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Franz Kahn

KAHN, FRANZ (1895–1944), Zionist leader in Czechoslovakia. Born in Pilsen, Bohemia, Kahn joined the Zionist youth movement *Blau-Weiss when he was still in high school. He was severely wounded in World War I, losing his left arm. After the war he completed his studies in law. In 1921 he was appointed secretary-general of the Czechoslovak Zionist Federation and a member of its administrative committee, subsequently becoming deputy chairman of the federation. As director of the bureau of the Zionist Congress, Kahn was responsible for the organization of most *Zionist Congresses between the two world wars. Seeing Zionism as a safeguard for the survival of the Jewish people and a continuous aspiration toward the reform of Jewish society, Kahn devoted himself to the creation of an organizational framework for such a Zionist society. When Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, he viewed the future of Jewry with great pessimism. He did not believe that Jewish lives could be saved by making them useful to the oppressor, though he did not oppose the attempt. Considering it his duty to keep control over the activities of the Jewish institutions, without any self-deception, on the very day of the occupation he decided to remain behind. Later, in *Theresienstadt, he was mainly concerned in keeping contact with the pioneering youth movements, who saw him as the embodiment of the Jewish and human conscience. In 1944, at a meeting marking the 40th anniversary of Herzl's death, he addressed thousands of camp inmates. Summarizing Zionist teachings for the last time, he concluded his address with the call "The people of Israel lives." In October 1944 Kahn and his wife, along with many other militant Zionists, were taken to Auschwitz to perish in the gas chambers.


Theresienstadt (Heb., 1947); Ch. Yahil, Devarim al ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Czechoslovakit (1967).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.