Tragedy and Escape: The Story of Helene Schnadig Cohn and Her Children

We saw in the last post that Henriette Katzenstein Schnadig’s youngest child Elsa survived the Holocaust as did her husband Salomon Cats and their two sons. Elsa’s two older sisters Helene and Betty were not as fortunate.

Elsa’s sister Helene Schnadig and her husband Emil Cohn were both murdered by the Nazis. According to their residency registration cards at the Amsterdam archives, Helene and Emil moved from Hamburg to Hilversum in the Netherlands on January 2, 1939, and then to Rotterdam on September 11, 1939, ten days after the start of World War II. They then returned to Hilversum on November 9, 1940. Eventually they returned to Amsterdam on July 17, 1942.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 721 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22schnadig%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

According to a Judenrat card found in the Arolsen Archives, Emil and Helene were taken to the detention camp at Westerbork on January 8, 1943. From there they were taken to the concentration camp in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, on January 20, 1944. Then on October 28, 1944, they were taken from Terezin to the death camp at Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Emil was 74, Helene 63.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto /
1.1.42.2 Card File Theresienstadt / 4966533/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

Miraculously, however, Helene and Emil Cohn’s four children all survived, although my information about them is somewhat limited. Meta, their oldest child, was married to Salomon Pregers, who was born in Rotterdam on October 8, 1885, son of Salomon Pregers and Isabelle Therese de Groot.1 Meta and Salomon were married in Hamburg on May 14, 1926, according to their Amsterdam residency card.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 159 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22meta%20cohn%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

That residency card indicates that Salomon and Meta came from Hamburg to Hilversum on June 3, 1926, a few weeks after their wedding. They remained in the Netherlands, eventually moving to Amsterdam in February 1943, not long after Meta’s parents were taken to Westerbork.

Salomon and Meta were registered with the Judenrat in Amsterdam, as reflected on these three cards. It appears that Salomon had been a teacher at a Jewish school. I can’t decipher much more than that.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.2 Miscellaneous / 1.2.4 Various Organizations / 1.2.4.2 Index cards from the Judenrat (Jewish council) file in Amsterdam / Reference Code 124200008/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

UPDATE: Bert de Jong pointed out that both these cards have the designation “gesperrt,” meaning that Meta and Salomon had been marked as exempt from deportation by the Judenrat, Salomon because of his former occupation as a teacher and his education, and Meta based on her husband’s exemption.

UPDATE from Rob Ruijs: Rob examined these three cards very carefully and provided some analysis. One interesting observation he made about Salomon Pregers was that he may have grown up in poverty and achieved success through higher education.  Rob also deciphered much of that third card with three entries for February 2, 1943. It appears that Salomon (and presumably Meta) were moving between Amsterdam and the town of Den Bosch, which is about an hour south of Amsterdam or that there was some confusion about where they were living.

The Amsterdam residency cards above indicate that both Meta and Salomon left for Germany (Duitschland) in March 1945. I would think that means they were deported then since I cannot imagine that any Jew would have gone to Germany willingly in March, 1945, but I have no record of any deportation, and I know that they survived the war.  Meta was listed as a person searching for relatives in an article in the June 15, 1945, issue of Aufbau. The words at the top translate as:

“The following list which we have received from the ITA [the International Tracing Agency] only reveals a part of the Jews found in Holland after the final liberation who are looking for relatives. In cases in which a closer address of the searcher is not given, they can be reached through the Red Cross.”

Meta Cohn Pregers in Aufbau June 15, 1945, p. 25, http://archive.org/stream/aufbau111945germ#page/n387/mode/1up

Although Meta and Salomon thus survived the war, it was not for very many years. Meta Cohn Pregers died on March 21, 1952, in Hilversum.2 Her husband Salomon Pregers died a month later on April 22, 1952, in Hilversum.3 He was 66 when he died, Meta was only 51. I have been unable to find a record of any children.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Ruijs for alerting me to the fact that there were death notices for Meta and Salomon that I could find on Delpher.nl. Given that neither death notice mentioned children, it appears that they did not have any.

New Israelite weekly
28-03-1952

New Israelite weekly
April 25, 1952

Meta’s younger brother Siegbert immigrated to Brazil in 1939; he arrived with his four-year-old daughter Ursula. I could not locate a woman traveling with him who might have been his wife, nor I have I yet found any further records for Siegbert or Ursula.

Siegbert Cohn, Digital GS Number: 004542471, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

The third child of Helene and Emil Cohn, their daughter Hertha Johanna, married James Horwitz, a kosher butcher, on February 21, 1928, in Hamburg. James was born on November 10, 1895, in Hamburg, the son of Hermann Horwitz and Johanna Tannenberg.4 James and Hertha immigrated to Rotterdam inthe Netherlands from Berlin on March 15, 1939, and to Amsterdam in March of 1940.

Source reference Archive cards , archive number 30238 , inventory number 367 Municipality : Amsterdam Period : 1939-1960, https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/persons?ss=%7B%22q%22:%22james%20horwitz%22%7D, Amsterdam Archives Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchiev

On July 17, 1940, they were both taken to the detention camp in Westerbork. According to entries in the Terezin Memorial database, both James and Hertha were deported to the Terezin concentration camp on September 4, 1944. James was then taken from Terezin to Auschwitz on September 29, 1944, but Hertha was not. The Terezin Memorial entry indicates that she was liberated from Terezin and survived.

1 Incarceration Documents / 1.1 Camps and Ghettos / 1.1.42 Theresienstadt Ghetto /
1.1.42.2 Card File Theresienstadt /Ghetto Theresienstadt Card File
Reference Code 11422001/ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives

As for James’ fate, the records conflict. Some say he was killed at the death camp in Mauthausen in Austria on April 6, 1945.5 One nephew filed a Page of Testimony saying he was shot near Berlin in March 1945 as the camp inmates were being marched out of Auschwitz.  In either event, James Horwitz was murdered by the Nazis in the spring of 1945 right before the war ended.

In 1957, Hertha was living in Rotterdam when she traveled to Brazil, presumably to visit her brother Siegbert. She listed her marital status as “casada” or married, and the surname Van Thijn was added to her name, so Hertha must have remarried after the war. That is the only information I’ve found about her at this point.

UPDATE: Thank you to Rob Ruijs for reminding me to check Delpher.nl where I found a death notice for Salomon van Thijn published by H. J. van Thijn-Cohen, obviously Hertha. The death notice reads in part, “With sadness I announce the passing of my beloved caring husband Salomon van Thijn in his 87th year, March 18, 1982.” This death notice does not mention children or refer to Salomon as a father so I assume they, like Meta and Salomon Pregers, did not have children.

NRC Handelsblad
20-03-1982

Digital GS Number: 004916498, Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Lissy Sitta Cohn, the fourth and youngest of the Cohn siblings, ended up in England during the war. In 1939 she was living in Birmingham, working as a domestic servant.

Lissy Cohn, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/5600D, Enumeration District: QBUI, Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register

Lissy Cohn, enemy alien registration, The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 396 WW2 Internees (Aliens) Index Cards 1939-1947; Reference Number: HO 396/14
Piece Number Description: 014: Internees at Liberty in UK 1939-1942: Cohn-Cz
Ancestry.com. UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945

She may have returned to Germany after the war because in 1946 she immigrated to Brazil and listed her last residence as Hamburg and her nationality as Alema or German. However, her passport was issued from London. She indicated that her intention was to stay in Brazil permanently and that she was a nurse (enfermeira). As with her siblings, I have no further details about Lissy’s life.

Digital GS Number: 004542185
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Immigration Cards, 1900-1965

Thus, although the Nazis murdered Helene Schnadig and Emil Cohn, they did not murder any of their four children. But the stories of those four children are not entirely complete. I do not know whether there are living descendants of Helene and Emil, so there is still much work to be done.

 

 


  1.  Salomon Pregers, Birth Date: 1885, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot, Stadsarchief Rotterdam; Den Haag, Nederland; BS Birth, Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917. Original data: BS Geboorte. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. Child:
    Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabelle Therese de Groot Father: Salomon Pregers
    Date of birth: 8-10-1885, Birthplace:  Rotterdam Access number: 999-01 Civil Registry Rotterdam, birth certificates, Inventory number: 1885D, Folio number: d045v Deed number: 1885.3822 
  2.  Meta Cohn, Age: 50, Birth Date: abt 1902, Birth Place: Hamburg, Death Date: 21 mrt 1952 (21 Mar 1952), Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Emil Cohn, Mother: Helene Schnadig, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  3.  Salomon Pregers, Age: 66, Birth Date: abt 1886, Birth Place: Rotterdam, Death Date: 22 apr 1952, Death Place: Hilversum, Father: Salomon Pregers, Mother: Isabella Therese de Groot, Noord-Hollands Archief; Den Haag, Nederland; Burgerlijke stand (overlijdensakten), Ancestry.com. Netherlands, Death Index, 1795-1969. Original data: BS Overlijden. WieWasWie. https://www.wiewaswie.nl/: accessed 24 May 2016. 
  4. James Horwitz birth record, Year Range and Volume: 1895 Band 06, Ancestry.com. Hamburg, Germany, Births, 1874-1901. Original data:Best. 332-5 Standesämter, Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950, Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg, Deutschland. 
  5. James Israel Horwitz, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1895, Birth Place: Hamburg, Mauthaus #: 134330, Nationality: staatenlos (Stateless), Arrest Reason: Jude (Jew), Night and Fog: No, Profession: Fleischer (Butcher), Death Date: 6 Apr 1945, Arrival Date: 26-Feb-45
    Source: AMM E/13/12/9; Y/36;Mauthausen Gedenkstätte. Austria, Mauthausen/Gusen Concentration Camp Death Record Books , 1938-1945. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Microfilm: A3355; ARC: 596972; Title: Lists and Registers of German Concentration Camp Inmates, 1946 – 1958; Record Group: 242; Record Group Title: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, 1675 – 1958, Record Description: Records on Prisoners, Gat-Ji, Source Information
    Ancestry.com. Germany, Concentration Camp Records, 1946-1958. Also, some records at Yad Vashem show that James Horwitz was at Mauthausen. His Stolpersteine in Berlin also says that he died at Mauthausen. 

29 thoughts on “Tragedy and Escape: The Story of Helene Schnadig Cohn and Her Children

  1. I have never visited any of the Nazi concentration camps, though we were near Mauthausen last year. I don’t know how I could stand the emotional impact of it. Just reading your family stories is horrific. I will also be interested in what you learn about possible living descendants on this line. Maybe a trip to Brazil in your future?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I still find it so ironic that the reason descendants of those persecuted by the Nazis for their faith can find so much information about them because of the Nazi record-keeping. In this way, the descendants keep their memories alive, probably the opposite of what the Nazis intended.

    I’d love to know why Brazil rather than the US!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true—the Germans were so sure they were going to win the war that they wanted detailed records of everyone they persecuted and killed. Only at the end did they try to cover their tracks by burning down some of the camps.

      From what I understand when I’ve asked other, refugees would go wherever they could get a ship to take them where they would be taken. Remember—the US turned away hundreds if not thousands of Jewish refugees.

      Like

  3. The Nazi records amaze me. Someone’s life and, ultimately, death is down to information on a card. I’m so glad you are uncovering the details and memorializing these people’s lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is truly amazing how you manage to work your way through the incredibly complex maze of your ancestry, Amy. You have become a role model for my own family research.
    Thanks to the typically German obsession with record-keeping, you have access to a wealth of information on so many family branches.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  6. Sorry I did not check back on this thread till today. Sybille K is in private practice in Berlin and the story tells about administering covid tests through a window of her practice to a long line of people waiting in the street. She might be a very distant relative of yours, and I thought it was an interesting sidelight.

    Liked by 1 person

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