Hilda Stern Cohen was born in 1924 in Nieder-Ohmen, Hesse. In 1941 she was deported to the Lodz/Litzmannstadt Ghetto and in August 1944 to Auschwitz. She survived and after her liberation she immigrated to the US, where she married and became the mother of three daughters. She died in 1997.
After the death of his wife, Dr. Werner Cohen found a number of old school notebooks in a drawer. They contained about 150 poems and prose in German language. Their existence had previously been completely unknown to him. While reading, he was not only deeply moved by his wife’s literary talent, he also gained a deep insight into her experiences as a child in Germany and as a young woman in the Lodz/Litzmannstadt Ghetto and Auschwitz. In search of a possibility of publishing his wife’s works, he consulted the Goethe Institute in Washington, where Dr. William Gilcher eventually asked the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur for their assistance and help. Two years later, in September 2013, the works of Hilda Stern Cohen were published entitled „Genagelt ist meine Zunge“ as Volume 2 of the series “Memento” by the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur and the Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung in Lich. The title of the text collection is taken from a poem, in which Hilda Stern Cohen bitterly complains that her very existence is tied to a language and culture that tries to murder her. The poems are divided into two sections. The first section contains six poems that express Hilda’s religious beliefs and her struggle to survive in the Lodz/Litzmannstadt Ghetto and in Auschwitz. The second section contains six post-war poems, in which Hilda Stern Cohen reflects on life in the Austrian camps for the Displaced Persons, where she had to wait for her visas in order to immigrate to the US. In her poems composed in the US, she discusses her life in the new country, depicting struggles in coming to terms with resuming a ‘normal’ life after having survived the concentration camps. After her arrival in the US and as part of her adaptation to a new life, Hilda Stern Cohen eventually gave up on her writing along with her former German mother tongue. On the occasion of the publication of the poetry and prose, the Goethe Institute in Washington, in collaboration with the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur, has created a homepage on the life and work of Hilda Stern Cohen. It is available online at www.hildasterncohen.org. The homepage is provided in English and German. Along with information about Hilda Stern Cohen’s biography and a photo-gallery, special emphasis is put on her poems, which are presented in the German original as well as in the English translation.
After the great success of the poems and prose texts of Hilda Stern Cohen, an audio book was produced in 2005. Due to the high public interest in the poetry and prose, as well as in the readings, the Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung asked the actress Lilli Schwethelm, and the guitarist Georg Crostewitz from Ortenberg (Wetterau) to develop a concept for a reading from the works of Hilda Stern Cohen.