Marthe Cohn addresses the community


By Alexa Rosen Contributing Writer Marthe Cohn, a Jewish woman who was a French spy during World War II, was introduced by Professor Stephen M. Berk, Henry and Sally Schaffer Professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies and Director, Russian and Eastern European studies program, to the Union community in the Nott Memorial on Tuesday, May 2. To start off the lecture, Cohn showed the audience a DVD of an interview she did a few years ago. This DVD was 10 minutes long, but she informed the audience that she was interviewed for five hours in order to get the 10 minutes’ worth of information for the video. Cohn had enlisted in the French Army and was eventually placed into the intellectual section because she knew how to speak German. While she was becoming a member of the armed forces, however, her sister was put in prison for a month. During this month, her sister turned 21. When her sister was released from prison, she was put into the camps. When Cohn went to visit her sister in the camps, she tried to help her escape. Her sister had been providing medical attention to the kids in the camp, and she believed that what she was doing for these kids was too important and refused to attempt to escape. However, Cohn continued to try to get her sister to leave. She said she went to the camp to see her sister and reminded her that their mother needed her just as much as the children. She responded, “Don’t you understand? If I escape, all of you will be arrested.” Cohn told us that she had never even thought of that possibility. Cohn then talked about how she was able to steal military secrets from the Germans and send it back to France to help end the war and save the Jews. She concluded by commenting about helping save lives: “If we (Jews) survive, it’s because so many non-Jews risked their lives to save others. And that’s a very important fact that is dear to my heart.” After the lecture, when asked to describe the talk, one audience member stated, “She is an incredible woman. It is one thing to read about history, but another to hear a personal account of such a tumultuous time in history. A truly remarkable speaker.” Additionally, another audience member described her impressions of the speaker by saying, “She was a very captivating speaker.” The audience member continued by stating, “I am extremely grateful to have gotten to hear her own account of these events firsthand.” Lastly, Professor Berk commented, “She is living history. We are fortunate to have a woman who is not only a survivor of the Holocaust, but worked in the French underground helping the allied cause. She is truly a woman of valour.”


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