“This compelling memoir is testament to how extraordinary circumstances can transform a life—and how an extraordinary person reacts to difficult circumstances. … This is the amazing story of a woman who lived through one of the worst times in human history, losing family members to the Nazis but surviving with her spirit and integrity intact.” —Publishers Weekly
“Born in 1920, Cohn experienced the Holocaust firsthand. Like many others, she and her family found themselves gradually isolated, then singled out for arrest and deportation. (A sister died at Auschwitz; her lover was executed for his resistance activities.) A determined young woman whose features the Nazis did not consider “Jewish,” Cohn was able to acquire some nurse’s training. When Paris was liberated, she joined the French army and by January 1945 was working undercover. … Cohn was a remarkable woman: she chastised Nazis to their faces, intimidated the prisoners she interrogated, learned to drive a stick-shift in one hour, possessed a photographic memory, verbally chastened a would-be rapist so severely that he not only abandoned his assault but offered to marry her, attracted the amorous attentions of most of the men she met, was a crack shot, survived falls through the ice, bullets, tanks, and traitors.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Despite having played a tremendous role in securing vital strategic information crucial to ending World War II, Cohn relays her amazing story of unprecedented bravery with simplicity and modesty.” —Elsa Gaztambide, Booklist
Marthe Cohn was a young Jewish woman living just across the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. Her family began sheltering fellow Jews fleeing the Nazis, including Jewish children sent away by their terrified parents. But soon France also fell under Nazi rule. As the French Jews’ basic human rights were stripped away under German occupation, Marthe’s sister Stéphanie was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she was never heard from again. The rest of her family fled safely to the south of France, but Marthe—always a fighter—joined the French Army to help rid her country of the Nazis.
As a member of the intelligence service of the French First Army, Marthe risked her life to retrieve crucial information about Nazi troop movements by slipping behind enemy lines, utilizing her perfect German accent and blond hair to pose as a young German nurse desperately trying to obtain word of a fictional fiancé. By traveling throughout the countryside and approaching troops sympathetic to her plight, chancing exposure every time she did so, she learned where they were going next and alerted Allied commanders.
When, at the age of eighty, Marthe Cohn was awarded the Médaille Militaire, France’s highest military honor, not even her children knew to what extent this modest woman had faced death daily while helping defeat the Nazi empire. At its heart, this remarkable memoir is the tale of an ordinary human being who, under extraordinary circumstances, became the hero her country needed her to be.
This edition contains 32 black-and-white photos, a bibliography, moving acknowledgements by Marthe Cohn, and a comprehensive epilogue.
About the Author
Marthe Cohn was a French Jewish spy in Nazi Germany during World War II. In 2005, she was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur, contributing to her many military accolades. She lives in Palos Verdes, California.
Wendy Holden is a celebrated journalist and the co-author of numerous bestselling books, including Tomorrow to be Brave by Susan Travers, A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn, Lady Blue Eyes by Barbara Sinatra, and Memories Are Made of This by Deana Martin. She lives in England.
This compelling memoir is testament to how extraordinary circumstances can transform a life and how an extraordinary person reacts to difficult circumstances. Cohn was a typical French-Jewish teenager when WWII broke out, but as it did for millions of others, the war transformed her life in unimaginable ways. "There was no time to be frightened," she and Holden, a veteran journalist, write. The first part of the book chronicles her family and friends' response to the war. That countless other books have described the effects of the Nazi onslaught the life-and-death consequences of the unthinkable decisions many were forced to make makes her descriptions no less powerful and tragic. The narrative turns into a quasi thriller in its second half, depicting how the death of Cohn's fianc led her, now a nurse, to join the Free French forces in the fight to defeat the Nazis. A blonde, fluent German speaker who never mentioned to her superiors that she was a Jew, she went on several life-threatening missions into German territory, earning France's highest military honors. But she describes her actions without self-aggrandizement. What comes through is the importance of courageous individual action in the most dire situations. This is the amazing story of a woman who lived through one of the worst times in human history, losing family members to the Nazis but surviving with her spirit and integrity intact Cohn now lives in California. 8 pages of b&w photos.