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Alfred Cohn * 1911
Schulweg 38 (Eimsbüttel, Eimsbüttel)
ermordet am 21.4.1945
Alfred Cohn, born 9 Mar. 1911 in Hamburg, arrested 23 Feb. 1945, murdered 21 Apr. 1945 in Neuengamme
Alfred Louis William Cohn was nearly 22 years old when the National Socialist regime branded him as a Mischling (half-breed) of the first degree. This stigmatization determined the rest of his short life. The surviving records and the statements of family members make it clear that Alfred Cohn did not conform and turn a blind eye, but rather defiantly held on to the lifestyle he had chosen and accepted the consequences of a confrontation with the authorities. He paid a gruesome price for this decision.
His father, Georg Cohn (*1879 in Hamburg) was Jewish, his mother Anna Hedwig (Cario) Cohn (*1879 in Klostermansfeld near Eisleben in Thuringia) was of non-Jewish heritage. Church tax records list her as Protestant and Alred’s father as a "non-believer.” Their marriage certificate from 1910 lists his religion as "reformed.” Church tax records list the children as "non-affiliated.” The Nazis classified such marriages as "priviledged mixed marriages.”
Alfred’s father Georg Cohn was originally from Berlin. His parents, Louis Cohn and Minna Cohn, née Cohn, had a shop for linen goods. When Alfred was born, his parents lived in Hamburg at Neuer Steinweg 30. Georg had met his wife Hedwig in a Christian society in which the members addressed each other as "Brother” and "Sister.” This was possibly a group that was affiliated with the Jerusalem Church in Hamburg, an Irish Presbyterian congregation. For a time he intended to convert to Christianity and train as a pastor, but his plans were never realized.
Alfred Cohn, who was born on 9 March 1911, had a younger brother named Walter. Walter was born during the First World War, when his father was away fighting and could therefore not be with his family. It is perhaps for this reason that Georg Cohn’s relationship to his eldest son was closer than that to his younger son. Both children lived with their parents at Eppendorfer Weg 59 IV, where Georg had lived at the time of his marriage, and where the family remained until the building was bombed in July 1943. Alfred attended the Boys’ School on Tornquiststraße. After finishing his schooling, he apprenticed as a baker at the Gottlob Bühler bakery and confectionery at Osterstraße 1, where he passed his journeyman’s exam in 1929. He was a well-built, good-looking young man with dark, wavy hair, and, like his brother Walter, very athletic. He was an excellent swimmer and played water polo.
He was let go from the bakery in 1930 due to lack of work, was unemployed for a time, then worked for short periods at different bakeries. From July 1934 to March 1935 he was assigned to a work detail with the Süderbrarup agricultural service in Schleswig-Hostein. From July 1937 to April 1940 he worked in the Dynamit Nobel AG dynamite factory. He was fired from this job because of his race, probably because the factory was put under the control of the Wehrmacht. From May to October 1940 he served as a rifleman with the 2nd Infantry Company of the 26th Battalion in Schleswig. His mother had insisted that her sons become soldiers. Because Alfred Cohn was a Mischling, he was expelled from the Wehrmacht in October 1940, and was thus once again unemployed. Adolf Hitler had issued a decree in April 1940, according to which Jewish "Mischlinge of the first degree” were to be expelled. That Alfred Cohn remained in military service for a few months after the decree was issued was probably due to the fact that not all companies followed the decree immediately. His mother’s reason for insisting that her sons became soldiers was probably that she hoped their military service would provide them and her husband with better protection.
Alfred Cohn found a job as a truck driver for the Löhner Laundry Service in March 1941. At the end of December 1941 the Employment Office found him a job at the Schlotterer Confectionery at Emilienstraße 14. He had spent the previous three weeks in a concentration camp on charges of being a "slacker.” From this point onwards, the Nazi authorities kept an eye on him.
His job at the confectionery ended in March 1942. Beginning in April 1942, he did various odd jobs – he was a truck driver for the Friedrich Paul Stolze company at Spitalerstraße 11, and worked at the Schilling metal wholesalers, for example. It was during this time that he came into conflict with the law and was charged with pimping. He had allegedly established a relationship to three young prostitutes who gave him small gifts of money. It is impossible to reconstruct the reality of the situation. It is possible that the alleged prostitutes were simply friends, who, like him, had come to the attention of the police because they refused to submit to the Nazi regime. Alfred Cohn was sentenced to ten months in prison, less time served. He was held in Fuhlsbüttel from 5 July 1942 until 14 March 1943. Upon release he returned to his parents’ apartment on Eppendorfer Weg.
The apartment building on Eppendorfer Weg was destroyed in an air raid in July 1943. Alfred’s parents and Walter moved to Bergedorf, but he remained in Hamburg. He now no longer had a permanent residence, and, afraid of being found by the Gestapo, he never stayed long in the same place. Another possible reason for him "going underground” was that he had an "Aryan” girlfriend. Sometimes he visited his family in Bergedorf. After the war, his mother said that Alfred had always supported the family financially, as best he could. In November 1943 he registered as a boarder at Schulweg 38 (c/o Schröder). This is his last known address. From March to October 1944 he worked at the F. Hebenstreit company at Kiebitzstraße 37, a scrap rubber dealership that re-located to Ritterstraße 60 after the war. The Gestapo forced the company to fire him.
Beginning in 1944, those "unworthy of military service,” "Jewish half-breeds,” and those "of Jewish kin” were conscripted to forced labor. Alfred, as a "half-Jew,” was subject to this decree. The intention was to deploy the forced labor to help with the construction of fortresses in northern France. Hamburg, however, probably on orders of the regional Nazi authorities, took a different tack. 1,088 people were conscripted to clear the rubble in Hamburg. After the war, Alfred’s brother Walter said that Alfred was required to register with the clean-up authorities, and was assigned to be a crane operator. He objected, saying he had no work clothes, and was told that there were no work clothes available and that he should come back again a week later. The next week he was told the same thing. After a third time, he stopped going. He earned money by donating blood at the St. Georg hospital.
The Gestapo arrested Alfred Cohn in his apartment on Schulweg on 23 February 1945, probably as a consequence of a denunciation. He was accused of "slacking” and of having a "delinquent lifestyle.” When the Gestapo agents Henry Helms and Ernst Lietzow searched his apartment, Cohn protested. He punched Helms in the face, and he fell to the ground and lost consciousness. Cohn was not able to escape, however, since the second agent pulled a weapon. Helms was so angry that he hand-cuffed Cohn, took him to the cellar of Gestapo headquarters and, in the presence of Lietzow, beat him severely with a rod or a whip. Helms then submitted a request for "special treatment” of Cohn, which was approved. He took his victim personally to Neuengamme and was present at his execution. He had suggested to his secretary that she also attend the execution, but she turned down the invitation. The course of events was reported when Helms was tried in 1949.
Alfred Cohn died sometime between 21 and 24 April 1945 in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp. He may have been among the group of 58 men who were hanged, shot, or beaten to death in the arrest bunker. Some of these men were active in the resistance. His family was not informed of his death. His mother’s and brother’s worst fears were confirmed in 1949 when the press reported on Helms’ trial. Alfred’s brother Walter attended the trial. The exact circumstances of Alfred Cohn’s death will never be known.
Alfred’s father Georg Cohn was shielded from deportation by his "privileged mixed marriage,” but he was also a victim of racial and political persecution. During the Weimar Republic he had been a member and officer in the SPD (Social Democratic Party). After finishing his schooling he apprenticed as a sales clerk and attended business school. He later had a job as a civil servant. He worked at Post Office 7 from 1928 until 1933, when he was fired, aged 54, because he was a Jew. He was unemployed until March 1939, and was then conscripted to forced labor, although he was in poor health. He died of cancer in September 1944.
Translator(s): Amy Lee
Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg
© Susanne Lohmeyer
Quellen: 1; 4; StaH 213-11 Strafsachen Amtsgericht 6996/42 Strafsache Alfred Cohn; StaH 213-11, 2694/56, Bd. 1; StaH 242-1II Gefängnisverwaltung II Ablieferung 16 Untersuchungshaftkartei Männer; StaH 351-11 AfW, 4762 und 080815; StaH 353-2 II Wohnungsamt II Nr. 240; www.wikipedia.de Zugriff 10.11.2010; Hamburger Echo, 17.5.1949; Freie Presse, 17.5.1949; Frankfurter Rundschau, 17.5.1949; Beate Meyer, "Goldfasane", S. 105ff.; Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, S. 743f.; Gespräche mit der Nichte Gisela Cohn.