The Children of Bullenhuser Damm, Pt. II

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Georges-André Kohn, age 10.

Georges-André Kohn, age 10.

Odd Nansen’s diary entry of April 10, 1945, concerning the children of Bullenhuser Damm contained only one clue as to their identity—the reference to a young boy with pneumonia whose father was the head of the Rothschild Institute in Paris.  This was Georges-André Kohn, and his father’s name was Armand Kohn.  The elder Kohn cooperated with the German occupation authorities in Paris in his position as director of the largest Jewish hospital in France, in the hopes that his behavior might protect him and his family.  And it did for a while, although such cooperation meant walking a fine line between fulfilling his job healing the hospital’s Jewish patients and strictly enforcing the ever more drastic edicts against the Jews promulgated by Adolf Eichmann’s representative in Paris, SS Hauptsturmführer Alois Brünner.

But Kohn’s trust was ultimately misplaced, and his protection ended as the Allies approached Paris in the summer of 1944.  Armand and his entire family (mother, wife and their four children) were personally arrested by Brünner in late July, and on August 17, 1944, one week before Paris was liberated, they were placed on the last deportation train to leave Paris.

The fate of Georges-André, who was murdered three days shy of his thirteenth birthday, is doubly tragic.  As the deportation train headed east to Germany, Georges-André’s twenty-one year-old brother Philippe and eighteen year-old sister Rose-Marie decided to escape the slow-moving train along with several other occupants, through an opening they had made in the cattle-car.  Georges wanted to escape as well, but was prevented by his father, who feared reprisals against those who remained behind.  Like a dutiful twelve year-old, Georges elected to remain on the train.  Both Philippe and Rose-Marie made good their escape, and survived the war.

Of the Kohn family members who stayed behind on the train, only the father Armand lived.  His wife Suzanne and twenty-two year-old daughter Antoinette died in Bergen-Belsen, his mother Marie-Jeanne died in Auschwitz and Georges-André in Neuengamme.  Armand died in 1962 without ever learning of Georges’ whereabouts or fate (Günther Schwarberg’s book was not published until 1980).   Philippe Kohn later became the honorary president of the Children of Bullenhuser Damm Association.

More about the Kohn family’s story can be found in Swastika Over Paris by Jeremy Josephs (Arcade Publishing, 1989), which the author dedicated to Georges-André Kohn.

 

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  • February 10, 2019: Central United Methodist Church/S.T.A.R.
  • February 22, 2019: Providence Athenaeum, Providence, RI
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