Joseph Kagan – Lord Kagan of Elland – was a Lithuanian Jew, born Juozapas Kaganas, son of Miriam [1893-1965] and Benjaminas Kaganas [1879-1988].
Benjamin emigrated to England in the 1930s and died in 1988 at the age of 109 – then the second oldest man in Britain.
Joseph came to Britain in 1934 and studied at Leeds University. He returned to Lithuania and was in Kovno ghetto during World War II.
He married Margarita (Margaret) Shtromaite [1925-2011]. Joseph, Margarita and Margarita's mother lived for 9 months in a box in the attic of a factory outside the walls of the ghetto, supported by Vyautas Rinkevicias, a non-Jew. After the Germans left Lithuania, Joseph, Margarita and her mother went to Bucharest and then to England.
He started work as a blanket maker for a firm in Huddersfield. He was the founder of Kagan Textiles, Elland, manufacturer of Gannex fabric from the 1950s. He founded the firm at a small factory opposite Elland Town Hall and then moved to the larger Marshfield Mills in Dewsbury Road, Elland - see Gannex Mills.
In 1967, he bought Barkisland Hall as accommodation for visitors to his company.
In 1970, he was knighted. He was a lifelong friend and supporter of Harold Wilson, and was made a life peer in Wilson's resignation honours list in 1976.
In December 1977, warrants were issued for his arrest for conspiracy to defraud the public revenue. In 1980, he was arrested during a visit to Paris. He was prosecuted for misappropriating the firm's money and imprisoned for 10 months and fined £105,000 on four charges of theft.
In 1994, he suffered a heart attack in the House of Lords and died the following year.
See Cellofoam, Croft House, Rastrick and Spout Mills, Rastrick
Page Ref: MMK1
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