Fritz Kahn1 (28 Sep 1888 – 14 Jan 1968) was born in Halle, Germany, to the physician and writer Arthur Kahn and his wife Hedwig. He was raised as an orthodox Jew and received a liberal humanistic education, studying in Halle, later the Sophien-Gymnasium in Berlin, and finally the Friedrich Wilhelm Universität where he received a medical degree in 1912.
After receiving his doctorate he opened a gynecology practice in Berlin and began to write articles on popular science, notably for Gesellschaft der Naturfreunde’s Kosmos magazine.
Kahn, using Kosmos’ stable of illustrators, drew on nearly every contemporary style, including Neue Sachlichkeit, Dada, Surrealism, even Constructivist photomontage. His avant-garde visualizations were highly influential with Weimar-era designers, including Herbert Bayer and Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus.
By the 1930s Kahn, as a prominent Jew, was caught squarely in the growing anti-semitism of Nazi Germany. In 1933 his medical accreditation was revoked and his books were banned.4 Kahn’s biographical details become somewhat sketchy during this time: he apparently travelled to Jerusalem, Paris, Bordeaux, possibly Switzerland, and finally Lisbon. After a recommendation from Albert Einstein in 1941, Varian Fry issued an intellectual visa and the Kahns were able to escape to the US.