Selma Kahn Papers

Scope and Content

The collection consists mainly of unpublished manuscripts of autobiographical novels, short stories and poetry by Selma Kahn in various versions. Unfortunately, many of her manuscripts are undated, so that it is not always possible to clarify when a text was written. Her novels are largely autobiographical and focus on subjects including the First World War, the rise of national socialism in rural Germany, the Holocaust, refugee experience and the experience of return to Germany. The collection also contains a small number of documents and photos relating to Selma Kahn's personal and family history.

Administrative / Biographical History

Selma Kahn was born on 23 October 1888 in Berlichingen as Selma Gottlieb. She grew up in a religious Jewish family that felt fully integrated into the rural community. In 1920 she married Josef Kahn and moved to Adelsheim where they owned a bookshop. Selma Kahn was interested in literature from early childhood and wrote poetry and prose from an early age. In 1921 the couple's only son Michael was born. After the rise of the Nazi party, the Kahn family left Germany in 1934 and emigrated to Palestine. In 1956 they followed their son Michael to Nairobi. When the political situation in Nairobi became unsettled in 1961, the Selma and Josef Kahn moved to a newly opened Jewish home for the elderly in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, while their son and his family settled in London. After the death of Josef Kahn in 1963, Selma Kahn frequently visited her son and grandchildren in London and Saltdean. Selma Kahn died on 20 February 1981 in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Michael Kean

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website .

Archivist's Note

Description created by Sharon Rubinstein and Samira Teuteberg, February 2017.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Custodial History

Initially, in 1998, Michael Kean donated three boxes, including papers relating to Selma Kahn's novel 'Der Weg ins Dritte Reich' to the Centre for German-Jewish Studies. The novel was then edited by Andrea Hammel and published in 2002 with Hartung-Gorre in German. To mark the launch of 'Der Weg ins Dritte Reich' an exhibition of material from the Selma Kahn Papers was shown in the University of Sussex Library. Following the exhibition and the book launch, Michael Kean donated further manuscripts and documents from his mother Selma Kahn to the Centre for German-Jewish Archives.