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The Letters: A Plea for Help
PREMIERED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2022
A WQED digital production in association with the PBS premiere of
The U.S. and the Holocaust
PREMIERED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 19, 20, 2022
A Film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein
WQED’s The Letters: A Plea for Help tells the dramatic story of a family’s efforts to flee Nazi occupied Austria with the help of a Pittsburgh resident. From the Rauh Jewish Archives at Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center, a dozen letters document correspondence between Gertrude Deutsch Perles in Vienna and Abraham (Abe) Sanford Levy in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. With nearly half of Austria’s Jews seeking refuge in other countries, the Perles faced the nearly impossible task of finding a willing family to support them. Abe Levy seemed to be their only hope.
The Levy-Perles letters now put human faces on a desperate time in world history that still resonates in today’s climate of immigration controversy and rising prejudice. The WQED digital documentary includes interviews with Barbara Burstin, Ph.D., a noted expert on “The United States and the Holocaust” at the University of Pittsburgh. Also featured are Eric Lidji, director of the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center, and Abe Levy’s niece and nephew, Dottie and Dan Levitsky, of West Bloomfield, Michigan.
The WQED production of The Letters coincides with the PBS premiere of The U.S. and the Holocaust, A film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein. The documentary explores America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century, with the U.S opening its doors to only a fraction of hundreds of thousands seeking refuge. The three-part series premieres on September 18, 19, and 20, 2022 from 8 pm to 10 pm on WQED-TV. All three episodes will be available to stream for free, for a limited time, beginning September 18, 2022 on WQED.org and the PBS Video App.
Remembering the Holocaust Playlist
WQED has an extensive catalogue of locally-produced video content related to the Holocaust. This sampling of documentaries and short features created over the past several decades chronicles the stories and reflections of survivors, witnesses, saviors, and many others. WQED hopes this collection serves as educational material, an archive, and a reminder to never forget.
*Click the Playlist icon in the top right corner to watch more.
In collaboration with Baldwin-Whitehall School District, WQED held a Free Public Screening and Discussion Event of The Letters, along with preview clips from The U.S. and the Holocaust, A Film by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick & Sarah Botstein at Baldwin High School on Monday, September 12, 2022. The screening event engaged diverse perspectives about the Holocaust and the stories of today’s immigrants and refugees.
DR. LAUREN A. BAIRNSFATHER
Executive Director of the The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh
DR. BARBARA BURSTIN
University of Pittsburgh and Chatham University
Director of the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center
DR. JOHN SPURLOCK
Seton Hill University
FUNDING FOR "THE U.S AND THE HOLOCAUST" WAS PROVIDED BY: Bank of America; David M. Rubenstein; the Park Foundation; the Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation; Gilbert S. Omenn and Martha A. Darling; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; and by the following members of The Better Angels Society: Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine; Jan and Rick Cohen; Allan and Shelley Holt; the Koret Foundation; David and Susan Kreisman; Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder; Blavatnik Family Foundation; Crown Family Philanthropies, honoring the Crown and Goodman Families; the Fullerton Family Charitable Fund; Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky; The Russell Berrie Foundation; Diane and Hal Brierley; John and Catherine Debs; and Leah Joy Zell and the Joy Foundation. Funding was also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by public television viewers.
FUNDING FOR "THE LETTERS: A PLEA FOR HELP" WAS PROVIDED IN PART BY: The Buncher Company
Sen. John Heinz History Center
Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh
Baldwin-Whitehall School District
University of Pittsburgh