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Blue felt hat worn by a German Jewish girl on the Kindertransport

Lilly Cohn (later Rosenberg) was born on January 30, 1928, in Halberstadt, Germany, to Ernst and Margarete Marcuse Cohn. Ernst was born on December 4, 1886, to Hugo and Selma Lusch Cohn, in Halberstadt where his family had lived for more than 300 years. Margarete was born on April 4, 1896, in Stargard, Germany (Stargard, Poland), to Eugen and Hedwig Samuel Marcuse. Ernst owned a linen factory and store, which he took over from his father. Margarete was a painter. Lilly’s family lived comfortably in an apartment above the store and had a maid. Her paternal grandfather, Hugo, owned the building and lived in an apartment above Lilly’s family. Lilly had one older brother, Werner, born on June 13, 1922, in Halberstadt. Lilly’s Orthodox family was active in the town’s large Jewish community and attended synagogue regularly. The Nazi regime, which came to power in 1933, actively persecuted the Jewish population. In 1935, Lilly started attending Jewish school, where she learned Hebrew. Lilly’s paternal aunt Lucy Spier and her husband immigrated to Manchester, England. By 1938, signs barring Jews were placed in German stores and children threw stones at Lilly and her Jewish classmates. Authorities came to the Cohn family’s home and took many valuables. Lilly’s father, Ernst, was forced to turn his business over to a non-Jew. He saved some linens and travelled around the countryside selling them to long-time customers. On November 9 or 10, 1938, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, two SS officers arrested Lilly’s father. Lilly was scared and did not understand what was happening. Her mother told her brother, Werner, 15, to hide in a closet. The officers returned, looking for the other Mr. Cohn, meaning Werner. Her mother lied and said the only other Mr. Cohn was her father-in-law Hugo. The men did not believe her, but left. Lilly’s mother learned that Ernst had been taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was assigned prisoner number 23954. Five weeks later, Ernst was released and returned home. He was very skinny and his head was completely shaved. Ernst and Margarete applied for an immigration quota number for the United States. Their number made them eligible for immigration in two years. Her parents registered Lilly for the Kindertransport [Children’s Transport], a rescue mission to save Jewish children. The registration was managed by Bloomsbury House, a group of Jewish aid societies in Great Britain. On July 6, 1939, Lilly and Margarete receive notice that a British family, the Allens, in Lancashire, had selected Lilly to foster. Lilly's aunt visited them and assured her sister that they would care for Lilly. On July 18, Lilly’s parents and brother accompanied Lilly on the train to Hannover, where she boarded a transport train with other children. SS officers boarded the locked train to ask if any children were carrying valuables. The following day, she arrived by ship in Harwich, England, and was given a large numbered tag to wear around her neck. When her number was called, she went to meet Mr. Allen’s secretary, Nellie Mills, who took her to Rochdale, where she met Herbert Allen, his wife Margaret, and their son Hubert, who was 30. Mr. Allen owned a large bus company. He was ill at home and patiently helped Lilly learn English words. Lilly’s parents sent a steamer trunk and wrote to her regularly. The Allens placed Lilly in a local convent high school run by German nuns, which helped Lilly learn English quickly. Lilly’s parents wrote to the school and requested that they not convert Lilly because religion was very important to her. The nuns respected their request. The Allens asked Lilly to stop wearing her Star of David necklace and she did. On September 2, Werner arrived and settled in Manchester, where their aunt Lucy lived. He had no sponsor and had to support himself. The Allens did not wish Lilly and Werner to have contact, as they wished to adopt Lilly and thought it best if she forgot her past. On September 3, 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany, following the invasion of Poland. Lilly’s parents continued to write, but had to send the letters through a friend in Switzerland. In April 1940, the Allens sent Lilly to boarding school at the Rusthall Beacon Youth Hostel for Girls near Tunbridge Wells. There were about fifty other Jewish girls, all refugees from Germany. Lilly received a letter in February telling her that her maternal grandmother Hedwig and aunt Frieda Marcuse had been deported to the ghetto in Glusk, Poland. Her aunt worked in a nearby labor camp. In April, her grandmother died. In the fall, her Aunt Lucy and brother Werner moved to London. In June 1942, Lilly received a letter from her parents, mailed in April, telling her that they were being deported to Poland. Also, that her aunt Frieda had died from typhus. In September, Lilly began studying dress design at the local Arts and Crafts School. In October, she got a Red Cross letter informing her that her aunt Bertha and grandfather Hugo had died in Halberstadt. In spring 1944, she graduated and began an apprenticeship with a boutique dress shop in London. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. In 1946, Werner insisted that he and Lilly should immigrate to the US, as their parents had wanted. An uncle in the US helped them get visas. On April 26, Werner sailed to New York City aboard the S.S. Chaser. On May 13, Lilly arrived in New York aboard the S.S. Drottningholm. She changed her name to Lillyan and found a job sketching wedding dresses. That summer, Lillyan met Gerald Rosenberg, a Kindertransport refugee from Gottingen, Germany. In 1948, Lillyan married Gerald and the couple had two sons. Later, Lillyan learned that her parents, Ernst and Margarete, had been deported to the Warsaw ghetto and perished there or in Auschwitz. Werner, 54, died on November 9, 1976, in Birmingham, Michigan. In 2005, Lillyan returned to Halberstadt for the first time to meet with Horst Hesser, a former family friend. Lillyan’s parents had hidden some of the family’s valuables with Horst’s father. After years of searching for Lillyan and Werner, he was able to return a set of engraved silverware, a small statue, and several paintings bearing Margarete Cohn’s signature.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Transport Kamp Vught - Westerbork, 7-06-1943 - 8-06-1943
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