Born Kurt Rosenthal in Carlsbad in 1916, Kurt Reichert grew up in Vienna in a progressive Jewish family. Initially seeking a career in theater, Reichert’s political and social interests became manifest only after his immigration to the United States.
In response to the rising anti-Semitism in Vienna during the 1930s, Kurt Rosenthal changed his name to Reichert in 1936. He left Austria in 1938 with his family and, via Switzerland and the Netherlands, moved to New York City. Since a career in theater seemed impossible to him in the United States, he opted for an academic path. During his time at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, he encountered social work and decided to build a career in this field. He graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 1940, went on to the University of Chicago for a Master’s degree in Social Services Administration (1946), and received a Ph.D. from the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota in 1955 with a dissertation on The Management of Family and Socio-Environmental Problems as Viewed by Physicians in Private Practice in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At Minnesota, Reichert worked with fellow émigrés from Germany and Austria, Gisela Konopka and Etta Saloshin. His wife, Betty Reichert, who he had met in Chicago, was also a social worker with whom he shared a productive interest in social research and reform.
Reichert concentrated on public health, community organization, social research, social service administration, and social work education. He held teaching positions at the University of Minnesota, Syracuse University, Bryn Mawr College, and San Diego State University. Further professional projects included activities with the Jewish Family and Community Service in Chicago, the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps, the American Red Cross, the New York State Department of Health, and the Council of Social Work Education. In 1952, Reichert was sent to Germany as a social work consultant by the United States High Commission in Germany. His task was to advise his German colleagues in setting up schools of social work in Hamburg and Munich. While this stay furthered Reichert’s transatlantic contacts with Germany which he sustained for the rest of his life, he did not maintain any ties to his native Austria in the realm of social work. However, in 2004 he did reconnect with the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna, the school where he had studied acting before emigration.
In all his professional endeavors, Kurt Reichert strove for a stronger and tighter net of public social services along the lines of European ideas of social welfare administration.