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Herbert John Cohen * 1900
Bogenstraße 19 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
FLUCHT 1939 BELGIEN
Herbert John Cohen, born 22 Dec. 1900 in Altona, emigrated to France via Belgium, deported from the Drancy internment camp to Auschwitz 10 Aug. 1942, murdered there
"Die Neue Kleidung” (The New Clothes) was the name of the men’s clothing store that Herbert John Cohen opened in 1932 on Hamburger Straße in Barmbek, even though he had a Ph.D. in political science. After finishing his schooling in Hamburg, the son of John Jospeh Cohen and his wife Jenny, née Burg, studied in Munich, Detmold, Hamburg, and Erlangen. His first job was nevertheless at a men’s clothing company. He was hired as a general counsel by AWB in Breslau in 1927. In 1930 he went to the Schoenlank company in Berlin with the same position. He didn’t stay there long – in October of the same year he became a partner in his father’s business in Hamburg. In 1904, John Joseph Cohen had taken over the store "Ph. Daltrop Men’s and Boys’ Wardrobe” at Billhorner Röhrendamm 100. He first ran it together with Max Hirschberg from Berlin, but then alone from 1917 onwards. He was 62 when his son, who was apparently to be his successor, entered the business. The Cohens also had a daughter, Alice, born on 4 October 1897. Nothing is known about her professional life. She was evidently not considered as a successor.
After a short period of familiarization with the business, Herbert Cohen took over the management of the Ph. Daltrop store on Hamburger Straße. This was during the Great Depression, however, and Joseph Cohen’s company was affected by it. In April 1932 he initiated insolvency proceedings to avoid the company’s bankruptcy, and the store on Hamburger Straße was closed. Herbert Cohen nevertheless tried his luck with his own store at the same address. The next year, however, when the National Socialists came to power, brought the first boycotts against Jewish store owners. Both father and son were boycotted. John Joseph Cohen was finally forced to declare bankruptcy in 1934, and Herbert Cohen closed his shop in the same year. From that point on, both men and their families lived in humble conditions.
At this time Herbert Cohen was married to his second wife. He had married his first wife, Else Giesenow, in September 1921. Their daughter Lieselotte Hannelore had been born out of wedlock on 26 November 1920 in Warnemünde, and the marriage legitimized her. Herbert and Else Cohen divorced 18 months later. Else remarried in late 1929, and she and Lieselotte lived with her new husband, the dancing teacher and stage manager Philipp Wiener, in Hamburg. After finishing her schooling at the Jahn School in 1935, Lieselotte began training as a seamstress, but quit two months later. She did not enjoy the work, and wanted rather to be a physical education instructor.
Herbert Cohen remarried in Breslau in 1928. His second wife was Edith Gundelfinger from Ichenhausen near Stuttgart, and was five years his junior. They had two children: Hanns Peter was born on 31 January 1931 in Hamburg, and his sister Eva Irene six years later on 23 May 1937. In that year Herbert was earning a small income soliciting memberships for the Jewish Relief Agency, but he had to give up this job in November 1938. After that the family tried to keep their heads above water by selling or pawning their valuables and household goods. His father, John Joseph Cohen, was in need of constant care, and died in October 1938. His mother, Jenny Cohen, lived in abject poverty in a furnished room with stove heating. She received no pension payments, and her children were also unable to support her. Thanks to the Jewish Community she had at least one meal each day. Herbert Cohen only paid child support for his daughter from his first marriage until 1934, and then only intermittently. There was no contact between father and daughter after 1936, when she, together with her mother and stepfather, emigrated to Columbia to escape the Nazi terror.
After the November pogrom in 1938, Herbert and Edith also tried to flee the country with their children. Their destination was Brazil. Edith Cohen had received a large sum of money from the foreclosure on a piece of property in Munich which had belonged to her father. But Brazil had drastically tightened its immigration restrictions in July 1937 and declared a general stop on the issuance of visas. The family was apparently unable to procure visas, despite their financial assets.
Herbert and Edith Cohen desperately sought a new country that would accept the family. A letter from the Hamburg Advisory Center of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany, Migration Department, to the Foreign Exchange Office of the Chief Tax Administrator, states that Herbert Cohn had left Hamburg in October 1939 with the intention of emigrating to Panama via the US, and was residing, for the interim, in Belgium.
After the occupation of Belgium by the Wehrmacht in May 1940, the family was also subjected to persecution there. On the first day of the German invasion, 10 May 1940, the Belgian police arrested all male refugees from the German Reich on suspicion of being foreign spies – Hitler’s "fifth column” – and loaded them into cattle cars bound for the Saint-Cyprien internment camp in southern France. Most of these men were actually staunch opponents of the National Socialists. The transports from Brussels and Antwerp to the camp lasted 18 days. Herbert Cohen was one of those arrested.
When Saint-Cyprien was closed in October 1940, he and 3800 other prisoners – mostly German Jews – were sent to the French internment camp at Gurs. From there they were sent to the Drancy Internment and Concentration Camp near Paris. Four days later he and 1000 other Jews were "exiled” to Auschwitz. Around 700 of them were murdered immediately upon arrival, including Herbert Cohen.
His wife and the two young children were able to escape and emigrated to the US. Edith Cohen remarried and took her second husband’s name, Mannsbach. In 1970 she submitted a Page of Testimony for Herbert Cohen at Yad Vashem. She died, aged 90, on 2 July 1995 in Los Angeles. In the US, Hanns Peter called himself John Peter, and Eva Irene changed her name to Eveline. She married twice, and her present last name is Leisner. She was a French teacher until she retired.
Herbert Cohen’s mother Jenny remained in Germany. She died on 22 August 1940 in Hamburg. His sister Alice survived the Shoah.
Herbert’s three years older sister Alice has been married with Rudolf Mehrgut since 1919. In February 1939 she could escape to England with her daughter Ruth Ingeborg and their best friend Eva Stein (see the biography of Clementine and Mathias Stein). All three had received a servants visa. Alice’s son Heinz Sigurd had reached England already in November 1938 with a Kindertransport, Alice’s husband Rudolf was meant to follow them later. But he remained in Hamburg and died on 16 December 1941 in the nursing home of the Jüdischer Religionsverband Hamburg (JRH, i.e. Hamburg Jewish religious association) in Grünestraße 5 in Altona.
Translator(s): Amy Lee/Additions from Frauke Steinhäuser
Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg
Stand: January 2018
© Frauke Steinhäuser
Quellen: 1; 2; 5; 8, 9; StaH 314-15 FVg 8089; StaH 332-5, 13461 u. 3609/1900; StaH 332-5, 5426 u. 1281/1941; StaH 351-11 AfW 23785; StaH 351-11 AfW 1401; StaH 351-11 AfW 44206; 522-1 390 Wählerliste jüd. Gemeinden; California Department of Health Services, Vital Tatistics Section: California, Death Index 1940–1997, URL: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VP2Z-SGL (Zugriff 20.12.2012); Auskunft Dr. Diana Schulle v. 26.10.2012; Michael Philipp, Gurs; Les arrestations du 10 Mai 1940, URL: Jewish Traces, Mémoire et histoire des réfugiés juifs pendant la Shoah, http://jewishtraces.org/10-mai-1940 (Zugriff 20.12.2012); E-Mail-Korrespondenz Sabine Brunotte mit dem Großneffen Herbert John Cohens, 2017.
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