Wallstein Verlag

Verena Dohrn

The Kahans from Baku

A family biography

519 pages, 12,5 x 21,0
ISBN: 978-3-8353-3342-0 (2018)


German Version

The story of a Jewish business family in turbulent times – between forced migration and entrepreneurial spirit

The destiny of the Kahans mirrors a dramatic century of European history from the perspective of a Jewish entrepreneurial family. In competition with Nobel and in cooperation with Rothschild, Chaim Kahan (1850–1916), who came from Stetl in Poland/ Lithuania, made his fortune in the oilfields of Baku. However, the First World War tore the family apart, and Bolshevik rule destroyed the milieu that had brought him prosperity. In these unstable times, his seven children inherited his companies. They fled to Berlin, founded new companies, became global players in the oil business and thus thwarted the stereotype of the poor Eastern Jew. They operated filling station networks and demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in an innovative industry of strategic importance. In addition they took part in charitable activities, helping refugees, saving publishing houses, and supporting the Jewish homeland in Palestine. When the Nazis came to power, the family, which had a good transnational network, fled again – from Berlin to Paris, and from there to Tel Aviv and New York. Once again, a sense of tradition and a sense of family proved their worth in times of need Verena Dohrn tells the story of the Kahans based on sources from private and state archives in 14 countries, with a main focus on the family archive, which consists of several thousand documents.

Verena Dohrn is a historian and author with a special interest in Jewish history and culture in Eastern Europe.

Publications include:
· »Die Nacht hat uns verschluckt«. Poesie und Prosa jüdischer Migrant*in-
nen im Berlin der 1920 /30er Jahre (co-ed., 2018);
· Jüdische Eliten im Russischen Reich (2008);
· Simon Dubnow »Buch des · Lebens« (ed., 2004 /05);
· Baltische Reise (1994); · Reise nach Galizien (1991)
nach oben