The Leica Freedom Train

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.

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Time for change

IMG_2244Packing up is painful. Leaving my friends here is also a bit sad but most of them are probably a bit fed up with me this late in the season anyway. Time to change. Totally homesick for my garden with a sea view and all my fun and slightly crazy friends in Mölle by the sea.  Going by my little sister in Switzerland and then with the car train from Basel or rater Lörrach just outside. Great way to travel safely if you like to be fitter than after a long night of intense driving on autofuckingbahn trough Germany. I’ll update you as soon I’m safely installed in the kingdom of Sweden.



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10271605_10153018915671029_3685689816298609267_nIt’s finally  up running. Such a relief. Have felt bad and rather embarrassed about my old website for years but those who know me also realize how many other fun things in my life that I rather waste my precious time with. A million of thanks to Niklas Emegård who very patiently guided me trough this project. An extremely talented character with a seemingly endless amount of patience. Typically he bikes around 3000 meters in altitude in the morning, telemarks four runs from Grand Montets after lunch, picks up his kids from the ski school and in between led a confused Felix trough some impossible computer programming details. Then he takes of for two hours swim training in the Cham pool. I’d love to try whatever pills that gives him all this energy. Or is he just trying to beat his wife Ulrika who also is very serious about sports? I have seldom been as impressed by a young talented family. Thanks again for everything and sorry for all the loud music and dancing at night. Young guys like me gets crazy after sunset and just have to let some of the steam out. Maybe time for some champagne this afternoon apre ski?


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Japansk Brödkniv

1912386_10151885653146784_2111052553_nEfter nästan två års väntan dök här upp en efterlängtad brödkniv med en nästan overklig skärpa som man knappt trodde var möjlig tidigare på den tunna assymetriska eggen. Japansk handsmitt Shiro Gami stål i tre lager från kunniga smeder i Niigata. Kallas även White Paper Steel då detta normalt var inslaget i vitt papper till skillnad mot Aogami stål som levererades i blått papper. Handtag i halvgrov kastanj som ger bra känsla och grepp. För alla som gillar att själva bestämma hur tjocka socialstyrelsens brödskivor ska vara (själv vill jag ha tunna med mycket smör).
Lär äntligen finnas på lager nu hos men kör dem nu inte i diskmaskinen om ni har koll på vad det kan ställa till med på fina eggar.
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Shower toy? I still try to figure out who has been playing with this little gadget from my kitchen when I was absent sailing last winter and
some friends lived in the chalet.  It looks like someones used it in the bath tub since all electronics is corroded and the ignition button
broken. Messed up for ever anyway and I keep wondering what kind of toy you might have thought it was?
To educate you a little I can tell it’s just a lighter for my gas stove designed by Italian Alessi. Could easily be misstaken for kinky stuff
if you are into those things and I hope you didn’t get too disappointed. Unfortunately it’s neither weather sealed nor waterproof. And are you still looking for an replacement or what?
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