LBI Film Club

The Essential Link: The Story of Wilfried Israel



The Essential Link: The Story of Wilfrid Israel  (Highlight Films, IL 2016)

Director: Yonatan Nir

The film tells the remarkable story of Wilfrid Israel – a wealthy Jewish businessman and owner of Berlin’s largest department store in the 1930’s who was involved in the saving of tens of thousands of Jews, and played a key role in the Kindertransport operation. Israel was a member of one of Germany’s most prominent Jewish families and acquainted with some of the most influential figures of the 20th century, yet little is known about his personal life and heroic endeavours. Why did his story remain untold? What was there to hide?

Based on Naomi Shepherd’s book ‘Wilfrid Israel – German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador‘ (1984), which exposed Wilfrid Israel’s biography for the first time and was awarded the Wingate Prize, his mysterious story becomes personal as filmmaker Yonatan Nir takes us on an adventure in search of this extraordinary man, and the real reasons for his disappearance from history.


Written by: Ilan Baer, Ophir Bear; based on Naomi Shepherd’s biography ‘Wilfrid Israel – German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador‘ (1984)
Directed by:
Yonatan Nir
Cinematography: Yoav Kleinmann
Produced by:
Noam Shalev (Highlight Films LTD)
Editing by: Tal Brog
Music byIsaac Shulman


Documentary, 82 min, 2016
Languages: Hebrew, German and English with English subtitles

The link below will be active for a limited amount of free viewings – from 12/06/21 to 19/06/21.


Manual for streaming ‘The Essential Link: The Story of Wilfried Israel’ – LBI Film Club 

1. Please click on the link which will automatically redirect you to YouTube. There, you will be able to watch the film free of charge from the 12th to the 19th of June. Alternatively, copy the link into a browser of your choice.



The film offering will be followed by an online panel discussion with the filmmaker Yonatan Nir (The Essential Link) and Naomi Shepherd (Author of the book Wilfrid Israel. German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador). This tribute event Philanthropist, Rescuer, Collector: Remembering Wilfrid Israel celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Wilfrid Israel Museum in the Kibbuz HaZorea and commemorating Wilfrid Israel will take place via Zoom on the 17th of June 2021 at 6:30 pm (UK time). More information about the event and how to register can be found here.

The screening and the panel are part of a commemorative event in collaboration with the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem, the Goethe Institute Israel, the Stiftung Warburg Archiv Hamburg and the Institut für die Geschichte der Deutschen Juden Hamburg.


Further LBI Film Club screenings will be announced via our LBI website, Facebook (Leo Baeck Institute London), Instagram (@leobaeckinstitutelondon), and Twitter (@lbi_london) in the future. Please keep checking!

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