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Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive, with funding from Righteous Persons Foundation and the Ronald T. Shedlo Preservation Fund.

This is Your Life: Three Episodes

This is Your Life: ”Hanna Bloch Kohner" (NBC, 5/27/53)
March 13, 2011 - 7:00 pm
Julie Kohner, Voices of the Generations; Dan Einstein, UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Download our special This is Your Life Holocaust brochure (PDF)

One of American television’s most popular, enduring and fondly remembered programs, This Is Your Life presented tributes to hundreds of notable people on NBC from 1952 until 1961. Hosted by the effervescent Ralph Edwards, the series actually began its long life on the NBC radio network on November 9, 1948, moving to CBS for a brief run in the spring of 1950. The famous “surprise” element, first heard on the fourth radio show (the honoree was elevator operator and disabled World War II veteran John Sexton), became a regular feature only at the start of the 1949 season and with just a handful of exceptions, remained an integral fixture throughout the rest of the program’s many incarnations.

In the spring of 1951, two pilots were produced and broadcast as part of Ralph Edwards’ zany TV series Truth Or Consequences and the new show was picked up by NBC; its network television run commencing on October 1, 1952. For the next nine years, This Is Your Life presented 343 programs (not counting reruns), all but two hosted by the energetic Edwards himself (Ronald Reagan substituted twice when Edwards was ill). The series was resurrected for syndication from 1971 to 1973, again during the 1983-1984 season, followed finally by four specials produced for NBC, the last in 1993. Versions were licensed, produced and broadcast in England (starting in 1955), France, Spain, Greece, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.

When remembering This Is Your Life, most people recall the many Hollywood personalities honored over the years: from Eddie Albert to Ed Wynn and just about everyone in between; in all, 156 actors and actresses; 23 Oscar winners; 15 Emmy winners. But not only movie and television stars received the This Is Your Life treatment. Sports figures, songwriters and musicians, war heroes, country doctors, educators, religious leaders, humanitarians, and plain, ordinary people who had overcome tremendous obstacles found themselves subjects of spontaneous biographical journeys which always featured reunions with long-lost friends, relatives and other key figures in their event-filled lives. Among those “regular” people were a 95-year-old woman born a slave; a man who survived the Hiroshima atom bomb blast; a woman who had been on the Lusitania; a man who escaped from Devil’s Island; and three exceptional women, all survivors of the Holocaust, which at the time was still a fresh and horrific memory. It is the lives of these courageous women, whose harrowing yet inspiring stories are vividly related on This Is Your Life, that the UCLA Film and Television Archive are proud to present: Hanna Bloch Kohner, the first Holocaust survivor to share her story on national television, who as a young woman survived Auschwitz and was reunited with her pre-war fiancé after her liberation; actress Ilse Stanley, who before her forced exit from Germany, effected the release of over 400 people from Nazi concentration camps; and Dutch housewife Sara Veffer, who with her husband and six children, spent 18 months hiding in a 12-by-12 foot Amsterdam attic.

Dan Einstein

Preserved in cooperation with the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation from 35mm picture and soundtrack negatives and 16mm kinescopes. Laboratory services by Cinetech, Audio Mechanics and DJ Audio, Inc. Special thanks to: Ralph Edwards Productions; David Osterkamp and Alan Silvers; and Patrick Loughney, Gregory Lukow, Mike Mashon, Rob Stone, Ken Weissman, George Willeman, and members of the Library of Congress Moving Image Section and Film Laboratory staffs.

This is Your Life: "Hanna Bloch Kohner” (NBC, 5/27/1953)

Directed by Axel Gruenberg

Producer: Axel Gruenberg. Screenwriter: Axel Gruenberg. Cast: Ralph Edwards.

35mm, B/W, 30 min.

This is Your Life: “Ilse Stanley” (NBC, 11/2/1955)

Directed by Richard Gottlieb

Producer: Axel Gruenberg. Screenwriter: Axel Gruenberg. Cast: Ralph Edwards.

35mm, B/W, 30 min.

This is Your Life: “Sara Veffer” (NBC, 3/19/1961)

Directed by Axel Gruenberg

Producer: Al Paschall, Axel Gruenberg. Screenwriter: Axel Gruenberg. Cast: Ralph Edwards.

35mm, B/W, 30 min.