'Rehabilitation through training did more than skill training. It restored my self-respect, self-worth and above self reliance.'
Judy Cohen was born in the Hungarian town of Debrocen, the youngest of seven siblings in an Orthodox Jewish family. She was sixteen years old when the Germans entered Hungary. The Jewish community of her town was marked with yellow stars and forced into an overcrowded ghetto. Passover of 1944 was the last holiday that the family spent together. Within three months of the beginning of the occupation, in June 1944, her whole family was forced into a kettle truck and sent to Auschwitz. Three quarters of those who were in the same transport as Judy were murdered immediately upon arrival. Her parents and majority of relatives were among those killed. Judy survived Auschwitz, and then concentration camp in Bergen Belsen, a slave labor camp. She was liberated by the American army during a death march in May 1945. After liberation she travelled back to Hungary where she found that her youngest brother was still alive. Five months after liberation she heard from one of her sisters who was staying in the Bergen Belsen DP camp.
Judy and her brother embarked on a journey through the chaos of post war Europe, trying to get back to Germany and find her sister. They reached the camp and decided to stay there until they could get a visa to emigrate. In the camp Judy started attending an ORT vocational course in dental technology. ‘I quickly realized as I turned seventeen that I have no life skills and needed to learn something that I could earn my living with’ – she remembers. ‘Being in that ORT School was a great experience for me because rehabilitation through training did more than skill training. It restored my self-respect, self-worth and above self reliance. For us, Jewish Holocaust survivors, these aspects were doubly important to lessen the painful aftermath of our immensely devastating experiences in the Nazi Holocaust’- she recalled.
In 1948 the siblings managed to obtain a visa to Canada as contracted needle workers. Judy settled down in Montreal, where she became a bookkeeper. She got married and had two children. After retiring she became an active Holocaust educator.
Source: World ORT Archive: Judy Cohen interviewed by Katarzyna Person, April 2009