Other than Rangefinders: The Leica Freedom Train

Photo was computer edited; original by Flachmaus and has been released into public domain; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steam_train_on_the_Albb%C3%A4hle_museum_line.jpg

The name “Leica” is well known for quality cameras with sophisticated German craftmanship and lenses of legendary performance on a par with Carl Zeiss. So has Leica ever made steam locomotive like the one above too? Of course not!

The term “Leica Freedom Train” is used to represent Leica’s rescue operations of sending Jews overseas in order to escape the evil hands of the Nazis before the start of World War II. Ernst Leitz (head of the company at that time) and her daugther Elise Kuehn-Leitz sent hunderds of their Jewish “employees” (many of them are not actual employees of Leica) to oversea offices as far as locations in Asia and across the Atlantic in United States. These great humanitarian efforts of Ernst and Elise did not just stop here. Instead, each of these “employees” was given a Leica camera upon arrival (possiblly to be sold as emergency cash in some unforeseen future), helped in finding job and paid allowance until he/she could find one!

So why am I sharing this? Well, it is photography related and this is not something well known about the Leica Camera company. However, a more important reason is I am always touched by stories on how the Jews (sadly only a small number of them relatively) being rescued by people originated from different races, social classess and backgrounds. These people ranged from common citizens in Russia to diplomats of Japan and China and even soldiers within the German army!

I think through out the course of history during the times of darkness, there have always been lights. These lights might not be as bright as the high noon sun but it is these “lights” that tell us there is “good” in this crooked, twisted world and this is what worth fighting for. For many times, it is also these “lights” that tell us to move on against all odds as long as we are on a just course.

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