'Letter from Australia’: the Kurt Kriszhaber story
This year marks 75 years since the Second World War. The story of Kurt Kriszhaber is one of family, history and remembrance for those who lived and died during one of the most difficult times in history.
In 2015, the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center held an exhibition called ‘The Faktor Investigation – Solving the Mystery at the Museum’ where visitors were encouraged to trace the history of the family of Stanislaus and Sala Faktor through looking at historical documents that related to their life. David Nelson, the Museum’s Education Assistant was intrigued by one of the letters in the exhibit – a letter from Kurt Kriszhaber.
“In November 1941, Kurt wrote a letter to Sala Faktor in New York, inquiring about an aunt and uncle in Europe.” Source
Starting with the letter, Mr Nelson, a former BBC television producer, began researching the life and family of Kurt Kriszhaber, a Faktor relative who spent time in an internment camp in Australia during World War II, torn from his family by the Holocaust.
Mr Nelson’s investigation took him on a world-wide search for answers. He found what happened to Kurt’s mother, who passed away in 1928, and father, Franz, a jeweler who had been in Antwerp in 1940 when the Germans invaded. Piecing together parts of the family’s story, Mr Nelson was struck by its tragic nature and produced a presentation about Kurt’s tragic story called ‘Letter from Australia’.
To finish off the presentation, Mr Nelson asked his niece who lived in Melbourne to get a photograph of Kurt’s grave. Seeing that it was unmarked, he decided to arrange a monument for the grave. In May 2017 he contacted the Dunera Association asking for their help but at the time, however, they were not in a position to assist with direct funding of the project. Following another showing of Mr Nelson’s presentation, a visitor to the Holocaust Museum offered $500 to kick off an appeal and Mr Nelson launched a GoFundMe in August 2018. About 100 individuals contributed and by March 2019 the target was reached.
One of the project’s challenges was to establish who held the right of interment for the grave and had the authority to allow a new monument to be placed. Mr Nelson’s research into probate records and correspondence in The Australian National Archives established that State Trustees held the right, but also that Kurt’s half-sister had been trying to release his estate over a period of fifteen years. State Trustees gave permission for the project to go ahead.
Mr Nelson then ordered the grave marker from a local stonemason and was offered a consecration by Michael Cohen of the Jewish Holocaust Centre. He re-established contact with the Dunera Association as being the best people to organise the consecration event and handed over the finalisation of the project to Ron Reichwald from the Dunera Association.
On behalf of all of us at GMCT, we are thankful for Mr Nelson’s and others’ combined efforts to ensure that Kurt is remembered for years to come.
Watch David Nelson's 'Letter from Australia' presentation (below)
You can find the deceased record for Kurt Kriszhaber here.