About the Founder, Henry Kellen

henrykellenIn loving memory of
Mr. Henry Kellen
July 5, 1915 – July 3, 2014

Henry 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. Sadly, the rest of his family did not survive. Kellen lost his parents, brother, and sister in the Holocaust.

In 1946, Kellen, along with his wife and nephew, immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in El Paso, Texas. 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 construction of the El Paso Holocaust Museum & Study Center. Today, more than thirty years after Henry 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 continuing to fulfill his original mission.