The Nazis under Adolf Hitler set about trying to destroy the Jews of Europe, and Arnold was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
He made his way to America after the war, became a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and in 1978, arrived at the University of Delaware as a professor of civil engineering, where he remained for 24 years, becoming an internationally known leader in his field — teaching, lecturing and writing extensively.
He died Sunday of brain disease at the age of 84.
Arnold was the second of the four sons of Oszer and Riva Kierszkowski. After the Nazi invasion, the family became refugees, fleeing to Vilnius, in Lithuania. In 1941, it was occupied by German troops. The Nazis rounded up the Jews and sent them to a medieval ghetto where they were subjected to every kind of terror, starvation, hard labor and murder.
In 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and Arnold, then 15, and his brother, Dudek, 17, were sent to a labor camp in Estonia.
Dudek was murdered there after being forced to dig a mass grave. His mother and two younger brothers were murdered at Auschwitz. His father was shot and killed at Trawniki, near Warsaw.
Arnold was sent to Stutthof, a concentratioin camp near Danzig. He survived the horrors of death marches in the bitter winter of 1945, as World War II was winding down. He was sent to a death camp, which was liberated by the Russian Army the day after his 17th birthday, March 10, 1945.
Arnold became a displaced person, but he was able to complete his high school education in a displaced-persons camp, and went on to the Techincial University of Munich, where he receved a degree in civil engineering. He came to the U.S. in 1954 and changed his name to Arnold D. Kerr.
He worked for a time as a bridge designer, then went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where he earned a master’s degree in mechanics in 1956, and a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics in 1958.
Arnold became a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at New York University from 1959 to 1973, then was a visiting professor at Princeton University from 1973 to 1978, when he moved to the University of Delaware.
He organized an international symposium on railroad-track mechanics and technology, and edited a book on the proceedings. Over the years, he authored more than 100 papers in journals and conference proceedings as well as two books, Moving Loads on Ice Plates and Fundamentals of Railway Track Engineering.
He and Berta founded the Institute for Railroad Engineering, and gave short courses on the subject to hundreds of engineers over 24 years.
"He came to this country not speaking English and not knowing anybody, and got a job," said Berta. "He loved his work. He was one of the few people who had no hobbies or outside interests. He was devoted to his work. He had a wonderful sense of humor and he was a fabulous teacher."
Despite a disease that affected his brain, he never lost his personality, or his sense of humor, "all the way to the end," Berta said. "He was very fortunate, very peaceful."
Besides his wife, he is survived by two children, Regina Alonzo and Orin Kerr, and two grandchildren.
Services: Memorial service 2 p.m. Wednesday at Congregation Beth Shalom, 18th Street and Baynard Boulevard, Wilmington, Del. Shiva services will be held Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Kerr residence.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Kerr Endowment Fund, University of Delaware, Department of Civil Engineering, DuPont Hall, Newark, DE 19716, or to the Holocaust Education Endowment Fund, c/o Jewish Federation of Delaware, 101 Garden of Eden Road, Wilmington, DE 19803.
Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.