Holocaust survivor who spied on Nazis throughout World Battle II shares her story – Army historical past

PORTLAND, Maine (Tribune Information Service) — Marthe Cohn was the proper spy as a result of she didn’t look the half.

She stood solely four toes, 11 inches tall and had blond hair and blue eyes, making her look extra like a younger German woman than a 24-year-old Jew who had been recruited to spy on the Nazis throughout World Battle II and lived in day by day worry of being uncovered and executed.

Cohn was born in 1920 into an Orthodox Jewish household that lived in Metz, a small French city on the nation’s border with Germany. One in every of seven kids, she and her household had been caught up within the world-changing occasions spawned by Adolf Hitler’s rise to energy and the Nazi occupation of France.

Throughout World Battle II, her household sheltered Jews fleeing the Nazis together with kids who had been despatched away by their terrified mother and father. Because the Nazi occupation of France escalated, her sister was arrested and despatched to the Auschwitz focus camp the place she later died. Her household fled to the south of France.

Her fiancee, who fought within the French resistance, was arrested, tried and executed for killing a Nazi sympathizer in Paris in 1943.

In November 1944, Cohn was recruited by the French Military Intelligence Service to function a Nazi spy, a calling that she excelled at, however was not acknowledged for till a long time later. Now, the 99-year-old Holocaust survivor travels world wide together with her husband, 93-year-old Main Cohn, sharing her story with anybody who will pay attention.

She was greeted Wednesday night with a standing ovation by a sellout crowd on the College of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Corridor in Portland.

Cohn spent a part of the night signing copies of her 2002 autobiography: “Behind Enemy Strains: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.” Cohn and author/journalist Wendy Holden collaborated on the e book.

“Thanks for filling the home tonight, and each seat is crammed,” USM President Glenn Cummings instructed the group. “We’re fortunate to have this individual, who wasn’t afraid to face up within the face of terror.”

After the arrest of her sister and the demise of her fiancee, Cohn remained in Paris the place she studied nursing. In November 1944, after the Allies liberated Paris, she was recruited by the French Military Intelligence Service to spy on the Germans.

Her commanders had been intrigued by her language abilities — she was fluent in German and French — and probably her look. She had blond hair and blue eyes. As she defined to a non-public gathering Wednesday night earlier than taking the stage at Hannaford Corridor, “Ladies who had been spies didn’t appear like me. I used to be four toes, 11 inches tall. I appeared like slightly woman.”

Cohn tried to cross the border from Switzerland into Germany greater than a dozen instances earlier than lastly succeeding by creeping throughout a area and crawling underneath barbed wire. She maintained her cowl by telling German troopers that she was looking for her lacking German fiancee.

“I needed to be continuously on the alert realizing I used to be in peril of being arrested at any second,” Cohn stated throughout a phone interview on Tuesday evening.

Cohn earned the belief of the Nazi troopers, offering intelligence about Nazi troop actions that shortened World Battle II and saved 1000’s of lives with the spotlight coming after she found that German troops had evacuated a battle line close to Freiburg, a German city, and hid within the Black Forest ready to ambush Allied troops.

“Marthe is an instance of the ability of a person, who has the power to alter the course of world occasions. Only one particular person’s act of braveness could make a distinction,” Rabbi Levi Wilansky instructed the viewers. Wilansky is with Chabad Maine, one of many co-sponsors of Cohn’s look in Maine.

Cohn’s willpower has not waned, at the same time as she approaches her 100th birthday. Wilansky revealed that Cohn fell Sunday and broke her elbow, however the damage didn’t forestall her from flying to Maine from her dwelling in Southern California.

“She was decided to return right here,” Wilansky stated.

“After I give my phrase, I’ve to return,” Cohn stated.

In the course of the interview Tuesday evening, Cohn stated the Nazis had been worse than modern-day white supremacists “as a result of they’d full authority and had been completely merciless.” She does, nonetheless, see some similarities between the Nazis and white supremacists, as each teams are intent on selling hatred of people who usually are not like them.

She additionally is worried that President Trump is selling deceptive info, particularly his repeated assaults on the media, labeling most information shops as faux information. She stated it’s the identical kind of propaganda that led to the rise of Hitler within the 1930s — and the Holocaust wherein the Nazis murdered greater than 6 million Jews in Europe.

“I’m very involved. We have now to battle again, like we fought the Nazis,” Cohn stated.

Nina McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the Maine Republicans and Trump Victory marketing campaign, declined to touch upon Cohn’s remarks about Trump.

Trump has been repeatedly criticized for statements seen by many as anti-Semitic, and his rhetoric has been blamed for contributing to an increase in anti-Semitic violence. The criticism continued this week after Trump stated that Jews could be disloyal in the event that they assist Democrats. Trump has denied that he’s anti-Semitic.

Cohn stated she stored her life as a spy a secret as a result of she didn’t have any documentation that proved she had been a spy. Within the 1990s, she returned to France and requested to see her navy information. The French authorities had misplaced observe of her. However after archive officers noticed her navy report, they inspired her to contact authorities officers.

In 2000, on the age of 80, Cohn was awarded France’s highest navy honor, the Medaille Militaire. The medal acknowledges meritorious service and acts of bravery in motion towards enemy forces. It’s not often given out, with Winston Churchill being one of many recipients.

When requested what her key to residing an extended life was, Cohn responded by saying, “You’ll must ask God. Solely He is aware of.”

Cohn stated her intent is to not train, however to information.

“My message is that everyone be engaged in life and battle for what is correct,” she stated.

©2019 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine)

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