*** Albert Kahn

World War II Biographies: Albert Kahn (Germany/United States, 1869-1942)

Albert Kahn
Figure 1.--Germann Jewish immigrants, the Kahns settled in Detroit 1881). Here we see them in Detroit sometime in the 1890s. We think Albert is the brother at the right. In a fortuitos decession to settkle in Detroit, both for the family and America. Detroit with Kahn's help would become the automobile capital of America and help save the world from the great totalitarian dctatirships of the 20th century.

Albert Kahn is arguably the most under-regozied American in American corporate history. He was born in Rhaunen, a town near Frankfurt, Germany into a Jewish family (1869). His father Joseph Kahn trained as a rabbi. His mother Rosalie had an artistic bent, both the visual arts and music. The Kahn fasmily emigrated to the United Stastes seeking oportunity (1881). Albert was 12 years old. The Kahns settled in Detroit which was on its way to becoming the motor vehicle capital of the War. We are not sure why tyhey chose Detroit, but it was an enormouly fortuitous decision for the Kakns asnd America. Albert along with Henry Ford would play a huge role in the making of modern America. As with other Jewish-immigrants, there were challenges, but not as many as if hey had remained in Germany. Albert was the oldest of eight children. He had gto leave school in the 7th grade to help support the family. Even without a highschool diploma, he nbecame an arrchitect and was able to send his younger brithers to university and they become architects or engineers. Kahn landed a job at the architectural firm of Mason and Rice. He won a Rotch Traveling Fellowship, to study abroad (1891). He toured Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium, observing and draeing Europe’s classic buildings. He and his brothers established an architectural firm in Detroit -- Kahn Associates. Their firm would play a major role in the making of the automobile industry that played such a major role in destroying the NAZI tyranny. Kahn developed the trechnology fot building large buildings withh reinfiorced conrete. Reinforced concrete was not new, but Kahn developed techniques that enabled him to design very building with open spaces (1903). This is just what the developing autmobile companies would need. And at the same gtime Henry Ford was working on the Model-T. Kahn's first auto industry contract was wih Cadillac (1905). Ford developed the Model-T (1907) and built the first ones in the small Piqette Avenue Plant. It was too small to efficently operate the assembly line thast he envisioned. Ford turned to Kahn who designed the Highland Park Factory it was here that most Model-Ts were built. Ford resisted change, but eventually had to come up with an updated Ford -- the Model-A (1926). Based on their exoperience at Highland Park, Ford had new ideas. And Kahn designed the River Rouge Plan for him (1927). It was at the time the largest factor in the world--with an assembly line a half-mile long. Ford was not his only customer. Kahn by the time that Europe had begun moving toward war had designed something like 20 percent of America's industrial plants. This was an enormous contribution to what would become the Americasn Arsenal of Democrracy. But if that was not nough, after Pearl Harbo he designed both the Detrout Arsenl Tank Plasnt and Ford's giant Willow Run B-24 Plant. It was here that half of the over 18,000 B-24s that joined with the B-17s abd the British bombers to turn NAZI Germany into mounds of burning rubble. Kahn died (December 1942), just before he first B-24 emerged from Willow Run. But Kahn's contribution dud not end withis contrinyion to the War in the West. The Soviers in the inter-War era woukd commission Kajn to build gisnt facvtories to build motor vehicles, mostly trucjks and tractors. As in America, the Soviets would also convert those factories to war production. his of ciouesr meant that Kahn also played a role in derstoying the NAZI war machine in the Ostkrieg as well.


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Created: 3:49 AM 1/23/2021
Last updated: 3:50 AM 1/23/2021