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Erwin Cohn * 1923
Isestraße 85 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)
Gretchen Cohn, née Magnus, born 5 July 1897 in Hamburg, deported 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz
Max Cohn, born 14 Feb. 1891 in Hamburg, deported 25 Oct. 1941 to Lodz
Erwin Julius Cohn, born 9 June 1923 in Hamburg, died 25 Aug. 1941 in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp
The Cohn family had lived on Isestraße since before 1933. Max Cohn had done a commercial apprenticeship after his schooling at the Holstentor public school. He had a daughter, Erika Lotte (*1922) and a son, Erwin Julius (*1923) with his first wife Selma Sonn. She died in 1927. He married Gretchen Magnus about one year later. There were no children from the second marriage.
Max Cohn worked as a bookkeeper for various companies in the storage tank business. He had a steady job until 1934, when he apparently lost his job. According to his pension insurance records, at times he could only support his family with a minimal income from part-time work.
In 1936 Max Cohn again found a steady job in the oil industry, this time with the Hazan, Danon company. He worked there from January 1936 to September 1941. The company, which remained in existence after World War II, confirmed these dates of employment in restitution proceedings in 1958.
Max and Gretchen Cohn sent their son Erwin to Amsterdam in February 1938. His cousin recalled in 2010: "Erwin came to live with his aunt, his father’s sister, in Amsterdam. Minna (Cohn) Spijer had lived there since before the First World War. She was married to a Dutchman, and had a son about one year older than Erwin. This cousin, who now lives in Australia, visited us that year, and told us about his cousin. He was a curious, brash, boy, and maybe also headstrong, who didn’t take his aunt’s and cousin’s warnings seriously, not to leave the house alone after the German invasion, and who didn’t obey their rules. And so it came that he was caught on the street in 1941 and was deported. His family was told he was ‘shot while trying to escape’ from the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. He was 18 years old.”
Max Cohn was granted a "certificate of clearance” from the Chief Tax Authority in August 1938, and was thus allowed to travel to Holland. The reason he gave for applying for permission to travel outside the country was to prevent his son from emigrating. He probably simply wanted to visit his family and see his son. It is not known whether he actually travelled to Holland or not. In any case, Erwin did not return to Germany, but remained in Amsterdam for three more years. Erwin’s date of death is 25 April 1941. We do not know whether his parents learned of his fate before they were deported to Lodz.
Max Cohn was sent to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in the wave of arrests in November 1938. He was assigned the prisoner number 8421 and was held in Block 19. He was released, probably in December 1938. Before he returned to Hamburg from Berlin he visited his brother Alfred, who survived the Shoah in Berlin under the protection of his "privileged mixed marriage.”
Alfred’s daughter, who was six years old at the time, recalls: "That’s the picture I see when I think about him. He’s standing in our kitchen, his eyes wide with fright. His speech is agitated. He’s not allowed to say anything, he has to go again quickly. I hear the word ‘Oranienburg.’ I see myself standing next to my parents, astounded. What did they say? I don’t know. My uncle disappeared. They never talked about it, and I could tell I wasn’t supposed to ask. It was only many years later that I understood that he had probably been sent to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp near Oranienburg after 9 November 1938, Kristallnacht, and that he’d evidently been released for some reason. It was in his face, what he’d experienced there. For a child it was only a vague idea. I wonder if my parents knew more.”
Back in Hamburg, Max Cohn was able to return to his job, although he was certainly weakened and traumatized by his time in Sachsenhausen.
It was probably at this time that the family decided to get their daughter out of the country. She was sent on a children’s transport to England on 14 June 1939. She married in 1946 and today lives in London.
Her cousin describes her family’s visit to Hamburg to say farewell: "At the train station in Hamburg, we were met by Uncle Max, my father’s brother, whose family we were visiting. We took the elevated train to Isestraße, where Aunt Grete and Lotti, my cousin, were waiting for us. There was a lot of discussion, the grown-ups evidently had important things to talk about, things that I didn’t understand. But I could feel their gravity and their worry, and I was afraid. Lotti was about 16, and it was all about a long trip that she was going on. Why such a trip, which was normally such a wonderful, happy, exciting event, caused so much fear – I only understood that years later when I found out about the children’s transports to England. Lotti was meant to go on one of these transports. The fact that it was the last chance to get her to safety and that, at the same time, it also meant that she and her parents might be separated forever was what made the situation so serious. As a matter of fact, Lotti never saw her parents again after she left for London in June 1939.”
Max and Gretchen were able to correspond with their daughter for a time. A former – Jewish – colleague of her father’s, who had emigrated to Portugal, forwarded mail back and forth between London and Hamburg.
Max and Gretchen Cohn were deported to Lodz on 25 October 1941. Their household goods and all of their belongings were confiscated by the Gestapo and auctioned off. The revenue was transferred to the Chief Tax Authority.
Max and Gretchen Cohn were quartered at Kühle Gasse 14/38 in the Lodz Ghetto. Alfred Cohn received letters from his brother and sister-in-law until 1942, and was able to send them money. After that all traces of them were lost. They were probably murdered in Chelmno in May 1942.
Translator(s): Amy Lee
Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg
© Christa Fladhammer
Quellen: 1; 2; AfW 260222; mündliche Auskunft von Annelie Cohn, Tochter von Alfred Cohn, am 16.4.2010 und Auszüge aus ihren privaten Aufzeichnungen.
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