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Henry Kahn
Born: January 18, 1923, Böblingen, Germany Died: May 23, 2018, Silver Spring, MD

Henry Kahn was born Heinz Kahn on January 18, 1923, into an orthodox Jewish family in Böblingen, Germany. His father Adolf, a merchant from Baisingen fought for Germany in World War I and later became president of the Cattle Dealers’ Association of Wuertemberg and Hohenzollern. His mother, Hedwig, was from Frankfurt, Germany. Henry’s brother, Rolf, was born in 1925.

Henry and Rolf enjoyed a diverse and liberal education until 1932 when Rolf died of an infection just before entering second grade. Henry continued his schooling and was in third grade when the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, came to power in January 1933. Soon the family began to see the impact of Nazi rule: Nazi officials began distributing antisemitic publications while radio programs broadcast the Nazis’ propaganda. Adolf Kahn was removed from his position as president of the Cattle Dealers’ Association and was replaced by a member of the Nazi Party. Following the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935, the German government stripped the Kahn family members of their German citizenship.

On the morning after Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938, Adolf Kahn was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. Four weeks later, he was allowed to return home; he was gaunt and his head had been shaved.  Soon after Adolf returned, the family received word that Henry’s cousin, Freddy Hirschheimer, had found an English family who agreed to sponsor Henry as part of a Kindertransport. On February 2, 1939, Henry waved goodbye to his parents as he boarded a train in Köln, Germany. He arrived in Harwich, England, where he met Freddy and his sponsors, Haimy and Zelda London. Henry began working at London Brothers clothing factory where he learned to be a sewing machine operator.

World War II began on September 1, 1939, with Germany’s invasion of Poland. On July 3, 1940, Henry was interned as an “enemy alien” with other German nationals near Liverpool, England. The internees were given the option to stay in the internment camp or be sent to an overseas territory of England. Seven days later, Henry and 2,500 other internees and German POWs voluntarily boarded the HMT Dunera not knowing their destination. The ship was under constant threat from U-boats and torpedoes, often times zigzagging to avoid being struck. The Dunera arrived in Sydney, Australia, where the prisoners boarded a train to an internment camp surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers.  After only one night in the camp, Henry and 12 other men were placed on a ship returning to England.

On September 6, 1940, much to their surprise, the group was told to disembark in Bombay, India. Henry was required to register at the police station and report there twice a week.  He was assigned to live in a Jewish Relief Association Home while working at the Indian Tool Company. In 1943, Henry moved to Madras, India to work as a factory supervisor but returned to Bombay a year later where he met Doreen Raymond at a Maccabi Sports Club.

Henry arrived in the United States on April 17, 1946 and soon settled in New York finding work at Schwarz Metal Company. After the war, Henry learned German authorities had deported Adolf and Hedwig to the Lodz ghetto in 1941; they were later murdered. Henry continued his education, which had abruptly ended in 1938, by taking accelerated high school classes. Doreen joined Henry in New York in June 1948 and, two weeks later, they were married. Together they have two sons, Ralph and Roy. Henry graduated from City University in 1966 with a Bachelors Degree in Industrial Management. In 2000, Henry and Doreen moved to the Washington, DC area. Henry volunteered at the Museum.