The connection between ‘Stories of Survival’ and stories of the silver screen


Refugees from Nazi oppression changed Hollywood and contributed to some of the greatest movies ever made, as an expert on film history will explain during a special event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Join film historian Jay Sorkin on Thursday, August 25, at 7 p.m. in the ALPLM’s Union Theater as he shares the stories of survival that brought some of Germany’s top movie talent to America. The event is free, and reservations can be made at

The event is part of the programming related to the ALPLM’s special exhibit “Stories of Survival: Object. Image. Memory.” This traveling exhibit from Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center showcases more than 60 personal items brought to America by survivors of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide around the world.

The museum’s doors will open for the event at 6 p.m., giving visitors time to see the exhibit before Sorkin’s presentation begins.

Sorkin has been leading film discussions for 15 years, including sessions with docents at Illinois Holocaust Museum. He has researched and shared over 100 films about the Holocaust, and he studies antisemitism, racism and social commentary in classic movies.

The 1920s and early 1930s were the golden age of German cinema, which was noted for innovations that still inspire filmmakers today.

But as the Nazi regime grew to power in the 1930s, the lives and livelihoods of German Jews were increasingly threatened, prompting an exodus by people in front of and behind the camera. They include actors Hedy Lamarr and Peter Lorre and directors Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger.

Some people were able to escape before the onset of World War II. Others were not so fortunate and would have to endure the unimaginable horrors of Nazi concentration camps before finally coming to America.

Sorkin’s discussion will include a close look at the war-time classic “Casablanca,” in which 35 of the 38 cast members were foreign, most of whom had fled the Nazis.

The mission of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is to inspire civic engagement through the diverse lens of Illinois history and sharing with the world the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. We pursue this mission through a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship built on the bedrock of the ALPLM’s unparalleled collection of historical materials – some 13 million items from all eras of Illinois history.

For more information, follow the ALPLM on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social Links