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Oral history interview with Kurt Riegner

Oral History | Accession Number: 2009.29.23 | RG Number: RG-50.590.0023

Kurt Riegner, born in 1912 in Berlin, Germany, describes his well-to-do parents and his sister; finishing primary and secondary school in Germany and part of his law university studies, which he was forced to complete in Basel, Switzerland in 1934; not knowing where his interest for Judaism originated because his family was very assimilated and no thought was given to Jewish education; marrying a Jewish girl on September 15 of 1935 and deciding to keep a kosher home and the Jewish traditions; the Nuremberg laws and deciding to emigrate; being hired by the Jewish community of Berlin as a writer and a journalist in 1935 and having to establish contact with the Gestapo; organized a meeting at Berlin’s main synagogue to discuss emigration (circa 1936 or 1937); the Jewish community organizing a group of young people to start the emigration process, selecting and providing training to a group of students; Rabbi Leo Baeck’s involvement; leaving for Argentina with a group of four youths; arriving in Buenos Aires in January 1938; founding of the “Home” where young refugees were housed in a kind of commune; the closing of the Home at the end of 1940 and the assimilation of the Home group to the society; the first religious service for the High Holidays in 1938; Jewish cultural organizations in Argentina; the influx of immigrants after Kristallnacht; Mr. Mellibosky of SOPROTIMIS, who helped illegal immigrants get papers in Argentina; how it became more difficult to obtain Argentinian visas for refugees; antisemitism increasing in Argentina as Hitler began amassing victories; the marked differences between those Jews who had been in the farming communities and the German Jews; Jewish education in the Riegner household; the attitudes of the Foreign Office of Argentina and the Agriculture Department; his work as a lawyer, aiding the legalization of immigrants’ papers; the illegal access to Argentina through the Tigre River Delta; the prosperous years for Argentinians between 1942 and 1952; being an executive member of the “Grosspressen”, which was a training school for Jewish farmers and artisans to learn new occupations and improve their chances for emigration; how many people from that group went to Israel and founded the kibbutz Hazorea; living in the colony Avigdor from 1942 to 1952; life in the colony, including the organization, schooling, and religious life; Argentina declaring war on Germany in 1945 and the effects on Jews born in Germany; antisemitism before and during Peron’s first presidency, including the forbidding of ritual slaughter and closing of some synagogues; Avigdor’s important role during those years; devising a plan by which the JCA would take care of the European refugees between 1945 and 1948; going to Paris, France in July 1948 to organize refugees; going to the displaced person camps to interview the survivors as to the skills they had and what was needed in Avigdor; recruiting for 14 months mainly in Austria and Germany for refugees who were sent to Canada; and the decline of Avigdor and of other colonies in Argentina.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Kurt Riegner
interview:  1985 May
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, acquired from the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina-Communidad de Buenos Aires
Record last modified: 2020-09-15 09:25:42
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