Later Mr. Kamm wrote two books about Asia. In “Dragon Ascending: Vietnam and the Vietnamese” (1996), he describes a country struggling under communism and recapitulates its war with the United States in the perspective of 4,000 years of history.
His book “Cambodia: Report From a Stricken Land” (1998) traces the country’s descent into barbarism, from the killing of millions of its own citizens by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s through decades of economic and social suffering that followed.
“Kamm’s account of Cambodia’s long tragedy is unfettered, frank and angry,” wrote Arnold R. Isaacs in The New York Times Book Review. “Based almost entirely on his own reporting, there is little if any material from the work of other journalists and historians. That this turns out to be a strength, not a weakness, is a tribute to the quality of Kamm’s journalism.” for many years.
He was born Hans Kamm in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw in Poland) on June 3, 1925, to Rudolf and Paula (Wischnewski) Kamm. The boy grew up fluent in German and Polish.
His Jewish father was arrested in Nazi roundups of Jews after the events of Crystal Night in November 1939, but was released from the Buchenwald concentration camp on the condition that he leave Germany, which he did in late 1939, to England and the United States, where he settled. Hans and his mother, after a long, terrifying wait for visas in Breslau, crossed Europe on a sealed train to Portugal and arrived in New York on a Portuguese ship in 1941.
Hans attended George Washington High School in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan and learned English. In 1943, he was naturalized as an American citizen under the name Henry Kamm. At age 18, he enlisted in the World War II Army and fought the Germans in Belgium and France, where he learned French.
Discharged in 1946, he attended New York University and graduated in 1949 with a degree in English. Impressed with his knowledge of foreign affairs and language skills, The Times hired him as a copy boy.