Tintner, Kurt

Tintner, Kurt

Survivor/Camps, Emigre
Bischofswerda (Germany), Buchenwald, Palestine

Tintner, born in 1906, is the son of an assimilated, Jewish middle-class couple who lived in Bischofswerda, a small town in Saxony, Germany. The Jewish population in Bischofswerda consisted of three families. In March, 1918, at the age of eleven following the death of his parents, Tintner moved to Goerlitz, Germany, to live with his uncle and aunt. Goerlitz had a Jewish population of about 700 persons. Tintner attended public schools including a “humanistic gymnasium,” a combined junior and senior high school, and studied music, specifically the violin. He received instructions in Judaism in public school and in a school run by the Jewish community. He then attended universities in Breslaw (now Wroclav, Poland), Heidelberg, and Berlin to study law.

Tintner witnessed anti-Semitism in Germany well before the Hitler administration. He recalls a sign in Bischofswerda prior to 1918, that urged people not to buy in Jewish stores, and he experienced some anti-Semitic remarks and actions both in the Bischofswerda and in the Goerlitz schools he attended. Tintner also recalls anti-Semitic undertones at the university, especially by students who belonged to German fraternities.

Following completion of his law studies, Tintner served a three-year internship with judges and attorneys. Then in 1933 he passed the required examination which would have qualified him to practice law. However, since the Nazi regime had by that time taken control of the government, he was informed that according to the “Bundesbeamtengesetz” (civil servants law) he, as a Jew, would not be allowed to practice law.

Tintner continued his interest in music, both studying and performing. In 1934 he married. His wife was an accomplished musician who performed as a concert pianist.

During the mass persecution of Jews on November 9 and November 10, 1938, now known as Kristallnacht, Tintner was arrested and shipped to the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany. He describes during the interview the poor conditions, wooden bunks and lack of sanitary facilities in Buchenwald. He observed many beatings and saw prisoners who died from touching the electrified barbed wire fence which surrounded the camp. Tintner was released after about a month and believes it was due to two reasons, even though they conflict with each other. One was that he was able to show evidence that he was ready to leave Germany and immigrate to Israel. The other was that by then he was the concertmaster of the orchestra of the Jewish Cultural League which the Nazis allowed to function as an indicator of their tolerance and because the quality of its performances was favored by many Germans over other orchestras.

In 1939 Tintner and his wife immigrated to Palestine and lived there for nine years. They supported themselves primarily by giving music lessons and by performing in various settings. Tintner led a band playing all kinds of music ranging from classical to jazz. He also continued his studies in music.

In 1948 through the efforts of a brother of his wife’s, the couple came to Michigan. There they supported themselves initially by teaching music appreciation and German in night school. For four years Tintner taught Latin at a Catholic high school and then taught German at a university. He became the music director for “Germania”, a private German club.

Shortly after the war, Tintner was offered the opportunity to return to Germany to serve as a circuit court judge. In the German system this would have required him to sit in sessions with two other judges. Not knowing their background and involvement during the war, he declined the position. Also his wife, whose mother had perished in Auschwitz, did not want to go back to Germany.

Tintner believes that the reason Germans allowed themselves to be brainwashed by Hitler, in spite of their strong cultural and educational background, was due to the many mistakes of the Weimar Republic, the Versailles Treaty, the high unemployment, and the basic teaching to German children to obey orders. Many Germans were in nationalistic action groups even before the Hitler period. The really cultured people were, as always, a minority.

Numerous awards and citations from various organizations and the Federal Republic of Germany received by Tintner and his wife were displayed and explained following the interview.

Mrs. Tintner passed away in 1977.

Interview Information:

Date: July 24, 2001
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour 26 minutes
Format: Video recording