Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are you a White Roser?

Last night there was a presentation at Arizona State University put on by Hillel. The author of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, Dr. Jud Newborn, pictured, spoke to us about his book which tells the story of Sophie, her brother and their friend, who were Christian students at the University of Munich that were former Hitler Youth Fanatics and ultimately became "The White Rose," the greatest heroes of anti-Nazi resistance. Ultimately Sophie and her brother distributed six different pamphlets all over Germany and Poland before being caught and killed by the Nazis. Dr. Newborn then moved into current events and sited many examples of heroes today. The White Rose group’s motto was, “We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in Peace!” It was very powerful to see the first of the White Rose fliers distributed at the end of the presentation. Hillel will be showing a movie on Sophie Scholl Feb. 5, email me for details.

After the presentation I met Samuel Harris, who is an author, and Holocaust Survivor who is involved with the opening a new Holocaust museum in Chicago this spring, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Designed by Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman, this three-part, 65,000-square-fooot building is to be the Midwest’s largest center devoted to teaching what organizers call “the universal lessons of the Holocaust.” In Skokie, along the Edens Expressway, it is scheduled to open April 19. Sam is pictured here, on the right with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sutz. Robert is a remarkable Holocaust artist who makes life masks. We look forward to hosting an event soon to showcase Dr. Henry’s Oertelt's mask.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This Movie will Enlighten New Generations

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to audiences for the past 40 years to share my message of tolerance and hope. 

This movie will enlighten new generations and help insure that the horrors I and others lived through will not be repeated.

Our thanks to Barry Schreiber for sharing his photos.

Today We Announced our Option News

Today, we put out our announcement about our option news. 

January 26, 2009– National Association of Television Production Executives (NATPE) LAS VEGAS, NV, Production company, launch flix, today announced that it has finalized an option agreement with Lerner Publishing Group for a feature film based on the life story of Holocaust survivor and author Henry A. Oertelt, based on his award-winning book An Unbroken Chain, My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust (© 2000, Lerner).  Born in Berlin, of Jewish faith, Oertelt was 12 when Hitler came to power in 1933. 

You can read the rest of the release here.

Thanks to Barry Schreiber of St. Cloud State, who shared this photo of Dr. Henry Oertelt lecturing at St. Cloud State University last spring on "What the swastika means to Me" after a rash of anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We are One: MLK Day of Service

Today, President Elect Obama is calling for a day of service to commemorate Martin Luther King Day. You can visit USA Service to see a list of service project in your neighborhood, and for my area, many of them said that they were filled to the capacity already.  I received emails and text messages about this from the campaign.  Yesterday, during the free inauguration kick off concert on HBO, this campaign was referenced several times as well. It's really amazing to see this administration making such widely organized efforts and getting a national response.

If you would like to participate but don't have time today, you can take the Anti-Defamation League Online Pledge to Combat Prejudice.  The most fitting honor we can pay Dr. King on his birthday is to recommit ourselves to the principals of social justice for which he gave his life.  On this National Day of Service, the Anti-Defamation League challenges individuals, families and communities to take a pledge to combat prejudice.  Read and sign the ADL pledge online and join a community of thousands who are committed to standing together against hate.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ever Again, a must see film

Last night I attended the Phoenix Anti Defamation League’s film series which presented Ever Again, a documentary about world hate.  It was, in a word, disturbing. The film examines the resurgence of violent Anti Semitism and terrorism that threatens Europe and all of Western civilization. It exposes the dangerous Islamic extremism and culture of death being preached from the mosques of Europe’s major cities and its impact on the recent attacks in Madrid and London. It examines the new Neo-Nazism in Germany and the shifts from the traditional Anti Semitism of the right to the Anti Semitism of the extreme left, and it raises disturbing questions about our future.

The film’s conclusion echoes Edmund Burke’s warning, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Our moderator shared that just this past week, three synagogues in PARIS were destroyed.  I had no idea that the situation was so out of control outside of the U.S.  But these people don’t just hate Jews. They also hate Americans. And they are being programmed as youths to be haters.

As I said to my friend Robert and his wife afterwards, in a way, I wish I hadn’t seen it. It’s one of those films that changes your life in a way that you know you will never be the same again.  I didn’t realize I was living such a sheltered life here in the U.S.

As a young Jewish girl, my parents decided to move out of a small town in Rhode Island where we were one of the only Jewish families, to a town that was 90% Jewish. My last personal Anti Semetic experience happened when I went to a party in Rhode Island, when I was fourteen, and I ignored the comment and buried the remark deep in my consciousness. And that was it, for 20 years or so.

Coincidentally, yesterday there was a story in the St. Cloud University newspaper about our project, and I noticed there was a comment posted. It is, in fact, an Anti-Semetic remark. 

I deliberate about what to post in response, as we simply haven’t discussed a policy in regards to these matters.  When I visited the same story online this morning, it looked like the school had removed the comment, and the ability to comment for all readers.  Now it's back up.  Is leaving it unanswered, showing this evidence of hate, a more "teachable moment" than trying to combat it with truthful statements? We don't have time to answer every hateful comment on the Internet. Or do we?

After seeing the movie about the resurgence of hate last night, (and this was filmed in 2006) not today, 3 years later, when Muslem women in Fort Lauderdale are chanting horrific remarks, I realize that our project is a critical tool in the battle to educate people.  I am more motivated then ever before to continue sharing our message of hope and tolerance. I hope you, too, will spread the word.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome from Henry

After forty years of lecturing to students and teachers at universities and high schools in the Minnesota and surrounding areas, it is gratifying to be a part of this film project.  It is extremely critical to continue to educate future generations with eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust, like mine.  My hope is to have this film shown in schools and universities all over the world to educate about the consequence of intolerance and hatred.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Announcing An Unbroken Chain - The Movie - is Official

As you might know, I am about to embark on a long journey, one that is filled with both sadness as well as love and gratitude, the making of a feature film about a Holocaust surivor, Dr. Henry Oertelt.

This project found me in an unlikely place – a little island in the Caribbean.

It turned out to be “bashert”, a yiddish word that loosely translated, means destiny. I met Corey, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor (pictured with clapboard) who told me that her grandfather was looking for a screenwriter to adapt his book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust. I asked if I could read it and it spoke to me. It was a fascinating biography of a young Jewish boy in Berlin who is twelve when Hitler comes to power. He has a rare combination of street smarts, luck and charisma, and manages to evade the Gestapo until his late teens. And then, he describes a total of eighteen “links” in his chain of survival.

Fast forward to my introduction to Dr. Henry Oertelt, the 87 year old author and now, my new partner, as we move forward to make a film based on his story. We are aiming to make a feature film that will appeal to teens and young adults, and are actively seeking funding.

Teens are still going to movies these days, and they are digesting everything that comes their way, between High School Musical, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, etc. And recently at the American Film Market, the largest film distribution conference in the world, an accomplished writer shared that when she brings “screeners” home, her young adult children will often surprise her and watch a wide variety of the films in the mix.

We are committed to making a high quality adventure story of a young Jewish German man who ultimately lives through the Holocaust. Although I had not seen more than a couple of related films (Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful) before, I have recently tried to submerge myself in the subject so that I could be better informed.

It is no small task. I have been watching countless video tapes of Dr. Oertelt lecturing to audiences from the past forty years as well as different documentaries and films, read books, attended events. I joined the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s group at their request and recently attended the First Annual Dinner for the Museum of the Holocaust in Beverly Hills to commemorate the 70th anniversary Kristallnacht, the unofficial start of the Holocaust.

Thanks to Henry and all of the generous survivors who have come into my life in the past few months whether in person or on film, I feel like I am prepared for this enormous undertaking. Thanks to the publishing company and a friend’s distribution company, I have a commitment to make and distribute this film to educators and schools. And thanks to the support of my loving husband, my family, and Henry's family, I feel like I can take on this subject matter, knowing that they will be there to cheer me up and cheer me on, as I take on the most meaningful project of my life.

Please contact me at steph(at)launchflix dot com if you are interested in this worthwhile cause.