Mr. Oertelt is well known on the college circuit and various radio and television talk shows for his presentations on his Holocaust experiences, but he hasn't always been anxious to bring up the painful memories of what life was like for a German Jew while Hitler ruled Germany. Mr. Oertelt has lived with his wife and children in the Twin Cities for over fifty years, and for much of that time, he chose not to relive the horror of those times. Slowly his attitude on the subject has changed, and now Mr. Oertelt is a regular speaker on subjects concerning the Holocaust.
Mr. Oertelt grew up thinking of himself as a German. He was Jewish, to be sure, but that was his religion, not his national identity. He thought of himself as part of a free German people-until Hitler gained power.
Mr. Oertelt's book, The Unbroken Chain, recounts how life changed for the Jews under Hitler's rule. He uses the motif of a chain with 18 links (he chose 18 because of its association with "Chai", life) to explain why he was one of the lucky ones to survive. His premise is that had any one of the links been broken, or not in existence, he too would have succumbed to the Nazi terror. Together with his brother, Mr. Oertelt survived life in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Flossenberg which involved forced marches, slave labor, starvation and disease.
At 7 p.m. on April 17th (the evening of Mr. Oertelt's lecture) the Baeumler Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Committee has arranged a showing of the film The White Rose in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. This film, based on a book by the same name, depicts the anti-Nazi German student resistance movement based in Munich. Mr. Oertelt has graciously agreed to participate in a panel discussion following the film, along with Mrs. Leonore Baeumler (one of the namesakes of the series), Professor Karl Bahm (of the University of Wisconsin, Superior's History Department), Professor Alexis Pogorelskin (chair of the UMD History Department). Professor Tom Isbell (of UMD's Theater Department).
Both events are free and open to the public and all are welcome and encouraged to attend.
In keeping with the mission of this lecture series to provide education on the Holocaust, the Baeumler Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Committee would like to extend a special invitation to the youth (middle school through college-age) of Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin.