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Hena Evyatar papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2006.156.1

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    Papers consist of a group of letters written to Hena Kohn [donor] during and immediately following World War II by Father Edouard Robert; a false identification card used by Kohn; and a false identification card issued to "Andre Goedweert" that was used by Azriel Gutwirth [donor's husband] while in hiding. Also includes 33 photographs that document Kohn's pre-war and wartime experiences.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Hena Evyatar
    Collection Creator
    Hena Evyatar
    Hena Evyatar (born Hena Kohn) was born on February 1, 1929 in Łódź, Poland to Herschel and Ita Rivka Kohn (née Charlupska). In Łódź, Herschel Kohn made purses and other leather goods. In 1930, the Kohn family moved to Brussells, where their daughter Pola Kohn was born. Hena grew up in a moderately observant Jewish home in the quartier du Midi where many Polish Jewish immigrants lived. Her parents were anti-Zionist with sympathies for the Communist movement. Hena's first language was Yiddish, but she learned French at her locale public school, the école maternelle, and taught it to her parents.

    After the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, the Kohn family joined a wave of Belgian refugees who fled to France. While en route, however, they were overtaken by German troops who told them that the fighting was over, and they returned home to Brussels. Hena's Christian classmates were not happy that she had returned. In attempt to avoid the growing danger, Hena and Pola Kohn were sent to a Red Cross summer camp located at a castle in the Bois d'Arlon in the Ardennes during the summer of 1942. Their attendance was arranged by a Red Cross worker named Mms Van der Stiekelen, who sheltered the girls at her villa on the outskirts of Brussels for a week before the camp started. Herschel and Ita Kohn visited their daughters at the villa. Five days after saying goodbye to their children Herschel and Ita Kohn were arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where they perished in September 1942. Their daughters did not learn the fate of their parents until after the war.

    Unaware of the fate of their parents, the girls enjoyed the summer at camp. However, when it became clear that the girls had no home to return too, Mme Van der Stiekelen contacted a resistance network. A young Catholic priest, Edouard “Eddy” Robert, was sent to make arrangement for the girls.

    Pola Kohn was placed with family named Berquet in a small village. Hena Kohn lived at the home of two spinster sisters on an old farm. Father Eddy Robert visited the farm, and on weekends took Hena to visit his family in Bastogne. After living with the spinster sisters for several months, Hena was forced to leave. She was sent to a convent located near the college were Eddy Robert taught. At the convent, Hena befriended another Jewish girl named Judith, who subsequently converted to Catholicism. Hena became restless at the convent and was moved to live with the Jacquemart family in a nearby town. She remained there before living with Eddy’s mother in Neufchateau. There, Eddy Robert taught Hena
    Latin, music and painting and arranged for his colleagues to give her other lessons. Hena even took part in some of Eddy’s resistance activities including (for a brief time) the delivery of ration coupons to families hiding Jewish children.

    In 1943, Eddy learned that Hena's uncle Francois Shumiliver had escaped from a truck during a round-up of Jews in Brussels. Francois and his son Marcel (who had been in hiding) was brought to live with the Roberts family. Eddy arranged for Francois to work as a gardener in the nearby chateau. In the summer of 1944 Eddy was instructed by the underground to go into hiding because of his known involvement with parachute drops in the area. Hena went with him to a convent in a distant village where they spent nearly two weeks in isolation. The experience cemented the increasingly romantic nature of their relationship.
    After liberation, Hena returned to Brussels with her Uncle Francois and cousin Marcel. However, their relationship deteriorated and Hena left. She enrolled at the Soeurs de Notre Dames Catholic boarding school in the old city of Brussels. Her sister Pola Kohn joined here there.

    Hena Kohn graduated high school at the age of seventeen. In order to support herself and her sister, she worked as a secretary in a shipping company. She also reconnected with the Jewish community became involved in the Gordonia Zionist youth movement, which provided her with a new community of friends and social activities. Eddy Robert left the priesthood and asked Hena to marry him. She refused, encouraged by two male friends in the Zionist movement. Soon after, she immigrated to Israel and married Azriel Gutwirth (later Evyatar), a friend from the Gordonia group. She did not renew contact with Eddy Robert until 1996. In August 1999, Yad Vashem recognized Edouard Robert as one of the Righteous among the Nations.

    Physical Details

    2 folders

    Rights & Restrictions

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    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

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    Administrative Notes

    The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Hena Evyatar.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 14:23:57
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