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Diana Kurz papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2015.617.1

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    The Diana Kurz papers include biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, printed materials, and writings documenting Diana Kurz of Vienna, Austria, her Polish-born parents, and her family’s prewar life and immigration to the United States via Italy, Switzerland, England, and Ireland.

    Biographical materials include identification papers, student records, birth and marriage certificates, and a few business records for the Kurz family’s optical business. This series also includes some manuscript sheet music. Correspondence primarily consists of congratulatory telegrams on the occasion of Benjamin and Lillian Kurz’s marriage but also include prewar letters and postcards received by Benjamin, Diana, and Lillian Kurz and Moses Hellreich as well as postwar letters sent to Diana Kurz by Doriane Kurz. Photographs depict relatives and friends of Diana Kurz and her family as well as business travel in Egypt by Benjamin Kurz. Printed material includes a 1935 concert program, 1936 clippings from the Neues Wiener Tagblatt, and part of the July 8, 1940 issue of the New York World-Telegram documenting the arrival of their ship in America. Writing consists of typed essays or musing on various topics by an unidentified author.
    inclusive:  1915-1946
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Diana Kurz
    Collection Creator
    Diana Kurz
    Diana Kurz was born on July 4, 1936, in Vienna, Austria. Her father, Benjamin, was born on January 30, 1902, in Poland and came to Vienna as a child. He had three brothers, Meilach (Emil), Karl (Charles), and Michael. Lillian was born on April 12, 1912, in Zlotniki, Poland, to Moses and Jutte Hellreich. She had two brothers, Emanuel and Herman, and two sisters, Augusta and Stephanie. The family immigrated to Vienna in 1924. Both Benjamin and Lillian were from religiously observant families and through the services of a marriage broker, Lillian and Benjamin married in 1935. Benjamin spoke six languages and traveled frequently with his family’s multinational optical frames business. His siblings managed branches in Austria, Italy, Serbia, and Egypt.
    On March 13, 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and the next day, German SS officers came to search the Kurz’s home. Once there, the soldiers planned to arrest Benjamin for hindering the non-Jewish maid, Mitzi, from voting in the plebiscite to approve the union with Germany, but Mitzi convinced them that this was not true. The family now regularly encountered antisemitic sentiment; one of Benjamin’s employees began wearing a Nazi swastika pin and their neighbors became hostile. Lillian would not let Diana go outside the house. Benjamin and Lillian decided to leave Vienna and applied for immigration visas at the American consulate. The Germans confiscated materials from Benjamin’s business and he began to send his merchandise to different branches outside of Austria.
    In July 1938, they decided to flee to Trieste, Italy, where Benjamin’s brother, Karl, lived with his family. Benjamin and Lillian traveled on separate trains in order not to look like refugees and to avoid searches as they were carrying jewelry and other valuables. Diana stayed with Lillian. They did not have visas, but the immigration officers were convinced that Lillian and Diana were part of a group of people going to Palestine, and they were able to enter Italy. Benjamin was not permitted to enter, but he had previously acquired a Swiss visa, and went to Switzerland, then London.
    Four months later, in November, the family reunited in London, England. Benjamin had opened a branch of the optical business in London. Diana attended preschool and learned English. In 1939, they moved to Dublin, Ireland, to open a second branch. When war broke out in September 1939, they were classified as enemy aliens. In 1940, they received their US visas. Benjamin was reluctant to leave because of the stores, but Lillian insisted because most of her relatives were already in the US. They arrived in New York on July 8, 1940. Benjamin’s brother, Charles, his sister, Lola, and their families also emigrated to the US. Benjamin established Kurz Optical in New York; there were no longer any branches in Europe. Diana’s sister, Vivian, was born on July 8, 1944.
    The war ended in May 1945 and by June, the family was exchanging letters with Klara, the wife of Benjamin’s brother, Emil. He, Klara, and their children, three year old Doriane and 2 year old Alfred, had left Vienna for the Netherlands in 1939. Emil had been deported to Auschwitz and was presumably killed; they learned later that he had been killed the day after his arrival at the camp, November 13, 1942. Klara and the children had been incarcerated in Bergen Belsen concentration camp and liberated in May 1945. They were repatriated to the Netherlands and once the family in the US heard from Klara, they sent aid packages and began the process of getting visas. Klara died of typhus in March 1946. In July 1946, ten year old Doriane and nine year old Alfred were brought to the US and adopted by Benjamin and Lillian. Benjamin’s brother, Michael, and his family, who had lived in Serbia, had perished.
    Benjamin died of a heart attack, age 57, in 1959. Lillian was active in Hadassah and often spoke about her experiences in order to keep alive the memories of those who perished. Lillian died on May 5, 2009, age 97. Diana received an MFA from Columbia University. Her artwork often presents Holocaust related themes; one series of paintings depicts individuals who lost their lives during the Shoah. For Diana: “Family history and my parents' generosity in raising two of my orphaned cousins, survivors of concentration camps, as their own children instilled in me an awareness of the importance of social justice and caring for others.”

    Physical Details

    Photographs. Letters.
    1 box
    5 oversize folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Diana Kurz papers are arranged as five series:

    Series 1: Biographical material, 1915-1945
    Series 2: Correspondence, 1935-1946
    Series 3: Photographs, circa 1920-1939
    Series 4: Printed materials, circa 1935-1940
    Series 5: Writings, circa 1920-1938

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Diana Kurz donated the Diana Kurz papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015.
    Record last modified:
    2023-04-11 16:59:45
    This page:

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