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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.