Thursday, December 23, 2010

January 8 Fundraiser for Holocaust & Tolerance Museum

As you may know, we have always stated that profits from our film, An Unbroken Chain will be going to create and support a Holocaust museum. We are thrilled to announce that The East Valley Jewish Community Center (JCC) is going to house a much-needed Holocaust & Tolerance museum on their property, which will be the first of it's kind in Arizona. The JCC has just announced RSP Architects as the designer for its Tolerance & Holocaust Museum, along with former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano as RSP’s strategic advisor assigned to the project.

In November 2009, the East Valley JCC announced plans to build a museum dedicated to educating the public about the Holocaust in order for them to take action on issues facing the world today. The museum will be part of its current campus next to the JCC’s existing building. As an integral part of the revitalization of the intersection of Alma School and Ray Roads in Chandler the museum is being built with support from the City of Chandler.

Exhibits will include Holocaust history and education, exhibits on other genocides, and rotating exhibits on current diversity and tolerance issues. A Museum Steering Committee has been working to establish a strong foundation for the museum, as they have chosen an architect, begun developing an education and outreach plan and generating community support for the project. While it has been referred to as a Holocaust/Tolerance museum, the committee’s next steps include working with stakeholders to develop a name that accurately reflects the vision and mission of the project.

City of Chandler support includes a development agreement of up to $2 million for infrastructure improvements, widening the roadways and improving the entry corridor. The project is anticipated to be a catalyst for future development in the area with an annual economic impact of about $16.4 million.

RSP Architects is an internationally acclaimed firm most recently noted with completing the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix. After several months of review, a volunteer selection committee chose RSP for its long history of working on cultural projects that bring great pride to their communities. “RSP brings many of the elements that we were looking for in this project, and we’re fortunate to find a firm that has such an excellent fit with our vision,” said Michael Waxman, Architect Committee Chair.

Neil Giuliano’s extensive experience as a fundraiser, leader and community advocate will bolster the museum’s mission to use the Holocaust as a tool to educate society about the importance of diversity and combat prejudice at a community and global level. The Holocaust & Tolerance museum will be one of only five such museums in the country, and the only one of its kind in the state.

Giuliano was recently named CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, but will keep a base in Arizona and work on this project. Giuliano served as Tempe Mayor for 10 years, and was president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) until June 2009. At GLAAD, Giuliano expanded the organization's media advocacy and anti-defamation work to include religious and faith-based communities, sports and advertising media.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better fit for this project than a fundraiser and strategic advisor of Neil Giuliano’s caliber,” said Ben Benedict, Museum Steering Committee Chair. “The depth of experience he has working to combat hate and his broad community ties make this an excellent partnership.”

As its initial fundraiser, the JCC will premiere the award-winning documentary Rene & I, at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Rene and I tells the story of twins, Rene and Irene who survived experiments by Josef Mengele after being sent to Auschwitz at age six. The documentary will be immediately followed with comments from a Holocaust survivor, and will include opportunities to learn more about how to volunteer and support the building of the museum.

Tickets for Rene and I cost $25 and will go to support the Center’s efforts. Tickets are available to be purchased and held at will-call by calling the JCC at 480-897-0588 or online at www.evjcc.org.

Donations to support the museum can also be made online at www.evjcc.org.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Iron Cross is a Powerful Must See



I recently saw Iron Cross at the Museum of Tolerance. It was a powerful film about a Joseph, Polish Holocaust Survivor, Roy Scheider, who returns to Germany to see his son, who has been living there for some time. (We thought our Second Generation Survivor Stephanie Oertelt Samuels was so unusual, having lived in Germany and another film offers the same premise!) Joseph runs into a man he suspects is a former Nazi who killed his whole family and plans revenge. The director of the film is the child of a Survivor who the film was based on. Joshua Newton said his dad had seen his whole family get shot in front of him and spent his life very angry. Sadly, Joshua’s father died before the film came out and Roy Scheider ironically died nine months later of the same cause.

Joshua also said that their relationship was the model for the film. Joshua’s son, and him, on the other hand, worked together on this film – his son, Alexander played the role of the young son. The film had a shocking ending that left most of the audience a bit disturbed. At least I was. However, Joshua’s film was a remarkable example of why we need more films on the subject. I asked him during the Q&A how much his budget was, since he filmed in Germany and had flashbacks that included the need for period costumes, vehicles, etc. I was curious if it was anything like our budget for An Unbroken Chain. I was shocked for the second time that evening when I found out the budget was in fact, thirty million. That just goes to show that our partner is an extremely shrewd production company – I believe that we can pull off our four million dollar budget and still deliver a high quality film. Only time will tell though. Congratulations to the Newtons on an excellent film! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holocaust Education Workshop Coincides w/ Kristallnacht



This year on Kristallnacht, the anniversary of the start of the Holocaust, I find myself in the middle of a multi-day workshop put on by the Anti-Defamation League of LA for educators. We have had sessions at the Museum of Tolerance, the new LA Museum of the Holocaust (pictured), and the American Jewish University. Since I’m planning to be a volunteer docent at the LA Museum of the Holocaust, I thought I would take the course and continue my own education for research for the An Unbroken Chain film project and my volunteer efforts. We aim for An Unbroken Chain to be a tool for these educators and understanding the challenges and nuances of designing a film that can be used in the classroom has been very useful.

Sunday I looked around the packed room of almost one hundred educators with awe. Some people had flown in all the way from the East Coast and some had driven up from communities as far as Orange County, to better themselves as teachers. We spent about eight hours in classes that day, grueling sessions where some of the top experts in the country presented material while providing countless resources, ideas and support. It was a testimony to their dedication – giving up personal time with their families to learn about the Holocaust and its lessons for themselves and their students.

We will receive special teaching certificates on our last day tomorrow, and some of the participants might receive an extra increase in their point/pay system, but I don’t know if anyone will really ever give them the recognition they deserve for their efforts. I am really grateful for their dedication to preserving these stories and sharing them with the next generation. As we all know, we will be relying on teachers like these in the next fifteen to twenty years as our precious Holocaust Survivors age and retire from speaking. I look forward to working with these teachers and their schools again in the future through my museum connection and when our project comes to fruition.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Alice Dancing Under the Gallows - Official Trailer



Henry Oertelt and his brother, Kurt are featured in the video at 2:35 when it shows a choir in Therenstadt, the first of the 5 camps that Henry escaped from.

Good luck to the "Alice the Film" project on this wonderful upcoming docu on 106 year old Holocaust Survivor, Alice Herz Sommer. She still plays the piano every day. Henry, now 89, has said without a doubt that music and the ability to sing in Theresenstadt was one of the links in his Unbroken Chain of survival.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sonja Messerschmidt, 85, Married during the Holocaust


Producer Stephanie Houser with Kurt and Sonja Messerschmidt 11/08


I traveled back East and had the opportunity to meet Kurt and Sonja Messerschmidt almost two years ago. Kurt, age 95, is Henry Oertelt's older brother and a significant figure in our upcoming feature film, An Unbroken Chain. Sonja died Monday, October 25, 2010 at age 85. I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to meet her. She stayed with Henry and his family in Berlin prior to being sent to Theresenstadt, the notorious VIP camp where many artists, musicians, doctors etc. were sent. Henry suspected they were sent there due to his brother's influence as a brilliant linguist at the University of Berlin. Regardless, she and her husband actually married there in the camp before the brothers were sent to Auschwitz. Happily Sonja and Kurt reunited after the war and spent the majority of their 66 years together in Portland, Maine, where Kurt was a cantor and Sonja worked in fashion.

Sonja Messerschmidt was a positive, humorous person despite her experience as a prisoner in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Click here for full obituary in the Portland Press Herald. "Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Holocaust Survivor, 89, was Witness to Kristallnacht Almost 72 Years Ago




November 9 will be the 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, which many say was the unofficial start of the Holocaust. My friend, 89 year old Henry Oertelt, was an eye witness. Henry now lives in Minnesota with his wife Inge.

Seventeen-year-old Henry was living in Berlin at the time with his older brother, Kurt, (now 95) and his mother, Else. I wrote about the details last year. In all 101 synagogues were destroyed and almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed. 26,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, Jews were physically attacked and beaten and 91 died (Snyder, Louis L. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Paragon House, 1989:201).

We are raising awareness our upcoming feature film, based on Henry’s book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust. We have been fundraising for this effort and plan to shoot the film in Europe where we can benefit by tax credits there. We've also created a 501c(3) where you can donate as little as a dollar to participate in our effort and show support. For chai or $18.00, we'll give you a credit in the film. You can see a short film here and donate on our site or join us on Facebook or Twitter for additional updates.

If you are interested in speaking to Henry for an upcoming story on Kristallnacht or the Holocaust, contact me at steph at 6mfor6m dot org.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A new Holocaust museum pushes toward the future

LA Museum of Holocaust

I plan to volunteer at the new Holocaust museum in LA and thought our supporters would appreciate this piece from Jonah Lowenfeld of the Jewish Journal. I originally heard about plans for the new museum when I attended the 2008 Annual Dinner commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Kristallnacht. Soon after, I visited the previous location and have to admit, I was slightly surprised once I saw the country's first Holocaust Museum, which at that time was housed in a modest office building on Wilshire. The new modern space is going to offer an element of lasting beauty and a much more fitting home for such an important cultural institution.

When the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust officially opens in its new home in Pan Pacific Park on Oct. 14, it won’t just be moving to a bigger, more prominent and more easily accessible building. It will be moving into the 21st century.

The building, located adjacent to the park’s Holocaust Memorial Monument, took seven years to usher from plan to reality and will end up costing somewhere between $18 million and $20 million. It more than doubles the exhibition space available in the museum’s former Wilshire Boulevard home, with a daring new structure of concrete and glass, much of it underground, and exhibits filled with interactive new technology, including audio and video materials scattered throughout.

But even with a new audio guide and touch-screen displays, the Holocaust museum’s leaders have been careful to keep the focus on artifacts from the permanent collection, which will fill the bulk of the public spaces.

“Our museum is supposed to be about the artifacts, the images, the documents, the evidence,” E. Randol Schoenberg, the museum’s president, said. The overwhelming majority of visitors — around 80 percent — are expected to be middle- and high-school students, who are required under California state law to study the Holocaust in school. Schoenberg said he hopes students who visit the museum will leave saying, “ ‘I saw these things with my own eyes.’ ”

The museum traces its roots back to 1961, when a group of Holocaust survivors, enrolled in an English class at Hollywood High School, decided to create a place where they could archive Holocaust history. Of those founders, only Masha Loen, 80, is still living.

“When Elie Wiesel came to visit our museum the first time,” Loen said, recalling the Nobel laureate’s visit in 1980, “he called it a little jewel.” At the time, the museum was housed on the 12th floor of the Jewish Federation building. “That was the first [Holocaust] museum in the United States,” Loen said.

The museum has moved at least four times — it was forced out of the Federation building after the 1994 Northridge earthquake — but the new building marks the first time it will have a home of its own. Designed by Los Angeles-based architect Hagy Belzberg, the 27,000-square-foot structure could scarcely be more different from the most recent location, which was on the ground floor of a nondescript office building.

However, some elements of the new installation will be familiar to patrons of the museum’s earlier home. The signature holdings — a concentration camp uniform, a partial replica of a boxcar, a model of the Sobibor death camp — still will have prominent displays. And the museum’s narrative of the Holocaust will remain chronological. Visitors will start by witnessing photos and objects from Jewish life in Europe before the war; then make their way through the unfathomably tragic history of ghettos, deportations, selections and death camps; and, finally, learn about resistance, rescue and life after the Holocaust.

New media, new spaces and new acquisitions are likely to enhance the experience of history for the 40,000 visitors the museum hopes to bring through its doors in its first year. (In its last year on Wilshire, the museum had about 10,000 visitors.)

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Film in the Schools: Cultural Films for Arizona Students



We are involved with a great program, Films in the Schools, a community outreach program of The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, which is in its fourth year.

Our trained presenters bring films into public and religious schools to help teach the Holocaust. Film as a medium allows young people to learn on a different level; characters, legends and stories come alive on the screen. This is especially important when trying to convey the magnitude of the Holocaust. Since the school program began, we have shared our films with over 3,500 public and Jewish day school students.

“Irena Sendler: Life in a Jar” is one of the films we will be showing in the schools this year. It is a documentary about a Polish Christian woman who helped save 2,500 Jewish children from death in the Warsaw Ghetto. Behind Irena Sendler’s story is an important lesson: Tikun Olam - one person can make a difference, one person can help to “Repair the World.”

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival provides; the film at no charge, study guides if requested, a flexible program that fits your class schedule, and an essay contest with a $25 gift card.

We have met some of the most extraordinary educators over the last few years; teachers who take the study guides provided by the state and school district and make their subjects come alive, taking education to a higher and more personal level with their students.

The success of our Films in the Schools program can be measured by the questions students ask, and the essays and thank you letters that are written. Our goal this year is to reach out to more schools, helping to teach young students about acceptance and diversity.

For information or to schedule a visit to your classroom, contact:
steph (at) launchflix (dot)com. Please join the Film Festival on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Attending the American Jewish Press Association Conference ?




Six Million for Six Million is pleased to be a sponsor of the American Jewish Press Association Conference next week. We will offer a signed copy of An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust to all attendees. Please stop by our table in the expo hall on Tuesday.

In An Unbroken Chain, young Henry examines 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 faces the encounters and situations that changed his destiny from ages twelve to twenty-four. 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 are optioning this book to make a feature film. Here’s some ideas for upcoming stories. We can facilitate a phone interview with Holocaust Survivor and Author, Henry Oertelt or producer, Stephanie Houser. Email us (steph at 6mfor6m dot org) or DM us on Twitter @6Mfor6M.

• Holocaust Survivor, Author and subject, Henry Oertelt is 89 years old and lives in Minnesota and his brother Kurt Messerschmidt is 95, and lives in Maine.

An Unbroken Chain is going to be a FEATURE film not a documentary.

• September 11, 1949 – Henry’s 62nd anniversary of his immigration to the US

• November 9, 1938 – 73rd Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the start of the Holocaust: Henry was living in Berlin and was an eye witness.

• Family angle: Henry and his deceased daughter, Stephanie Oertelt Samuels, wrote the book and his granddaughter, Dr. Corey Samuels, is an associate producer. Producer Stephanie Silverman Houser has been joined by her parents Ann and Neil Silverman to fundraise and spread the word about the project.

An Unbroken Chain is aimed at teenagers who have never seen anything on the Holocaust yet. The book was written for ages 12 and up.

• We have lined up a distributor, MarVista Entertainment and an educational distributor, Karben Publishing. 90% of finished independent films fail to do this and never see the light of day.

• Henry has been given 3 honorary doctorates and is one of only 5 (of 52,000) highlighted testimonials online at Spielberg’s SHOAH Foundation’s “Surviving Auschwitz” web site.

• We created a non profit called Six Million for Six Million, to start micro-fundraising for our film. The concept is that it will take $6M to make our film. If we collect a dollar a person, we could reach 6M people with our message of hope and acceptance and raise the money in the process. If you donate chai ($18.00), we will give you a credit in our film.

• We have a commitment for one third of the funds we need.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Goodbye Steffi



It is with a heavy heart that I write about my relatively new, but dear friend Steffi Oertelt Samuels, the wonderful daughter of author and Holocaust Survivor, Henry Oertelt. Steffi, (age 62) died yesterday, May 17 in Minnesota after a lifetime of defying the odds. Different doctors said that she was terminally ill with a brain tumor but (like her father) her strong will and positivity gave her the strength to live a remarkably full life. She was surrounded by her family and close friends including her grandson, Chance, (pictured above w/ Steffi) children, Paul and Corey, her husband, Ed, and her father and mother, Henry and Inge.

Steffi and I met in the summer of 2008 while my husband and I were living on our boat, Plan B, in the Virgin Islands. She, Ed, and Corey came aboard for an afternoon sail. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other and it was at this time that I told her I wanted to adapt her dad’s book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust. Steffi helped write the book and was very involved with Second Generation Survivor education efforts in the Minnesota area. She also wrote the accompanying study guide to the book.

I told Steffi that I didn’t really know how to convince them to let me adapt their book into a film, other than giving them a draft of my first screenplay, Plan B. A few months later, I handed off a copy to Corey which apparently made the rounds in the Samuels/Oertelt family because I ended up getting a call from Henry in August that summer, accepting my offer to option the book and work with their family.

Just a few weeks later, Steffi invited my husband and I to join her and her family at her lake home in Minnesota. We brought a video camera and prepared to get some interviews with the family during our first official visit. I didn’t know what to expect and I’m sure, neither did they.

We arrived as relative strangers but we left feeling like a part of the family. Steffi was a caring hostess with a great sense of humor. I marveled at the way she listened intently and enjoyed her daughter’s photos and stories from a recent vacation. The Samuels/Oertelts took us under their roof (and tent, another story) and we ate, drank and shared stories about their family, both light and very, very heavy (yes, I’m still referring to all three: the drinks, the food and the stories!). We shot a ton of footage and captured some special moments: the family singing and then playfully debating, the prayer over wine on Shabbot, riding around the lake in their boat, and hearing Henry and Inge share some of their stories that perhaps, even they, their children and grandchildren, hadn’t heard before. It was a very special time.

I next saw Steffi last fall when I flew out to attend Henry’s 3rd honorary doctorate ceremony at St. Olaf College. It was a very solemn day, as if we knew that it might be one of the last times some of us would see each other again. And yet that night, we went out to the local deli and enjoyed ourselves as much if not more than we did on Plan B.

Steffi wanted badly to participate in the making of An Unbroken Chain: the Movie. She sent me several emails when I started the project, and later, verbally shared some feedback and direction. She had written her own life story, and told me that she wanted me to read and advise her on next steps. She never had a chance to send it.

Those who know Steffi might know that she spent her life defying the odds: she was given a death sentence early in her life for a brain tumor, and spent the rest of her years both ignoring and battling the prognosis. This was definitely one of the reasons she took a position at the American School in Germany and against her parents’ wishes, moved herself and her family there to both learn about her family and culture, and perhaps, to escape from the mundane, as she might have felt she had less time and much more to lose than others who might postpone this decision of a lifetime.

Perhaps Steffi’s experiences in Germany helped us relate more: I too, made the choice to go against my family’s wishes and make some sacrifices so that I could travel and expand my world, I know she too, had no regrets. After about 7 years living abroad, she and her family returned to the U.S. forever changed, especially Steffi, having bonded with some of her German family and gaining a unique perspective into her father’s homeland and unfortunate history.

I spoke to Steffi and Ed recently after I moved to LA. I wanted her to know that I was still taking very seriously my commitment to carry on the An Unbroken Chain. We exchanged only a few words, but I think we were both very happy to have reconnected and hear the other’s voice.

I will continue the Holocaust education efforts that Henry and Steffi began, and look forward to continuing this journey and passing on the lessons of on An Unbroken Chain through our non profit, Six Million for Six Million, for the rest of my life. Steffi was actually named for Henry’s cousin, Stephanie, who was a talented performer who was murdered in Germany by the Nazis. Maybe there’s no coincidence that we share the same name.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

AZ Humanities Council's Border Film Festival




We attended the Border Film Festival at Tempe Center for the Arts this past weekend. Thank you to filmmaker and ASU professor Paul Espinoza (pictured) who showed 5 powerful films relating to the Mexican/U.S. border’s history all of which were his own productions. The first film, The Lemon Grove Incident, was filmed 25 years ago. It was a combination of documentary and traditional storytelling via feature film. It recounted the story of the Mexican American community's response to a 1930 school board attempt to create a segregated school for their children leading to America's first successful legal desegregation case. The Mexican parents hired an attorney and actually sued the local PTA. One of the local ten-year-old boys was the plaintiff. A post-film discussion facilitated by Dr. Luis Alvarez, of the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Alvarez was not only a visiting historian– he turned out to be the grandson of Dr. Robert Alvarez, the ten-year-old boy the case had centered around.

It was amazing to see how closely the story paralleled a twelve year old Jewish boy’s school experiences in our project, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust. (We have optioned this book and are currently fundraising for the feature film, as you may know.) The logic of the PTA and their weak arguments about Americanization, English, and overcrowded schools immediately reminded one of Nazi Germany’s Nuremburg Laws.

In one of the memorable courtroom scenes, the plaintiff’s attorney demonstrates that the school board had never researched nor had no real grasp of what language the Mexican kids actually spoke. They were planning to send Mexican kids to the Mexican school “to learn English.” The lawyer helps the courtroom learn that not only were 95% of them United State citizens but that some of them grew up speaking English and didn’t even understand Spanish!

The second film was a documentary of the history of the Mexican American War. It was a good reminder that in fact, California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, were, of course, part of Mexico before we, the U.S., stole the land away in that war.

Thank you to Paul and the Arizona Humanities Council for a terrific and timely event!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Legislative measures spark national outcry and what could be costly boycotts of state

Legislative measures spark national outcry and what could be costly boycotts of state
Phoenix Business Journal - by Chris Casacchia

In the past month, Arizona lawmakers have lifted bans on concealed weapons and eliminated gun permits; passed a “birther” bill for presidential candidates to prove their citizenship; and invoked the toughest immigration law in the country.

The triple whammy has sparked a national outcry and demands for state boycotts, making Arizona the butt of jokes everywhere, from “Saturday Night Live” to “The Colbert Report.”

As the rest of the country inches toward recovery from the Great Recession, the political and public-image ramifications of such negative publicity are the last thing Arizona needs as it tries to attract businesses, tourists and knowledge workers, experts say.

“What a disturbing step backward for our state,” said Stephanie Houser, a public relations executive and founder of launch flix, which is developing a feature film on a Holocaust survivor and his experiences in Nazi concentration camps.

“As someone who has only recently become involved with teaching the lessons of the Holocaust and the dangers in singling out a group of people, I am even more dismayed to see this development,” she said.


The state’s new immigration law mandates that police check the documents of any individual “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien.”

Some PR experts and political insiders believe headlines about Arizona’s gun, birther and immigration laws are overhyped, fueled by ratings-starved networks and tabloid journalism. Others think the state is the laughingstock of the country.

“This absolutely tarnishes Arizona’s image in the eyes of pragmatic Americans who believe in basic civil liberties,” said Dave Cieslak, who ran communication efforts for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign here.

“‘Show me your papers’ isn’t the most catchy tourism slogan,” said Cieslak, who established Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations in February. “We should be highlighted on national TV for our achievements in science, technology and sustainability –– not for blatant bigotry toward people with a darker skin color than our Republican lawmakers.”

Jason Rose, a PR strategist in Republican circles, said there could be a short-term hit to the state’s economy because of liberal backlash. But in the long run, those same “liberal interests in Arizona will be defeated at the polls, showing such policies aren’t extreme, but mainstream,” said the president of Rose & Allyn Public Relations in Scottsdale.

“That being said, Arizona Republicans would be well-served from a public relations standpoint by being as passionately pro-legal immigration as they are anti-illegal immigration,” said Rose.

Gordon James, who did PR work for both Bush administrations, is confident law enforcement officers will treat guests with respect, but said convention and tourism organizers will want to know how the new law will be enforced and how it might affect visitors.

“Will they think the new law has the potential for civil rights abuse? I think the answer is yes,” said James, owner of Gordon C. James Public Relations in Phoenix.

James is deeply connected to the GOP. His clients have included the Republican National Committee, the Arizona GOP, Stop Illegal Hiring, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, and U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake and John Shadegg

Phoenix is a finalist to host the 2012 Republican National Convention, a major economic coup for any city. Despite a rash of bad press, Arizona GOP officials aren’t concerned that the new immigration law will sway the site selection committee, which toured the city and its amenities last month.

“Nope, not at all. There’s no apprehension on our behalf,” said Arizona Republican Party spokesman Matt Roberts. “The RNC site selection committee over the next couple of months will look at the logistics and the pluses and minuses, and make the best decision they can for the members coming to Phoenix.”

The 2008 GOP presidential convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul had an estimated economic impact of $170 million and created more than 2,500 jobs. Arizona’s tourism sector, a major economic driver, is fighting to attract visitors and can’t afford any lost business, including the potential RNC.

This week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera called for a boycott of Arizona, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association canceled its fall convention here.

Tourist groups are deeply concerned about the law’s repercussions.

“Arizona tourism is currently in a very fragile state of recovery, and the negative perceptions surrounding this legislation are tarnishing Arizona’s image and could easily have a devastating effect (on) visitation to our state,” Debbie Johnson, president of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, said in a prepared statement.

Angel Cabrera, president of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, said this law could have serious ramifications for the school, its students and corporate clients.

In an April 22 letter to Gov. Jan Brewer asking her to veto the bill, he wrote that a large segment of the school’s students and visitors are from Latin America. The school offers a Global MBA program in conjunction with Tecnologico de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico, and runs an executive education program for top multinational companies throughout Latin America.

“Since enforcement of this law could very possibly be directed primarily at individuals of Hispanic origin, I am deeply concerned about the negative impact it could have on those students and our relationship with the Tec,” Cabrera said in the letter.

“This law could have some serious ramifications for the executives who travel to Thunderbird for these programs and, ultimately, could dissuade those companies from continuing their contracts with the school,” he wrote.

Read more: Legislative measures spark national outcry and what could be costly boycotts of state - Phoenix Business Journal:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

89 year old Bronia Cimmerman Bronkesh's Family Journey

We met Bronia Cimmerman Bronkesh and her daughter Sheryl a year and a half or so ago at the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor's Assocation. Sheryl put together an amazing web site, Before America, to reflect their trip back to Poland complete with videos and photos. Her mom hadn't returned in years. They were at the mass grave exactly 67 years to the day that her father and grandparents had been killed. Her husband, Sam Bronkesh, was a Polish Partisian, the site also includes his testimony and audio, with photos and drawings.
Bronia escaped to Russia from Sarny, Poland.

Here's one of their videos.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Video: Behind the Scenes at Phoenix Yom Hashoah



What an intense weekend. Between attending the Phoenix Film Festival and crashing an international funders conference, we were filming the local Yom Hashoah event showcasing our incredible local survivors.

Enjoy this wonderful video I shot right before the ceremony. One of the Survivors wonders to another, "how many Survivors are left?" Then they get instructions on walking into the service with their candles and are assured they can take their time, that it will be like years past. How will this memorial service ever be the same without them?

Those who helped us this weekend, you know who you are. Thank you for all your support. We need it now more than ever.
Shalom.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Open Letter to the Jewish Funders Network



89 year old Holocaust Survivor, Henry and Producer, Steph

April 10, 2010

Welcome!

With Holocaust Memorial Days upon us, I wanted to reach out. I'm a Jewish filmmaker who's working with Henry Oertelt, an eighty-nine-year-old Holocaust survivor to adapt his book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey into the Nazi Holocaust, into a feature film (not a documentary.) We are producing his amazing story of hope and survival to inspire and educate the next generation, as well as their families. Please accept a signed copy of his book with our complements.

I would love to tell you more and see if there's a chance I can attend the Jewish Funders gathering to raise awareness of our project. We have already raised 1/3 of our goal and secured an experienced partner, in producer and international distributor, Mar Vista Entertainment.

You can read details at our web site, http://6mfor6m.org the home of our non profit organization, Six Million for Six Million, I can also share an executive summary, a business plan, or a few short videos, for those who may have interest.

On behalf of my adopted grandfather, Henry Oertelt, his ninety-five-year-old brother, Kurt, and all of the remaining Survivors, we thank you for your interest and consideration. I know you agree, that my generation must be supported as we continue sharing these critical accounts.

I will be available through out the conference if you should like to meet with me, hear more and provide feedback. Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,


Stephanie Silverman Houser
Producer, Screenwriter
602-793-6156 cell
323-774-1418 office

Monday, March 22, 2010

Survivor and Steph Speak on Holocaust Together


Last night I was privileged to share the stage at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley with a Holocaust Survivor named Magda Herzberger. She is a speaker and author of several books including, Holocaust: A Survival Story. We showed our short film and talked about the progress of our adaptation of An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust.

Magda read from the following passage in her book to describe an emotional reunion with her mother after the Holocaust to her surprise and delight, had also survived.

"I couldn't sleep that night. I still couldn't believe it was true. The next morning we continued our our journey to Cluj...

We came to a big apartment house which had a gate equipped with a bell. You had to ring the bell so that somebody from inside the building could open it. My knees were shaking from my strong emotions when I touched the bell I told myself, Now you are going to find out the truth.

I rang the bell and a window opened on the second floor. I heard my mother's voice. "Who is there?"
I said, "It is your daughter coming home!"
My mother and I both started screaming hysterically due to our indescribable joy.

My homecoming was a total surprise to my mother. She ran down the stairs to greet me and opened the gate in a hurry. We embraced and kissed each other. Our uncontrolled screaming was followed by fits of crying. My companion was crying too, and finally she left, saying good-bye to us, hoping that this miracle which she witnessed would also happen to her..."

Magda's book tells of how at age 18 she survived 3 concentration camps. She told us that she promised God she would never stop telling her story, and at age 85, she was there, awing us with her energy and positivity.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event, and to our organizers, The Tribe, Jewish Sisterhood, and Young Jewish Phoenix for putting this together, and to our hosts at Temple Solel. It was a memorable evening for all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Priest Dennis (the Script Supervisor) is Another Link in our Chain



“Mr. Oertelt's life is the kind of story that needs to be told, especially to the young. - and film's great power to bring those stories into people's lives is exactly the reason I am interested in film in the first place.

I am very excited about "An Unbroken Chain" and would like to be of assistance in any way I can.

Your listing on "Below the Line" caught my attention last Friday and I went straight to the library. The book was overwhelming.

As to my background, I have been a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for 32 years, currently assigned in residence at St. Basil's parish. My assignment "in residence" provides a great "day job" which allows me to be engaged with filmmaking in whatever way I cook up. That has mainly been as a script supervisor..”

It has been a busy time for us. We recently opened a new office in West Hollywood and have been getting organized and starting to follow up on some exciting conversations and introductions. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from a priest named Dennis, who is a script supervisor in his spare time. Yes, only in Hollywood! He told me that he included An Unbroken Chain in his homily last Sunday, which was about how God’s faithfulness invites us forward. His experience includes The Departed and The West Wing, and he has even offered to give a copy of the book to a major star he is friendly with.

Needless to say we look forward to staying in touch with Dennis and hopefully bringing him along to Bulgaria to help out.

We look forward to continuing our momentum with some hard core networking and good karma, this project will soon get off the ground and into the theaters. Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

FIlm in Schools presentation at Holocaust Education Day



Stephanie Houser, producer of An Unbroken Chain, a Holocaust feature film project, and Roni Zee, the Creative Director of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, spoke to a group of about 70 teachers at an all day Holocaust conference for teachers at the Bureau of Jewish Education in Arizona. Their session, "How to use Film to teach the Holocaust" covered a few selections that they offer schools in Arizona. A rep. from the festival can come out and show the film, and then we offer an essay contest. This year we are bringing "Life in a Jar" a film about a Polish Catholic woman who saved over 2500 kids from the Warsaw ghetto. The essay is, "Would you risk your life for a stranger?"

In our session to teachers yesterday, we tried an experiment - we read a description of, "A Polish Winter" and then viewed the short. You too, can see the short by downloading it from their web site.

Here are our quiz questions:

1. What did you think of the story ‘Polish Winter?’


2. Did the story move you?


3. If it did why? If it didn’t why?


4. How did you relate to the sounds described in the story?


5. Were you able to imagine the scenes in the story?


The exercise provided a great discussion. Then we showed a news segment about Irene Sendler and a 15 minute Oscar winning short, called Toyland.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

300+ People Learn About An Unbroken Chain at Festival



Here's a lesson ala when life gives you lemons. Last night I attended the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival at the Harkins Camelview, not only as a board member and the PR Co Chair, but of course due to my interest in all things Holocaust to prepare for our feature film project, An Unbroken Chain. I was especially interested in meeting Dr. Michael Rubinoff, Professor of Film and Media studies at ASU and an expert on the Holocaust. To our dismay, the theater was experiencing technical difficulties, the details of which I'm not quite clear myself today, but all of the sudden, we had a room of over 300 people and nothing to show them. Like any hard working indie film producer, whose dream is to talk to a room full of film buffs, (and in my case, Jewish film buffs who were waiting to see a Holocaust feature film,) I quietly offered to run out and entertain the room with my tales of development. Ten or so minutes later, with no other solution in sight, I was offered the microphone from the very kind president of our festival, Jerry M. Oprah style, I walked down the aisle and introduced myself, as the festival's PR person, and nervously laughed that I needed to do something about the situation and so as a filmmaker, I would offer to tell them about An Unbroken Chain, my adaptation of my friend, 89 year old Holocaust Survivor, Henry Oertelt's book of the same name. I also promised not to ask them for money, but that I wanted to raise awareness of our film. I can't be sure but I think I had the floor for 20 minutes or so. I answered a few questions and even plugged the Festival's new "Film in Schools" program for educators where we bring an educational film out for students. (This year it's the story, Life in a Jar, about a Polish Catholic woman named Irene Sendler who saved over 2500 children from Warsaw.) I also nicely let the audience know that their ticket sales go toward this program as well as towards the Hospice of the Valley in hopes of stopping any uproar for refunds. Soon, Jerry relieved me and introduced our guest, Dr. Rubinoff, who would now speak before the film instead of after it. A few individuals approached me and said they had connections in Hollywood and would be glad to make introductions - one to Spielberg and one to a Jewish actress, Debra Messing, from Will and Grace. Eventually it was show time, and the scheduled film, Leo and Claire, was shown. Only 9 people requested their money back when all was said and done, so for this producer, I will say, thank you to the crowd for your kindness, and to Harkins and the Festival for the opportunity to talk to the community and practice my schpeil. Hope to see you next year with our trailer!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Video: UC Irvine Protest of Israel's Ambassador



Film shows Israel's Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, trying to speak at UC Irvine on February 8, 2010, during numerous shouts trying to drown him out. Ambassador Oren persevered, completing his remarks and commenting at the end, when most of the protestors leave the room that he wished they had stayed, as he wanted to communicate with them.

Education is our biggest tool in promoting understanding and acceptance. UC Irvine is right to discipline these students (some were allegedly going to be arrested and possibly dismissed from school) who chose to shout insults at the speaker rather than wait for the Q&A and ask him about the issues. Here in the U.S., in California, of all places, we should be able to have a dialogue with opposing viewpoints.

This is why projects like our film, An Unbroken Chain are so critical. Education is the key.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joan KW Shares #SMAZ Workshop Video w/ $6M Appeal



Thanks to Joan at Core Purpose who was nice enough to ask producer Stephanie Houser about her film project, An Unbroken Chain. Clearly, she didn't realize what she was getting into. JK! Thanks Joan!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Film in Schools helps Educate Kids about Acceptance



“Roni has tremendous dedication and single handedly has made the Film in Schools program a success, where she presents educational films to children and deals with discrimination at a grassroots level.” Nancy Stutman, Assistant Artistic Director

Roni Zee, the Artistic Director of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival has taken on the fairly new “Film in Schools” program. This is a public and private school outreach program that helps teach brotherhood, tolerance and the difference one person can make. This year, the group is showing a film called “Life in a Jar,” a remarkable story that helps teach the Holocaust. The film is 40 minutes long, comes with a study guide and an essay contest with a cash award. Roni said that she and her husband recently visited a public middle school in rural Arizona. The school is primarily made up of Hispanic students who wear uniforms and I.D. cards to combat the violence that has occurred in the past few years.

At that school, Roni offered the essay contest, “Would you save a stranger’s life?” and the teacher sent a stack of essays. One in particular caught Roni’s attention. Roni said that the essay revealed some insights into the young author’s life and used the words, “horror and tragedy” to describe some of the very personal and upsetting events the woman had experienced in her young life. Roni says “I have been given a gift working on this project. When you read these essays and thank you’s.. they open up their souls to you. It’s very heartwarming.”


"Film is important in teaching the Holocaust because our students are visual learners. It is important for them to read about the Holocaust, but film can bring it to them in ways that they might not get through literature alone. As well, film can include survivor testimony, and as survivors are getting scarcer, that filmed testimony is all the more important. Finally, I have seen firsthand how students will go through a list on Netflix or in their local video store and will pick up a Holocaust-related movie and watch it. The unfortunate truth is that many of them would never do that with a book. That is also why film makers need to be responsible in their Holocaust films, and portray the truth, not sensationalizing it for our modern audiences."
Kim Klett, Dobson High School, Regional Education Corps, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

"Film matters in teaching the Holocaust because it individualizes the ungraspable number of six million. I told my students they could not grasp that number, but if they understood the story of one person, they have then understood the stories of the six million. Though an actual survivor is the most powerful testimony, films help establish the setting in which the Holocaust took place. They give the history a needed context."
Barbara Hatch, Cactus Shadows High School, Arizona Heritage Project, Advisor

Roni is also hosting a student film presentation on Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. called, “Blessed is the Match.” The film is for students from grades 7 through 12 and will be hosted at Harkins Camelview Five Theater in Scottsdale.

If you are a teacher or know a teacher who might be interested, contact the Film in Schools program at 800-838-3006. Our hope is that An Unbroken Chain will make its way into programs like this after its initial national theatrical release.

Incidentally the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival starts Feb. 20 in Phoenix. Visit their web site for details and tickets.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

World Premiere: Review: The Colours of the Holocaust



Yesterday as part of Holocaust Memorial Day the Phoenix Art Museum hosted two screenings of The Colours of the Holocaust. The director of the program, introduced the film as an effort by Rax Rinnekangas, a non Jewish Finnish filmmaker. He first showed a short that introduced the filmmaker and his reasons for making the documentary. Rinnekangas was filmed outside in the snow on a blustery day in Finland. He said that there had been 2,000 Jews in Finland during the war but that eventually 8 other Jewish refugees there had died, and that it doesn’t matter if it was 8,000,000 or 8, it was too many.

The film looks at the longest hatred, anti-Semitism, the world has ever seen with a focus on the crucial moments of its fate – the birth of Aryanism in Europe and its shift to Nazism in the first half of the 20th century. It shows that Organized Evil – the Nazis’ utopist journey to an empire lasting a thousand years – did not occur in a black and white reality, like archive films have taught us, but rather in the same colourful world in which we live today.

Rinnekangas gets big points for marketing. His aim was that “art museums, different institutes and universities in different countries unify themselves into an international humanitarian chain on January 27, 2010 – for the realization of world peace.” Brilliant! Like our project, the chain concept works well here, too. Some of the international screenings took place in the following cities: Canada; FIFA-festival, Montreal ¤ Mexico: The Holocaust Museum, Mexíco City; Universidad de Guanajuato, Guanajuato; Instituto Cultural de Leon, Departamento de Cultura de Irapuato ¤ Spain: Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao ¤ Kosovo: The National Library, Pristina ¤ Hungary: The Holocaust Museum, Budapest; Little Theatre, Budapest ¤ Finland: Amos Anderson Art Museum Helsinki; The Aleksanteri Institute, Helsinki; Andorra Culture Complex, Helsinki; Arkadia International Bookshop, Helsinki; Didrichsen Museum of Art and Culture, Helsinki; Veturitalli –Salo Art Museum, Salo; The K.H. Renlund Museum, Kokkola; Saarijarvi Art Museum, Saarijarvi; Oulu Film Centre, Oulu; University of Lapland, Rovaniemi ¤

The film was shown through Rinnekangas’s eyes. He said has spent much time taking photographs of concentration camps over his life. He filmed Internet searches to his history questions to illustrate the development of Aryanism and eventually Nazism. At times it seemed very elementary – making a pot of coffee, his fat fingers pecking at the keyboard, the use of typical pictures and basic war footage.. and at other times it was incredibly touching to appreciate the efforts of a Christian(?) man who was simply haunted by the events of the Holocaust that preceeded his birth and wanted to do his part to stop anti-semetism and Holocaust denial. This, truly is the key to the film. Rax Rinnekangas is a mensch, and his film should be appreciated for his efforts.

The film was a low budget documentary with dark current day shots and black and white historic footage and includes subtitles. Although the filmmaker’s web site says the film is “addressed especially to new generations” unfortunately I just can’t see younger audiences watching this film unless it was in an educational setting where they were “encouraged” by a teacher or a grade.

It is not only critical for non Jewish filmmakers like Rinnekangas to make their version of this art to keep the conversation alive, but for others like us to make feature films purposefully designed to tell true stories in a more exciting fashion to keep the interest of young audiences. In stark contrast, we hope our upcoming film project, An Unbroken Chain, will not only have a successful national and international run in theaters but a huge shelf life in schools and universities due to our efforts to make a compelling educational tool by developing partnerships, and conducting research and conversations with educational organizations, teachers, and students.

image: Auchwitz, Poland 2000, copyright: Rax Rinnekangas

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rap and the 65th Anniversary of Auschwitz: A renewal of our commitment to An Unbroken Chain

">


Two stories caught my eye today:

In Poland, survivors mark Auschwitz anniversary


Esther Bejarano, Auschwitz Survivor, Teams Up With German Rap Group

It’s been 65 years since the day the Red Army liberated the camp in 1945, and is part of worldwide events on International Holocaust Remembrance Day - established by the United Nations in 2005 as a global day of commemoration. As you may know, my friend and our film subject, 89 year old Henry spent time in Auschwitz, as well as 4 other concentration camps. (Henry himself wasn’t liberated until a few months later in April.)

The other story from the Huffington Post also ties music into the Holocaust. Henry and his brother, who’s 95 years young, who are from Berlin originally, are musically gifted. In fact, likely one of the reasons they survived the Holocaust includes the fact that they were able to rehearse for the choir in Terenstadt, the first camp they went to, which gave them an escape from the dreary conditions and daily reality. Today, the Associated Press reported that Berlin resident, 85 year old Survivor Esther Bejarano, is teaming up with a hip hop group, Microphone Mafia, to educate German youths. Great quote in the piece: “It’s a clash of everything: age, culture, and style,” she laughed.

Speaking of music, yesterday I talked to a composer, Ronen who told me that his friend, Kat had heard about our feature film, An Unbroken Chain, and sent her resume, so he was following up, too. We are starting to receive crew inquiries from our listing in Below the Line, a resource for the entertainment industry. Interesting, I had missed Kat’s resume, even though she is currently based in Berlin, which would be a huge asset to our project. The reason is that we received so many email inquiries that we haven’t had time to go through them all yet. A few of them state in the subject line what they do professionally, but many others just give their name in the subject and in the body of the email, it says that their resume is attached. Just a word of advice to crew or anyone for that matter who is emailing about a project – make it as easy as possible for people to know what you offer. If you want, you might resend with your information in the subject line and cut and paste your resume in the email body.

We are really excited by the huge response to our project’s listing and continue to build our team for the film. Our big need today is to find a name director for the project who can give us more credibility. Any ideas?

Note: Photo of Esther Bejarano. Photo: O. Wolters/ccphoto.de
This image was taken or made by Oliver Wolters. Description: Esther Béjarano during a demonstration in Berlin-Köpenick against the right wing extremist party NPD. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. (This is our blog's first use of a Creative Commons visual. Thank you Oliver for sharing this great photo!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Repair the World: Israel Helps Haiti



"Will the world notice the humanitarian relief Israel has extended to Haiti? Will it make a difference in the way the world views Israel?

Many countries and world leaders have accused Israel of responding disproportionately to aggression from Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. However, it is time that the world press and media speak of another disproportionate response from Israel.

The terrible disastrous earthquake in Haiti has generated responses from many nations. The US has sent supplies and personnel, Britain sent 64 firemen and 8 volunteers, France sent troops for Search and Rescue. Many large and wealthy nations of the world sent money.

Israel, a nation of 7.5 million people has sent a team of 250 people that include Medical personnel and will establish the largest field hospital in Haiti, treating up to 5000 people a day,an experienced Search and Rescue team and medical supplies. As in previous earthquake disasters, such as in Gujarat India in 2001 and in Turkey , in the bombings in Kenya , Israel has been one of the most generous givers of aid and assistance." (From an email going around this week.)

Just before a 6.1-magnitude aftershock rocked Haiti on Wednesday (Jan. 20), Israeli emergency services treated two children rescued by a team from the New York City fire and police department on Tuesday night.

The children, an 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, were taken to the Israeli field hospital in Port-au-Prince, where Israelis have treated 367 victims. Israel has provided aid and supplies to Haiti since arriving a few days after an earthquake caused a massive humanitarian crisis on the island nation Jan. 12.

In addition to Israeli and Jewish medical and search-and-rescue teams operating in Haiti, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman initiated proceedings to send a delegation of 10 Israeli police officers to Haiti to assist the United Nations police force there.

Additionally, a team from the Israeli emergency medicine and ambulance service, Magen David Adom, has now joined the Red Cross field hospital set up in the courtyard of Port-au-Prince’s University Hospital. Among other services, the Magen David Adom team will provide psychological and social services to earthquake victims.


The Israeli rescue team has been working with other delegations from Nicaragua, Uruguay, Venezuela and Russia. Nine U.S. volunteers from Los Angeles have joined the Israeli rescue and medical delegations.

The IDF’s team set up the advanced field hospital adjacent to Port-au-Prince’s soccer stadium. So far Israeli medics there have carried out 25 life-saving surgeries and three births—one of them a premature baby. The hospital is equipped to help as many as 500 patients per day.

Following is a partial list of Jewish groups that have set up relief funds and are collecting donations to be sent to Haiti:

American Jewish Committee (AJC) in partnership with IsraAID
To donate to AJC’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, click here
Contact: haitifund@ajc.org
Web site: http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=2818295&content_id={D90DEA69-E8D3-4593-A307-9E838F7F8EDB}¬oc=1

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
To donate to the JDC’s Haiti Earthquake Relief program, click here
Contact: Beth Weinstein, Tel.: 212-885-0820, E-mail: beth.weinstein@jdcny.org
Web site: http://www.jdc.org/about-jdc/crisis-response.aspx?id=4028

American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
To donate to AJWS’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, click here
Web site: http://ajws.org/who_we_are/news/haiti_emergency.html

World Jewish Relief (WJR)
To donate to WJR’s Haiti Earthquake Emergency Appeal, click here
Web site: http://www.wjr.org.uk/appeals/646-Haiti-Emergency-Earthquake-appeal

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Survivor Celebrating 89 years, subject of feature film: An Unbroken Chain



This month, Holocaust Survivor, Henry Oertelt turns 89, but he’s still just a kid to his big brother Kurt, age 95.




Why another Holocaust flick? Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League  calls 2009 arguably the worst year for anti-Semitism in his tenure with the organization.


Last month, the Auschwitz sign was stolen. One man who was there wants to tell his story in order to educate people about acceptance. Minnesota resident, Holocaust Survivor and author, Henry Oertelt was born almost 89 years ago, January 13,  in Berlin, Germany. His book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust, tells of 18 life saving events and circumstances that led to his survival and that of his 95 year old brother, Kurt’s from 5 concentration camps, including Auschwitz.


We are making an exciting action film that will entice the next generation. An Unbroken Chain will be designed from the start as a tool for educators as well as a national theatrical release.


Today teachers are using documentaries from the Shoah Foundation, as well as Life in a Jar: The Irene Sendler Story, Paper Clips and older films like the 1969 based The Wave and the Diary of Anne Frank.  However, one teacher commented that films like The Wave “seem very outdated for the young and twittered.”


We are consulting with experts like Facing History: Facing Ourselves and educators to insure that our film will be a lasting tool for Holocaust education in schools. The budget of our project? $6,000,000.00.


We 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. We thought, if six million people donate one dollar each, we can make this film.  Now we have raised one third of the funds from our partners at MarVista Entertainment who will executive produce and distribute this film. Karben Publishing, the book’s publisher, will carry the film and distribute it to educators all over the world.


The campaign against hate doesn’t stop with anti-semetism. The ADL is also working with MTV on a new project called “A Thin Line” which is aimed to curb the spread of abuse occurring via cyberbullying, text messaging and other digital mediums. Cyberbullying is a growing problem that affects almost half of all U.S. teens.


Henry's lecture and book, An Unbroken Chain, have amazed audiences for 40 years. Help honor Henry's 89th birthday on January 13 and spread the word. Consider donating a dollar or more at http://6mfor6m.org.






(Henry is pictured with Inge, his wife of 63 years)