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Leopold Cohn in Begleitung
Leopold Cohn
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Leopold Cohn * 1873

Adolphsplatz 1 (Hamburg-Mitte, Hamburg-Altstadt)

JG. 1873

further stumbling stones in Adolphsplatz 1:
Valentin Burchard, Otto Friedeberg, John Hausmann, Ludwig Moritz Mainz, Heinrich Mayer, Ivan Philip, Franz Max Rappolt, Paul Salomon, Max Stein, Dr. Heinrich Wohlwill, Cäsar Wolf, Leo Wolfsohn

Leopold Cohn, born on 7 May 1873 in Altona, deported to Riga on 6 Dec. 1941 and murdered there

Member of the Board of Directors of the Grain Exchange 1928–1933

On his father’s side, Leopold Cohn descended from a Jewish merchant family based in Altona. His grandfather Ruben Joseph Cohn, born around 1801 and married to Adelaide, née Meyer (Meier), was the son of the Altona merchant Joseph Lazarus Cohn and his wife Rosa, née Meier, and he had lived there at changing addresses as a produce trader. On 25 Jan. 1834, Leopold’s father Marcus Ruben Cohn was born.

Marcus Ruben Cohn was also active in produce trading in Altona. Around 1870, he married Emma Hirsch, the daughter of the merchant Elias Hirsch and his wife Betti, née Lehmann, born on 23 Oct. 1839 in Niendorf near Lübeck. With her, he had at least two children: on 22 Mar. 1872, Joseph Cohn and on 7 May 1873, Leopold Cohn. From 1873 to 1898, Marcus Cohn’s produce store was located at Altonaer Breitestrasse 137, and initially the synagogue and fire station were also registered at the same address. Ruben Joseph Cohn, who had previously lived at Bachstrasse 33 in a courtyard apartment, moved to Rosengang 14 in 1873 until his death on 13 Apr. 1877. Emma Cohn died on 19 Apr. 1878 at the age of 38. The following year, on 14 Oct. 1879, Marcus Cohn got married a second time, to Rosalie Samter (1845–1915), daughter of the Hamburg-based movables dealer Abraham Heymann Samter and his late wife Friederica, née Aaron. With his second wife Rosalie, Marcus Cohn had another daughter, Friederike (1880–1950), on 17 Aug. 1880. On 9 June 1894 Marcus Cohn, who meanwhile lived at Breitestrasse 52, had to cope with the death of his oldest son Joseph. As a 24-year-old Kommis, i.e., a sales clerk, he had still lived in his parents’ home. Exactly five years later, on 9 June 1899, son Leopold notified the authorities of the death of his father Marcus Cohn, who had spent his last years in Nienstedten. Marcus Cohn was buried at the Bahrenfeld Jewish Cemetery on Bornkampsweg, together with Rosalie Cohn and the grandfather Ruben Joseph Cohn.

Leopold Cohn, by then a merchant by profession, was briefly registered in 1899 under his father’s former apartment at Breitestrasse 52. Around 1900, he moved to the ground floor of Altonaer Poststrasse 7 and in 1904, to the second floor of Hochstrasse 33.

On 8 Jan. 1906, he married Gertrud Anna Jacoby (Jacobi) in Berlin who was born there on 25 Aug. 1884. Daughter of the Berlin-based Jewish merchant Alexander Jacoby and his wife Hedwig, née Rehfisch (c. 1856–1915), she lived like her parents in Charlottenburg at Schlüterstrasse 44 and already knew a relative of her mother living in Hamburg, at Wandsbeker Chaussee 10.

In 1906/07, the young couple moved to Hamburg to the third floor of a four-story house at Grindelberg 76, which was the preferred residential area of the Jewish petty bourgeoisie at the time. The mostly orthodox residents were able to use the Bornplatz Synagogue, Jewish educational institutions, and various social and cultural Jewish facilities in the immediate vicinity. Retail trade and industry flourished along the streets, a fact also reflected in the immediate neighborhood of Leopold and Gertrud Cohn: On the ground floor, there was a linen shop and a grocery store, and several small merchants resided in the house. On Grindelberg, Franz Markus was born on 15 Jan. 1907 and daughter Charlotte (Lotte) Lucie Emma on 2 Apr. 1908. Around 1913, the family moved to Jungfrauenthal 20, where they lived in upscale Harvestehude, a popular residential area for the better-off, liberal, and often assimilated Jews, where they then occupied one half of the third floor of a four-story upper middle-class house. Among their neighbors in 1915 were a district judge, a director, and a merchant. Little is known about Leopold Cohn’s attitude toward his religion, Judaism. On 18 July 1906, he joined the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community and was taxed by it starting in 1913.

Leopold Cohn had been working in Hamburg since 1903 at the latest. In that year, as owner together with the Hamburg merchant Adolf Caspary, he had taken over the H. S. Cramer grain agency, located at Louisenhof 91/92. It had been first mentioned in the directory in 1898, most recently under the owners H. Cramer and Leo Bohm. On 27 Dec. 1906, Adolf Caspary and Leopold Cohn established their own company Caspary & Cohn as a general partnership at the same address. In 1908, they relocated their company headquarters to Katharinenkirchhof 2 and finally, in 1914, permanently to Neuer Wall 54.

Leopold Cohn’s son Franz Markus attended the pre-school attached to the Eppendorf Oberrealschule [a secondary school without Latin] and later the Heinrich-Hertz Realgymnasium [a high school focused on science, math, and modern languages]. From 1923, he completed a commercial apprenticeship at the Mais Import GmbH, a corn import company, worked as an exchange representative for various enterprises from 1926, and gained professional experience in Britain in 1927. On 1 Jan. 1928, he joined his father’s company, Caspary & Cohn, as an employee and representative at the exchange.

Due to differences, the two business owners separated in the fall of 1929, dissolved the joint general partnership (offene Handelsgesellschaft – OHG) at the end of the year, and each of them started a new company under their own names. In "Leopold Cohn - Grosshandel mit Getreide und Futtermittel, Vertretungen,” a wholesale and agency dealing in grains and animal feeds, which was entered in the company register on 26 Sept. 1929, his son Franz Markus was given power of attorney from the very beginning. The business continued to be located at Neuer Wall 54; the Adolf Caspary grain agency moved to Caspary’s private address at Curschmannstrasse 35.

At the age of 55, Leopold Cohn could look back on a remarkable economic and social rise: From a family that had been engaged in the produce trade for at least two generations which was not very respected – even within the Jewish Community – to a respected wholesale merchant with his own company, a distinguished business address, and an apartment appropriate to his social status. This was crowned by the fact that on 13 Apr. 1928, while still the owner of Caspary & Cohn, he was appointed Member of the Board of Directors of the Grain Exchange by the plenary assembly of the Chamber of Commerce at the suggestion of the Association of Grain Merchants of the Hamburg Exchange (Verein der Getreidehändler der Hamburger Börse). He was reappointed annually up to and including 1932, by that time as the owner of the Leopold Cohn Company. From 1919 to 1933, he also belonged to the Hamburg Association of the "Honorable Merchant.” On 10 Oct. 1912, Leopold Cohn was admitted to the "Ferdinande Caroline zu den drei Sternen” Masonic lodge, and in 1927, he had held the third degree there.

In addition to operating his own company, Cohn took on another task: On 26 Mar. 1930, the Ministry of Agriculture had enacted the Reich Corn Act as part of the state administration of raw materials. A "Reich Corn Office” (Reichsmaisstelle) was set up in Berlin to monitor all imports and exports of corn. Since the establishment of the Reich Corn Office on 31 Mar. 1930, Cohn served as managing director of its department in Hamburg. He received an annual salary of approx. 27,500 RM (reichsmark) plus expenses. In this way, he was able to achieve "a considerable income in the years 1931/32 to 1933/34.” He had to "suspend operations of his own company during this time. However, it remained entered in the company register.” However, the Reich Corn Office, which had to be financed to 65 percent by the Association of Grain and Feed Manufacturers, was not uncontroversial among grain traders in Hamburg. This became clear when Leopold Cohn was nominated on 2 Jan. 1933 for the chairmanship of the administrative board of the Association of Agents for Grain, Flour, and Animal Feed of the Hamburg Exchange. At the board meeting of the Association on 13 Feb. 1933, several members opposed the election of Cohn, "because he heads the corn monopoly here in Hamburg.” Instead, he was appointed deputy chairman. However, soon afterward, in June 1933, Leopold Cohn was prematurely released from his contract with the Reich Corn Office because of his belonging to the "Jewish race.”

Since Mar. 1933, rumors had been circulating that the newly formed Nazi government of the Reich refused to negotiate with associations whose members included Jews. In the Association of Agents for Grain, Flour, and Animal Feed, this led to intensive discussions of the board. While some members of the board argued for a reorganization of the board from purely "Aryan” persons, others, such as Leopold Hiller, warned against this step, since the Association had 40 percent Jewish members. In the meantime, several Jewish members of the board had already made their offices available, and Leopold Cohn, obviously a member of the board in 1933, appealed to all board members at the meeting on 27 Mar. 1933 to resign permanently. In order to secure the future existence of the Association, Cohn, like Leopold Hiller, Otto Friedeberg, and John Hausmann, declared his resignation from the board. A successor was already elected for him on 31 March. Leopold Cohn was also no longer included in the list of nominations prepared by the Association of Grain Dealers of the Hamburg Exchange to the Chamber of Commerce on 12 May 1933 for the board of directors of the grain exchange.

By then 60 years old, the merchant tried to reactivate his own company after being dismissed from the Reich Corn Office, but this was not very successful. By 1934/35, his income was already more than 25 percent below that of the previous two years and continued to decline annually. This may have been one reason why the family moved to Rothenbaum in 1935/36 to a somewhat more modest apartment on the second floor at Mittelweg 69. In the directory, Leopold Cohn’s company was also no longer listed at Neuer Wall since 1935, but only at his private address.

According to the implementing regulations of the Reich Ministry of Economics, the authorities had to keep registers of Jewish businesses since June 1938. In Hamburg, from mid-1938 onward, the Chamber of Commerce (since 1 Feb., the Chamber of Industry and Commerce) was more intensively involved in the Reich Governor’s (Reichsstatthalter) measures toward the "Aryanization” of Jewish trade and industry. So far, it had not, in principle, made any statements on the "Aryan status or non-status of companies” in response to requests. At this time, however, it compiled a list – marked with a note indicating "for internal use only” – of "non-Aryan” companies by line of business. The Leopold Cohn Company, among others, was noted under the heading of "grain trade.” In the summer of 1940, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce stated the following about Leopold Cohn: "Has surrendered his trade license on request. Operations suspended.” Son Franz later remembered that the company had already been liquidated in 1938. The deletion entry in the company register is dated 26 July 1940.

On 9 Nov. 1938, the day of the November Pogrom, the unmarried son Franz Cohn was arrested, taken to Fuhlsbüttel prison, and transferred from there to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on 11 Nov. 1938. After his release on 12 Jan. 1939, he emigrated to Britain on 21 Mar. 1939. After he was interned there again for several months as an "enemy alien” in connection with the outbreak of war, he emigrated to Chile in Sept. 1939.

Daughter Charlotte had married the Jewish merchant Fritz Goldschmidt (1901–1970), who held a Ph.D. in political science, in Hamburg on 11 Apr. 1935. Together with him, she emigrated to Bombay (Mumbai) in Dec. 1938.

After his dismissal from the Reich Corn Office and the loss of his company, Leopold Cohn had found no means to earn a living for himself and his wife. In the final period left to them in Hamburg, they lived on the remnants of their fortune. Gertrud Cohn had four box barges [closed barges] entered in the shipping register, which she sold to the Hamburg resident Otto Hinz.

From Nov. 1938 onward, massive state mechanisms became effective in plundering German Jews. In accordance with the "Ordinance on the Use of Jewish Assets” ("Verordnung zum Einsatz jüdischen Vermögens”) dated 3 Dec. 1938, in Mar. 1939, Leopold and Gertrud Cohn had to hand over jewelry, silverware, and other gold and silver objects, with a value subsequently estimated at approx. 8,600 RM, to the municipal pawnshop serving as a purchase point, for a fraction of their real value.

Leopold Cohn’s assets in the form of accounts and securities were held at the Deutsche Bank branch in Hamburg and the Hamburger Sparkasse, while Getrud Cohn’s assets were also held at Deutsche Bank and the M. M. Warburg bank. Based on the so-called levy on Jewish assets (Judenvermögensabgabe) imposed by ordinance on 12 Nov. 1938, for Leopold Cohn securities with a total assumed value of 3,738 RM were surrendered to the Preussische Staatsbank in June 1939, and securities with a total assumed value of 7,038 RM were traded in for Gertrud Cohn.

At the beginning of 1941, Leopold and Gertrud Cohn were forced to vacate their Mittelweg apartment and move to a smaller place at 34 Bellevue. In the five-story apartment building, in which they presumably resided as subtenants, several tenants lived on one floor, including artisans, workers, and a sailor. The basement accommodated a horse slaughterhouse.

For 4 Dec. 1941, the Secret State Police (Gestapo) ordered them to be deported. With the transport on 6 December, they were deported to the Jungfernhof subcamp of the Riga Ghetto. Their household effects left behind, including high-quality furniture, an extensive collection of books and precious porcelain, were subsequently put up for auction.

Treasury bonds of the German Reich valued at 1,000 RM were surrendered to the Reich Debt Administration in Berlin in 1942 and destroyed. In addition, a large number of securities and treasury bonds were delivered to the German Reichsbank and the Prussian State Bank in Berlin based on a confiscation order issued by the Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter) in Hamburg.

Since their deportation, there has been no sign of life from Leopold and Gertrud Cohn; they were deemed missing, declared dead as of late 1945, and have been considered murdered.

Franz Cohn and Charlotte Goldschmidt, as heirs of Leopold and Gertrud Cohn, filed applications for restitution in 1950 and 1953/54 through their lawyers in Hamburg. In favor of her destitute brother, Charlotte waived her inheritance on 13 Oct. 1951. In the official proceedings during the following years, they were awarded compensation for their father and mother’s imprisonment, for wearing the "star of David,” for the damage to Leopold Cohn’s professional and economic advancement, and for the forced surrender of gold and silver objects. Nothing has been handed down concerning compensation payments for seized bank deposits, securities, and other assets, nor about the demanded return of the four box barges of the mother. Restitution for the forced liquidation of the Leopold Cohn Company was refused, "since its operations had already been suspended for many years due to his work at the Reich Corn Office and it has not been demonstrated that he worked for his own account again after retiring from the Reich Corn Office.”

Franz Markus Cohn had married the Jewish woman Ruth Helene Maier in Chile in 1940. In 1948, their daughter Irma Gertrud was born. After his emigration, Franz had tried in vain to establish himself as a merchant in Chile. In the following years, he attempted with changing activities to feed his wife and daughter, who was paralyzed on one side by illness. In Santiago de Chile, he was supported by the local Jewish Community. With no prospect of a future in Chile, he returned to Hamburg with his family in Nov. 1953.
Charlotte Goldschmidt was living in Forest Hills, New York at the time of her husband’s death in 1970. Passing away on 22 Feb. 1985, she was buried in New York.

© Text courtesy of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce (eds.) taken from: "Against Forgetting. Victims of totalitarian persecution from the honorary and full-time office of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce” (Gegen das Vergessen. Opfer totalitärer Verfolgung aus dem Ehren- und Hauptamt der Handelskammer Hamburg). Hamburg 2019

Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: July 2020
© Dr. Karin Gröwer

Quellen: 1; 5; 8; HK-Archiv 100.B.1.21 (Verzeichnis der jüdischen Betriebe nach Geschäftszweigen); HK-Archiv 100.B.1.29 (Ablehnung von Anträgen und Anregungen, Firmen als nichtarisch zu bezeichnen oder Listen nichtarischer Firmen aufzustellen oder weiterzuleiten); HK-Archiv 100.B.1.37 (Entjudung des Großhandels); HK-Archiv 53.D.10.2 (Ernennung der Mitglieder des Vorstandes der Getreidebörse (Gerste, Mais, Weizen und Roggen) in den Jahren 1928–1933); HK-Archiv 53.D.2.2.9 (Ernennung der Mitglieder der Allgemeinen Abteilung des Börsenvorstandes (Börsenkommission) 1926–1934); HK-Archiv Firmenaktenarchiv (Handelsregisterauszüge Firma Leopold Cohn); SHWA V8/127 (Verein der Vermittler für Getreide, Mehl und Futtermittel der Hamburger Börse E. V. zu Hamburg 1928–1933: Sitzungsprotokoll des Vorstands); SHWA V8/17 (Verein der Vermittler für Getreide, Mehl und Futtermittel der Hamburger Börse E. V. zu Hamburg 1933, Vorstand Sitzungsprotokolle); StAHH 213-13_11193 (Landgericht Hamburg, Wiedergutmachung, Leopold und Gertrud Cohn); StAHH 231-7_A 1 Band 162 (Handelsregister A 36122 und A 36123); StAHH 231-7_A 1 Band 19 (Handelsregister A 4997); StAHH 332-5_884 (Standesamt Hamburg 2a, Sterberegister 1924 Nr. 225); StAHH 332-5_4790 (Sterberegister Osdorf 1899, Nr. 43); StAHH 332-5_5148 (Sterberegister Altona 1877 Bd. 1, Nr. 664); StAHH 332-5_5153 (Sterberegister Altona 1878 Bd. 2, Nr. 805); StAHH 332-5_5225 (Sterberegister Altona I, 1894 Band 2, Nr. 1257); StAHH 332-5_5873 (Heiratsregister Altona 1879 Bd. 2, Nr. 625);StAHH 332-5_5959 (Standesamt Altona I, Heiratsregister 1903 Nr. 135); StAHH 332-5_6212 (Standesamt Altona, Geburtsregister 1880 Nr. 2303); StAHH 332-5_10013 (Standesamt Hamburg-Eppendorf, Sterberegister 1950 Nr. 148);StAHH 351-11_32237 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung, Lotte Lucie Emma Goldschmidt); StAHH 351-11_32703 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung, Franz Markus Cohn); StAHH 351-11_32919 (Amt für Wiedergutmachung, Charlotte Lucie Emma Goldschmidt, Renten); Online-Grabregister des Jüdischen Friedhofs Altona; Hamburger Adressbücher; Altonaer Adressbücher; Offizielles Hamburger Börsen-Adressbuch; Prabel, Wolfgang: Der Bausatz des Dritten Reiches, Verlag XinXii (e-book), 2015; Bajohr, Frank: "Arisierung" in Hamburg. Die Verdrängung der jüdischen Unternehmer 1933–1945, Hamburg 1997, S. 223ff; Lorenz, Ina/Berkemann, Jörg: Die Hamburger Juden im NS-Staat 1933 bis 1938/39, Band 1–7, (Hamburger Beiträge zur Geschich-te der deutschen Juden 45) Göttingen 2016, Band 2, S. 927ff.
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