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On the Big Screen: NH Jewish film festival has local connection

COURTESY PHOTO A poster advertising James Freedman's documentary on World War II-era film mogul Carl Laemmle, who saved hundreds of German Jews from the Nazis by relocating them in the U.S.

MANCHESTER – Nashua native Bob Treitel, 63, remembers bringing a copy of a priceless, historic and personal document with him when he went to Nashua’s Rivier University four years ago for a Holocaust Remembrance Day presentation by Brandeis professor and author Thomas Doherty.

When Doherty finished, Treitel said, he approached the noted cultural historian, and asked him if he’d ever heard of Carl Laemmle, an early 20th century movie mogul who founded Universal Studios.

Doherty was quite familiar with Laemmle, he told Treitel, so Treitel asked him if he’d ever gotten a look at one of the affidavits that confirm the historic accounts crediting Laemmle with saving hundreds of German Jews by arranging for them to come to America before Hitler’s Nazis rounded them up and sentenced them to death.

“No, there aren’t any,” Doherty replied.

“Well, I’ve got one,” Treitel said, showing an astonished Doherty the copy of the affidavit Treitel discovered about a decade earlier while sorting through documents and old paperwork his late father had filed away in a briefcase before his death.

COURTESY PHOTO Emil Treitel, grandfather of Nashua native Bob Treitel, was a medic in the German army during World War I, but come World War II, he and his wife were among Jewish Germans targeted for death by the Nazis, until American film mogul saved Treitel and his wife by bringing them and hundreds of other Jewish Germans to America.

The affidavit is precious not only because it was the property of his late grandfather, Emil Treitel, but also because it proves Laemmle’s status as “an unsung Jewish-American hero who, in the period leading up to Hitler’s “final solution,” “saved more than 300 Jewish families from the Holocaust by sponsoring their immigration to the U.S. and finding them jobs and homes,” according to a summary of filmaker James L. Freedman’s new documentary tracing the life and deeds of Carl Laemmle.

Now, Treitel and “about 15 members of my family” will be among an expected full house at the Currier Museum in Manchester Saturday evening, when Treitel will address the audience and answer questions following the screening of the roughly 90-minute documentary as part of the New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival that takes place April 4-14 at various venues.

See accompanying information box for details on times, tickets and information on other events to be featured at this year’s 11th annual N.H. Jewish Film Festival.

“I’m proud, really proud to have been able to uncover that affidavit in my father’s briefcase,” Treitel said of the document that lists Emil and Greta Treitel among the German Jews Laemmle sponsored for resettlement in America.

“That affidavit validates what Laemmle did.”

COURTESY PHOTO A portrait of Emil and Greta Treitel, Nashua native Bob Treitel's grandparents, was made in 1920, shortly after Emil returned home after serving as a medic for the German Army in World War I. The couple, and hundreds of other German Jews, were later saved from the Holocaust by American film mogul Carl Laemmie.

What Laemmle did had to be a monumental undertaking, especially since he was devoting time to sponsoring German Jews while in the midst of producing hundreds of successful monster movies, westerns and comedies, not to mention founding Universal on his way to helping establish Hollywood as the movie capital of the world.

Meanwhile, Treitel’s find resulted in invitations to various events, observances and remembrances from across New England, the U.S. and, last year, to Stuttgart, Germany.

“I was invited, again, because of my affidavit,” Treitel said.

According to a 2014 New York Times story, Laemmle – like the much-heralded Oskar Schindler – seems to have kept a list of Jewish individuals and families he fought to save from the Nazis.

The Times described Laemmle’s crusade as “a long, emotional battle, during which he confronted the German government” and the American State Department “to get endangered Jews out of Europe.”

Laemmle estimated that by the mid-1930s, he was devoting 80 percent of his time to the effort, which was likely the main reason he “surrendered the economically distressed Universal to the financier J. Cheever Cowdin,” according to the Times story.