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Arthur and Fritz Kahn Collection

Identifier: AR 7144/MF 746

Scope and Contents

The Arthur and Fritz Kahn Collection documents the lives of these two authors and physicians. The collection has been arranged into two series.

Series I: Arthur Kahn contains records concerning his professional work and private life. The bulk of the records consist of written material, both published and unpublished. The series is further divided into three subseries: Personal Papers, Publications, and Writings.

The larger series, Fritz Kahn, is arranged in four subseries: Personal Papers, Articles, General Writings, and The Natural History of Palestine. As is the case with Series I, the bulk of the records are written material, including prose, scientific articles, essays, and notes. The largest section is composed of records pertaining to Fritz Kahn's unpublished text, The Natural History of Palestine. Handwritten and typed drafts, photographs with accompanying material, detailed illustrations, and clippings may be found in this subseries.


  • 1885-1978


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with some French.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the “Request” button`

Access Restrictions

Researchers must use microfilm (MF 746)

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011


Biographical Note

Arthur Kahn

Arthur Kahn was born in Gross-Gerau, Hessen on September 9, 1850, the youngest son of Cantor Nathan Kahn and Juliane Hirsch. From 1878 through 1886, Arthur Kahn studied medicine in Berlin, Bonn, Marburg, Munich, Strasbourg, and Zurich. In June 1886 he received his doctoral diploma from the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin and started to practice in Bonn. Around 1887 [exact date unknown], he married Hedwig Schmul, born in Halle on August 26, 1860. Arthur Kahn was Hedwig Schmul’s second husband. Before their son Fritz Kahn was born on September 29, 1888 Arthur and Hedwig separated, but never officially divorced.

In summer 1889 Arthur Kahn decided to immigrate to the United States. The couple, who reunited shortly before Arthur left for America, kept in touch via mail. At the time, Hedwig Kahn lived in Halle. Originally, she had planned to follow Arthur to New York. According to the records, she was not able due to Arthur Kahn’s unstable financial situation. In fact, she supported him financially during his first years in the United States, even though he was a practicing physician in New York City.

While living in New York between 1889 and 1900, Arthur Kahn travelled to Germany at least once, in 1896. After permanently returning to Germany in 1900, Arthur Kahn settled together with his family in Berlin-Charlottenburg where he established himself as a writer.

During his time in Berlin, he became part of the Jewish Community and later a member of the Israelitischer Religionsverein Charlottenburg e.V., a rather Orthodox-minded association. In 1913, Arthur Kahn was part of a group of Berlin Jews who (re)established the Chewra Kadisha, a traditional burial society. Kahn was also engaged in many other social projects. In 1903, he became the founder of the Hilfsverein für die juedischen Taubstummen in Deutschland (Friends for Deaf and Mute Jews in Germany), followed by the Jüdische Altershilfe (Jewish Senior Aid) in 1913. Furthermore, he was associated with the Verein zur Förderung der Bodenkultur (Society for the Advancement of Soil Culture), the Montefiore-Loge, and the Verein zur Erhaltung des überlieferten Judentums (Society for the Conservation of Traditional Judaism).

Arthur Kahn died in Berlin on July 16, 1928, two days after his wife, Hedwig Kahn had passed away. He and his wife are buried in the Jewish cemetary in Berlin Weissensee.

Fritz Kahn

Fritz Kahn was born in Halle on September 29, 1888 to Arthur Kahn and his wife Hedwig Kahn (née Schmul). He first attended school in Halle, and later the Sophien-Gymnasium in Berlin. After graduating school in 1907, Fritz Kahn studied medicine. He finished his studies completing his dissertation on Das Versehen der Schwangeren in Volksglaube und Dichtung in 1912, and started to practice as a gynecologist in Berlin.

During his studies, Fritz Kahn became involved with writing articles on popular sciences. Some of his early writings on the subjects of astronomy and aviation were published as articles . Besides his dissertation, his first book, Die Milchstrasse, focusing on astronomy, was published in 1914, followed in 1919 by Die Zelle, which deals with the function of the human cell. In 1920 he published a book on the Race question, Die Juden als Rasse und Kulturvolk. One of his most well-known works, Das Leben des Menschen, a five volume edition on the human body, was published between 1922 and 1932. Around 1914, Fritz Kahn served in the military during World War I. Some of his war experiences were reflected in articles as well.

Shortly before Hitler came on power in 1933, Fritz Kahn travelled to Palestine, where he started to work on his manuscript Die Naturgeschichte Palestinas (The Natural History of Palestine). Because of the political situation in Germany, he was not able to return there. Eventually, he became a citizen of Palestine and settled in Jerusalem. In 1939, Fritz Kahn left Palestine for France and Portugal before he was able to immigrate to the United States early in 1941 with the help of Varian Fry and Albert Einstein.

Following his arrival in New York, Fritz Kahn was not only able to continue his carrier as a writer, but moreover was viewed as one of the world’s foremost popular writers on medical and biological subjects. Several of his publications were translated into different languages. He lectured frequently at various assemblies, conferences and schools. He also appeared in radio broadcasts where he discussed medical and popular scientific questions. The function of the human body was a common topic in most of Fritz Kahn’s writings, including such works of his as Our Sex Life (1939), Man In Structure And Function (1943), and The Human Body (1966).

Fritz Kahn, who was married to Irma Glogau, died in Lugano, Switzerland on January 14, 1968.


3.5 Linear Feet


This collection documents the professional work and personal lives of the author Arthur Kahn (1850-1928) and his son, Fritz Kahn (1888-1968). The bulk of the records are concerned with Fritz Kahn's unpublished text, entitled The Natural History of Palestine. Included are multiple drafts of chapters, illustrations, notes, and photographs with accompanying material. The collection also contains various drafts of published and unpublished essays and articles, personal and professional correspondence, personal documents, such as diaries and academic records, newspaper clippings, and printed matter.


This collection is available on 8 reels of microfilm:

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/24
  2. Reel 2: 1/25-1/56
  3. Reel 3: 1/57-2/23
  4. Reel 4: OS43, 2/24-2/40
  5. Reel 5: 2/41-2/47
  6. Reel 6: 3/1-3/20
  7. Reel 7: 3/21-3/31
  8. Reel 8: 3/32-3/40
Guide to the Papers of Arthur (1850-1928) and Fritz (1888-1968) Kahn, 1885-1978   AR 7144/MF 746
Processed by Anke Kalkbrenner and Lea Osborne
© 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-03-23 : encoding of linking to digital objects from finding aid was changed from <extref> to <dao> through dao_conv.xsl

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States