Leitz's Family Continues His Work
Elsie Kunh-Leitz was the daughter of Dr. Ernst Leitz, the inventer of the first commercially viable 35 mm camera, the Leica, and the owner of the Leitz optical works. Leitz was forced by the Nazis to join in their war effort, but the Leitz family also helped members of Germany's Jewish community, whom the Leitz's employed at their factory, to escape from almost certain death.
Elsie was in her thirties at the time, with two children of her own, but this didn't deter her from trying to help others to find refuge away from the holocaust. The story of Elsie's determination and bravery is told, through black and white historical photographs and through a straightforward text by Frank Dabba Smith in Elsie's War: A Story of Courage in Nazi Germany. Elsie was arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis for her activities; she was only released after her family paid an enormous ransom to secure her freedom, and after the war, in a new Germany, she continued to work on behalf of peace and human justice. A subject as serious as this is not usually found in picture books, but it is one that Rabbi Smith feels strongly about retelling for young people. As he says his note to Elsie's story: "by studying the lives and actions of individuals such as this, we may be inspired to act as rescuers, even in the darkest of times."
Elsie also supported Dr. Albert Schweitzer's activities in Africa and worked to help Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to promote Germany's reconciliation with other nations after the war. Elsie's War is a brief account of a family's dedication to humanity will be best understood by children who are first given some basic information about the Nazi regime.