Our mother, Margot COHEN, was born in Düsseldorf, Germany in the modern state of North Rhine-Westphalia ("NRW"). Her family originated from the present-day states of NRW and Hesse (between Kassel and Frankfurt) living in the small towns in these regions until the late 19th century. When all Jews were allowed to move to the larger towns, many family members moved to the NRW cities of Krefeld and Düsseldorf.
Margot COHEN's parents, Arthur COHEN and Johanna or Aenne GOLDSCHMIDT COHEN lived in Düsseldorf until 1942. Aenne's family was from Krefeld, though most of her family originated near the Hesse towns of Harmuthsachsen, Echzell, and Heldenbergen. Prominent family names include GOLDSCHMIDT, HAMMERSCHLAG,HEILBRUNN, REIS(S), EDELMUTH, ROTHSCHILD and SPEIER.
Arthur COHEN'S family originated from the NRW towns of Bergheim, Sinzenich, Drove, Friesheim, and other surrounding towns. Key surnames include COHEN, KAMP, HARFF, FLECK, FRÖHLICH, HAUSMANN, and DANIEL. Some of this family came from the Netherlands with the surname EPHRAIM.
Currently we can trace most families until mid-18th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries many of our families worked in the Jewish professions that were legally permitted, such as butcher or cattle dealer. Some in the 18th century acquired the Schutzjude or "protected Jew" status, which gave them some additional freedoms, such as living in a larger city; this information is recorded in public records. In more modern times when the families could freely move into the cities, more obtained university degrees and took on more academic professions. Others started businesses in cities based on some of their traditional professions, such as the COHEN family who owned a successful butcher supply business.
Our family loved Germany and considered themselves loyal citizens. Their sons served in WW1, even dying for the country.
When Hitler came to power, many hoped his reign would be temporary. When the situation worsened, many relatives began to flee; and things became worse after Kristallnacht.
Arthur and Aenne COHEN should have left Germany and their struggle to emigrate is captured in the many letters we now possess. However, on October 27, 1941, Arthur and Aenne were forced to appear at the "Schlachthof" (animal slaughter house) directly opposite their former Rather Street business; from there they were deported to to the Lodz ghetto in Poland, to Basar Gasse Street according to the shoah database at Yad Vashem. In 1942, they were deported to the Chelmno Death Camp where they were murdered.
Fortunately our mother was able to leave Germany on a Kindertransport , which allowed her to live in England during the war years. Soon after the war ended, our mother joined the United States Armed Forces in the European Theater and was stationed in Berlin, working as a translator. She has several photos from this period, including the attached picture that shows a group of Jewish survivors in Berlin celebrating their first High Holiday after the war (identities currently unknown). Both our mother and her brother immigrated to the United States.
While many family members died early deaths because of the Holocaust, we are fortunate that many survived, with photos and stories to tell. While the descendents of our German families are living in cities worldwide, the countries where most have settled include: Israel, The United States, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and the Netherlands. View the 50th anniversary photo that includes details on many family members.
UPDATE!!!! In early 2014 Margot COHEN particpated in a DNA study with results of K1a4a. Within the next few months, we hope to update the website with more details. The information that follows was written before more extensive testing could be done for genealogy and DNA.
Our maternal uncle participated in the Family Tree DNA project. Testing was done on both his paternal and maternal sides. Full DNA results can be viewed on the Family Tree website by registered users.
For our paternal Y-DNA, the COHEN side is haplogroup J1 (or J-M267). On the maternal side, the mtDNA is haplogroup K. What does it mean?
From the Eurepdia website there are some explanations of the haplogroups and DNA. Most of the DNA information that follows is from this website.
DNA results are often categorized in haplogroups, which is a way to categorize all humans into genealogical groups; people in the same haplogroup share one common ancestor at one given point in prehistory.
For Jewish families, The J1 is the Cohen Madol haplotype and about three-quarters of the people called Cohen, Kohen, or a variant belong to this J1 haplotype. The Cohanim in the Hebrew Bible are the direct descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses, and have a special role within Judaism. This information is known within most families and tombstones are marked with the Cohanim symbol of the two hands; so the DNA only confirmed what we already knew.
The J1 group is a Semitic haplogroup, making up most of the population of the Arabian Peninsula. Its highest density seems to appear in Yemen (72%), which could be its native place. The Muslim conquest of the Middle East, North Africa, and to a lower extent also to Sicily and southern Spain, spread J1 far beyond Arabia, creating a new Arabic world.
On the maternal side, the mtDNA is haplogroup K. Approximately 32% of the haplotypes of modern people with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (that's German and Eastern European Jews) are haplogroup K. Haplogroup K arose somewhere between Egypt and Anatolia (in and around modern-day Turkey) from 10,000 to 22,000 years ago. Its highest concentration is in North-West and Central Europe, Anatolia and the southern Arabian Peninsula.