By Kerry Schauber
Kurt Enslein, from Cologne, and his wife Karoline Ruth (Einstein) Enslein of Memminger escaped the tumult of wartime Europe separately but strove for learning and success together in the United States. Kurt was born in 1924 to parents who owned a department store. As Hitler rose and the war approached, the Enslein family fled to Paris, then Nimes—where father Jacob was intermittently imprisoned in a detention camp—then Spain and ultimately Lisbon, Portugal, from where they sailed to New York in May of 1941. An uncle had established a handkerchief factory there, and Kurt’s parents worked there, while Kurt labored at a straw-hat factory on Long Island. Less is documented of Karoline Ruth Einstein’s early experiences; she was born in 1922 and came to New York via Genoa in May of 1940 at the age of 18. Born in Stuttgart, she had lived in Memmingen, in the south of Germany. She also joined an uncle already established in New York. Kurt and Ruth married in 1945 in New York. K. Ruth became a naturalized citizen in 1946, at the age of 23; Kurt in 1947.
Kurt’s schooling at the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly in Paris had been interrupted by war, but clearly he made the most of what he had learned: from straw hats he leapt to repairing hearing aids, then repairing radar components for Magnavox; he was hired by Raytheon in Chicago, and then an offer of a job in printed circuitry at Stromberg-Carlson brought Kurt and his wife to Rochester in 1948. From Stromberg-Carlson he moved to a position at the University of Rochester’s cyclotron laboratory, teaching electrical engineering courses, he said, to provide an ample supply of assistants. Ultimately he launched a number of companies of his own, developing equipment to test circuitry, providing consulting services on the analysis of health statistics, and working on early projects to link distant computers via telephone lines.
This information is publicly available because Kurt’s achievements were notable enough to get him written up by the Rochester newspapers more than once. Mr. Enslein was pragmatic about his astonishing achievements, telling a reporter “[wartime experiences] leave scars, but if you survive, you have inner resources you might not otherwise have had.” A vignette from K. Ruth’s war years was documented in an exhibition at SUNY Brockport about female survivors of the Holocaust. She related a story about how the Nazis blew up the Memmingen synagogue, which was within sight of her house.
Perhaps it was the Ensleins’ own experiences with war that led both Kurt and K. Ruth to sign a public letter in a local newspaper in 1967 opposing the war in Vietnam. Mr. Enslein mentioned in one newspaper interview that the aftereffects of his war experiences led both he and his wife to a fascination with medicine and psychiatry and noted that like him, K. Ruth also “[tried] to become a master at whatever she’s doing.”
Kurt Enslein passed away in 2015, and K. Ruth in 2020. They were predeceased by one daughter and left behind two sons and a daughter.