One of my favorite neighbors sends me photography-related emails every so often. She’ll send me a link for an upcoming museum exhibit or gallery show. Sometimes she’ll forward an article about a local photo contest. I look forward to her emails, partially because I appreciate her taking an interest in what I do, but also because it’s interesting to me to see what sort of photography stories and events are resonating with non-photographers. I received one her emails this past week and I was floored– shocked, actually, that I’d never heard the story of the Leica Freedom Train. It’s one of those rare stories that brings together so many aspects of my life, including my passions for photography and history, as well as some very deep connections to my family heritage.
While the actual numbers are lost to history, what has become known as the Leica Freedom Train was a rescue effort by Ernst Leitz II and his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz to get hundreds of German Jews out of the country, starting within months of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.