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Remember the Women Institute and a Woman to Remember: My day with Marthe Cohn in Jerusalem

By Rochelle G. Saidel

I had the privilege of spending a day in Jerusalem with Marthe Cohn, a genuine heroine and a delightful woman. I met Marthe and her equally delightful husband of 61 years in Haifa on October 16, 2019, when the documentary about her had a world premiere at the Haifa International Film Festival. Chichinette--How I Accidentally Became a Spy tells how this petite French Jewish nurse, now 99, provided life-saving information to the French Army and the Allies toward the end of World War II. Cohn was visiting Israel from Los Angeles, along with her husband Dr. Major Cohn, and spoke after the screening. Executive producer Michael Potter and his wife Margaret Potter were also there, along with director Nicola Alice Hens and producer Amos Geva. At the request of the Potters, I accompanied Marthe and her husband to Yad Vashem and the United States Embassy when they came to Jerusalem the next week.

In addition to viewing this important film when it comes to a local cinema, you can read Martheís amazing story in her book, Behind Enemy Lines. And check out her Facebook page.

At Yad Vashem, we were greeted briefly at the entrance by Yossi Gevir, Director of Governmental and External Affairs and Senior Assistant to the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, and several others. Eva Lutkiewicz, of the Commemoration and Community Relations Division, was then our guide for the temporary photography exhibition, Flashes of Memory. Afterward, we met with staff members of the archive and artifacts departments.

Lisa Wishman, Director for the US Embassyís American Center, was our liaison for our afternoon visit to the US Embassy in Jerusalem. We went to Ambassador David Friedmanís new office, which he had just moved into that morning. He said he was delighted that his first interview on his first day in his new office was with Marthe. Ambassador Friedman and Marthe had a lovely informal discussion, and it was obvious that the ambassador was enchanted with Marthe and her story. A photographer took many candid shots of them, and then we posed in front of a huge painting, which happens depict the biblical spies sent by Moses. The ambassador then accompanied us outside, where we took photos with him in front of the iconic cornerstone that proclaims the U.S. Embassy is in Jerusalem.

Marthe Cohen

Photo, left: Marthe Cohn shaking hands with Ambassador David Friedman in the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Major and Marthe Cohen with Ambassador David Friedman in front of the cornerstone of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Photos by Matty Stern.

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