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The Ernst Leitz Sr. Optics Company, founded in 1869 in Wetzler, Germany, was ahead of its time and had a tradition of enlightened behavior toward its workers.  Leitz hired people based on ability, without descrimination, and provided sick leave, and health insurance.

Following his dad’s example of altruism,  Ernst Leitz II risked his own–and his family’s safety by putting into place a wildly successful plan to help Jews escape Nazi Germany. He is known for designing the first Leitz camera lens

What can a wealthy business man (himself a Christian) do to save the lives of a large number of Jews living under the oppressive state of Hitler’s regime?  How about hire hundreds of Jews in his business and then send them on overseas assignments? This simple and brilliant plan was made a reality by Ernst Leitz II, and for his effort, countless Jews today have this courageous man to thank for life itself.  The Leica Freedom Train was a rescue effort in which hundreds of Jews were smuggled out of Nazi Germany before the Holocaust by Ernst Leitz II of the Leica Camera company, and his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz.

Dr. Elsie Kühn-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 were assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s.

Incredibly,  the Leitz family wanted no publicity for their heroic efforts. And, only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the “Leica Freedom Train” finally come to light.

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort. –Sydney Smith

…and suddenly I want to buy a Leitz camera.

Is there any regret worse than not acting on our core convictions?  I believe that the first leap of courage in doing what seems impossible, may feel insurmountably difficult…but what follows soon after is pure liberation from fear and from living life as an imposter. …and speaking of courage (and inspired by Elsie)…a song I’ve added to my list.

31 thoughts on “Courage Changes Every- thing

  1. Fascinating. A friend of mine wrote the book The Moses of Rovno about another Christian German, Herman Graebe, a rescuer of Jews during WWII, using his business as a ‘front’ also. This is a wonderful story of the Leitz family. Thank you.

  2. What an incredible history! These are the stories we need to nurture and circulate, reminders of what courageous individuals can accomplish in the face of tyrannical monoliths. Thank you.

  3. Nice profiles! Ever thought about feature writing? I’m sure if you’re into biography, you’re into features. Might be something you should think about pursuing. I’ve done it, it’s lots of fun!

    • I thought of your suggestion and yes, writing features is a great outlet for me here…really I have no clue who would want my services in regard to feature writing though besides someone with a penchant for brevity….I feel like people get bored easily and hard hitting facts mixed with a little entertainment is a more exciting read. Thanks for the encouragement…fun is definitely a motivating factor (fun is important ha!)

      • Hmm, well I’ve written a few features! It’s really about finding the right outlet like you say. If you know someone interesting enough to warrant one, you can query magazines and such to see if they’ll run your piece. It really is about finding the right place for your work though. And hey, if you’re not having fun, then why bother, right? (Also, secret hint: blog readers love pictures! It’ll def help get you viewers)

  4. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog & following! It offered the opportunity for me read this post. Wow! — Suddenly I want to buy a Leitz camera, too.

  5. The main character in my first novel uses a Leica camera, so I had to do a lot of research! Even though I only needed a basic understanding of the camera, I was totally drawn into the history of such an icon in the photography world. Thanks for sharing! :-)

  6. I love finding out buried historical gems like this – more than just a cool retro camera then? I’m going to forward this to my daughter who is struggling to find a subject to write about for her photography degree dissertation. Cheers ;-)

    • Exactly…when objects hold meaning, they become a little more than frivolity, right? And it also means something special to me to know that you are passing this aritcle on to someone you love so much. Thank you for telling me. ~Sonya

  7. you really are a writer! the intelligence in writing shone through this post. wonderful research and thirst for knowledge. thanks for visiting my modest blog I enjoyed reading this. =>

  8. Sonya,

    How often I have thought that if the world had more courageous people, it would change everything. Your narratives express that idea brilliantly.

    Thank you.

    Tom

  9. Schindler’s list made me cry tears of joy. You have taken me back to that place.

    Thanks. But on the other hand, thanks a lot *crosses arms and grunts* (the other sort of, ‘thanks’)

    Sorry, this probably makes no sense, but hopefully you get it anyway…

  10. Pingback: John Milton: Writer and Revolutionary | The Road

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