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Jacob Cohn * 1883
Lattenkamp 82 (Hamburg-Nord, Winterhude)
further stumbling stones in Lattenkamp 82:
Jacob (James) Cohn, born 10 Sep. 1883 in Hamburg, deported 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
Julia Cohn, née Cohen, born 14 Oct. 1888 in Hamburg, deported 6 Dec. 1941 to Riga
Jacob Cohn was born in Hamburg, the son of Moritz Cohn and his wife Frumet (Flora), née Schwartz. His father died when he was 12. As the only man in the household – he had four sisters – Jacob had to help support the family. He later became a businessman and, when he married Julia Mathilde Cohen on 18 February 1921, he became a partner in his father-in-law’s cigar wholesale company Maass & Cohen. In 1926 he became the owner.
Julia Mathilde Cohn’s parents were Ferdinand Siegmund and Rebecca (Seeler) Cohen. On 1 October 1914 she was hired by the Hamburg School Authority as a schoolteacher and taught at the school at Humboldtstraße 30.
The couple’s only child, Paul Moritz Cohn, was born in 1924. The family lived in Julia’s mother’s apartment on Isestraße until her death in 1925, then moved to a newly-built apartment at Lattenkamp 82.
Jacob Cohn’s business did not flourish. His son Paul Cohn recalls, "the times were not good for him.” According to Chamber of Commerce records, the company was no longer in the wholesaling and import/export business by 1923. Beginning in 1926, it existed in name only, and there were no business transactions. Jacob Cohn is said to have been ill during this time. The company was shut down in 1933, liquidated in 1938, and finally removed from the trade register on 6 January 1939. Between 1933 and 1938, Jacob Cohn worked at various companies as a bookkeeper. His last position was with J. Jacobi & Co, an international shipping company. On 13 March 1938, the Hamburg Foreign Exchange Office issued a security order against the company’s owner and revoked his authority to manage and represent the company. It was liquidated and the remaining assets were transferred to an "Aryan” businessman. Thereafter, Jacob Cohn found only temporary jobs, one of which was with the Jewish Community.
Julia Cohn also lost her job as a result of the Nazi takeover. In 1930 she was transferred to the newly-built school on Meerweinstraße. At the end of October 1933, she was fired because of her Jewish heritage on the basis of the "Reich Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.” After that she was unable to find steady work. She occasionally taught private lessons. She was granted a small pension, which she received from 1 November 1933 until 30 November 1941, after several school authorities who knew her from the Humboldtstraße school plead her case with the State School Authority. The family lived from this pension and their savings.
Until the end of the 1930s, the family had a small parcel of land in Groß Borstel where they spent weekends and holidays with friends and relatives. Jacob Cohn could busy himself here with gardening, and he also sometimes wrote poetry. The Cohns finally gave up their plot, not because they were forced to, as Paul Cohn recalls, but "because it seemed better to give it up.”
According to Paul Cohn, his parents were not very religious, although his father had been raised in a religious home and was familiar with the religious customs: "We identified as Jews, but we weren’t religious.” The Cohns attended the synagogue on Bornplatz on the high holidays. Jacob Cohn was also not politically active, but after his experiences on the front in the First World War, where he was wounded several times, had become a pacifist. Jacob Cohn was arrested during the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938 and sent to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. He was released several weeks later and strongly urged to leave the country. The leniency showed to him was probably due to his service on the front in World War I and the fact that he had been awarded the Iron Cross. The leniency, however, was not to last.
When the Nazis first came to power, Jacob and Julia Cohn did not believe they needed to emigrate. They saw themselves as Germans, and as such, felt themselves to be safe. This feeling of security diminished over time, however. In the summer of 1937, the Cohns moved to an apartment on Klosterallee, in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, where they felt more secure than in Winterhude. Around this time, and especially after Jacob Cohn’s arrest, they began to explore the possibility of emigrating – even if they had to leave all of their possessions and their entire fortune behind. They were granted permission to emigrate in May 1939, but several factors hindered them from leaving immediately: they couldn’t find a country that would allow them to enter, especially in light of their limited financial resources. Jacob Cohn was also in poor health. They were, however, able to send their 15-year-old son to England on a Children’s Transport in May 1939. When Paul arrived in England he appealed to the Refugee Committee there to find a way for this parents to enter the country. After the outbreak of the war, however, this was no longer possible.
For a while, Jacob and Julia Cohn were able to correspond with their son. Jacob even tried to send his son’s bicycle to him in England. But it became more and more difficult to send and receive letters. Paul recalls that it had been possible, for a time, to send letters through friends and acquaintances in the US, although the letters had to be written in such a way that they did not reveal where they came from.
Beginning on 19 September 1941, Jacob and Julia Cohn were required to wear the "Jews’s star.” Paul Cohn recalls that the last time he heard from his parents was in October 1941, through the Red Cross. He never saw them again. On orders of the Hamburg Gestapo, dated 4 December 1941, Jacob and Julia Cohn were deported to Riga on 6 December. They did not survive.
Paul Cohn was prepared for the news when he learned of his parents’ death after the war. Nothing is known about the exact circumstances of their deaths, and their dates of death were legally declared as 8 May 1945.
In 1985 a street in Alsterdorf, Julia-Cohn-Weg, was named in honor of Julia Cohn. In the school on Meerweinstraße, today the Winterhude Comprehensive School, there is a memorial plaque and an installation with a Deutsche Reichsbahn freight car and a small exhibition in memory of the former teachers Julia Cohn and Hertha Feiner-Asmus (see biography, Hertha Feiner-Asmus).
Translator(s): Amy Lee
Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg
© Alexander Reinfeldt
Quellen: AfW 080124; Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg/Werkstatt der Erinnerung, WdE/FZH 095 Cohn, Paul M.; "Es ist ganz klar, daß sie noch ’ne Hoffnung hatten ...", Gesamtschule Meerweinstraße (Hrsg.) Hamburg 1983; Frank Bajohr, ‚Arisierung’ in Hamburg. Die Verdrängung der jüdischen Unternehmer 1933–1945, Hamburg 1997 (Hamburger Beiträge zur Sozial- und Zeitgeschichte, Band 35); Rita Bake, Wer steckt dahinter? Nach Frauen benannte Straßen, Plätze und Brücken in Hamburg, 3. Auflage, Hamburg 2003; Rüdiger Wersebe, Julia Cohn. Eine Kollegin verschwand spurlos, in: Ursel Hochmuth/Hans Peter de Lorent (Hrsg.), Hamburg: Schule unterm Hakenkreuz. Beiträge der ‚Hamburger Lehrerzeitung’ (Organ der GEW) und der Landesgeschichtskommission der VVN/Bund der Antifaschisten, mit einem Geleitwort von Professor Joist Grolle, Hamburg 1985, S. 201f.