Jump to content

Welcome to NikonForums.com
Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. If you already have an account, login here - otherwise create an account for free today!
Photo

Leica and the Jews - I had no idea...


  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1
alden

alden

    Nikonian

  • Forum Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,226 posts
  • Country Flag
  • LocationHiding in the hallway
I got this from a Holocaust page on Facebook. Very interesting.

LEICA AND THE JEWS
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 the 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 camera.
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.
Keeping the story quiet 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 cameras, 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 Officer d'honneur des Palms Academic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the European Academy in the 1970s.)

Why has no one told this story until now? 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 .
Thank you for reading the above, and if you feel inclined as I did to pass it along to others, please do so. It only takes a few minutes.
Memories of the righteous should live on.

#2
nbanjogal

nbanjogal

    Nikonian

  • Premium Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,646 posts
  • Country Flag
  • LocationUT, USA

Site Supporter

Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea...



#3
Eagles1181

Eagles1181

    Forum Veteran

  • Forum Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 532 posts
  • LocationTexas
Shared back to facebook. Thanks for the history lesson.

Eagle

#4
Tony

Tony

    Forum Veteran

  • Premium Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 665 posts
  • Country Flag
  • LocationBeaverton, Oregon

Site Supporter

Three cheers for the Leitz family.  There are/were many unsung heroes of the era.  The one that was finally mentioned was the famous chef, Julia Childs.  It has been said that she helped approximately 1200 Jewish families escape from Nazi Germany.  A very courageous undertaking given the fact that had she been discovered, not only she, but her entire family would have been executed along with the Jews.  There is a terrific film entitled, "The boy in the Striped Pajamas."  I highly recommend it.  The ending will knock your socks off.  Very well done, indeed.  Thanks for the article.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot get my mind around such horrific actions of murder, cruelty, exploitation, racism and shame.  

 

Regards,

 

Tonytee



#5
Mark

Mark

    Junior Member

  • Forum Member
  • PipPip
  • 13 posts
  • Country Flag
  • LocationGreenville, SC

Great!



#6
nikdood17

nikdood17

    Member

  • Forum Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 32 posts
  • Country Flag

I will have to buy the book.