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 July 10, 2023

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Henry Kamm died at the age of 98

Henry Kamm, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for The New York Times who covered Cold War diplomacy in Europe and the Soviet Union, famine in Africa, and conflicts and genocide in Southeast Asia, passed away in Paris on Sunday. He was 98.

Thomas, Mr. Kamm's son, verified his passing at St. Joseph's Hospital, according to The New York Times.

He fled the continent at age 15 to escape Nazi persecution during World War II to the battlefields and killing fields of what was then known as Indochina.

Mr. Kamm was the consummate star of The Times' foreign staff: a quick, accurate, and stylish writer, fluent in five languages, with global contacts and reportorial instincts that found human dramas and historical perspectives in the day's news.

Former Wall Street Journal correspondent Thomas Kamm wrote in an email in 2017 that his early relocation had a profound impact on his 47-year career at The Times.

It “explains the interest he always showed throughout his journalistic career for refugees, dissidents, those without a voice and the downtrodden,” he said.

Henry Kamm was awarded the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his coverage of Southeast Asian refugees who escaped their war-torn homelands in 1977 and braved the South China Sea.

Numerous individuals sailed for months in unsafe, small fishing vessels, enduring dreadful privations, only to find themselves unwelcome on any shore.

Mr. Kamm interviewed hundreds of refugees — "boat people," as they were known — who had sought refuge in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Japan.

He wrote about the despair of men, women, and children whose escape from certain death led to near-starvation, fears of drowning on the high seas, and crushing rejection as the world turned its back on them.

“In the sad picture of the wanderings on land and sea of tens of thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia since the end of the Indochinese war two years ago,” Mr. Kamm wrote from Singapore.

"Nothing exemplifies so fully all the ironies and pain of people who thought they were choosing freedom and wound up in a limbo of hostility or indifference from those from whom they expected help.”

The writer covered a dilapidated freighter at anchor in Singapore Harbor was carrying 249 Southeast Asian refugees who had boarded the ship in Thailand and resided on its open deck for four months, enduring violent storms and sweltering days in port after port.

“At first they waited to go to a country that would give them a home,” Mr. Kamm wrote. “Then they lowered their hopes to finding a country that would recognize their existence and let them ashore at least temporarily until one government or another decided to let them come to stay.”

The Pulitzer judges noted that the United States and several other nations eventually opened their doors to Southeast Asian refugees as a result of Mr. Kamm's reporting.

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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