Skip to main content

Kern-Martin Family Collection

An Austrian Family Dispersed

The Kern-Martin Family Collection is a recently-processed collection of the Leo Baeck Institute Archives. Like many of LBI's archival collections, this collection shows the difficulties faced by a family in emigrating from their homeland as well as many details of their daily lives. The collection especially displays the efforts made by family members to hold together in spite of their distance from each other and amidst a developing world war and an uncertainty of the future. The collection tells the story of a Viennese family split apart due to fear of Nazi persecution in the 1930s. By the 1940s the family members were living in Vienna, Austria; Reading and London, England; and the United States.

Kern-Martin Family Elizabeth Susan Richard.jpg
Cousins Elizabeth and Richard Kern-Martin and Susan Temple at Schönbrunn, 1927. Leo Baeck Institute Archives. AR 25815. From Box 2, Folder 53.

Much of the collection centers on the two sisters, Therese (called Thesi) and Marie Kern (after their marriages Therese Temple and Marie Kern-Martinek), daughters of the businessman Robert Kern, and their children: Rudolph, Therese (called Gucka), and Susan Temple, and Richard and Elizabeth (called Sissy) Kern-Martin. The children were sent away from Vienna for safety. Rudolph Temple went first to England in 1936, followed by his sister Susan; the children were supported financially by their uncle Paul Kern. Rudolph would later move to the United States, where he lived in Denver, Colorado before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. Richard and Elizabeth Kern-Martin followed their cousins to England, leaving behind in Vienna their mother Marie, aunt Thesi, and cousin Gucka. Especially well-documented in the collection are the lives of Susan and Rudolph Temple and their cousin Richard Kern-Martin after their departures from Vienna, as they corresponded about their daily lives and concerns. Post-war correspondence between the cousins tells of the fates of their mothers, Thesi Temple and Marie Kern-Martinek, who perished in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, and the re-established contact with Gucka Temple in Vienna.

Kern-Martin Family letter Marie to Richard.jpg
Letter from Marie Kern-Martinek in Vienna to her son Richard in England, 1939. Leo Baeck Institute Archives. AR 25815. From Box 2, Folder 40.

In addition to the family members' prolific correspondence, which consists of numerous letters, postcards, and telegrams with each other and with other family members, friends, and colleagues, the collection also features many photographs and personal documents that provide further evidence of their lives before, during, and after World War II. Documentation in the collection derives also from more extended family members including their fathers, grandparents, and uncles. Documents include school notebooks and school records, a diary, poems and writings of family members, family trees and histories, obituaries and eulogies, theater memorabilia, and many other items.