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Who knows Karoline Cohn?

by Yael-Ravia Zadok*

“Who knows Karoline Cohn”? This call, published in the Israeli media last week, carries a fascinating discovery; a triangle-shaped pendant belonging to a Jewish girl was found at the site of Sobibor death camp, in the then-Nazi occupied Poland.

For the last decade, Israeli, Polish and Dutch archeologists have been carrying an archeological dig at Sobibor, discovering the location of what used to be the gas chambers, with innumerous personal items including wedding rings and medallions carved with their owners’ names. These items are the sole remains and the “tomb stone” of those victims burnt into ashes.

The pendant is similar to that of Holocaust diarist Anna Frank, with exactly the same carving of the word Frankfurt and the inscription MAZAL – TOV in Hebrew, with the date July 3, 1929, the Hebrew letter HE “ה” representing God’s name, surrounded by three stars of David.

According to Holocaust victims’ data base, the pendant might have belonged to Karoline Cohn who was born July 3, 1929 in Frankfurt and deported to the Minsk Ghetto in 1941. Cohn’s fate afterwards is unknown.

The dig was carried out where the victims were ordered to get undressed and had their heads shaved before being forced to walk along the “Road to Heaven”, the terrible name Nazis gave to the gas chambers path.

Prof. Yisrael Gutman, a leading Holocaust researcher, once said: “The Shoah (Holocaust) refuses to become History”. Seventy years later, anti-Semitism still exists. Israel is concerned with anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, including attacks on synagogues, physical attacks on Jews and the rise of far right parties and racist anti-Semitic rhetoric.

In November 2005, 60 years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the UN Assembly adopted the historic resolution 60/7, designating January 27 as the annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Holocaust Victims. Authored by Israel and the countries that liberated the camps, co-sponsored by many countries, including Cyprus, and approved unanimously, it reaffirms that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews and members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the danger of hatred, bigotry and racism.

People may ask why the international community should regard the Holocaust of the Jewish people as an unprecedented episode in history, since atrocities and genocide took place before and, unfortunately, still happen today around the world. It is the evil, systematic, “scientific” mass murder of any person with Jewish roots aiming to extinguish a whole nation, which makes it a universal trauma.

The UN resolution urges member states to develop educational programmes, to help prevent future acts of Genocide, to reject denial of the Holocaust, and to condemn all manifestations of religious intolerance, harassment or violence against persons or communities, based on ethnic origin or religious belief. The Israeli Embassy in Cyprus collaborates with the Ministry of Education to bequeath the lesson of the Holocaust to the young generation. Obviously, moral education rests also on political, economic and social leaders who share a common responsibility for shaping moral norms and ethical standards, and we welcome both statements and actions taken to assure that the lesson is learned.

Auschwitz survivor, author Primo Levi warned: It happened. Therefore, it can happen again. All of us today should commit to: ‘Never Again’.

*Ambassador of Israel to Cyprus

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