In Frank­furt, Holo­caust vic­tim’s pen­dant unites rel­a­tives from around the world

Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By TA­MARA ZIEVE Jerusalem Post Cor­re­spon­dent

FRANK­FURT – “It’s like a ver­sion of The Da Vinci Code,” said Sonya Heine­man Kunkel, one of dozens of rel­a­tives of child Holo­caust vic­tim Karolina Cohn, who was memo­ri­al­ized on Mon­day by “stum­bling stones” laid in front of the fam­ily’s last known ad­dress in Frank­furt.

An ini­tia­tive of Ger­man artist Gunter Dem­nig, the stum­bling stones – also known as stolper­steine – are cov­ered by brass plates in­scribed with the names and dates of birth and death of vic­tims of Nazi ex­ter­mi­na­tion or per­se­cu­tion.

Thou­sands of stones of this kind have been laid across Eu­rope in re­mem­brance of Holo­caust vic­tims. On the stones for the Cohns are the names of Karolina, her sis­ter, Gitta, and her par­ents, Richard and Else Cohn.

The re­union of dozens of rel­a­tives, who trav­eled to the cer­e­mony from across the world to honor the mem­ory of rel­a­tives they pre­vi­ously knew noth­ing about, fol­lowed a chain of events that be­gan with the dis­cov­ery of an un­usual pen­dant at So­bi­bor death camp.

The pen­dant, which bore a close re­sem­blance to one owned by Anne Frank, was dis­cov­ered by Pol­ish arche­ol­o­gist Wo­j­ciech Mazurek, Is­rael An­tiq­ui­ties Author­ity arche­ol­o­gist Yo­ram Haimi, and their Dutch col­league Ivar Schute.

Karolina’s pen­dant was

found along­side other per­sonal items, which arche­ol­o­gists be­lieve were re­moved by Holo­caust vic­tims be­fore be­ing sent to the gas cham­bers. The items were found at the lo­ca­tion be­lieved to be where vic­tims were forced to un­dress and have their heads shaved be­fore be­ing mur­dered.

The dis­cov­ery of the pen­dant set off ge­nealog­i­cal re­search by Jerusalem-based en­tre­pre­neur Chaim Motzen, who swiftly man­aged to trace the sur­viv­ing mem­bers of Karolina’s fam­ily.

“It be­came this world­wide in­ter­est­ing hunt,” Kunkel told The Jerusalem Post.

Kunkel is the daugh­ter of Ernst Lud­wig Heine­man, the son of Karolina’s cousin Irene Bruck­mann Heine­man. Heine­man left Ger­many for the US and now lives in Con­necti­cut.

“It’s like mak­ing a puz­zle – you put it to­gether and then you un­der­stand more, what it means” Heine­man said. “I’m glad I came.”

“It’s really amaz­ing to be here in her [Karolina’s] home­town and to feel her pres­ence, that she walked on these streets,” said Molly Bruck­man, great-grand­daugh­ter of Richard Cohn’s brother, Sig­mund Bruck­man.

Molly Bruck­man’s cousin Cyn­thia Bruck­man said she was moved to tears by the cer­e­mony, which was spon­sored by the Claims Con­fer­ence, which also funds the Yad Vashem data­base that en­abled the re­searchers to find the pen­dant’s owner.

Bruck­man said she was par­tic­u­larly touched by the words of Greg Schneider, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the Claims Con­fer­ence, who spoke of the fam­ily’s “sa­cred obli­ga­tion” to re­mem­ber Cohn.

“Some­times, I imag­ine that Karolina dropped it pur­pose­fully be­tween the floor­boards as she pre­pared for death, hop­ing that clue would sur­vive even if she didn’t,” Schneider told the gath­er­ing. “That, some­day, a road map of her life would be dis­cov­ered... that from the ground, she was call­ing to us to em­brace her. We were all de­nied the de­tails of her life, just as she was de­nied to live her life.”

Schneider con­tin­ued: “You see the Nazis tried to de­stroy her – her body, her rel­a­tives, even the mem­ory of her. Her ex­is­tence was meant to go up as flames, as even she likely did, and for sure her fam­ily, friends and com­mu­nity did. And so to deny the Nazis the vic­tory, even 76 years later, as we stand here to­day, we must never for­get.”

Rel­a­tives came from far and wide, in­clud­ing mem­bers of one fam­ily who trav­eled from Hong Kong, where they now live.

Shima Shimizu’s mother, a cousin of Karolina, re­ceived a phone call in Jan­uary from a rel­a­tive in the US who told her the story.

“It didn’t really hit me at the time. I didn’t really un­der­stand what it meant,” Shimizu told the Post. “I grew up in Ja­pan... and it wasn’t some­thing that was close to me. But then know­ing that... our fam­ily... went through this is a sur­real feel­ing.”

“The dis­cov­ery of the pen­dant was pro­found,” Barry Eise­mann said at an event fol­low­ing the stum­bling stones cer­e­mony held at Phi­lan­thropin, a Jewish school in Frank­furt. Eise­mann is a cousin of Karolina who lives in Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia. “This small piece of metal con­nects us to our fam­i­lies, past and present,” he said.

“Per­haps it wasn’t an ac­ci­dent that the pen­dant fell through the floor­boards. Maybe it was Karolina’s pur­pose... that the dis­cov­ery of the pen­dant would re­unite the fam­ily,” he said, echo­ing Schneider’s re­marks.

Many of those in at­ten­dance spoke of how they were in­debted to the arche­ol­o­gists who found the pen­dant, and to Motzen, who tracked them all down and sub­se­quently brought them to­gether.

But while Motzen has helped put to­gether pieces of the Cohn fam­ily his­tory, he is still hunt­ing for a piece of his own, which he started to re­search when he first learned about the Cohn fam­ily and be­gan work­ing to help them.

Motzen’s grand­mother, 91-yearold Marth (Miriam) Koth Motzen, is a Holo­caust sur­vivor who does not have a sin­gle pic­ture of her fa­ther, who was killed in the Holo­caust.

“My grand­mother is alive and well, and she would love a pho­to­graph of her fa­ther, Yaakov Ye­hezkel Koth,” Motzen told the Post. “It would be really mean­ing­ful for my fam­ily if some­one was able to find one,” he said. Motzen added that he thinks their best chance would be to find a class photo from a fel­low stu­dent of his grand­fa­ther, who stud­ied at the Press­burg Yeshiva in Bratislava be­tween 1915 and 1919. An­other pos­si­bil­ity he men­tioned was to lo­cate an ac­quain­tance from Putno, Hun­gary, where his grand­fa­ther was born in 1897 and where he later re­turned to live with his wife, Regina Wein­garten.

“I would be thrilled,” Motzen said. •

(Ta­mara Zieve)

CHIL­DREN CROWD around stum­bling stones at the house of Karolina Cohn in Frank­furt yes­ter­day. The stones are cov­ered by brass plates (right) memo­ri­al­iz­ing fam­ily mem­bers mur­dered by the Nazis.

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