Aspen High School honors Holocaust survivor with long-delayed diploma |

Aspen High School honors Holocaust survivor with long-delayed diploma

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – On March 13, 1938, just four weeks shy of graduating high school, Kurt Bresnitz’s life was forever changed. Now, 65 years later, he has received his diploma.

“Every once in a while, you hear the story of a man’s life that is worth sharing. This is one of those stories,” Aspen High School Principal Art Abelmann said Friday, addressing the entire student body assembled before him in the Skierdome. “Kurt Bresnitz was the age of many of you seniors; he was a high school student much like all of you. But what happened next was something that, thankfully, you will never experience.”

On that March day, Nazi troops invaded Bresnitz’s hometown of Vienna, Austria. Bresnitz was forced to leave school and, ultimately, flee his country.

“Kurt has been through more than any of us could ever imagine,” Abelmann continued. “And what this country – what being an American – means to him is something we all need to hear.

“This is why it is an privilege to have Kurt here today and to honor him with this Aspen High School diploma.”

At this, the students gave Bresnitz a heartfelt standing ovation.

“America is a country of unlimited possibilities. If you just work hard, you can achieve your dreams,” Bresnitz told the students. “I am an example of this.”

Indeed, Bresnitz fled Austria for Germany and ultimately escaped to America in 1938, where his first sighting of the Statue of Liberty “brought tears to my eyes,” he recalled. Bresnitz later enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving overseas and eventually helping to liberate the Dachau concentration camp. Upon his return to the States, Bresnitz married and followed his dream by becoming a master watchmaker and jeweler. In 1950, he moved to Aspen, which he has called home ever since.

“I am proud to be an American, especially in Aspen,” Bresnitz said. “My hope is that you all feel the same … you should feel this way.”


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