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Oral history interview with Kurt Riegner

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

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

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.

Kurt Riegner
1985 May  (interview)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, acquired from the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina-Communidad de Buenos Aires
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Record last modified: 2018-05-04 14:20:16
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