Kahn, Max

Kahn, Max

Stuttgart (Germany)

Max was born in March 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. His family lived in Germany for generations. His father served in the German Army in the First World War as a lieutenant and was awarded the Iron Cross. His family continued to live in Stuttgart until their emigration to Mexico in 1939.

He was an only child. However, his extended family was large. His grandfather on his mother’s side had seven children, six girls and one boy. The boy, their only son served in the German army during the First World War and died in the war.

Max knew all his mother’s sisters and visited their homes often. Thanks to the same uncle who saved his family, the aunts and their families survived the war too. However, his second level relatives all died in the war.

Max’s parents owned a jewelry shop where they both worked and an apartment in an affluent part of the city. His family was not observant but they did attend a synagogue on holidays. He attended a public school. Besides him, there was only one other Jewish child in his class. He experienced very little anti-Semitism in Germany. One incident that he remembers is a New Year’s party in school. He saw a message on the school bulletin board that said that all children in his class other than himself and the other Jewish boy were invited to the party. Another incident he remembers is watching the Nazis march in the streets, singing songs that included anti-Semitic statements. He did not witness any acts of violence against Jews however.

At the advice of his uncle in Mexico, Max left Germany in 1937 (at age sixteen) to attend a textile engineering school in Switzerland. The uncle contacted the family a few years earlier and urged them to leave Germany as soon as possible as things were bound to get much worse. While Max was in Switzerland attending school, his parents remained in Germany. The family was able to stay in Stuttgart for the next two years and even after Crystal Night. His father was not arrested.

The family left Germany for good in 1939. Max, who was still in Switzerland, joined them on the boat trip. They had to leave their belongings behind and arrived in Mexico penniless.

In Mexico, Max learned Spanish and found it quite easy (he already spoke English, French and German). He worked in his uncle’s textile business. Two years later, in a New Year party in 1941, het met his wife. They remained married for 63 years and have two daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Over the years, he has visited Germany many times. He is still in contact with Jewish and non-Jewish friends from Germany and he was able to reclaim some of his family’s property in Germany.

Interview information:

Date: March 27, 2008
Interviewer: Donna R. Sklar
Length: 46 Minutes
Format: Video recording