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January 27, 2017  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Jewish woman who spied for France behind German lines to speak here

Marthe Cohn Marthe Cohn In 1944, Marthe Cohn pretended to be a German nurse who was traveling across the countryside questioning German troops in hopes of finding out news of her fiancé. In truth, a spy for France, she gave vital information she was able to glean from German troops to the Allied forces.

Cohn will share her story as told in her book, “Behind Enemy Lines,” at a program on Monday evening, Feb 13, sponsored by Chabad of St. Petersburg. Cohn’s talk will be held at the freeFall Theater, 6099 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Cohn, born in 1920 to a French Jewish family, lived just across the German border when Adolf Hitler rose to power. She will relate how most of her family escaped from occupied France and how she was recruited for her clandestine work. As a member of the French First Army intelligence service, she visited the German front lines in the closing days of the war, hobnobbed with SS officers and learned about the German army’s plans.

“As the generation who bore witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust fades, it is a moral imperative that we hear their stories,” said Rabbi Alter Korf, of the Chabad Jewish Center of St. Petersburg. “We need to make every effort to listen to those strong lessons and never forget those troubling times. Only then can we make sure this world is a better place.”

Cohn, who lives in Southern California, has received awards for heroism not only from France but also from the German government.

Immediately following the war, she was the recipient of the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military honor, and at age 80, she received France’s Medaille Militaire, given for acts of bravery against an enemy.

In 2014, Cohn received Germany’s highest honor, the Cross of the Order of Merit, acknowledging the enemy spy’s role in helping the country “become a democracy again and for shortening the war.”

She did not begin writing her memoirs until after her retirement in 1999, revealing stories about her exploits that she had never shared - not even with her children. Behind Enemy Lines was published in the U.S. in 2002 and later was translated into French.

“I had an extremely interesting life – sometimes very harsh, sometimes very pleasant – but always lively,” 96-year-old Cohn has said. “Tolerance and acceptance is the only way.”

A question and answer session and book signing will follow Cohn’s talk.

Early bird tickets to the program are available online for $10 before Feb. 10, $15 after that date.

Sponsorships are available for $180 and include a free, signed copy of her book, as well as VIP seating for two. Cohn’s book, Behind Enemy Lines, will be available for purchase.

For more information or to RSVP, visit or call (727) 344-4900.

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