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Stettner family papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2013.513.1

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    This collection relates to the lives and emigration attempts of the Stettner family. As the family members were all born in different countries—Maximilian and his daughter Ilse in Czechoslovakia, Kathe in Austria, and Walter in Italy—they were under different refugee quotas and had different opportunities for immigration. The collection illuminates the hardships imposed by circumstances of birth and the difficulties each family member faced. The correspondence between the family members—in the United States, Trieste, the Netherlands, and Shanghai, is a highlight of the collection for researchers. The collection also includes several letters between the Hay Internment camp in Australia (where a cousin was imprisoned) and Max Stettner in Shanghai, as well as correspondence from Helene Riegner to her brother, Gerhard Riegner, the World Jewish Congress’s representative in Geneva, regarding the case of Kathe Stettner.
    inclusive:  1875-2008
    bulk:  1938-1942
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jean Stettner
    Collection Creator
    Maximilian Stettner
    Maximilian Stettner was born in Prague on August 14, 1874, to Friedrich and Pauline (Wolfner) Stettner. Friedrich owned a fabric manufacturing company in Prague. On October 24, 1911, he married Katharina “Kathe” Zuckermann Stettner, who was born in Vienna on November 11, 1888 to Dr. Jacob and Serafina (Steiner) Zuckermann. On June 28, 1914, Kathe gave birth to a son, Walter Fritz, in Trieste, Italy. On January 20, 1917, a daughter, Ilse Marta, was born.

    During World War I, Max joined the Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiments Nr. 37 on November 1, 1914, and was medically discharged on March 1, 1918. In 1920, Stettner moved his family to Trieste, where he worked as the Secretary General of the Union of Austrian Navigation, working with the Austro-Americana and Fratelli Cosulich shipping companies. In 1930, they moved from Trieste to Vienna, where Stettner was the assistant manager of the 1st Danube Navigation Company.

    In June 1937, Walter Stettner received his juris doctorate at the University of Vienna. Due to his academic bona fides and to the fact that he was under the Italian quota, Walter was able to emigrate to the United States in December 1938. He obtained a scholarship from Harvard University and worked as an assistant in the economics department.

    As the family were all under different quotas—Maximilian under the Czech quota, Kathe and Ilse under the Austrian quota, and Walter under the Italian quota—they split up in order to pursue the best opportunities for immigration. After Walter left for the United States, Maximilian traveled to Trieste, where he pursued immigration attempts to England and to the United States. In early spring 1939, Kathe and Ilse attempted to travel to England, where they had received an invitation from friends. However, when the friends did not come to meet the ship in Harwich, Kathe and Ilse were not allowed to disembark, and returned to the Netherlands. Ilse was able to emigrate to the United States in September 1939, but Kathe was forced to remain in the Netherlands.

    Though Kathe Stettner had booked passage from the Netherlands in October 1941, she was unable to depart, as she had not yet obtained her exit visa, nor a visitors’ visa to Cuba or any American visa that would allow entry into the United States. On December 1, 1941, Walter received word that his mother’s Cuban entrance visa was being sent to her, but the declaration of war a week later ended her hope of emigration. After the outbreak of war, Kathe Stettner was interned in the Vremdelingen internment camp in Drente, the Netherlands. From there she was sent to Westerbork and, in January 1944, deported to Theresienstadt. In October 1944, she was deported to Auschwitz, where she perished.

    In November 1939, Maximilian was informed that as he had lost his citizenship he was going to be forced to leave Trieste, so he booked passage to Shanghai on the “Conte Rosso,” leaving on February 9, 1940. Despite attempts to secure affidavits and passage for the United States, he was unable to do so. Maximilian Stettner died of heart disease on November 22, 1944 in Shanghai.

    Walter Stettner obtained a PhD in economics from Harvard University in 1944, and went on to a distinguished career as an economist. He and his wife Jean had two daughters. He passed away on May 11, 1998. Ilse Stettner earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago in 1946. She married John Nicholson on July 16, 1949. They had one son, Peter. Ilse Stettner lives in Illinois.
    Additional material related to the Stettner family and in particular to Walter Stettner’s work as an economist is located at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at SUNY Albany, as part of their German and Jewish Intellectual Émigré Collection.

    Physical Details

    German English
    2 boxes
    1 oversize box
    System of Arrangement
    Walter Stettner arranged his family’s papers in the mid-1980s. The documents are in the folders and with the organization in which he placed them, though the order of the folders has been placed into series.
    Series 1: Pre-war family papers, 1875-1944
    Series 2: Wartime family correspondence and emigration attempts, 1938-1942
    Series 3: Property and restitution documents, 1928-2008
    Series 4: Correspondence with Ludwig Lasch, 1946-1954

    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

    Jean Stettner, wife of the late Dr. Walter Stettner, donated these papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 13:43:08
    This page:

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