Eric Boehm led quite the life before founding BoehmGroup, a Santa Barbara-based biography company.
Born to a Jewish family in Germany, he left for the United States in 1934 when he was only 16 years old. As Hitler rose to power, Boehm’s brother and parents fled to the United States, and after he became a naturalized citizen in 1941, Boehm joined the American war effort. His German background was put to use as he was assigned a position as an intelligence officer and interrogator at General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s European headquarters where he interrogated high-level Nazi officers such as Wilhelm Keitel, head of the High Command of the Armed Forces and one of Germany’s top military leaders during the war. Keitel was eventually tried at Nuremberg and executed for his war crimes.
Boehm’s story is one of many detailed in Steven Karras’s book The Enemy I Knew: German Jews in the Allied Military in World War II. Boehm later founded Boehm Biography Group, an organization dedicated to helping people share their own life stories. “I started BoehmGroup on the notion that everyone has a story to tell,” Boehm said. “From the individual to the corporation, there are lessons — and wisdom — to be derived in every tale.”
Santa Barbara resident Bonnie Sivers is the latest storyteller to recently complete a six-month working relationship with BoehmGroup, culminating in the publication of her memoir, Memories of a Sometime Cowgirl. “If not for BoehmGroup, the manuscripts would still be sitting on my desk,” she said. “I knew I had things I wanted to say and people I wanted to acknowledge, but when it came down to it, I needed a hand to guide me through the process.”
Deemed “a haunting re-creation of the way of life and the kind of people who formed America’s vision of the West” by late author and SBCC instructor Anne Lowenkopf, Sivers’s Memories of a Sometime Cowgirl recounts her childhood growing up on a Wyoming ranch. “My father’s ethic was one of intense reverence for all the beauty the land contained,” writes Sivers. “This principle was so much a part of him that it influenced not only his own life but mine as well. It is about this Western ethic, and its impression upon me, that I write in these pages.”
BoehmGroup provides biography-making services to not only individuals but also to corporations looking to share their stories. Santa Barbara City College has recently contracted with BoehmGroup, and so has Steve Cushman, the director of the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce. Now, BoehmGroup is managing projects with Cottage Hospital and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. “Our largest clients are businesses, and the majority of our clients are individuals,” said Jeff Boehm, COO and grandson of Eric.
In addition to book-length memoirs, BoehmGroup also does video projects. “The video medium is our more affordable option for preserving memories,” Jeff said. Each project is tailored to each individual client, Jeff explained.
For example, the company recently created a video project for Santa Barbara resident Jane Honikman. Together with Jane and her husband, Jeff used conversations of Jane’s mother, Beatrice, which were recorded prior to her death. “We created a 50-minute piece rich with photos of places and persons being described,” said Jeff, adding that a link to the piece was created for all of Jane’s family to see. “Jane and her family were touched and deeply satisfied with the result,” he said.
“Everyone has a story to tell,” continued Jeff. “That said, each story has a different intended audience and purpose. It’s comparable to building a home or car, completely customizable based upon an individual’s [or] businesses’ intent, audience, budget.” Jeff said that BoehmGroup has completed projects ranging from $250 to over $100,000, the more expensive ones tending to be for their corporate clients.
“At the end of the day I have to smile when I read the dedications and acknowledgments of these book projects and memoirs,” Jeff said. “When I see how much the entire experience meant to the author, it reminds me that this business is not about trying to write a New York Times bestseller, but to capture the memories that have made all persons the individuals they are today and to ensure that those stories are passed on and shared with the people close to them.”