In February 1945, in the thick of a very dark and cold night, Marthe Cohn, a blond-haired, blue-eyed, German-speaking, French Jewish woman, walked alone into Nazi Germany.
There, assuming the character of a young German nurse, Cohn gathered, and then passed back to Allied forces, information about German military troop movements and other valuable intelligence.
After World War II, Cohn didn’t talk much about her days as an Allied spy. But, on Wednesday, Cohn will recount her wartime experiences during a presentation at the Adelson Educational Campus, 9700 Hillpointe Road.
Cohn, now 98 and living in Southern California, was born in Metz, France. As Nazi occupation tightened its grip on France, the family fled to the south of France, and Cohn joined the French army as a nurse.
Not long into her service, she mentioned to an officer that she could read German. He asked whether she could speak German, too. Cohn said yes, and he was intrigued.
“I wondered in what predicament I had put myself,” Cohn recalled during a recent phone interview.
Cohn was asked to become a spy for French army intelligence. After several weeks of intensive training, she was sent into Germany in the guise of Martha Ulrich, a young German nurse who was fleeing the Allies and searching for her German soldier fiance. She gathered information from sympathetic German soldiers that she later passed back to the French.
She didn’t talk publicly about her wartime experiences — not even to her children — until being interviewed by a Holocaust researcher in 1996.
For her wartime service, Cohn has received honors that include the Medaille Militaire, and she tells her story in a memoir, “Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.” (The book will be available for purchase at the event, and a signing will follow Cohn’s presentation).
Cohn has told her story to audiences all over the world. She’s matter-of-fact about what she has accomplished, but says she always has been “extremely happy that I did it. I am very proud that I did it. It was my contribution to the war.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, founders of the Adelson Educational Campus.
■ What: “Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany”
■ When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
■ Where: Adelson Educational Campus, 9700 Hillpointe Road
■ Tickets: $18 (chabadredrock.com/lectures or 702-217-2170)