John Kerry’s brother visits their grandfather’s birthplace in northern Moravia

Cameron Kerry, photo: CTK

Cameron Kerry, the younger brother of the current US Secretary of State John Kerry, visited the Czech Republic with his wife this week. On Monday he went to the small town of Horní Benešov in northern Moravia to look for traces of family history.

Cameron Kerry,  photo: CTK
“This visit to Horní Benešov is an important step in what has been a wonderful journey for my family. I want to thank you for this extraordinary welcome today.”

With these words, former US Secretary of Commerce and political advisor Cameron Kerry thanked the mayor and the people of the small Silesian town where his father’s ancestors came from for arranging an official visit on Monday.

The Kerry family found out about their Czech heritage only around 10 years ago during John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Cameron Kerry’s paternal great grandfather Benedikt Kohn worked in the local brewery and it was in Horni Benesov that his son Fritz was born. Mr. Kerry’s grandfather changed his name to Frederick Kerry and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1905 where he worked as a shoemaker.

During their visit, Mr. Kerry and his wife had a chance to visit some of the buildings and places in Horní Benešov that are connected to the Kohn family. Here is Mr. Kerry’s reaction:

Cameron Kerry and his wife Kathy Weinman,  photo: CTK
“It’s very moving to me to see where apparently the home was, where the brewery was, where my great grand-father was a master brewer.”

Benedict Kohn was buried in the town’s cemetery, though at some point during the twentieth century all of the gravestones of the Jewish inhabitants of the town were destroyed, which is why Mr. Kerry could not visit his great grandfather’s final resting place.

The mayor of Horní Benešov, Michal Blažek, said the visit of the esteemed American guests drew a lot of attention from the town’s inhabitants.

“The main square was full, so that means there were around 200 or 300 people there. Yesterday’s visit exceeded our expectations; the atmosphere on the square was great, thanks in large part to the Kerrys, who really are very nice people.”

John Kerry,  photo: CTK
During the welcoming ceremony Mr. Kerry also read out a letter that his brother John addressed to the mayor and people of Horní Benešov. The secretary of state thanked the town for bestowing on him honorary citizenship a few years ago and expressed the hope that he will be able to visit the town himself in the future.

“I know how happy my brother Cameron is to be with you on this special occasion and how proud our entire family is of this connection to the Czech Republic and to Horní Benešov. I regret that my schedule does not permit me to Horní Benešov at this time, but I greatly look forward to visiting my forbearers’ birthplace.”