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About the film

At the time of filming, Peter Ertel was 96 years of age.  He was an author, a poet, and an avid pianist.  He was also a former agent for the U.S. State Department, having been recruited by our government to help rebuild his former country, Germany, which was decimated by six years of war.  After immigrating to America in 1953, he worked nearly three decades for a small industrial chemical firm in Cleveland, Ohio.  The company was owned by Jewish people, who knew that Peter served five years in the German Army during World War II.  They knew because Peter made no attempt to hide this during his job interview. 

How a man who, a few years previously, represented “the incarnation of evil” to the Jewish people found his way to be considered "like family" by his Jewish employers is just one part of a remarkable life story that is captivatingly recalled by the eponymous storyteller in the feature-length documentary, The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel.  The film is a first-person narrative documentary about an honorable man who maintained his uncommon humanity despite being trapped in a universe of hatred, destruction and death. It is also a story of the sometimes miraculous pull of the tides of fate.  

The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a unique addition to the World War II documentary genre. Featuring rare archival film and photographs - much of which has never been shown before - and dramatized reenactments, the documentary illuminates the under-told perspective of a former foot soldier, forced against his will into being part of history’s most notorious army, with unprecedented insight and candor. There is no unseen narrator or script.  Peter Ertel tells his own life story, as only he could tell it - with unflinching honesty and raw emotion, while maintaining penetrating eye-contact with the audience.  His are the eyes of a man who has seen so much, and lived to tell about it.

Winner of the 2017 Cleveland International Film Festival Local Heroes Competition and winner of the 2016 GI Film Festival Founders' Choice Award


About the FilmMaker

Joseph Cahn has been producing, writing and editing broadcast and non-broadcast film and video productions for nearly 30 years.  Before starting Victory Films in 2004, he was a producer-editor for several Cleveland-area multimedia firms.  Prior to that, he was a producer with NFL Films where he wrote and edited highlight films and segments for HBO, ESPN, and home video.