‘Girl With the Pearl Earring’ Helmer Peter Webber to Direct World War II Drama About Family Behind Leica Camera Brand (EXCLUSIVE)

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Peter Webber, who helmed the Oscar-nominated “Girl With the Pearl Earring,” is to direct a film about the family behind the Leica camera brand, who helped many Jewish people escape Germany during World War II.

Webber has teamed up with Red Panda Films’ Martin Serene and Franziska Morai, also the film’s screenwriter, Christine Guenther of Fireglory Pictures, Birgit Gernboeck and Versa Studios to produce the film.

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Leica was founded by Ernst Leitz in 1869 as a manufacturer of microscopic lenses, but in the 1930s Ernst Leitz II took the risk of mass producing the first 35mm compact camera, an invention that optical engineer Oskar Barnack had worked on for over two decades. The camera was revered by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“However, the revolution of the Leica camera is only half of the story,” Webber said. “Hardly anyone is aware that Ernst Leitz II, a Christian and committed democrat, used the family’s company as a gateway to help persecuted Jews escape Germany in World War II. Leitz saved so many people’s lives and never spoke about it. He was a humanitarian in the truest sense of the word.”

As well as Ernst Leitz II, the film will center on his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz, who was imprisoned by the Gestapo for trying to prevent a Jewish woman’s deportation to a concentration camp. Elsie experienced extreme starvation and psychological torture at the hands of the Nazis but due to her father’s company’s rise to international fame it ultimately enabled her and many Jewish people to survive.

Karin Rehn‐Kaufmann, Andreas Kaufmann
Karin Rehn‐Kaufmann, Andreas Kaufmann

Morai said: “It’s an honor to write a screenplay based on this remarkable true story, particularly about Elsie, who risked her life to save another woman, and thereby set an example of tremendous courage and compassion that’s deeply inspiring and lives on forever.”

Serene, who has been developing the feature with Morai, said: “As a profound story of hope, something that’s not only pertinent but also much needed in current times, this project has been a labor of love that I am hugely passionate about. We are exploring potential investment partners at the moment and I’m very excited about finally sharing Ernst and Elsie’s incredible story with the world.”

The current owners of Leica, Andreas and Karin Rehn‐Kaufmann, are supporting the film and have opened their private archives to the team.

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