Ambassador of France Christophe Bigot at ceremony recognizing the heroism of Jewish rescuer Margot Cohn: France will not be passive witness to Iranian nuclear ambitions and Holocaust denial
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) conferred upon Margot Cohn, 90, the Jewish Rescuers' Citation for her heroic efforts rescuing Jewish children under the Vichy regime in France. Cohn did so at great personal risk during a time when daily life for Jews was unbearable.
This is not the first time Cohn has been recognized for her rescue activities. In 2003 Cohn was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, the France’s highest honor.
A Jewish Rescuers' Citation was also presented posthumously to Cohn's late husband, the celebrated Jewish educator Jacques Cohn, in recognition of his own rescue efforts. Some of his work was undertaken with Margot before the two married following the war.
The Jewish Rescuers’ Citation was established in 2011 by the JRJ and B’nai B’rith World Center to bring awareness to the thousands of Jews who were active in rescue efforts throughout Europe. They put their own lives at risk in order to save other Jews from deportation, hunger and death at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Citations have been presented to rescuers who were active in France, Hungary, Germany and Holland.
At the ceremony, French ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot asked to pay tribute to the men and women, many of them anonymous, who clandestinely organized the rescue of more than 5,000 children and took care of the orphans after the liberation.
“Each step, each breath, each word of these children is a victory over barbarism,” said Bigot. “This barbarism was conducted in France, by French citizens. France is fully responsible for these acts...With this monstrosity, France reached a point of no return. She sent to death her own children. More than 11,000 Jewish children were deported to Auschwitz.”
Bigot also addressed Holocaust denial and the contention between Israel and Iran.
“We also need to continue the struggle against the counterfeiters of history, individuals or nations, which still commit the abomination of denying the Shoah,” said Bigot. “We must act resolutely towards the Iranian regime which seeks not only to have a nuclear weapon, but also denies the very existence of the right for Israel to exist. In front of these words and actions, France will not be a passive witness.”
B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said the goal of the Jewish Rescuers’ Citation is to overcome nearly 70 years during which the heroism of Jewish rescuers was largely overlooked by official memorial and academic institutions in Israel. There is no greater expression of Jewish solidarity than the phenomena of young Jews, like Margot Cohn, who in war-torn Europe could have found a way to escape the constant threat of deportation and murder, but made a conscious decision to remain in order to help others.
Margot Cohn (neé Kahn) was born on July 14, 1922, in Ingwiller, France. When the German army invaded France in May 1940, the Kahn family fled from Alsace Region to the south. Margot volunteered in the Orthodox youth movement, Yeshurun, which established a center for producing study sheets on Jewish subjects, to be sent by mail from Limoges.
In 1942 the movement sent her to serve as a counselor in a children’s summer camp established by Jacques in Ussac. When the children's' parents were arrested in the famous infamous Venissieux raid in August 1942, Jacques, Margot and the young staff established the camp as a permanent home for about 30 children under the sponsorship of the Jewish children’s aid society OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants). Although the venue was in disrepair and without a regular supply of food, Margot and the small number of young counselors persevered until the house was closed.
Cohn was then sent to Lyon by the OSE where she was given the task of finding safe houses for children among the local population and Christian institutions. Margot also engaged in forging and recycling documents and ration cards, for which she could have been severely punished had she been caught.
Cohn worked with a constant awareness of the danger that threatened her, especially after the head of the Lyon OSE branch was arrested and deported to Bergen Belsen in November 1943. Undeterred, she continued her tasks, displaying superb emotional and educational capacities in dealing with the children in their hiding places.
In spring 1944 Cohn was sent to accompany groups of children on the less-patrolled night train from Lyon to Toulouse. Her task was to take them from their hiding place to another anonymous member of the underground so that they could be smuggled into Switzerland.
Margot trained to be a librarian and in 1945 married Jacques Cohn. The couple immigrated to Israel in 1952 and had three children: Elie, Ruth and Daniel.
For further details please contact Mr. Alan Schneider, Director, B’nai B’rith World Center, 02-6251743, 052-5536441, firstname.lastname@example.org
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