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Gertrude Kahn, 98, Nazi Survivor Became Active In Westchester Politics

Gertrude Kahn, 98, a former longtime resident of Hartsdale, fled Germany during the Nazi regime.
Gertrude Kahn, 98, a former longtime resident of Hartsdale, fled Germany during the Nazi regime. Photo Credit: Provided

Gertrude G. Kahn, a former longtime resident of Hartsdale who fled Germany during the Nazi era, died Oct. 26 at the age of 98.

"Gertie," as she was known to friends and family, moved to Boulder, Colo., from Hartsdale in 2012. She was born May 29, 1919, in Nuremberg, Germany, to Robert and Louise Guggenheimer.

She grew up and attended school in Nuremberg until the Nazi era when Jews were restricted from public life.

She was fascinated by tennis and spent many hours watching matches. She caught the eye of Walter Kahn, a junior tennis champion, at one of these matches. As the war consumed Europe, Walter proposed to his “Long-Stemmed Beauty.” They made plans to marry in America.

Gertie’s father died in her arms as a result of the Nazi oppression. Her mother was transported by train to Riga death camp, where she died in 1941 -- a fact Gertie discovered years later.

Gertie fled to Orlando, Fla., via France and Britain. Her Uncle Max signed an affidavit of support for her immigration to the United States. Upon Max’s death, she moved to New York and married Walter on her 21st birthday. This personal history contributed to her enduring belief in democracy, compassion for the underserved, and her eventual involvement in politics.

Gertie and Walter Kahn raised their three boys in Hartsdale, where she indulged in her three passions: animals, sunbathing and politics.

Mrs. Kahn became very active in the Democratic Party in Westchester County where she ran numerous campaigns and served on many boards, including serving as the Town of Greenburgh Democratic chairperson from 1985 through 1991.

"She was an amazing woman,'' said Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner. "She helped create the modern Greenburgh Democratic committee."

Feiner said that Kahn was active in most of his campaigns.

"I am not sure that I would have won some of my initial races (as a Westchester County legislator) without her help and guidance. She also was passionate about helping people and cared a lot about the town," said Feiner, who served on the county Board of Legislators for eight years and town supervisor the past 26 years.

Mrs. Kahn was a charter member of the Maplewood Swim and Tennis Club, where she "held court" in a lounge chair by the pool.

A lifelong tennis player, Mrs. Kahn outsmarted opponents by hitting incredible shots that could not be read by them or her. She lived in the same house in Hartsdale from 1953 until 2012 when she moved to Boulder to be closer to her family. She always regarded New York as her home and considered herself to be a “New Yorker”.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Walter, and is survived by her three sons, Jeffrey of Boulder, Colo., Stuart of Seattle, Wash., and Josh, also of Boulder; their wives, Linda, Maria and Lori; seven grandchildren, Jarrod, Alexandra, Blair, Dain, Clifford, Carly and Danny; and her companion, Mr. Cat.

A celebration of Mrs. Kahn’s life will be held at Flatirons Terrace, 930 28th Street, Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 18, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Donations may be made in Gertie’s memory to the Wildlife Sanctuary: www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/ or the Fresh Air Fund of New York: www.freshair.org/

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