What Did They Have In Common? In Poland, no one writes about the tragic fate of homosexuals during the Nazi era. Nothing has been published about the thousands of Polish homosexuals who became death camp victims. Ordinary embarrassment is the reason that scholars remain silent about Nazism’s homosexual victims. Robert Biedroń, “Nazism’s Pink Hell” Holocaust […]

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FOR THE LIFE OF ME – The Backstory

All the trials and tribulations that led up to the actual creation of “For the Life of Me”.

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Muriel Cowan - Pete – I just wrote a note re. this story but I think I deleted it.
You write so well and this was so very interesting knowing your past history. You persevered nd did great researching to bring the story up to date!
Be well

Some Adventures in Mexico – Kool Shooting

The year was 1984. I was Exec. Producer for a production company in Hollywood. Like all good adventures this one began with a phone call. It was from a mid-west advertising agency whose  producer was calling me. A nice guy by the name of Chuck Bauer, with whom I’d worked on previous jobs. He wanted […]

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Pete Vanlaw - Great fun dredging that story back up. Fortunately I had lots of pictures to help my dredging.


Pete Vanlaw - Thanks Karen! I did a fair number of commercials in Mexico, back in the day. They all provided great memories, unlike your experience. Sadly, things have changed down there, especially in the cities.

Sylvia Hamilton Goulden - What fun reading about your adventure. Reminded me of some of my experiences working on TV commercials. Fun days (some not so fun) with lots of memories, right? Thanks for the smiles, Pete.

Karen Hearn-Abbott - Neat story! I lived in Mexico City for 6 months in 1972 and I know the sense of foreboding of which you speak. While your adventure came off without a hitch, ours was full scary hitches. My return to mainland Mexico in 1986 had me witness an intentional hit and run murder. Even the fly on my food at an outdoor restaurant looked at me with evil intent before laying her eggs on my meal! I believe Mexico is bedeviled, for sure. Glad your shoot was successful.

Pete Vanlaw - Thanks Bill, it was great fun to dredge that one back.

Bill - OMG!!! Terrific tale from “South of The Border Down Mexico Way”.

Wittstock, Kristallnacht and the Rehfisch Family

Last fall I received a flyer from Amilie, my friend in Berlin, as a reminder that the 9th of November is the day to commemorate Kristallnacht. One could also consider it the beginning of the Holocaust. It is Amelie who continues to be an incredible source of historical information about my family and my relatives.  […]

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Pete Vanlaw - Muriel, thanks as always. Your support is greatly appreciated.

muriel cowan - Dear Pete,

Thank you so much for including me in your mailing . My goodness What A Story and to think they ae related to you. This pandemic is scary and so many have died the world over, but it doesn’t compare to the horror of what went on in the 1930’s – carried out by humans. There are so very few left now who were there and can tell the story.
Once again there is so much hate of Jewish people – but we will be strong and survive!
May you stay safe and be well

“Jews in the Choir”

Memories of a a Jewish high school student and member of the choir singing Christmas Carols in hopes of landing a lead and a career on Broadway.

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Pete Vanlaw - She’s a very special person and talented in so many ways.

Muriel Cowan - Pete – your latest blog was a surprise!! Thank you so much for writing about my wonderful, talented friend Leslie. She has indeed accomplished so much. She continues to bring happiness to many with her caring spirit – she is so special.

May you stay well and safe Pete and enjoy the holidays.


John Wayne and the Alabama Hills

This is a funny story involving the famous actor, John Wayne, and could only happen once in a life-time.

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Pete Vanlaw - T’enks!

Pete Vanlaw - Hi Joyce, so nice to hear from you again as well. Yes we’re doing our best to stay out of trouble, I’m really glad to see that you’re doing well on your Twitter page, keeping the focus where it belongs.

Earl Gandel - Another good one!

Joyce M. Jeffries - Shared on my FB page. Thank you Pete for this entertaining and interesting story! Hope you and your family are keeping safe. Nice to hear from you again.

“My Search for Don Lusk!”

When I knew Don Lusk he was a U.S. Marine, an Animator for Walt Disney and my childhood idol. Although it was a brief period in my life, it was responsible for some of my fondest memories, and a story worth telling, especially my search for him 70 years later…! But let’s start with the […]

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Pete Vanlaw - I’d forgotten that, Bill. Thanks for opening up even more memories.

Bill Richards - This is a very nice story, Pete. I remember your drawing board, and once in about the sixth grade you took me with you to Disney Studios to visit Don.

Serendipity – What does it mean?

serendipity: noun: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a fortunate stroke of serendipity  Albert Rehfisch and family, Wittstock, 1918 The Internet is a strange animal. Like I’ve often said, “It’s like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea. Then sitting back and waiting for a reply to wash back […]

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Pete Vanlaw - Hi Helen,

First thanks for your very kind words and for being a loyal reader for as long as you have. Regarding a Stolperstein for Hedwig Rehfisch, I was surprised to see that as well, and am inclined to agree with you. There are many more victims of the Holocaust in my immediate family, who truly deserve Stolpersteine. But I have no idea whether or not any of them ever received one.

Helen Hill - Hi Pete,

I’ve been following your blogs for a couple of year and always find them both entertaining and interesting – you have a way with words that I wish I had!

Just want to make a comment about the Stolperstein for Hedwig Rehfisch featured in your article. On my visits to Germany and on the internet I’ve noticed more and more stones being laid for Jews who survived the Holocaust. I’d question this – whether it’s OK to consider them Holocaust victims – strictly speaking they were victims but survived and should they be remembered with a stone. I think by this they are diminishing the price paid by those who were murdered. If this continues, Germany will be overrun with Stolpersteine – most having lost their impact.

My parents fled Germany in 1938 (my mother wasn’t Jewish), and I would never allow a Stein to be laid in for my father.

Your thoughts?
Helen Hill

Rendezvous in Hannover

  This is dedicated to my dear friend, the late Ralph Hirsch1, who was so instrumental in helping me research my family. Ralph and I met on the Internet through the JewishGen web site. He quickly became my “go to guy” in my new found interest in genealogy; primarily to learn about my family – the […]

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Pete Vanlaw - Hi Tobie, sorry for being so tardy in my reply. But the software doesn’t always alert me when anyone comments on one of my stories. Glad you enjoyed my “Trip to H”. Answer to your question is, “NO”, not if I knew the hassle ahead of time. I’d figure out another way to go.

Tobie Gurewitz - Really enjoyed your “Trip to Hanover”, smiled all through it, but also felt how frustrated you were. You were brave to keep going until you reached your destination. Would you do it again, knowing the hassle???? Tobie

General Morris (Two-Gun) Cohen

 A personal recollection by his cousin, Dr Cyril Sherer – (edited for space and clarity) I was eight years old in 1929 when I first heard his name. My mother had been busy since morning, frying fish and making a large pile of latkes. I was told, “The Chinese General is coming”. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I […]

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Pete Vanlaw - Two Gun Cohen came to me through Leslie Zurla, who you now know from our last meeting. She’s a friend of one of Cohen’s relatives, and gave me a hard copy of his story. You’re welcome to borrow it, if interested.

Tobie Gurewitz - Found this article very interesting and appreciate the time you must have spent putting it together. A piece of history that gave me more insight into what and who played a part! Thank you vey much!!

Pete Vanlaw - Yes, it’s a fascinating story. I’m so glad it came across my desk.

Amy R Pearlman - What an interesting history!

Why Was Hans Grohmann an Enigma?

Ever since I began this blog, back in 2013, one of the many mysteries plaguing me has been the real story behind Hans Grohmann. As a victim of history, during his short life, he seems to have played a pivotal role in one, if not two lives that I know of. Yet, even, with new […]

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Pete Vanlaw - Thanks for both your reply and your amazing “in-depth” knowledge about Veidt and his life style. You’ve really helped to fill in so many details and suspicions that I had developed from J.C. Allen’s limited bio – which was really a puff piece – and the scant bits and pieces I found on the internet. You’ve also lent more credibility to my hypothesis that the Nazi’s used Grohmann’s execution as not only retribution for Veid’t anti Nazi activities but a threat to force him to do what they wanted.

Snowgrouse - Big Conrad Veidt fan dropping in here–it’d seem to me like this was done to intimidate Connie, absolutely. Have you heard of his detainment by the Nazis in 1934 when he returned to Germany to fulfill a film contract he’d made a decade or so earlier (to star in a talkie version of a film on Wilhelm Tell, in which he’d played Gessler)? There are scans of the relevant chapter in the very poor bio on him by Jerry C. allen here:

They released him eventually (a great deal of this having been due to his wife, Lily, pressuring the studio bosses in England to do something). He was most certainly put back on the Gestapo’s hit list by the late Thirties, and was among the people listed to be detained if the Nazis ever invaded Britain. This was after Goebbels himself had been making sugary phone-calls to him trying to lure him back to Germany to make propaganda films for them, which he–of course–refused. They even offered to give Lily an honourary Aryan status, but he didn’t believe them for a moment.

Reading your posts, my theory–and I don’t want to be sordid here–is that the Nazis might have had reason to believe Grohmann was Veidt’s lover, even though, of course, killing a good friend of his would have hurt him whether that bond was Platonic or not. In the early Thirties, Veidt was having a rough time in both his career and his private life. The talkies had necessitated his return to Germany from Hollywood in 1929 (as his English wasn’t up to starring in English-language talkies yet), the Nazis were making life miserable for liberal people and artists, and on top of that, he was going through a second divorce. He was given the custody of his daughter, Viola, by the judge but gave it up because he sincerely believed his being away at the studios for long days would harm her, and thus he left her to be brought up by her mother. Viola didn’t like her mother at all and the bond between father and daughter was–in their words–telepathic, even, so he was absolutely heartbroken at having to give her up; even when he lived in England he would write to her and/or call her every single day (by the mid-Thirties, he’d spirited Viola and his ex-wife to Switzerland, where they could live in relative safety and where Viola could go to school).

From whatever patchy evidence we have of that era, it looks like Veidt threw himself into partying and drugs pretty heavily during that time, until he met Lily in 1933. She got him back on his feet and he sobered up considerably after that, and even more so after his detainment and escape. (You can even see it in some of his films–during the filming of F.P.1, and going by anecdotes, he seems to have been off his rocker on stimulants, but after 1934 his whole style of acting changes from relative flailing to a markedly slowed-down subtlety.) But between 1929 and 1933, he lived a very fast and wild life. Of course, since during this time homosexual activities were numbered among sinful diversions, his diversions included him having affairs with men as well as women. He was pretty much as openly bisexual as a man could be in Germany at the time, and took part in the gay culture of Berlin. He was spotted at gay bars, at times in drag, and was a special guest of honour at one of Dr. Hirschfeld’s all-male balls at his Institute for Sexual Knowledge. (He’d appeared with Dr. Hirschfeld in the gay rights movie, Different From the Others, in 1919, playing the first explicitly gay character in cinema, and signed gay rights manifests–I’ve heard something about him having contributed a celeb perspective kind of thing to a gay magazine once or twice, but haven’t been able to track anything down yet.) So even if he wasn’t “out” in the modern sense of us having a statement from him saying “I’m bisexual,” it certainly was an open secret and the Nazis would’ve known about it.

Now, I don’t mean to number Grohmann among Veidt’s random pick-ups, as it seems they’d known each other for years, but this is all to show that Veidt did have plenty of room in his life for lovers at the time, including men. So whether they were lovers or not, it makes sense to assume the Nazis would’ve put two and two together and decided to kill Grohmann as a warning–to get Veidt where it really hurt, and also to bully him out of his staunch defending of LGBT rights. That’d make a great deal of sense to me.

Apologies for this having got long; I just wanted to explain it thoroughly to avoid sounding too obviously scandal-mongering.

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