Horst Cahn, Auschwitz survivor, 90
On the outside, Horst Cahn carried the mark of hatred for most of his life — a tattoo etched on his left arm at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Below the surface, however, the Holocaust survivor carried an unfathomable forgiveness.
“Let me tell you, hate is a very destructive emotion. If I don’t like someone or something, I stay away from it,” Mr. Cahn said in a Nov. 3, 2002, column in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
So he left hate behind, discarded in the homeland where his only sibling was killed and abandoned beyond the death camp gates in Poland where he lost his parents.
In 1942, Mr. Cahn and his parents were taken to Auschwitz from their home in Essen, Germany, the way millions of Jews were sent to their deaths — by cattle car. His mother and father died in the gas chambers the day they arrived at the concentration camp.
Mr. Cahn’s son, David, said his father found out in Essen that Nazi soldiers had shot to death his older sister and her baby, and never told his parents what had happened.
“I could have hidden and lived with some people we knew,” Mr. Cahn said in a Feb. 9, 2003, San Diego Union-Tribune article. “But I wanted to be with my parents so that I could help them.”
Three years of labor that hundreds of inmates around him did not survive ended in 1945 as Russian forces were closing in on the Nazi concentration camp, and he was freed. His memoir, “Loss, Liberty and Love: My Journey from Essen to Auschwitz to the United States,” was published in 2001.
Mr. Cahn, a resident of Cardiff for 42 years, died of natural causes July 20 in a nursing home. He was 90.
Horst Cahn was born Aug. 25, 1925, in Essen, the younger of two children to David Cahn and Hedwig Markus Cahn.
Not long after being liberated from Auschwitz, Mr. Cahn met the former Elizabeth Killman, another Holocaust survivor, and the two fell in love. They married in 1946 and within a few years immigrated to the United States to raise their family.
Settling here in 1974, the couple opened Cahn’s Delicatessen, a fixture in Encinitas where Mr. Cahn produced popular European pastries, Jewish delicacies and his own homemade cheesecake, while Mrs. Horst ran the business end. They sold the business in 1983 when Mrs. Cahn was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She died in 2001 at age 76.
Mr. Cahn spent many years traveling to Germany and speaking to schoolchildren here to spread a message about ending hatred, preventing genocide and the necessity of forgiveness.
Survivors include two sons, David of Boston, N.Y., and Eric of Newport Beach; a daughter, Lorraine Cahn of Aptos, Calif.; and three grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Ruth Gorman.
A private memorial service is planned for Sept. 18.