The story of how Ernst Leitz II, son of the founder of the world-famous manufacturer of the Leica camera, smuggled Jewish employees to new lives in America, rivals the story of Schindler’s List in its compassion and ironies. Leitz, whose father had been groomed to become a Protestant pastor, learned compassion from his father’s humanitarianism and practical Christianity, and found a new venue for that compassion when Hitler rose to power in the 1930s. The manufacturer of the camera used to capture images that glorified the “Master Race” subverted that propaganda by smuggling Jewish employees to new lives in America’s optical industry.
Read the whole story, including why it’s taken so long for the world to learn of this ‘righteous Gentile,’ in Mark Honigsbaum’s interview with Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, whose painstaking amateur detective work pieced together the story, in “New life through a lens” at the Financial Times website. Frank Dabba Smith’s 2002 article “Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar and Altruism During the Holocaust,” (MS Word format) provides additional documentation for the amazing story of what I refer to as the “Leicajuden.”
Learn more about what historians have called the “Leica Freedom Train” from photographic historian George Gilbert’s article at ZeroZero.comÂ and his 2004 presentation for the Photographic Historical Society of Canada.
(H/T to Lucianne.com)