My Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel–Jewish Journal Op-Ed

sun sentinelHere is the Op-Ed I wrote of the Fort Lauderdale  Sun Sentinel—Jewish Journal dated May 9, 2016.

Being the child of two Holocaust survivors, I have talked with many acquaintances whose parents were also in the camps.

Many of them believed their parent(s) Holocaust story deserved to be put on film.

They said to me: “It is not Schindler’s List, but it will be a movie worthy of critical acclaim. I want to honor their memory. I want to tell the world about their suffering.”

I can relate to their desires because since I was 10, I knew that my father’s story fell into that category.

So nine years ago, at age 57, I wrote a short story, entitled “The Stairs” about one of my dad’s war-time experiences.

Seven years later, that story became the first chapter in my book, “A Hebraic Obsession.”

Two years ago, I wrote a movie script based on my short story.

One year later, I produced an independent short movie with the same name, which I am now entering in film festivals around the world.

During the production of that movie, I watched the actor playing my father so convincingly that I cried.

The actor had hit a nerve that brought back memories of how much I missed my deceased dad.

So where is my honor-my-father project today?

Well my film is making the rounds in European film festivals, in addition to film festivals all around the United States.

We entered Poland’s Two Riversides Film and Art Festival, the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival.

I am struck by the thought that a small portion of my father’s Holocaust story is going back home; back to the lands of my father’s and my birth; back to the lands where my forefathers are buried; and back to the lands that almost decimated my family’s lineage.

Back to the lands where Nazis forced Jews into paving roads using tombstones of Jewish cemeteries; Back to the lands of Jewish ghettos; Back to the lands of Jewish starvation, disease, slave labor and extermination.

My film has gone back to those lands. My film is being viewed by a number of Poles and Germans 71 years after my dad was almost gassed to death at Auschwitz concentration camp.

My hope is that my film kindles thoughts and tears of what happened in those camps in the minds of those film-watching Germans and Poles. They need the remembrance.

I doubt that my father, when he was alive, ever thought a small part of his Holocaust story would be watched in Berlin, or Warsaw or some other small towns in eastern Poland. I think he would be proud.

I know I never did and I know I am.

Looking back at the process of writing my book and making a short film about my father’s Holocaust experiences, here are ten things I learned from my father on how he survived numerous concentration camps.

1. Having a sense of meaning in life was an absolute necessity.

2. Luck was one of his greatest allies.

3. Learning and practicing survival techniques increased his chances for another day of survival.

4. Being superstitious and looking for signs gave him hope to live another day.

5. Learning not to stand out, and attempting to make himself close to invisible, was a form of protection.

6. Learning to take advantage of every opportunity was critical.

7. Taking risks was imperative.

8. Teamwork saved his life.

9. Taking advantage of his strengths and realizing his weaknesses was paramount.

10. Understanding the psychology of his enemies and his friends, as well as his own, allowed him to survive.

For more understanding of these principles Laitner learned from his father, or to keep up with what is happening with Laitner’s short film, read “A Hebraic Obsession” (which is available on Amazon); invite the author to speak to your group (; or visit Laitner’s website at

What the readers are saying about the Op-Ed:

Dawn ElliottOmg I miss your parents so much it hurts……

 Connie Goodman-MiloneCongratulations and many blessings, Mort.
 Steve Merl…. Mort, I haven’t met you , but somehow we have been crossing each others’s path quite a lot : Your father was my Doctor the whole period of time I lived in Fallsburg ( about 15 years ). I also lived in Hollywood , Fl and graduated FIU in !998. I was alwSee More
 Joel GalpernMort, you’re continuing to do great stuff — Please keep it up!
 Steven Proyect… Your Dad would be so proud of you.
 Rick HendricksI knew seven survivors from my New York City neighborhood. They possessed a great amount of strength and courage to persevere.
Jay Weinstein…Wolf and Henni, remember them well. They were very close to my family the Kaplans.
Naomi B KatzI’m so proud of you, Mort. All of these memories and those of your dad come from your heart which, though painful, expands rather than diminishes.
Louis K. Lowy… Congratulations, Mort.

Aimee HumphreysThank you for your commitment to this story!

Michael Horowitz very sobering.

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Dedra Robertson Jones Even though I am not Jewish, hearing that your parents were survivors makes the whole WWII horror story that much more real. I have been to two of the concentration camps and had to leave because the ground and air seemed haunted. The evil that took place just still reverberates. I freaked and felt like I could not escape.

Lee Schillinger Great article
 Madelyn LorberProud to know you. Wish you the satisfaction of knowing you did something worthy.
 Etta FleischerI am so proud of your accomplishments, setting your goals, and making your dream come true. I know your film will be a great success. I look forward to watching it with you, your family and friends.
Paul PodhurstGreat stuff Mort.