Guide to the Papers of the Trude Kersten Family

AR 25403

Processed by Ira Fiona Sebekow

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2010 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey in August 2010. Description is in English.
May 2011 Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Kersten, Trude
Title: Trude Kersten Family Collection
Dates:bulk 1930s-1940s
Abstract: The Trude Kersten Family Collection documents the family history of the Brinizters', who lived in the Altona district of Hamburg, Germany from the late 1920s until 1938. When the situation for Jews in Germany became increasingly threatening they decided to emigrate to India, Great Britain and to the U.S. Jenny Brinitzer worked as a female doctor, Eugen Brinitzer as a dermatologist, their oldest son Carl Brinitzer became famous as an author and correspondent and Ewald Kersten established an international shipping agency. Theír diverse paths of life are illustrated in several photo albums, memoirs, letters and official documents.
Languages: The collection is in German and English.
Quantity: 3.5 linear feet.
Identification: AR 25304
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Jenny Brinitzer, née Kaplan, was born in Riga, in present day Lativia, on July 15th,1884. At the age of 14 she started to study to become a doctor. Focused on this profession she began to study medicine at the University of Bern, Switzerland in 1901. As a 17-year-old she was one of the youngest students of the faculty of medicine. Due to her intelligence and her medical talent she stood out from her fellow students in her first semester and attracted the attention of her professors. After a very brief time she became friends with Professor Strasser (anatomist and physiologist) and his family, who invited her frequently to his home. This friendship continued until her departure from Bern in 1906.

In April 1905 Jenny met Eugen Brinitzer at a Russian Ball. He was born in Neisse [now in Poland] on March 10th, 1879. In her memoirs she remembered their first encounter as love at first sight. From that day on they had maintained a serious relationship. In 1905 Eugen Brinitzer came to Bern in order to work as an assistant in the dermatology department of the University. When Jenny Brintzer became pregnant in 1907 (and gave birth to her first son Carl in 1907), she withdrew from her university studies and moved to Hamburg Altona. Eugen Brinitzer received the opportunity to take over a doctor's practice in Hamburg. She enrolled and finished her last year of medical study at the University of Berlin. In 1908 Jenny Brinitzer had to move to Switzerland and Southern France in order to cure her tuberculosis. During this period Eugen Brinitzer stayed in Hamburg to run his very successful medical practice. When she returned to Hamburg Altona she was confronted with the fact that she wasn't accepted for the state examination at the University in Berlin. In her memoirs Jenny Brinitzer vividly described how she nevertheless became established as the first female doctor in Hamburg Altona. 'The fate was gracious to me', she recalled in her memoirs. During her studies in Kiel she gave birth to her second son Walter in 1910. Finally in December 1911 she passed her exams after many interruptions. In the following years she gave birth to two more children. Her first and long-awaited daughter Gertrude was born in 1916. Jenny and Eugen Brinitzer worked a lot but also enjoyed their life, she recalled. Eugen Brinitzer founded the Dermatological Society of Hamburg.

In 1938 they decided to flee from the Nazi regime, so they left Germany. Before Trude Kersten moved with her husband from Germany to the U.S. in 1938 she trained to be a chicken farmer. The couple moved to Bangalore, in southern India, and established a practice there. Jenny Brinitzer became a physician treating many leading members of British and Indian society. In 1947, after India gained independence from Great Britain, the Brinitzers decided to move to the U.S. and determined to live in Great Neck, New York, to be close to their daughter, Trude Kersten. In Great Neck they established their third practice. In 1965 Eugen Brinitzer passed away.

While their second son Walter Brinitzer established his own practice in Bangalore and followed his parents to the U.S. as well, their first son Carl Brinitzer moved to Great Britain in 1938. He, who held a doctorate in law, worked as a correspondent for the BBC during and after the war. Carl Brinitzer also published numerous books (including a biography of Heinrich Heine) and wrote frequently for German and British newspapers (e.g. Welt am Sonntag, London Times, Daily Telegraph etc.). He died on October 24th, 1974 in Sussex, England and left a widow, Vienna-born Berthe Grossbard, who became known throughout Europe as a radio singer. Ewald Kersten held a doctor in law and attended the Institute for World Commerce in Hamburg to specialize in International Traffic Management. From 1933 until 1938 he worked in the freight forwarding and shipping business, and later he became a branch manager of an International Shipping Company in Hamburg. In January 1940 he established the Kersten Shipping Agency in New York.

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Scope and Content Note

The Trude Kersten Family Collection documents the life of Trude Kersten and her family, starting around 1900, the time when her parents began their university studies. The material primarily consists of photo albums and correspondence between the several family members, who lived on various continents. In addition, the collection contains personal documents regarding their family history. The majority of the records are original papers. The bulk of the collection pertains to family correspondence and especially business papers. Particularly the numerous photographs and the letters between the family members give an impression of the family history.

Series I mainly contains personal documents like family correspondence, educational documents, a diary, passports and U.S. citizenship papers of Jenny and Ewald Brinitzer. The letters are predominantly a mixture of information on familial happenings, such as marriages and daily life. Educational papers and diplomas of Walter Brinitzer are to be found in Series II. There is a personal letter from the BBC to his older brother Carl Brinitzer and a photograph of himself. In addition to the educational papers of Trude Kersten, Series III largely holds business papers of her husband Ewald Kersten. Many photo albums, especially those showing members of the Kersten family are to be found in Series IV.

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The collection is arranged in four series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the Reserve button.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Separated Material

Further photographs and art works were separated to the LBI Arts and Objects Collection and books were removed to LBI Library from the estate of Trude Kersten, née Brinitzer, pertaining primarily to the Brinitzer family and to a lesser degree to Trude Kersten's husband, Ewald Kersten.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Trude Kersten Family Collection; AR 25304; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Container List

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Jenny and Eugen Brinitzer, 1881-1968

This series is in German and English.
4 folders.


Scope and Content:

Jenny and Eugen Brinitzer's personal documents are the focus of Series I. Their papers primarily consist of family correspondence and also include a diary, passports and university documents. Also very interesting are the numerous family trees and family history papers, in which Carl Brinitzer was especially interested (folder 1). The oversized diploma of Ewald Kersten is also a part of this series.

Of related interest are Jenny Brinitzer's memoirs (located in Series IV).

11Family Trees1881-1930s
12Family Correspondence1952-1968
13Personal Documents of Jenny Brinitzer1938-1956
14Personal Documents of Eugen Brinitzer1899-1954
15Personal Writings1919-1944
Box TitleDate
OSL 45 Diploma of Ewald Kersten1935
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Series II: Carl and Walter Brinitzer, 1929-1963

This series is in German and English.
2 folders.


Scope and Content:

Material on Walter Brinitzer's university life are to be found in Series II. This includes student books and testimonials from different universities. Furthermore there are letters from the BBC to Carl Brinizter and a sentimental letter from himself to his sister Trude Kersten.

16Carl Brinitzer1963
17Walter Brinitzer1929-1934
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Series III: Trude and Ewald Kersten, 1924-1989

This series is in German and English.
0.9 linear ft.

Topical and chronological.

Scope and Content:

When Trude and Ewald Kersten moved to the U.S. they tried continuously to bring Ewald's parents from Germany to the States. Their efforts are documented in the correspondence between Ewald and his brother Gerhard Kersten and also with appropriate institutions (folder 13). Of particular interest are Trude Kersten's descriptions of her first experiences in New York. The correspondence between Trude and her parents are to be found in this series. In addition, there is numerous correspondence regarding Ewald Kersten's newly established shipping agency, found in Subseries 2. Therefore Series III largely contains various official papers. Plenty of papers of their everyday day life such as accounts, receipts of art buys and correspondence related to receiving affidavits are maintained in this series. This series also includes a leather folio that held original letters documenting his work with the U.S. Navy as well as his shipping company. Inside the folio is a printed personal poem from Ewald Kersten's staff.

Subseries 1: Family Documentations, 1924-1989

0.9 linear ft.
110Education Documents of Trude Kersten1924-1930s
111Family Correspondence of Trude Kersten1931-1939
112University Papers of Ewald Kersten1930-1933
113The Opening Chapter in New York1938-1988
Box TitleDate
OS 134 Newspaper Clipping – Oversized Illustrationundated
114Restitution Claim1938-1980
115General Documents (Emigration efforts)1939-1943
116Affidavit – Correspondence1942-1954
118Art Buys1963-1989
119Testaments of Trude and Ewald Kersten1975-1984

Subseries 2: Business Papers of Ewald Kersten, 1935-1954

0.2 linear ft.
21Business Papers1935-1954
22Personalized Folio1944
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Series IV: Photo Albums, 1833-1970s

This series is in German and English.
1.7 linear feet.

The series is arranged chronologically. It is also divided into three subseries:

Scope and Content:

This series largely contains photographs of all family members. In addition to the bulk of shots portraying family members there are two photo albums (Vacations I and II) that document the two trips to Europe the Kersten family took in 1959 and 1965. Of particular interest may be the India photo album that pertains to the time when Jenny and Eugen Brinitzer had their medical practice in Bangalore, in southern India.

Of particular interest may be Jenny Brinitzer's memoirs. The memoirs, which have many photographs pasted to their pages, describe this difficult period in her life, when she had to find a balance between the demands of family life and university.

Subseries 1: Jenny and Eugen Brinitzer, 1910-1969

23Little black photo album1910-1948
24Large maroon photo album1917-1920
25Green patterned photo album1920s-1940s
26Little yellow marmorate photo album1923-1954
27Multi-colored photo album1925-1958
28India photo album1938-1946
29Jenny Brinitzer Memoirs1955
210Narrow red photo album1969

Subseries 2: Carl and Walter Brinitzer, 1833-1970s

211Little red photo album1833-1950s
31Large brown photo album1950s-1970s

Subseries 3: Trude and Ewald Kersten, 1890s-1970s

A) Albums

32Small grey photo album1927-1929
33Colorful photo album1930s
34Dark red photo album1940s
41Large red photo album1940s-1960s
35Small green photo album1940s-1970s
42Vacations I1959
43Vacations II1965

B) Loose Photographs

36Photographs and Postcards1880-1930s
37Group Pictures1890s-1920s
39Brinitzer’s Portraits1890s-1940s
310Trude Kersten’s Family1890s-1960s
311Walter Brinitzer’s Portraits1930s-1970s
312Carl Brinitzer Portraitsundated
313Family Portraitsundated
Box TitleDate
OSL 45 Oversized Portraitsundated
44Oversized Portraitsundated
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