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Bernhard Kahn Collection

Identifier: AR 416

Scope and Content Note

The Bernhard Kahn Collection documents the educational and professional achievements of Dr. Bernhard Kahn. It is largely comprised of personal and professional correspondence, clippings, manuscripts and official documents, such as certificates and Geleitbriefe (Laissez-Passer). Latter were issued by e.g. the German, Russian and Swedish governments in order to facilitate Bernhard Kahn’s travel and work regarding the support of distressed Russian Jews.

His professional activities during his travels are depicted in Bernhard Kahn's letters to his wife and in addition the correspondence illustrates the political situation and the living conditions of Jews in the countries he visited. Various articles inform about his biography and his work for different Jewish organizations. In additions, the collection holds speeches and lectures by Bernhard Kahn which describe his opinion on the current situation of Jews and the Jewish history.


  • 1901-1955
  • Majority of material found in 1908-1955


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, French, Russian, Polish, Swedish and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

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

Berhard Kahn was born on April 9, 1876, in Oscarshamm, Sweden, as the son of Jacob and Jetta (Sandel) Kahn. He studied law and economics in the University of Wuerzburg where he received his LLD in 1899.

After the pogrom in Kishineff (Kishinev) in 1903, Dr. Kahn joined the protest movement against the oppression of Jews and in 1904 became Secretary-General of the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden. The following 50 years of his life he devoted to welfare and relief activities on behalf of needy Jews. In 1921 he joined the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) staff as director of the refugee department. From 1924 to 1939 he served as the European Director for the JDC and as Managing Director of the American Joint Reconstruction Foundation. Other titles held by Dr. Kahn during his long career included chairman of the advisory council of Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE), honorary president of the American and European Friends of ORT, executive member of the Jewish Agency and director of the Central Bank for Cooperative Institutions in Israel. He successively became a German, French and U.S. citizen. When he migrated to the U.S. in 1939 Dr. Kahn was elected Honorary Chairman of the JDC European Council, a post which he held until 1950 when he was elected a JDC Vice-Chairman.

On April 26, 1955 Bernhard Kahn died in White Plains, New York, at the age of 79, leaving behind his wife, Mrs. Dora F. Kahn and his son, Ludwig Werner Kahn.


1 Linear Feet


Bernhard Kahn dedicated 50 years of his life to welfare activities in order to help distressed Jews. Among others he worked for the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Comittee and the American Joint Reconstruction Foundation .The collection contains personal as well as professional correspondence, articles on Bernhard Kahn’s work and biography, lectures and speeches by him and a number of official documents such as letters of consignment, citizenship papers and educational and professional certificates.


The collection is arranged into two series:

Related Material

The LBI Archives also hold the following items by Bernhard Kahn:

  1. Biographische Notizen [DM 53]
  2. Memoirs 1914-1921 [ME 344a]
  3. Diaries 1817-1871 [ME 1036]
  4. Tribute to Max M. Warburg by Bernhard Kahn at the Annual Meeting of the Joint Distribution Committee (1947) [ME 344b]

The LBI Library holds material by and about Bernhard Kahn:

  1. Bernhard Kahn by C. Vilhelm Jacobowsky [DS 151 K3 J312]
  2. Die Schadenszufuegungen durch Tiere nach dem Buergerlichen Gesetzbuch (S 833 und 834) [K K355 S3]
  3. Report on the activities of the Joint Distribution Committee [HV 3191 A4 K3]
  4. The Jews in reconstituted Poland (offprint) [DS 135 P61 K28]

Separated Material

Photographs have been removed to the Photograph Collection.

Processing Information

The original order has been slightly changed; two folders were moved to match the thematic order of the collection.

Guide to the Papers of Bernhard Kahn (1876-1955) 1901-1955 AR 416
Processed by Sophia Nacke
© 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from BernhardKahn.xml

Revision Statements

  • July 17, 2013 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States