Paul Kiess was born on January 10, 1894 in Berlin, Germany. He worked as a legal adviser, and as lector of the Thüringische Verlagsanstalt und Druckerei, and Urania Verlagsbuchhandlung in Jena, Thuringia. From 1920 to 1933, Paul Kiess was a member of the Thuringian parliament.
In autumn 1926, Paul Kiess married Edith Kiess, nee Kramer, a half Jew. Edith was born in Riga on January 19, 1900 to her parents Julius Israel Kramer, a merchant, and her mother Sara Kramer nee Jakobsohn. Through her marriage with Paul, Edith became a German citizen. Edith had taken courses with Albert Einstein at Berlin University (Ausländerkurse; an institution founded by Albert Einstein to enable Jewish students to study if refused by German universities). She received a diploma as Bacteriologist. She then finished her medical studies at Jena University, receiving a diploma as a German physician on September 12, 1930. Edith worked as a physician at the university hospital of Jena until the first anti-Jewish boycott of the Nazis, April 1, 1933. On April 6, 1933 she had to leave the hospital.
After the Nazis came to power, Paul Kiess, a Protestant, defended Dr. Kuno Fiedler in court. Fiedler, a philosopher and Protestant minister, had declined to publicly present a hate prayer on the order of the Nazis. In 1935, it became impossible for Paul Kiess to remain a lawyer in Jena due to his defense work for many Jews. In addition, his marriage to a half Jew put him in danger of being sent to a concentration camp.
Edith and Paul Kiess left Germany on December 24, 1935. They went to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where Edith took courses in medical massage while Paul explored various business opportunities.
Via France (Paul) and London (Edith), the couple emigrated to the United States. They arrived in New York in January 1939. The emigration was made possible through the written intervention of Thomas Mann, who was a close friend of Fiedler. While Edith Kiess stayed in New York, where she studied for her professional qualifying examinations, Paul went to Princeton where he lectured at various Christian organizations, and studied for his bar exam.