From 1920 to 1933, Hahn was the first headmaster of Schule Schloss Salem, a private boarding school in Germany, founded by Hahn in cooperation with Prince Max. Hahn was raised as a Jew and served as the Salem School's headmaster during Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Hahn began his fierce criticism of the Nazi regime after Hitler's storm troopers killed a young communist in the presence of his mother. When he spoke out against the storm troopers, who had received no punishment, Hahn spoke against Hitler publicly. He asked the students, faculty and alumni of the Salem school to choose between Salem and Hitler. As a result, he was imprisoned for five days (from 11 to 16 March 1933). After an appeal by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Hahn was released, and in July 1933 he was forced to leave Germany and moved to Britain.
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