Holocaust survivor Bob Kahn dies at 100

Kettering resident who celebrated his 100th birthday last year, owned and played violin now seen at the Air Force Museum

Dayton-area Holocaust survivor Bob Kahn died Tuesday at the age of 100.

Kahn’s survival of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and his teachings in the Dayton region have been well documented.

After witnessing the torching of his vocational school on Kristallnacht, Kahn returned home to see Nazis throwing his family’s belongings from the balcony into a fire that raged below, he told Dayton Daily News reporter Meredith Moss in 2012.

Kristallnacht is the German term for the “Night of Broken Glass,” when in November 1938 the Nazi regime sparked and coordinated a wave of antisemitic violence in Germany.

“Then I heard my father’s screams — he was on the floor being beaten by the Nazi beasts, who were shouting profanities,” Kahn told Moss in 2012. “He was bleeding from his head, his arms, and his shirt was soaked in blood. The Nazi SS trooper grabbed my violin while holding me by my shirt, and pulled me through the hall to the balcony. There, he practically threw the violin and bow at me and ordered me to play. With tears running down my cheek, I played from memory tunes that I had learned. I thought I was playing the violin at my own funeral.”

Visitors to the Holocaust exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force can see the violin donated by Kahn.

“He grieved what happened that day,” said Renate Frydman, a Dayton resident and a longtime local champion of Holocaust education, who knew Kahn and his family for years. “It stayed with him his whole life.”

Kahn worked for Operation Paper Clip, a secret U.S. intelligence and military program that brought German scientists to work for the U.S. government at the end of World War II, the Dayton Jewish Observer reported last year. He also fought with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the South Pacific, the Observer said.

Frydman said Kahn served on a local committee dedicated to recounting the Holocaust, a committee that included local survivors and teachers.

She recalled on Thursday when she first saw Kahn’s violin, which he brought to a committee meeting wrapped in a red blanket in the mid-1990s.

“He slowly with great diligence unwrapped the violin. He said, ‘I had to play this on the day of Kristallnacht,’” Frydman said.

“He was a very strong-minded person, and I think anyone who knows him or knew him would say that,” she added.

According to his obituary, Kahn was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He was a 78-year member of Temple Israel, Dayton, as well as an active member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton.

“He championed the idea of a mobile Holocaust exhibit that paid tribute to the powerful stories of many men and women who called Dayton home,” his obituary says. “This exhibit was so successful it is now on permanent display at the National United States Air Force Museum, Dayton. A central feature of this installation is his violin, which he was forced to play for the enjoyment of the Nazis during Kristallnacht on November 8, 1938, while his parents’ belongings were destroyed, and his father taken to Dachau concentration camp.”

A funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Temple Israel with Rabbi Bodney-Halasz officiating, according to an email from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton

The service will be streamed through the Temple Israel Youtube channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/templeisraeldaytonohio.

Interment will follow at Riverview Cemetery. A meal of consolation will follow the interment, and friends are welcome to share memories with the family, the federation said.

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