top of page


Who was Wilfrid Israel?

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 endeavors. Why did his story remain untold? What was there to hide?


The 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.

the film


The Essential Link is the result of extensive research that took place during the past 6 years, with the help of volunteers from around the world. The film is based on Naomi Shepherd’s book Wilfrid Israel – German Jewry's Secret Ambassador, which was published in 1984 and exposed Wilfrid Israel’s story for the first time. Shepard’s research was awarded the Wingate Prize, and was critically acclaimed by the press and by leading historians. Sir Martin Gilbert (Winston Churchill's official biographer) wrote:


“In a work which reads like a detective story, Naomi Shepherd has uncovered an historical Aladdin’s cave of drama and intrigue, casting considerable new light on the efforts that were made to rescue Jews…”.

Below you can find additional resources, including articles and books which mention Wilfrid Israel.

  • The Missing Chapter: How The British Quakers Helped To Save The Jews Of Germany And Austria From Nazi Persecution, by Jennifer Taylor

  • Advocate for the Doomed - The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald 1932-1935

  • Men Of Vision, by Amy Zahl Gottlieb

  • Heroes of the Holocaust, by Lyn Smith

  • British Quakers and the Rescue of Jewish Refugees, by Rose Holmes

  • Rescuing the Children - The Story of the Kindertransport, by Deborah Hodge

  • The Other Schindlers: Why Some People Chose to Save Jews in the Holocaust, by Agnes Grunwald-Spier

  • Saving One's Own: Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust, by Dr. Mordecai Paldiel

  • The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews, by Michael Smith (published by Biteback, London in 2016)

The facts
The mission


The story of Wilfrid Israel was known to the most influential figures of the 20th century. In the memorial book that was published a year after his death, one can find the names of Albert Einstein, Martin Buber, Chaim Weitzmann, Lord Herbert Samuel, Moshe Sharet and many more. All praised his figure and rescue efforts. Yet his story remained untold.

Our mission is to ensure that Wilfrid Israel’s story is told, and that his legacy and universal values are passed on to future generations. Learn more here.

bottom of page