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Close-up portrait of a German-Jewish couple sitting on a hillside.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 66170

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    Close-up portrait of a German-Jewish couple sitting on a hillside.
    Close-up portrait of a German-Jewish couple sitting on a hillside.

Pictured are Lilli and Alfred Rahn.


    Close-up portrait of a German-Jewish couple sitting on a hillside.

    Pictured are Lilli and Alfred Rahn.
    Fuerth, [Bavaria; Nuremberg] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ruth Budd

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Ruth Budd

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Ruth Budd (born Ruth Rahn) is the daughter of Alfred H. Rahn and Lilli Bechmann Rahn. She was born on June 15, 1936 in Fuerth Germany where her family had lived for approximately 300 years. Her parents were wealthy, highly educated professionals. Her father (b. 1/28/01), having received a business degree, inherited a 200 year old family metal works company. Her mother (b. 2/10/11) received a Ph.D. in 1934 from the University of Erlangen in history and philosophy. She was the last Jew to receive a doctorate from the University. In 1935 Alfred and his mother traveled to the United States to determine whether they wanted to emigrate. Lilli, who was pregnant with Ruth, remained behind. Alfred's younger brother Max (b. 1906) had already immigrated to America in 1926 and was working for the General Cigar Company in Puerto Rico. Alfred returned to Germany deciding he preferred German culture, did not want to forfeit the family business, and that the Nazi regime would eventually collapse. However, by 1937 he changed his mind as the situation became worse. The Rahns "sold" their home and the business, which was located on the ground floor and made plans to move to the U.S. They received only a small amount for the home and business. Alfred and Lilli obtained American visas, sold a number of their belongings, and made ship reservations for December, 1937. However, shortly before their planned departure date, the Gestapo raided their home and found currency in violation of the Reichstag law prohibiting Jews from taking any funds out of Germany. Alfred had declared the amount he retained, but had recorded this in the wrong place on the forms. Alfred was tried by an anti-Semitic tribunal, found guilty and sentenced to 14 months in solitary confinement in the prison behind the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, where the Nuremberg trials were later held. The judgment recited that his sentence would end on March 6, 1939 at 2:45 pm! When his sentence was nearing its end, Lilli went to the American Embassy in Stuttgart to reapply for their visas, which had expired. She was told that they were no longer eligible because her husband had been convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude". After learning about the latest development, her brother-in-law, Max, with the full permission of his non-Jewish boss, took a leave from his job to go to Washington to petition on behalf of his brother. The State Department held firm against granting the visa, declaring it was the long tradition of American policy to uphold the laws and judgments of another country, without looking behind the judgment. However, President Roosevelt's Attorney General, Homer Cummings, on the eve of his retirement, issued the last opinion of his tenure on December 31, 1938, stating that all that Alfred had done was to "seek to retain what was rightfully his own, in avoidance of a statute and a procedure which cannot be defended on the basis of morals or justice." In other words, Cummings stated that it was appropriate to look behind the judgment to what was occurring in Germany to the Jews at that time. This opinion, in which Alfred Rahn is cited by his initials, A.R,. was reported on the front page of the New York Times and no doubt allowed many others to emigrate. Cumming's opinion turned the tide, and the Rahns were granted their visas. After Alfred was released from prison on March 6, 1939, the family left by train for Paris together with Ruth's governess who was 1/8 Jewish.

    After a six-week stay in Paris, they departed from Le Havre for the United States on board the S.S. Washington, arriving in New York on April 15, 1939. After a few months stay in New York City, Alfred and Lilli decided they wanted to be near the mountains where they could ski and hike and moved to Denver, Colorado. They bought a used Ford drove across the country and arrived in Denver at sundown. They then decided "if we can make it here, this is where we want to be". After first working as a plastics and roofing salesman, Alfred eventually reentered the steel business by representing a number of eastern steel mills. Lilli became a professor at the University of Denver and also taught German to soldiers about to be deployed. She also became a passionate member of Hadassah, and was both Regional President and National Vice-President.

    Though Ruth's immediate family escaped the Holocaust, her great-grandmother Karoline Metzger was deported to Theresienstadt where she perished. Alfred's oldest brother, James Thomas Rahn, was born hydrocephalic on 01/05/1897. The family received noticed that in 1940 he was taken to Chelm and euthanized. In fact he was killed in the gas chamber in Schloss Hartheim in Austria on Sept. 20, 1940. In 1999 the University of Erlangen decided to reinstate all 39 doctoral Jewish degrees that had been annulled during the Nazi era. A committee of the University, including the dean, read all the doctoral dissertations of those whose degrees had been annulled, as well as where and when the students died. They chose Lilli's as the best thesis and established a prize to be given annually to the best doctoral thesis in the philosophy department, and named it the Lilli Bechmann Rahn Prize. It has been given annually since 1999.
    Record last modified:
    2006-07-11 00:00:00
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