Geschwister Brünell
Margot Cohen
Herbert Cohen
Gabriel Cohen
Werner Cohen
Geschwister Devries
Ellen Hoffmann
Johanna Hoffmann
Kurt Hoffmann
Geschwister Kann
Ruth Mayer
Geschwister Meyer
Joseph Seligmann
Rolf Peter Stern
Heinz Sternefeld
Leni Valk

Projekt: Lost Childhood

Jewish Children from Goch and Uedem

The aim of or project “Lost Childhood” is to draw attention to the fate of Jewish children and young people from Goch and Uedem during the period of National Socialism.

What makes childhood precious?

To live in the loving-care and protection of a family, to develop one’s personality freely, to enjoy the company and be able to have friends of one’s choice, to be able to attend school, to have sufficient to eat and drink, to be protected from psychological and physical abuse, to be involved in decisions, are only some of many aspects which might be stated. These basic rights of children are nowadays statutory in various German Federal State laws as well as UN Charters. That was not always so!

Children denied rights, opportunities and a future

None of the aforementioned aspects of a happy and valued childhood applied to Jewish children during the National Socialist period. Many Jewish children could not live in the protection of their families. They were either, like Leni Valk, sent abroad, or they were, together with their parents, deported to concentration-camps and subsequently murdered .

From 1938 onwards, Jewish children were no longer allowed to attend state schools. Trade apprenticeships were no longer permitted – and higher university education was also banned for them .

Any right to enjoying the company, or having friends of one’s choice was already limited in 1933. By the end of the 1930’s the total isolation of Jewish inhabitants had been attained. Spurred on by their families, school policies and the Hitler Youth or BDM many non-Jewish children wished no contact with Jewish children. One anti-semitic mother succeeded in having Leni Valk expelled from kindergarten. In 1934 the local N.S. Party leader Herr Salzmann succeeded in having schoolgirl Ellen Hoffmann banned from taking part in any public school events. Membership of clubs (e.g sports etc) was no longer possible. Possibilities for public life or freedom of play were steadily vanishing. Jewish children were not permitted to visit swimming baths, cinemas, playgrounds, or public parks. Everywhere signs were to be seen reading “Forbidden for Jews”. Finally open isolation was reached by the compulsory wearing of the yellow “Judenstern” which resembled a blocked-in six-pointed Star of David. One can hardly imagine how frightening it must have been for Jewish children to wear such a sign of exclusion, whilst walking the gutters, for using the sidewalks was also forbidden in the 1940’s .

Threats and violence increased after 1938. During the “Kristallnacht” of 9th November 1938 the Goch Synagogue was burned down by arson. Most of the Jewish owned shops were wrecked and plundered as well as private apartments and houses, which were searched and vandalised. The descriptions provided by Margot Cohen, then only six,  make clear the fear which she suffered at such tender age. Further to this her father, as was also Leni Valk’s father imprisoned, without charges – for a day, or (Mr. Valk) interned in the Dachau concentration camp .

Fear of the ever-present threat of violence, imprisonment, deportation and murder played an increasing part in their lives. Children who had been sent by their parents to the Netherlands, had to survive without their parents, with relatives (Leni Valk, Rolf Peter Stern) or with foster-parents / in orphanages (Margot, Herbert and Gabriel Cohen, Joseph Seligmann). Herbert and Gabriel Cohen lived at various addresses in Amsterdam 1942/43 and so attempted being caught in the German “Razzias” (Germany had invaded and occupied the Netherlands in 1940) Sometimes they could only stay at the addresses at night – and had to spend the daylight hours on the street. From 1941 from Germany, from 1942 from the Netherlands, the deportations to ghettoes and concentration camps in the east commenced. Each person could take one packed suitcase, plus food only for the journey and a maximum of 50 Reichsmarks with them. All other possessions had to be left behind. Edith Devries from Weeze, sent to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia aged only four – recalls even now how she had wanted to take her doll. Neither she nor Margot Cohen were able to do so, as there was no space in their small suitcases for toys .

Of the 20 Jewish children and teenagers from Goch and Uedem, 11 were murdered in concentration camps. The others survived by various strokes of fate; by timely emigration (to the USA: Eva and Leah Willner, to Argentina: Werner Cohen, Heinz Sternefeld) or by being hidden in the Netherlands (Lore and Rosemarie Kann, Margot Cohen). Joseph Seligmann fought with Belgain and Dutch resistance movements and ended the war as a soldier in the Dutch Army .

Those children and young people who did not lose their lives did however lose members if not all of their families. As per their ages they had seldom or never attended school. They had lived with relatives- hardly known before or with total strangers. For reasons of poor education and lack of finance they were later to find it difficult or impossible to be employed as they would have wished. The grandchildren of Heinz Sternefeld – whose family had been very wealthy – reported that after his arrival in Argentina and during his subsequent life there he had to take many low-paid and unqualified jobs – which caused him unhappiness for the rest of his life.

Never forget!

On this website we wish to present the fates of Jewish children from Goch and Uedem. In this manner we intend to honour them and ensure they are not forgotten .

Thanks to

Pupils of Class 10 / Information Technology course – for your interest and involvement in research and website design .

For freely providing photographs and information a special thanks to :

  • Dr. Micha Ofir, Leahand Daniel Cohen for Informationen and pictures about family Oppenheimer / Willner /Seiligmann
  • Hans-Joachim Koepp, town archivist
  • Johannes Nolte (Former Head of "Geschwister-Devries-School" - Uedem
  • Miriam Mijatovich Keesing a picture showing Herbert Cohen and documents about  Gabriel Cohen <nd Leni Valk
  • Carla Machado for pictures and information about her grandfather Heinz Sternefeld
  • the Jewish Historical Museum for pictures about the Refugee Home  Soesterberg
  • Nicolette Ista and Frank Duveen for pictures and information about family Koppel/Kann
  • Ursula Ultermann for information and pictures about family Hoffmann, Brünell
  • Robin Devries for his father´s photos of Goch s, Karin Schimmelpfennig for information about Rolf-Peter Stern
  • and many others, who provided Material and supported us.

Goch, 20th of May 2015

Ruth Warrener

Startseite jüd. Kinder

Steintor Goch

Stonegate  Goch

Leni Valk

Leni Valk


"Jewish Star"

Plakat zur Gocher Synagoge

A suitcase containing everything?

Leah und Eva Willner

Leah und Eva on a ship leaving for New York 1938

Zaun im Durchgangslager Westerbork

Fence in the transition Camp  Westerbork

Erstellt von :
R. Warrener
B1, B2, B3 StAG
B5 - (c) Fotosammlung Daniel Cohen
B4, B6 - Fotosammlung R. Warrener