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October 14, 2013

Carla Cohn wrote “My Nine Lives” after surviving Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:45 am

Carla Cohn was a small child, living in Berlin, with her prominent Jewish family, when she was sent, along with her sister and her parents to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, the best of all places, to which the Jews were sent, during the Holocaust.

Building L410 for young girls at Theresienstadt

Building L410 for young girls, ages 8 to 16, at Theresienstadt

I have blogged several times about Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein, who is the subject of a new film by Claude Lanzman, the man who made the 9 and 1/2 hour film entitled Shoah. Lanzman interviewed Dr. Mermelstein at great length at the time that he was recording testimony from many Holocaust survivors for Shoah, but the interview ended up on the cutting room floor. Lanzman’s new film features the interview with Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein.

Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein was at Theresienstadt from Sept. 27, 1944 until May 5, 1945, so Carla Cohn was not at Theresienstadt during the time that he was there.  In spite of this, Ms. Cohn calls him Murmelschwein in her book. (In German, the word Schwein means pig; this is the worst insult possible in German, sometimes the insult is given as Schweinehund.)

My previous blog posts, about Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein, which you can read here and here have generated a lot of comments, including this comment made by Herbert Stolpmann, who has his own blog at

This quote is from a comment made by Herbert Stolpmann:

… Carla Cohn has [this] to say of Dr. Wolf Murmelstein’s late father in her book ‘MY NINE LIVES’:

…The next Judenrat (Jewish Administration Advisor) was a Rabi, Benjamin Murmelstein, generally referred to as ‘Murmelschwein’ (pig). He was generally disliked and distrusted. Rumour had it, that being in charge of the deportation lists, he would substitute a name on the list for a price.

This ancient rumour has been confirmed to me rather poignantly when the past came to haunt me here in Rome a few years ago. I received a phone call by a man I did not know who insisted to come and see me regarding an important Terezin [Theresienstadt,sic] matter. He would not give his name over the phone. I was unable to refuse since it had to do with Terezin. I found myself face to face with an obviously very distressed man who introduced himself as Rabbi Murmelstein’s son!

His father has died recently but the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Toaff, would not permit a Jewish burial for his father. The son was contacting all surviving Terezin ghetto inmates to ask them to give positive testimony for his father, so that he could be buried as a Jew in honour…

I did a search on My Nine Lives and found that parts of the book can be read online. Ms. Cohn wrote her book in the German language, but I decided to read the English translation.  From my limited understanding of the German language, I was able to deduce that her writing style is very good, but I elected to read the English version, so that I would not misunderstand the meaning of her words.

These quotes are from pages 68 and 69 of her book:

From page 68:

The delousing drill was often repeated.  We never knew whether the shower was intended for the purpose of delousing and a “wash,” or whether it was to prepare our bodies for the gas chamber.  Zyklon B gas works more efficiently when the body is wet. […]

A real shower room, not a gas chamber, at Auschwitz-Birkenau

A real shower room, not a gas chamber, at Auschwitz-Birkenau

From page 69:

During the last “selection” by Dr. Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” I was found to be “unfit” and ordered “left” with the sick and aged.  I did not fully register what that meant at that moment.  I did notice that the scramble for the “shower” was even more frantic, though seemingly taking longer than in other times.  I was nude, in the corridor waiting my turn into the “shower.”

An SS man appeared, grabbed me and shoved me back out while whispering, “I have pulled you out once before, what are you doing in here again”!  I have never seen this SS before or afterwards.  My life was saved by “blind” luck in the guise of a case of mistaken identity!

Another push sent me outside, nude.  I found myself among a group of younger women, out in the icy cold. Someone threw some clothes at me, among them a long, black heavy man’s coat of which I grabbed and frantically  put on while hiding between women.

I read much more of her book, starting with her account of her stay at Theresienstadt, followed by her description of her days spent at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  She wrote about how she was eventually sent, in 1944, to the Mauthausen camp in Austria, where she was put to work, with a group of other women, digging a tunnel.  After World War II ended, there were accusations that Ernst Kaltenbrunner had given the order for all the prisoners at Mauthausen to be taken into the tunnel which was to be blown up in order to kill all the prisoners.

Carla Cohn apparently believed, after the war, that the purpose of the tunnel that she had been digging was to kill all the prisoners before the American liberators arrived.

Long story, short: Carla Cohn’s book is a composite of all the Holocaust claims, from the gassing of prisoners in the showers, to blowing up the prisoners in tunnels.  Her claims about Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein should be evaluated in that context.  In other words, I wouldn’t believe anything that she writes.


  1. 1. Carla Cohn even does not quote the exact titles valid in Theresienstadt-Terezin: There was the JUDENAELTESTER – Elder of Jews as the head of internal management. Beside him we had the AELTESTENRAT – Council of Elders; roughly equivalent to East Europa JUDENRAT-Jewish Council. All this was well known among the inmates.
    2. Among inmates holding positions enabling to have a more exact knowledge ot real going on of events and things – called “Funktionshaeftlinge”/commisisoned prisoners only few survuved. Carla Cohn never hold such a position so she could not remember things exactly when starting to write her book at the age of about 70 years..
    3. Clearly her fate was horrible as Auschwitz and Dachau certainly were not tourist villages or so.

    Comment by Wolf Murmelstein — October 14, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

    • Herr Doktor Wolf: Schlafe ohne Tränen des Nachts! Dormire senza piangere di notte! Sleep without tears at night!

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — October 15, 2013 @ 12:01 am

  2. Off topic, but The Chief Rabbi of Rome’s son Ariel Toaff has written a most scurrilous book.

    Comment by who dares wings — October 14, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    • “Blood libel” is a big can of worms that you have now opened up. You can read about “blood libel” on Wikipedia at

      The word “libel” is used because Christians have libeled Jews, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You can read about the exhibit on blood libel in the Jewish Museum in Berlin on this page of my website:

      Comment by furtherglory — October 14, 2013 @ 11:57 am

      • In the years 2007 and 2008 I rebuked the thesis of Mr Ariel Toaff and some one (who?) recalled my heavy quarell with Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff.

        Comment by Wolf Murmelstein — October 14, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

      • FG
        It is stated that Benjamin Murmelstein had been hated and feared and called “Murmelschwein”. This is certainly true as he was in the Council of Elders acting in daily supervisory work in the HEALTH AND WELFARE and TECHNICAL SERVICES, he had a very critical attitude on certain positions of privilege. He held the view to master many problems cutting privileges – clearly those not dependent on “good connections” with the SS – fighting so much of the related corruption and the business of “cigarettes in change of stolen food” and other goods. Persons, like: cooks, warehouse keepers, etc. etc. – who were “disturbed” in their affairs indeed hated and feared Benjamin.
        And what about his mistress at Theresienstadt?
        Wlasta Schoenowa’s autobiography was published in Hebrew. Nava Shan, Lihijot Sachkanith (Beeing an Actress), Kibbuz Hameuchad – 1991. Wlasta Schoenowa was born in 1919 and lived in Israel after the war, where she became an actress. Her Hebrew name was Nava Schan. She died in 2001. In her autobiography Nava Schan (Wlasta Schoenowa) writes about Murmelstein. Here she seems to tell a different story than Charlotte Opfermann.
        Nava Shan writes that Murmelstein made her laugh, when she first saw him. In her eyes he was a “ridiculous fat man”, a pig head, only the lemon in the mouth was missing”. Nava Shan however does not write that he >>forced her into submission.<< On the contrary she writes that for months he was wooing her. He sent her gifts and love-letters. He came to the theatre to see her. Nava Shan writes that she became attracted by his intelligence and that she fell passionately in love with him. Nava Shan: "Then, at age 24, I thought that sexual bondage was love." However, there was no reference whatsoever that Murmelstein put her or her relatives on the deportation list. [Charlotte Opfermann's statement that she was put on the Deportation List, seems to be incorrect, sic]. Yet late in 1944 a Transport of Jews arrived at Vaivara (Estonia) concentration camp after a three-day journey from Theresienstadt, the question I would like to have answered, was the List prepared by Dr. B. Murmelstein? Did they finish up in the slaughter of 2000 at Klooga sub-camp September 1944?
        As far as his son Wolf is concerned, he was not older than 8 years at that time and would know very little what was going on or the activities of his father, nor the extent of the Shoah!

        Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — October 14, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

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