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About Hanna Kohner
Holocaust survivor Hanna Bloch was a subject of the American television series This Is Your Life on May 27, 1953. http://holocaustvisualarchive.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/this-is-your-life-hanna-kohner/
Bloch grew up as a child of Jewish parents in Teplitz-Schönau in the Sudentenland, where she fell in love with Walter Kohner in 1935. When in 1938, German troops occupied the Sudetenland, Walter could flee the Nazis and emigrate to the United States because his older brothers were living there. He wanted to have his fiancée Hanna join him later. When this was not possible for him, Hanna fled to Amsterdam. When in 1940, Hitler’s troops invaded this country, too, Hanna gave up her hope to marry Walter in the States.
At first, Bloch could avoid being arrested because she worked as a secretary for the “Jewish Council”. In Amsterdam, she met Carl Benjamin, a German refugee, whom she married in 1942, thereby saving him for a while from being arrested. In 1943, however, Hanna and Carl were arrested, too, and transported to Westerbork – staging post for their deportation in 1944 to Theresienstadt and to the extermination camp Auschwitz.
She was pregnant at the time which was a death sentence in Auschwitz. In order to have a chance of survival, she was told to secretly have an abortion. This was only possible with the help of her brother, a doctor, who was at Auschwitz, too. End of October 1944, he convinced a female doctor to perform the abortion. This was not the only time that Hanna Bloch escaped death.
In November 1944, she was brought to Mauthausen, a concentration camp near Lenzing, Austria. When the Americans liberated Mauthausen on May 5, 1945, Bloch as a forced laborer was one of the inmates that had escaped being murdered.
Before the US soldiers moved on, some of them offered to send a note to the survivors’ friends or relatives in the States. “I have a friend in California,” Bloch stammered in her school-English, to an officer. “He lives in Los Angeles, Sunset Boulevard.” And it really worked: Walter Kohner received the letter in a roundabout way in Luxemburg. He had returned to Europe with a special US military unit and was a news announcer at Radio Luxemburg. When he learned that Bloch was alive and safe, he immediately left and tried to find her – in Germany, Czechoslovakia, across Europe. He found her in the Netherlands.
On October 24, 1945, Bloch and Kohner were married in Luxemburg. In July 1946, Walter returned with her to Los Angeles. During the abortion in Auschwitz, Bloch had been told that she would never be able to give birth to a child but was not willing to accept that. After eight miscarriages, she gave birth to a daughter on July 4, 1955: Julie.
In 1990, Hanna Bloch Kohner died from a heart attack at age 70, perhaps a long-term consequence of the inhumane living conditions in the concentration camps. One year later, Julie started her project “Voices of the Generations”.
Sources: Voices of the Generations