Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

Treasured Chest

The crate that served the Cohn family as a suitcaseThe crate that served the Cohn family as a suitcase   More photos

The Yad Vashem Historical Museum was recently given an egg crate used by the Cohn family in Holland to take their belongings to various hiding places.

As the situation deteriorated for Jews in Nazi Germany, Adolph and Elfriede Cohn-Strauss searched for a way to leave. They moved to Holland in 1935, after the German authorities refused to grant them emigration permits to Palestine. The Germans occupied Holland in 1940, and on July 15th 1942, the Cohns and their two children, Michael and Uriel were summoned for deportation to a so-called ‘work camp’. They decided to go into hiding instead. Michael was hidden alone with the van Lith family in Geldrop, a village close to Eindhoven, while the rest of the Cohn family hid in several different places, sometimes together, sometimes separated from each other. The egg crate pictured here was used as a ‘suitcase’ by the Cohn family to take their few belongings from one hiding place to the next. The crate’s date of production is clearly marked as 1940.

Adolph Cohn was an independent professional graphologist with several of the large Dutch industries as his exclusive clients. The directorate of one of these factories helped the Cohns to go into hiding, but shortly afterwards, one of the few people privy to their secret expressed his doubts as to whether he would be able to withstand interrogation.

Adolph was hidden separately with the van Put family, and joined his wife and son Uriel again at the beginning of 1943. They stayed together until the liberation of Holland in May 1945, living with Marinus and Everdina van Beek in the village of Bennekom, near Arnhem, where a local protestant priest, E.H. Broekema helped them, and even appealed to his parishioners during sermons to assist the Cohns.

Thanks to the courage of these Dutch citizens who risked their lives to help the Cohns, the whole family survived the war. Those who hid the Cohn family during the Holocaust were later recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Uriel Cohen, Jerusalem