JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Leica and the Freedom Train #general

Linda D.Epstein <lepstein@...>

Anyone interested in the contact info, I would be happy to pass

In the current issue of the Leica Historical Society's quarterly
journal, "Viewfinder" there is a fascinating article ("About Leica
Cameras and The Freedom Train"). The "Freedom Train", was a creation
of the Leitz family, founders and controlling shareholders of the
Leica camera business in Germany. At the outset of the Nazi era in
the mid 30's, the family, who were Protestant, staunch anti-Nazis,
and members of the then liberal (small L) Democratic Party of Germany,
had no illusions as to what was up. They devised a clever scheme to
extricate their Jewish employees, and later the Jews of Wetzlar, and
still later other Jewish families in the communities around Wetzlar.

Mr. Leitz went to the Nazis with a proposal to substantially increase
the sales of Leica products throughout the world. To do so, he would
need to send factory trained Leica employee-technicians abroad to
support local Leica dealers. What the German government did not know
was that the new Leica reps would be members of the Jewish community
in the Wetzlar area. The Nazis, wishing to earn hard currency, eagerly
approved the program, and Leitz was able emigrate at least 200-300
members of the community into the United States alone. Many others
were extricated elsewhere, but the total has never been established.

The Leitz family, fearing retribution in postwar Germany >from neo-Nazis,
declined to allow the story to be told, and withheld the story >from
publication until all Leitz figures involved in the subterfuge had
gone on to the great photo-shoot in the sky. They are all now gone,
and in the last three years, two journals of modest circulation have
detailed this story: one by a Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith in a 1998 article
in a journal of the Reformed Jewish movement in England; the other by
Norman C. Lipton in Photo International, an English language publication
printed in Tokyo. Smith's essay will be published this spring by the
American Photographic Historical Society, 1150 Avenue of the Americas,
New York 10036.

In the meantime, the principal author of that study, George Gilbert,
would appreciate any information >from anyone knowing members of the
Leica "Freedom Train", their descendants, relatives and friends.

Linda D. Epstein -lepstein@...
TIKOTZINSKI/EPSTEIN: Sokolka, Grodno---> Elmira, NY ***
SPUND/MORRIS/SHAPIRO: Minsk ---> Washington, DC and Chicago, IL ***
WEINSTEIN: Makow, Poland, (Lomza Gubernia) ---> Israel and NYC, US ***
SAFFIAN/SAFIAN: Makow, Poland, (Lomza Gubernia) ---> LA, CA, NYC, US
*** WOLFOWICH: Krinky, Grodno ***GROSSMAN: RUSSIA ---> Utica, NY

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