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Oral history interview with Ernest Kessler

Oral History | Accession Number: 2017.155.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0915

Ernest Kessler was born July 14, 1920 in Vienna, Austria to Irma Epler and Leopold Kessler. He had two older siblings, Walter and Frieda. Ernest discusses speaking German at home; his father owning the Kessler Mattress Factory, where his mother worked as the bookkeeper, and they had four or five employees; having a maid; seeing Nazis with rifles and communists in his neighborhood; living in a mixed neighborhood, attending public school and a technical gymnasium; antisemitism increasing in the mid-1930s; After the German annexation of Austria in March 1938, getting moved to the back of the school room before graduating; his father selling the business and the family planning to immigrate to Australia; receiving an affidavit from a cousin in New York and immigrating there in August 1938; his sister going to England to work, and his brother going to Italy; his parents fleeing to Shanghai, and immigrating to the United States after the war in 1947; renting a room in the Bronx and working as an electrician, and later in the garment industry in Manhattan; his siblings arriving in the United States; receiving advice from HIAS to move to Minnesota and enter an electronics training program; leaning English from his coworkers; returning to New York in 1942 to enlist; getting chosen for the Medical Corps and volunteering for military intelligence training at Camp Albert C. Ritchie in Maryland; going overseas to Scotland where he guarded prisoners from Africa; serving as an interrogator and interpreter; arriving in Normandy after the invasion; participating at the Battle of the Bulge; getting attached to the Bremen Counter-Intelligence Corps where he worked in denazification and black markets; learning about the concentration camps after returning home from the war; his parents and brother settling in the Bronx; marrying Rose after the war. After the interview, Ernest shows his Austrian passport; his father’s passport with Nazi insignia and the letter, “J” for Jewish; a page in Russian; an Army weapons brochure; an Army Officer’s notebook of insignia and buttons; and a photo of an unofficial visit to France when his unit was stationed in Germany.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Ernest Kessler
Ina Navazelskis
interview:  2017 February 23
creation: Coral Springs (Fla.)
Oral histories.
1 digital file : MPEG-4.
Record last modified: 2023-08-25 17:59:28
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