Fritz Kahl (1895 - 1974)

Fritz Kahl was born in 1895 in Sterbfritz, in the foothills of the Spessart range, and raised in Frankfurt am Main, where his father took over a parsonage as a Protestant pastor. In the liberal-minded parsonage, young Fritz got to know Jewish students who rented rooms from his parents. After completing his Abitur (university entrance qualification) and graduating from Frankfurt’s humanities-oriented Lessing secondary school, Fritz Kahl served in the First World War. Subsequently he studied medicine in Marburg starting in 1919. Like many young men who returned from the war feeling disappointed, Kahl was open to Nazi ideology during this phase of his life. Later he defiantly opposed Nazism.

Fritz Kahl opened a practice in Frankfurt-Bockenheim around 1925 as a general practitioner. He married Margarete Zimmermann, one year younger than he, the daughter of a local court judge. In their first years of marriage, they continued to live in Kahl’s parents’ home, where they had three sons. In 1938 the family moved into a stately home in the Westend district of Frankfurt, at Blanchardstrasse 22, where he also had his medical practice. Their daughter was born the following year.

Numerous Jewish families lived in the area. Fritz and Margarete Kahl’s home became a meeting place for Jews they knew who were at risk. Especially Margarete helped out with words and deeds. She often sent their son Eugen, born in 1927, to various addresses to bring groceries. Dr. Kahl did not abandon his Jewish patients, even if they had meanwhile moved to other parts of the city. The Reich Physicians’ Chamber then informed him in July 1941 that the extra food rations he received as a doctor would be cut because he was treating Jews.

Berta and Eva Müller were also patients of Dr. Kahl. The sisters came from the Hungarian part of Slovakia. Once the deportations from Frankfurt began, they were initially protected since they were foreigners. In the fall of 1942, however, Eva Müller urgently needed help. She was hiding her Jewish fiancé Robert Eisenstädt in her Frankfurt attic, after he had fled the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland. Consequently, she feared that she herself would be deported, and the couple wanted to escape to Switzerland. Dr. Kahl visited Eisenstädt and treated his injuries. He advised them that the Swiss authorities would probably not send them back if Eva were pregnant. Fritz Kahl had close friends who were clerics in the Confessing Church, especially Heinz Welke and Otto Fricke. Together with them, Kahl and his wife worked out an escape plan for the Jewish couple. The previous year the Kahls had themselves suffered a tragic loss: their young daughter died after an accident in the home. The date for Eisenstädt’s and Müller’s escape was set for February 1943. Prior to that time, Margarete and Fritz Kahl hid Eisenstädt in their own home. In late February 1943 they received a postcard from Switzerland, from which they could glean that the escape was successful.

After the war, Fritz divorced his wife and remarried. Margarete Kahl died in Frankfurt am Main in 1958, and Fritz Kahl died in Weilheim an der Lahn in 1974. The Israeli Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem honored Margarete and Fritz Kahl in 2006 for their joint efforts to rescue Jews as Righteous Among the Nations.

Bibliography:
Bonavita, Petra. Mit falschem Pass und Zyankali. Retter und Gerettete aus Frankfurt am Main in der NS-Zeit, 11–27. Stuttgart: Schmetterling, 2009.
Kosmala, Beate. “Robert Eisenstädts Flucht aus dem KZ Majdanek. Über Frankfurt am Main in die Schweiz.” In Überleben im Dritten Reich. Juden im Untergrund und ihre Helfer, edited by Wolfgang Benz, 287–298. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003.
Kosmala, Beate, and Revital Ludewig-Kedmi. “Rettung eines Flüchtlings aus Majdanek: Margarete und Fritz Kahl.” In Verbotene Hilfe: Deutsche Retterinnen und Retter während des Holocaust, edited by Beate Kosmala and Revital Ludewig-Kedmi, 43–49. Zurich: Verlag Pestalozzianum, and Donauwörth: Auer, 2003.
Fritz Kahl
Photo: privately owned

Biographies

Glossary

  • Confessing Church

    Confessing Church

    This church opposition to the Protestant Church’s forced conformity with the Nazi regime was founded in 1934. It rejected having Christians of Jewish descent excluded from the church. In all state churches except in Württemberg, Bavaria, and Hanover, there was a schism between “German Christians” who were loyal to the regime and supporters of the Confessing Church. Many Confessing Church pastors were imprisoned.