For anyone who is not from Geleen or the province of Limburg ,in the south East of the Netherlands, the name Geleen will mean very little. Yo may have visited the town perhaps while it was still hosting the annual Rock festival of PinkPop. Maybe you even visited the former mining town during one of the street theater festivals. But to me it is the place where I was born, it is where my roots are.
Josephine Cohen was also born in Geleen, albeit 38 years before my birth.
Her father was Simon, a shop owner. The shop was situated on Mauritslaan 110, in Geleen. A address I would have passed by many times a week because it was near my school.
There were 6 in the Cohen family.The Father Simon, the Mother Esthella Carolina Cohen-ten Brink. Daughters Josephine, age 12, Henny age 16.Frieda age 17 and 1 son Gerrit. Gerrit is the only one who survived the war. He died on September 22, 1998, age 76.
Josephine was the youngest, she was born on July 9.1930.
Simon Cohen’s clothing warehouse was closed with effect from 1 November 1941. The reason for this is uncertain, but it is plausible that Simon refused to accept an ‘Aryan administrator’ imposed by the occupying forces. In August 1942 the Cohen family was called up to report for the ‘Arbeitseinsatz’. The call was for men between the ages of 16 and 65, including their wives and children. As in many families, this led to heated discussions in the Cohen family. Son Gerrit, whose friends urged him to go into hiding, argued strongly in favor of this, but at the express wish of his law-abiding father, he waited with the whole family on 25 August 1942 for the arrival of the police. When the dreaded knock was finally heard at the door, Gerrit fled after all. He reached the flat roof and the attic of the neighbors through a skylight. Then he went into hiding. Rumors of Gerrit’s suicide may have been deliberate so that the police wouldn’t look for him.
The other family members, along with many other Jews, were taken by bus from the Markt in Geleen to Maastricht that afternoon and arrived in Westerbork on August 26, from where they were deported to Auschwitz on August 28. Simon and Esthella and their daughters Frieda and Josephine were gassed there on arrival on August 30 or 31, 1942. Sixteen-year-old daughter Henny was selected for forced labor, but she died less than a month later, on September 26, 1942, according to the death certificate of influenza.Gerrit was the only survivor of the Cohen family. He is said to have hid in the vicinity of Stein-Meers. Gerrit Cohen married in 1947 and continued to live in Geleen for the rest of his life.
Josephine was only 12 when she was murdered.