About Henri Max Cohen

Henri Max Cohen was born in 1903 in Oldenzaal, a small town in the east of the Netherlands very near to the German border. He died there in 1962.  He was the youngest son in a Jewish family of four children; a genealogical study tells us that his family had already settled in the Netherlands around 1770. At his Brit Milah and Bar Mitzvah he was named Chaim Moses Cohen, but he was known as Henri Max Cohen until 1955 when he changed his surname from Cohen to Corwin.  It was the time of the Cold War and many Jews emigrated to the United States by fear of a new world war.  He hoped that this name change might serve as some protection for his family.

In his early years he graduated from grammar school and he decided to enrol in law school  at Leiden University. Due to his father’s bad health he soon had to return to Oldenzaal to run the family business.

In those years he was not only able to spend time enlarging his stamp collection but also to devote himself to another hobby: the theatre. He wrote plays, acted and directed many  productions.

In the thirties, when the situation for Jews in Germany became unbearable, he acted as a courier for the Jewish Refugee Committee in Amsterdam, taking refugees across the Dutch/German border, often assisted by his

beautiful fiancée Geraldine. For this he was granted membership in the U.N.A.P.E.F.  (Union Nationale des Passeurs & Filieristes Benevoles) after the war. Albert Einstein expressed his gratitude to him in a letter included in this web site.

When in 1940 the Germans occupied the Netherlands and also started with the persecution of Jews, he organized places for hiding  family and friends. This illegal activity led to his arrest by the SD (Sicherheits Dienst) in 1943. On the way to prison he managed to escape by jumping from a train and he went into hiding  until the end of the war.

From 1945 until his death he successfully ran the family business but still found time to pursue his hobbies. In addition to his stamp collecting he started acquiring  WWII  memorabilia, initially based on posted items with postmarks, but rapidly expanding into subjects like German war propaganda and  the persecution and murder of the Jews. A major part of his collection is shown on this web site.

In his later years he became an enthusiastic amateur genealogist and historian. He tracked down family trees of Jewish families and gave lectures on the ups and downs of the Jewish population in the Twente region of the Netherlands.  The results of this research can be found in the Central Bureau for Genealogy in The Hague, in the Rosenthaliana Library, the NIOD (the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies), the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, the Historical Centre Overijssel, the Town Archive of Enschede and in periodicals, newspapers and  the Yearbook Twente 1962.

In 1960 he received a decoration : he became Companion of the Order of Orange- Nassau. In 1962 he died of a heart attack at the early age of 58. A street in Oldenzaal has been named after him.