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LEICA and the freedom train

Discussion in 'Prelude to War & Poland 1939' started by GRW, Sep 15, 2021.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Thanks to Gaines for posting this on FB originally.
    "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?"
    Leica and the Jews (Leica Freedom Train) - Leica Rumors
     
    Biak and Kai-Petri like this.

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