Dr. Kurt Ackermann and his family were one of the many Jewish musicians fleeing Nazi Europe. They came to Louisville in 1940 after a heartbreaking exodus from their home of Vienna, Austria. Kurt Ackermann (1910-1998) had just graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School and started his career in private practice when Germany annexed Austria in early 1938 and the climate became hostile and dangerous for Viennese Jews. Through a series of harrowing turns, Kurt, his fiancée Gerda Pokorny, and his sister Gertrude “Trude” Ackermann Breiner spent years winding through Switzerland, France, and Venezuela before reuniting in the United States. Their saga is recounted in a memoir by Trude, which is included in the Ackermann family papers and photographs in the Filson’s Jewish Collections. The Ackermanns were a musical family, and Trude specifically recounts the awful day German officials came to the family’s Vienna apartment “and took our piano with all the music.”
Kurt, Gerda, and Trude eventually all found their way to Louisville, settling in a rented home on Sherwood Ave in the Highlands neighborhood and bringing their father and sister to the U.S. as well. Trude opened a milliner's shop on Bardstown Road and later worked in dry goods retail with her husband Emil Breiner. The family rebuilt life in Louisville’s Jewish community. Kurt joined the armed forces during World War II, but the war ended right before he was scheduled to ship overseas. Following discharge, he returned to Louisville to set up his opthamology practice. Kurt joined the staff at Jewish Hospital and served as Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at University of Louisville Medical School. Significantly, his lifelong passion for the violin found a new home here.