School of International Studies in Denver. JNF was fundraising for a world class facility for mentally challenged adults in Israel.

I was seated at a table with a new group from Arizona State University called Sun Devils for Israel. Andrew Gibbs and Shauna Tasa, two students, decided to form this group earlier this year after attending an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference in DC for college students. Andrew went with AIPAC on an 8 day Israel political activism trip and on the plane ride home, he created Sun Devils for Israel. They already have 155 members on Facebook. Their goal is to achieve a non-partisan pro-Israel community at Arizona State University through the outlets of activism, advocacy, and education. For more information, join the Sun Devils for Israel Group on Facebook.

I was really impressed with their dedication. Andrew has also accepted a summer internship with AIPAC. Good luck to Andrew and Shauna with their efforts. As for JNF, a Phoenix representative, Cathy and I had been talking about initiating JNFuture in Phoenix. There are some other cities who have built successful chapters and we are watching their efforts to gage what will work here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rosie's House

Saturday night we attended a soiree where students from Rosie’s House performed. Rosie’s House: A Music Academy for Children offers a full range of instrumental and voice lessons for children ages 5 to 18. Their mission is to provide under-served youth of greater Phoenix with the gift of music which enhances their daily lives by providing direction, stability, and tools for future success.

Marcia Fine, our hostess, who donates to Rosie’s House in her late father’s name. Her dad, George Blumenthal, was a lifelong musician. Marcia is the author of a Holocaust book called Paper Children, as well as a few other books. Driven by cataclysmic world events, the Paper Children story encompasses the lives of three generations of women.

The event was at Pangea Gallery and Scent Floral in old Scottsdale. The students were excellent, particularly a young girl who sang the song “Heroes” and brought me and other attendees to tears. We filmed the event and will post it soon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Henry Appears on Twin Cities Live March 2

From, where you can see the video.

An Unbroken Chain

The latest TCL Library pick is the story of one mans harrowing journey through five concentration camps during the Holocaust. His book, “An Unbroken Chain,” is about 18 events or links that created the chain that led to his survival. Now, that book is on the way to becoming a feature film. Author, Henry Oertelt joined TCL to tell us more about his story.

Henry grew up in Berlin with his older brother and widowed mother and he was 12 years old when Hitler came to power. Henry worked as a furniture maker before he was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia in June of 1943 and then Auschwitz in October 1944. As liberators came near, Henry was forced to march to three other camps, until he was finally liberated on April 20, 1945. His brother survived the war, sadly, his mother, did not. Henry immigrated with his wife and newborn daughter to St. Paul a few years after the war and has lived here ever since.

Becoming a Public Speaker and Author…
It took 20 years after coming to the United States before Henry really started thinking about his experience. Now, he lectures to groups around the state and does podcasts for St. Cloud State’s radio station. Henry also works with St. Cloud State to digitize Holocaust artifacts. “An Unbroken Chain,” details the 18 events or chains that Henry says led to his survival; if one of these things hadn’t happened he wouldn’t have survived. Henry’s book is in bookstores now.

Related Links:
Dr. Henry Oertelt Podcast
An Unbroken Chain – The Movie (Facebook Page)
An Unbroken Chain – The Movie Blog

Saturday, February 21, 2009

“A Reason To Remember” at the Scottsdale JCC through March 16

Friday I joined a group of women to help put up a new traveling exhibit, called “A Reason to Remember” sponsored by the Phoenix Holocaust Survivors Group and the Bureau of Jewish Education, at the Ina Levine Campus of the Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Pictured are Elaine, the Director of the Bureau of Jewish Education, Annette, Elaine, Evelyn and Cindy.) Elaine, Cindy, Annette and myself will be docents for this exhibit.

"A Reason to Remember" was shared from Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. It’s a microcosm of the Holocaust and brings it to life in a personal and intimate way because it is focused on real people who experienced life under Nazi occupation. It tells the personal story of the five Jewish families who lived in the small village of Roth. The demise of this tiny community is chronicled in detail, using primary source materials such as photographs, documents and artifacts, as well as eyewitness testimonies. It also imparts a great deal of general information about the history of the Holocaust. Visitors are also challenged by what they see in this exhibit to think critically about the choices they make when they are called upon to respond to prejudice or any other type of injustice. It is appropriate for grades 8 and up.

Herb Roth, one of the survivors of this town, Roth, Germany, will be a docent during select dates including the upcoming March 2 Holocaust Education Day at the JCC.