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03.05.22

A Snapshot of a Family

When I joined HSFA as an archive volunteer in November 2021, I began the process of preserving several bundles of early twentieth century photos and postcards belonging to the Kubie/Friedmann family.

 

These are part of a wider collection of family material donated by Tom Kubie, who moved to the UK from Brno, Czechoslovakia as a young boy in July 1939.

 

Postcard to Suse Singer (Tom’s Aunt), stamped Bad Gastein, Austria, 1933 (BG)

When I first opened the packages, I was struck by the love that this large family had for each other, and the care that had been taken to preserve so many of their memories. I searched through sepia photos of a happy family in comfortable homes with gardens, who loved their children, pets, horse riding, skiing, celebrations, dancing, and wearing their finest clothes.

 

There were items bound in red chord that hadn’t been read for years, and holiday postcards from the 1920s-1950 of Czechoslovakian forests, Austrian mountains, waterfalls and lakes as well as city breaks in Paris, Venice, Genoa, London, Budapest and Cairo. Over the years, photos of family had been made into postcards; one in a garden in 1929, one walking in the gardens of a health retreat in 1939, and my favourite card of a man posing on a new Italian Moto Guzzi motorbike, date stamped Nikolsburg 1927. 

Postcard to Paul Kubie (Tom’s Uncle), stamped Nikolsburg, Czechoslovakia, 1927 (AD)

My first task was to rehouse each photo and postcard in individual acid free polyester sleeves and label with a unique reference number. As care must be taken when handling original material, I wore disposable nitrile gloves, to prevent oils from fingerprints harming the collections. Although the chemical fixer used during photographic development slows the process, photographs degrade over time and eventually fade. Degradation also applies to paper documents. By storing the items in archive quality material, it’s possible to prolong the life of these items.

 

Collating documents in order is a process that requires research and working methodically to create a historic timeline. The postcards were arranged by date. Some ink stamps were illegible, but by researching the first issue and circulation dates of the paper stamps, I was able to estimate posting dates. 

 

Birthday card sent to Stefan  Kubie (Tom’s cousin), stamped Brno, 1939

It soon became apparent that many of the senders and recipients of this set of postcards between family and friends had perished in the Holocaust. The steady flow of postcards sent during the 1920s began to dwindle in the 1930s, which dropped to just one birthday greeting sent from Prague in 1940, and one in 1950 from Tel Aviv, to Mrs & Mr Kubie in Scotland. 

 

The first stage of preserving the photos and postcards is now complete, safely stored in archive quality acid free boxes, to protect from light exposure, heat, and moisture fluctuations. In the future, we will scan each item to create a digital archive that will eventually become accessible to online researchers. 

 

The Friedmann family

It’s a privilege to help document the Kubie/Friedmann family’s unique place in history. While the photos are a lasting memorial to family life before the war, the postcards provide a voice. These tiny open letters are vital records that allow us a glimpse into the writers’ journey that I’ve been unable to unlock.

If any Czech or German speakers would like to voluntarily translate the postcards and bring this written section of the archive to its full potential, please contact the Holocaust Exhibition & Learning Centre at helc@hud.ac.uk

 

By Ruth (HSFA Volunteer) – 5/5/22

All images HSFA Archive, courtesy of the Kubie family