EPHM Founder Henry Kellen passed away July 3, 2014
July 3, 2014
It is with a very heavy heart that El Paso Holocaust Museum announces that beloved EPHM Founder Henry Kellen passed away this morning. He was 98 years old. Mr. Kellen died in his sleep surrounded by loved ones. He will be extremely missed by his friends, family and the El Paso community. Services will be tomorrow- Friday, July 4- at 11:00 am at Congregation B'Nai Zion, 805 Cherry Hill Lane. El Paso Holocaust Museum will also be having a memorial and tribute to Mr. Kellen on Saturday, July 5 - 2:00-4:00 pm. Kellen, whose original surname was Kacenelenbogen, was born July 5, 1915, in Lodz, Poland. After attending school in France to study textile and mechanical engineering, Kellen returned to his family's home in Lithuania in 1937. By 1941, the Germans had invaded Lithuania, and Kellen's family, along with 30,000 other Jews, were forced into the Kovno Ghetto. After witnessing a "Kinder-Action" in the Ghetto, where Nazi and Ukrainian soldiers took Jewish children from their families, presumably to be murdered, Kellen and his family made the decision to flee the ghetto and go into hiding. Kellen survived the Holocaust with his wife Julia and their eight-year-old nephew Jerry thanks to the kindness of a Lithuanian farmer who hid them for the remainder of the war. The rest of his family was not so lucky. Kellen lost his parents, brother, and sister (Jerry's mother) in the Holocaust. In 1946, Kellen, along with his wife and nephew, immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in El Paso, Texas. Kellen quickly learned English and Spanish and became a leading salesman for Rio Grande Sales Company. Later, he excelled in his own business ventures including the popular El Paso clothiers, Henry's Men's Store and Hollywood Store for Men. Like many survivors, Kellen rarely spoke of his Holocaust experience. That is until the 1980s when he learned of the existence of Holocaust deniers. Angry that anyone would deny his family's fate, Kellen began collecting Holocaust memorabilia, artifacts, and education materials, which he housed in a conference room at the El Paso Jewish Federation. Eventually, the sheer number of artifacts and the growing number of visitors to the conference room turned education center would lead to the formation and eventual construction of the El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center. Today, more than thirty years after Kellen first began educating the public about the Nazi Holocaust as a way of ensuring that similar acts will not be repeated, the Museum is still going strong and fulfilling this mission. Henry Kellen is preceded in death by his first wife Julia Kellen, his nephew Jerry Kellen, his parents, Moses and Helena Kacenelenbogen, his brother, Moniek Kacenelenbogen, and his sister, Sonia Grinberg. In 1985, Kellen married Regina Rosen Reisel who passed away in 2008. Kellen is survived by his adopted son, Shaul Yannai, two step-daughters, Dr. Mimi Gladstein (Jay) and Mrs. Holli Berry (Bill). Finally, he leaves behind an adoring Museum "family" and his many lifelong friends.