Title: Just for the Record
Author: Louis Cohen
Publisher: Self Published
Place of publication: Melbourne
Year of Publication: 2000
Location of Book: Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre, Melbourne
Cities/town/camps: Amsterdam, Urk, Merwedelpein, The Polder, Hilversum, Westerbork
Note: those cities/towns/camps underlined are those which are most central to the narrative
Cohen’s Just For The Record is, as the title suggests, brief, comprising just 96 pages. Of this, some 11 pages deal with Cohen’s daily life as a teenager in pre-war Amsterdam, Liversum and Merwedelpein – the same area as that of Anne Frank; 38 pages with life under German occupation and his involvement with the Resistance movement; 27 pages with living ‘underground’ in the Poulder in Northern Holland; 10 pages with his subsequent escape to the island of Urk and life after liberation, and a small meditation of his feelings 50 years on . Printed independently by Cohen in 2000 at the request of family and friends, to date, Just For The Record has not been formally published.
The first section of the book deals with life in ‘The Jewish Corner’ in pre-war Amsterdam. Cohen, born in 1924, presents an overview of the Jewish Community’s social activities to convey that in his circles the word ‘Jew’ was not synonymous with ‘wealth’ and as such the Jewish Community’s atmosphere was unique in its humour and zest for life. Between 1932 and 1938, Cohen and his family moved to Hilversum, a small town about one hour from Amsterdam. During this time Cohen completed studies at the Trade School for Retail Personnel and experienced little anti-semitism despite the disproportionately large Jewish population. The family was back in Amsterdam at the time of the German invasion in May 1940. Cohen’s discussion of early occupation, centres on the process of registration, razzias (raids) and the intricacies of transportation to Auschwitz, Sobibor and Dachau via transit camps such as Westerbork, Vught and Theresienstadt.
The year of 1942 witnessed the separation of Cohen’s family and his subsequent involvement with the Resistance movement, closely associated with the Dutch Reformed Church. In this section there is particular attention given to the importance that the saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ had on Cohen’s fate. Indeed it was through family contacts that Cohen’s father was able to secure Cohen a job in a uniform factory and consequently Cohen was spared when his family was taken to Westerbork transit post in August 1942. Contact with his family continued through contacts with the Jewish Board, however when it ceased in late 1942, Cohen returned to the Resistance movement, which took measures to procure false papers for him and placed him ‘underground’. This was with the personalised intervention of Rooie Kees (Red Kees), a well known Resistance contact.
Cohen subsequently details the lengths he went to in order to convincingly maintain his new Roman Catholic identity as an irrigation and kitchen worker in the North East Polder. In winter 1944, Cohen was one of approximately 500 of the 2,500 workers to avoid arrest and transfer to the understaffed Philips Factories in the South. He then escaped to the island of Urk in the Ijsselmeer where he lived for six months until liberation. Cohen’s and much of his fiancee’s family perished in the war and throughout, much emphasis is placed on the ‘higher powers that be’, the role of fate and the humanity of those who helped Cohen in his fight for survival.