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Dr. Heinz Kahn

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00:00:00 Background

00:07:58 Anti-Jewish policies under National Socialism

00:16:13 Deportation/selection

00:23:00 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:31:37 Resistance movement

00:35:17 Infirmary

00:42:50 Buchenwald concentration camp

00:45:24 Postwar period

“It was to my advantage that I spoke German, because German was the language of the camp. But I was ashamed of being a German, and when asked where I was from, I always answered: from the Luxembourg border.”[1]


Heinz Kahn was born in Hermeskeil on April 13, 1922. His father, a veterinarian and a veteran of World War I, was respected in the town, and Heinz and his younger sister had a happy childhood. Heinz was a good pupil, and he attended secondary school until 1936. There he got a taste of the incipient anti-Semitism when his friends began avoiding him; he had to play alone with his wonderful construction kits. Instead, with increasing frequency, he accompanied his father on his visits to treat sick or injured animals. No longer permitted to attend public school, he first tried getting a commercial education, and then started an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Frankfurt am Main. There he was trained in a telephone-making group, where he stayed until November 9, 1938. Forced labor in the Judenkolonne in Cologne and Trier followed; his boss, however, put him to work in Lothringen, and while commuting he had a chance to read newspapers and get hold of foodstuffs.


In late February 1943, he was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz with his family. His father instructed him to survive—and Heinz never saw his parents again. He was sent to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. The first night there, he learned from a Polish doctor that his family members had been gassed, and that anyone who was weak would also end up in the gas chamber. Heinz Kahn was lucky; he immediately landed a relatively good job as a barracks orderly (Stubendienst). Nevertheless, a thumb injury put him in the infirmary. There he helped take care of patients, and after some time he was given a job as a male nurse. From then on, he got in touch with the communist resistance, also worked in the administrative office, and tried to help fellow prisoners: When selections were scheduled, for example, he switched friends’ numbers with those of men who were already dead.


On the death march in January 1945, he ended up in Buchenwald, where he was liberated by the Americans. After the war, he founded a new Jewish community in Trier, finished high school, and was accepted to study veterinary medicine in Berlin. After graduation, he settled in Polch, where he has maintained his veterinary practice ever since. Only after a great deal of effort did Heinz Kahn manage to get back the scattered possessions of his family. More than one hundred members of his family lost their lives in the Holocaust.

Dr. Heinz Kahn passed away February 9, 2014 at the age of 91.

(SP; transl. KL)


Heinz Kahn, oral history interview [Ger.], July 11, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.



Kahn, Dr. Heinz: “Erlebnisse eines jungen deutschen Juden in Hermeskeil, Trier, Auschwitz und Buchenwald in den Jahren 1933 bis 1945.” In: Johannes Mötsch, ed.: Ein Eifler für Rheinland-Pfalz. Festschrift für Franz-Josef Heyen. Mainz: Gesellschaft für mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte, 2003, pp. 641–659.

[1] Dr. Heinz Kahn: “Erlebnisse eines jungen deutschen Juden in Hermeskeil, Trier, Auschwitz und Buchenwald in den Jahren 1933 bis 1945.” In: Johannes Mötsch, ed.: Ein Eifler für Rheinland-Pfalz. Festschrift für Franz-Josef Heyen (Mainz: Gesellschaft für mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte, 2003), pp. 641–659, here p. 651. (Translation KL)