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Pauline Cohn (née Schachna) * 1861
Dorfstücken 2 (Wandsbek, Wandsbek)
Pauline Cohn, née Schachna, born 14 July 1861, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, died there 1 Apr. 1944
Hedwig Cohn, born 21 Mar. 1887, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, murdered 1 Feb. 1943 in Auschwitz
Hans-Werner Cohn, born 27 Mar. 1927, deported 19 July 1942 to Theresienstadt, murdered 1 Feb. 1943 in Auschwitz
Dorfstücken 2 (Albertstraße 1)
The three Stolpersteine for the Cohn family are in an area that recalls the old architecture of Hinschenfeld. The building at Albertstraße 1, where the Cohns lived, no longer exists. It was on what is now the grounds of the factory, and was part of a large residential complex. The small terraced houses each had three rooms and a kitchen.
The Cohn family was originally from the Prussian province of Posen, which was ceded to Poland by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. In the years between 1920 and 1929, many of the Germans in the region were dispossessed by the Polish government and they were refused Polish citizenship. As a result, many of them left the region.
The Cohns left Posen for Hamburg in 1925 and found a home on Albertstraße. Three generations lived in the house. Pauline Cohn was the daughter of Koppel and Berta (Nathan) Schachna. She was born on 14 July 1861 in Rostazewo. She married Sigismund Cohn in 1883. He died in 1905 in Krotoschin. The couple had one son and five daughters between 1885 and 1905. The daughters were Regina, Hedwig, Seraphine, Erna, and Käthe. Their only son was killed in the First World War.
Pauline Cohn lived in the house on Albertstraße with her second daughter Hedwig, who was born on 21 March 1887 in Wollstein. Hedwig had one daughter, Irmgard, born on 20 July 1920 in Krotoschin. She had a second child, Hans-Werner, out of wedlock on 27 March 1927.
Pauline Cohn was a somewhat stern woman who had experienced much in her life. When asked why she never remarried after her husband died, she answered that she couldn’t be sure she’d find a good father for her children. While she took care of the household and her grandchildren, Hedwig supported the family financially. She worked as a supervisor at a cocoa company affiliated with the Reichardt chocolate factory until the company was closed in 1932. As a Jew, Hedwig could not find a new position, and was soon conscripted to forced labor at the wool-combing works in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld from about 1938 until she was deported. There she was assigned to a "Jews gang” and segregated from the other workers.
The family was only able to make ends meet with difficulty. In 1940, Hedwig earned only 18 Reichsmarks per week, from which she had to support her son and her mother, whose pension was 35 Reichsmarks per month. The portion of her pension from her son’s death in the war was revoked when the Nazis came to power in 1933.
The family were members of the Wandsbek Jewish Community, and, after the Jewish Communities were consolidated in 1938, of the Jewish Religious Association. Due to their minimal income, Pauline and Hedwig Cohn paid no taxes.
Hedwig’s son Hans-Werner began school at Easter 1933. He first attended the Hinschenfelder public school, close to his home, then at some point switched to the Talmud Tora School. He finished his schooling in 1941, before the school was closed on 30 June 1942.
Her daughter Irmgard attended school in Wandsbek until Easter of 1936. She then entered an apprenticeship as a hat-maker and sales clerk with the Stern company. She remained with the company after her apprenticeship. Irmgard was often subjected to anti-Semitic harassment. A teacher at her trade school harassed her so badly that she stayed away from classes. The neighbors on Albertstraße were no better. They knocked on her window and shouted "Jew!” or other curses. Her fiancé was stopped on the street and harassed that he, as a soldier, had become engaged to a Jew – there was next to no chance that the authorities would allow them to marry. A friend’s father forbade his daughter from contact with Irmgard.
But the situation became even worse. Irmgard Cohn was arrested by the Gestapo in February 1942 and sent to the Fuhlsbüttel Concentration Camp. She had protested against being forced to wear the "Jewish star” just because she lived in her mother’s household, who was considered to be a "full Jew.” She claimed that her Polish father had not been a Jew, but rather a Christian, and that she was therefore a "half-Jew.” The Gestapo investigated and confirmed her claim, and she was released on 13 March 1942. With the help of an uncle, she was able to have her status confirmed on 16 June 1942 as a "Mischling of the first degree.” This new status saved her life. The rest of her family was deported one month later.
Irmgard Cohn’s family was forced to evacuate their home on Albertstraße while she was in Fuhlsbüttel. They moved to the Gumpel Trust on Schlachterstraße. The house on Albertstraße and all of their furniture were confiscated by the authorities.
Pauline, Hedwig, and Hens-Werner Cohn were deported on 19 July 1942. They arrived with their luggage at the assembly point at the school at Schanzenstraße 120. Irmgard Cohn wanted to see them before they were sent away, even though it was forbidden. On the day before her 22nd birthday, she stood at the doors of the school’s gymnasium and convinced the guard, a Gestapo agent she knew from Wandsbek, to let her in. She met her family and some other acquaintances from Schlachterstraße. In her despair at the pending departure, Irmgard asked her mother why they hadn’t all simply killed themselves. Her assumption that her family was being sent to their deaths remained unspoken. Her mother, not wanting to upset her daughter further, answered that they would only have to work in Theresienstadt. Irmgard remained skeptical – she was afraid she would never see her family again.
The family arrived in Theresienstadt on 20 July 1942. Six months later, on 29 January 1943, Hedwig Cohn and her son Hans-Werner were transferred to Auschwitz, where they were murdered on 1 February 1943.
Pauline Cohn remained in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. She died there on 1 April 1944. Her daughter Seraphine, who had also been deported to Theresienstadt, testified to her mother’s death after the camp was liberated.
When the war ended, Irmgard Cohn was in the vicinity of Prague. She arrived back in Hamburg in November 1945, and the long wait for the return of her family from the concentration camps began. But only her aunt, Seraphine, had survived. Irmgard Cohn’s mother, grandmother, brother, and one of her aunts were victims of the Holocaust. In the 1950s, the dates of death for her mother and her aunt, Regina, were declared as 8 May 1945.
Translator(s): Amy Lee
Translation kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg
© Astrid Louven
Quellen: 1; AfW 140761, 210887, 200720, 270327; AB 1929 VI; 7; Wikipedia Stichwort Provinz Posen; Auskunft von Frau R. im Februar 2008.