July 6, 1922,
Adam was born in Poland in 1922 to a liberal Jewish family. He was the only child of Giza Menase and Jakub Kahane. Adam lived with his parents in Lodz until their divorce when Giza and 5 year old Adam moved to Jaslo to be with her family. Adam visited Jakub, who ran a pharmacy in Lodz, once a year. In Jaslo Adam attended school and spent much time outdoors skiing, playing tennis, and kayaking with his cousin, Reggie.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The west of Poland fell under German occupation and the east under Soviet occupation according to the German-Soviet Pact. In early September 1939, Adam and his family fled to an estate owned by a family friend in Gliniany, in east Poland, to avoid approaching German troops. A few weeks later they moved to Lvov. Adam completed his final year of gymnasium (high school) in Lvov.
In June 1940 Soviet authorities decided that refugees near the border of German occupied Poland would be relocated to the interior of the Soviet Union. Single men were arrested and sent to gulags (Soviet work camps) and families transported to resettlement colonies. Adam, Giza, and Inek (Adam’s cousin), along with other refugees, were transported by freight car, barge, and truck to Nazary, a barrack settlement. The refugees were given few days rest then taught how to fell trees. Adam, Giza, and Inek shared a room with another family for a few weeks until new barracks were built, when they got their own room. At first a roll call was held in the evening to ensure no refugees had escaped, soon thereafter it was cancelled as supervision was lax.
In June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Based on an agreement between the Soviet government and the Polish government in exile all Polish citizens held in Soviet camps and settlements were to be released (in part, to create a Polish Army in exile). Adam, along with Giza and Inek, traveled by train to Kazakhstan where they found living arrangements on a collective farm about ten miles from Lenger Ugol. Shortly thereafter, Adam was drafted for the Polish Army but was sent home the day after his arrival at the encampment as no Jews were being accepted. In September of 1942 Adam and Reggie began nursing school in Shymkent (Chimkent). Both graduated with honors in the spring of 1945.
After the war Adam and Reggie attended the School of Banking and Credit of the Central Bank of the USSR in Moscow. A few months into their second semester Adam and Reggie returned to Poland. Adam went to Lodz to run his father’s pharmacy (Jakub had died of a heart attack on the cattle train to Auschwitz). In the summer of 1947 Adam sold the pharmacy and moved to Paris. In July 1948 Adam and Reggie immigrated to the United States to attend Columbia University, where Adam completed his degree in business administration in two and a half years. He worked for the CIA for seven years, married Gertrude Lass in 1952, and in 1958 started his own business—a ski shop—in Washington, DC. Adam currently lives in the Washington, DC area and volunteers for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Portrait of Adam, 1934. US Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Adam Kahane
Adam’s student identification card from 1939. US Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Adam Kahane
Reggie Wistreich, Adam’s cousin. US Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Adam Kahane
Adam and his cousins, Reggie and Eva, circa 1930. US Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Adam Kahane
Adam’s father, Jacob, and uncles, Julius and William, circa 1916. US Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Adam Kahane