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Oral history interview with Marcelo Cohen

Oral History | Accession Number: 2013.294.14 | RG Number: RG-50.693.0014

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Marcelo Cohen, born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (present day Croatia) on May 28, 1937, describes his parents, Khaym and Victoria Kohen, who were originally from Macedonia, were wealthy before the war, and survived for decades after the war in Miami, FL; his childhood memories, including a pair of little white booties he received at age two; how the Germans entered Zagreb and were searching for his father because he was one of the leaders of the Jewish community; how his father had been informed beforehand and managed to escape, wearing his pajamas and riding in a taxi for three days; how a German officer pointed a pistol at his mother’s head while she was being interrogated about the whereabouts of her husband; moving to Monastir, Tunisia to be with friends in 1941; his memories of eating fresh tomatoes from their garden; being in Monastir for a few months; how his father was warned about deportations by the local chief of police; how despite the warnings to the Jewish community, there were only 12 to 15 who decided to flee in less than 24 hours; how his family was the last to cross the bridge before the Nazis blocked it; the extermination of the 35,000 Jews who remained; how partisans helped Marcelo’s family move through the fields, despite the Germans’ dogs pursuing them; staying for a night in an abandoned church and moving in the direction of Albania; crossing a lake by boat as Nazis, who had surrounded the hills around the lake with anti-aircraft batteries, were sweeping the lake with searchlights; how they never zeroed in on the boats; arriving in Albania and encountering Italian policemen and Nazis, who had been informed about a group of escapees; how he and his parents passed the interrogation easily, as they had the fake passports; how his uncles and their families, with incomplete documentation, were confined to a village in Albania for the rest of the war; how the Jews who did not have any documentation were shot by Nazi soldiers on the spot; how his father’s fake name was Constantino Pako; boarding a ship in the Albanian port of Durrës; arriving in Bari, Italy; how the Nazis always looked for them, but under the name Kohen; living in Milan, Bologna, and Rome, although his father wanted to reach Switzerland; how his father spoke German well and played poker nightly with the SS and Gestapo agents, thus he knew what was going on; how his father would rehearse with him about their presumed ancestors because there were many Nazis in the hotel where they lived in Rome; how when the Allies entered Rome at the end of the war the Nazis urged his father to leave and he replied,” I am not afraid of them”; not knowing what happened to his family in Albania; how his mother’s family was wiped out and his father found a surviving brother, whom he brought to Chile; how there were close escapes from the Nazis in Bologna, but the family had documents identifying them as members of the Fascist Party; how his family survived the war financially thanks to his mother’s jewels and some cash his father had; losing their suitcase of money during an air raid in Bologna but retrieving it under grave danger; his lack of schooling; going to a Hebrew institute after the war; being an altar boy for a priest in the church; stealing an Allied jeep by hot-starting it; immigrating to Chile, where his mother had family; how his father encouraged him to study engineering; starting a construction business; living in Chile until the Allende crisis; moving to Miami; how his children don’t know much about his past; how a cousin wrote his mother’s story; personally forgetting the horrible scenes; how his father was not religious and his mother tried; the lack of Judaism in his life in Italy and how no one knew their Jewish identities; meeting his family that survived in Albania; how his parents spoke little about the war during their lives after the war and his father never wanted to go back to Yugoslavia to claim his property; how his father did not trust anyone and during the war he did not know the extent of the Jewish tragedy; his views on Germans; physically fighting anti-Semites after the war; his views on the Jewish resistance; and feeling like he did not have a youth because of the war.

Interviewee
Marcelo Cohen
Date
2010 November 10  (interview)
Language
Spanish
Genre/Form
Oral histories.
Extent
1 digital file : MOV.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Fundación Memoria Viva
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 10:43:44
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn73241