Class portrait of a school in Merano Italy.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 96115
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Italy
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Anna Kohn-Hoenig
Class portrait of a school in Merano Italy.
Anna Kohn is pictured sitting third from the right.
- Anna Kohn Hoenig was born on July 20, 1926 in Merano, Italy to Josef Kohn, (b. 1894 Litomysl, Czechoslovakia) and Gisella Yokel (b. 1895, Miroslav, Moravia. Josef's brother, Alfred (Keller married Gisella's sister Valeria (Valy). Josef studied medicine in Prague and specialized in lung and heart disease as his brother and sister died of tuberculosis and heart disease when they were young. Josef was in a Zionist movement and considered moving to Palestine. However after being told there were was no need for more doctors there, he instead moved to Italy in the 1920s settling in Merano. He found work in the same hospital where he used to take his mother for heart check-ups. In Merano, Anna attended a Catholic school. She was only of one a small number of Jewish students. However, she was not required to participate in religious studies. In 1936 when she was ten years old she was obligated to join the Italian fascist youth group called "Picolo Italiana." She wore its uniform and participated in a rally in honor of Mussolini’s birthday.
In 1938 after Hitler signed an agreement with Mussolini intending to send Italian Christians from S. Tyrol to Austria, the Kohn family decided to move to Milan. By then, Jewish physicians could no longer legally practice medicine, although Josef continued to do so without permission in Milan. Often instead of being paid for his services, Josef's patients gave him rugs and silver items in lieu of payment. In Milan Anna attended the Jewish School LaScuolo via Eupili until it closed in 1942.
Josef had connections with the local police who warned them to stay home when the Fascists were in the area. In addition, his landlord, Arigo Stopelli, also gave him warnings. As a safety measure in case of need, they also rented a one and a half rooms in the village of Cantu (near Cuomo). When the Germans entered, Stopelli told them they couldn’t remain any longer in Milan. He hid their possessions in a church and returned everything to them after the war.
After remaining a few months in Cantu in October 1944 the Kohns were smuggled over the border to Switzerland, near Lugano. The first time they attempted to cross they were sent back and remained in Cantu for another two days until they were told they could cross the border. Josef had a friend and former patient living in Switzerland who was in the Bundesrat. His friend arranged for Josef to be sent to Rovio, a hospital near Lugano. Anna and her mother were sent to a Swiss camp. After sleeping on the floor for about a month, she contracted scarlatina and was hospitalized. Josef was sent to work as a doctor in the Kurwalden family camp. Anna and Gisella later joined him. From there Josef was sent to Davos to work in the Etanya hospital. Anna worked in an office helping Jewish refugees.
After liberation Anna and her parents returned by train to Italy. They first returned to Milan but then returned to Merano where more work was available. Anna worked with refugees for the Jewish Agency. She met Natan Bronner and Ada Sereni as well as soldiers from the Jewish Brigade who tried to persuade her to go to Palestine illegally. She joined the hachshara, Cerriana La Gueto (near Cuomo) where she met her future husband, Zvi Hoenig. Zvi was born in Centa, Serbia on. February 1926. He had been in Auschwitz and from there was sent to two different labor camps; one near Luxembourg and the other in salt mines in France. Since he was a welder he also was sent to work in the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany and on the V-8 rockets in Thiel. Zvi’s sister, Yaffa Hoenig and his mother were in Auschwitz as well. His sister worked in the kitchen which helped her survive, but she was transferred to Bergen Belsen with her mother, where their mother died of typhus. His brother Shlomo spent some time with the partisans and then escaped to Hungary. In June 1946 Anna left with the Jewish Brigade by truck to Genoa to wait for the ship that that would take them to Palestine unbeknown to her parents. Together with 1,300 other refugees she embarked on the Joshua Wedgwood that was captured by the British on June 27, 1946 after attempting to land illegally in Haifa. The refugees were taken to Machane Maazar in Atlit. A few weeks later the Italians were sent to Kibbutz Givat Brenner. She and Zvi married soon after. After a year the young couple moved to a moshav where Zvi worked as a welder and later moved to Haifa and then Tivon. Anna has three daughters, three grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Anna Kohn-Hoenig
Record last modified: 2017-09-28 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1183866