Georges Andre Kohn and Jacqueline Morganstern: A World War II Friendship

Figure 1.--This is Georges in his First Communion suit before the War. His father was Jewish but he, his mother was Roman Catholics. He, his elder brother, and sisters were raised as Roman Catholics. For the NAZIs it was fundamentally biology and not religion that was used to classify people.

By William E. Ferguson

Georges Andre Kohn and Jacqueline Morganstern were two of the children swept up in the NAZI Holocaust. There weee at the age that they were just beginning to understand events around them. But even adults could not understand, so we can not know what was in the minds of these children. They by chance were selected for some of the most odious NAZI attrocities--medical experiments on children. And the tragic story is even more distrssing because Georges and his family were on the last transport to leave Drancy, just as the Allies approached Paris. It is remarkable that in this terrible situation, these two children were able to become friends and develop a friendship that lasted throughout their captivity. It only ended with their death on an April day in 1945 just before the British reached them.

Life in France

Both Georges and Jacqueline were of an age when they could remember their past. They both grew up in confortable circumstance in France before the outbreak of World War II and the NAZI invasion and occupation.


Jacqueline must have told Georges about her mother. Her mother was named Suzanne and her father was Karl. They were the Morgenstern’s and lived in Paris. The family owned a beauty shop. Jacqueline had enjoyed school and was a bright student. They fled to Marseille where they managed to hise for a time. Tragically a French collaborator found out and informed on them. Jacqueline and her family were arrested (May 20, 1944). They were sent to Auschwitz. Upon arrive the family was separated. Jacqueline and her mother went to the women’s work camp. The food ration there was very small. Jacqueline’s mum gave most of her food to her daughter. Perhaps because of that her mum became ill and died. It was at this time that she was sent to the special children’s barrack.


Georges had a more bewildering story. His father was Jewish but he, his mother and his elder brother and sisters were Roman Catholics. Jacqueline learnt about Georges’ confirmation. He felt that this was a very special religious experience. Jacqueline learnt that he was the youngest in his family. He told her about his older brother and his two older sisters. He told her about his father, Armand. They were the Kohn family. [Bill: There is something left out here--Georges was said he was a hard working scholar. ] They realised that they had had a happy life up to the start of World War Two. It had become very difficult for them after 1940 when France was defeated and occupied by Nazis soldiers. Despite the difficulties, their parents provided a secure home life for them until the Nazis came in the summer of 1944. He might have told Jacqueline about their UGIF card. These promised exemption from internment and deportation. This card had served them well but on the 17th July 1944 it had not prevented them from being arrested. On that day Georges Andre and his family were arrested in the last Nazi round up of Jewish families in Paris. Georges, his mother and father, his 18 year older brother, Philippe, his older sisters Rose-Marie and Antoinette and his grandmother were taken to the railway station and herded like animals into cattle trucks and taken to the collection camp at Drancy. They were on a train bound for several Concentration camps in Poland (August 17). Tragically at the time the Allies had broken out of the Normandy beachhead and were at the outskirts of Paris. What they did not know was that this was the last train to leave from Dancy. The Allies reached Paris (August 25). They travelled to Buchenvald in crowded cattle trucks. On the journey George’s brother Philippe and his sister Rose Marie broke the bars of the truck’s small window and they were able to climb through and escape. He told Jacqueline that he wanted to escape with them but his father had stopped him. He wondered what had happened to them after they escaped. It was not long after this that Georges arrived at Auschwitz. He told her what had happened to his parents, sister and grandmother. It was August 25th when the train arrived at Buchenwald. His father was taken off the train and put in this camp. When the train arrived at Bergen-Belsen his mother and sister were taken to this camp. Eventually, the train arrived at Auschwitz and he and his grandmother were separated. She went off to another part of the camp and he was placed in Barracks 11. Georges must have told Jacqueline that he worried about her and wished he knew how she was.


We are unsure just why these children were selected for the medical experiments. Dr. Heissmeyer would have wanted wanted healthy children for the experiments. He may have rquested children from different countries. Georges and Jacqueline were already in the camp. The younger Polish children may have been obtsined from a newly arrived transport, but here we just do not know.

Barracks 11

The barracks in which they lived was warm. The food they were given was warm and wholesome. For the experiments, it was importantvthat the children be in good condition. The adults that worked in the barrack treated the children well. They played with them and they sang songs together. One of the features of their new life that the children did not like was that they were very rarely allowed to go outside. The barracks was inside Auschwitz concentration camp.

New Friends

Georges and Jacqueline were both assigned to barracks 11. Here they met each other and the other children. Georges and Jacqueline surely must have developed a close friendship. Georges and Jacqueline were both 12 years old. They were the only children who could speak French. Most of the other children were Polish, but there were also Dutch and Yugoslav children. There was one little Italian boy who must have been very lonely. They were living in a barracks 11 with 18 other children. They had been brought together from all over Europe. Georges and Jacqueline had been transported separately from France. It was only upon their arrival that they met for the first time.

Figure 2.--This is Jacqueline before the War.


The adults were also prisoners who knew about medicine or caring for the sick. There were four adults that Georges, Jacqueline and the other children liked. There was kindly Professor Rene. Georges probablyn found him wise and knowledgeable. Gabriel Florence was also kind and loving to the children. He reportedly made Georges and Jacqueline laugh at the silliest jokes. There were two Dutch orderlies. They were Dirk Deutekom and Anton Holzel. They were all kind and caring. Alexander and his brother Eduard Hornemann where also from the Netherlands and they formed a very close relationship with their fellow compatriots. The adult prisoners became the surrogate parents of the children. It must have been distressing for the French doctors because they knew what was being done to the children was cruel and of little value to medical knowledge. The children must have asked questions. One wonders what they must have yold them.


It is difficult to know the styles of clothing the children wore at this time. Jacqueline would have come in a camp uniform. We are not sure about Georges. It is probable that they would be in hospital beds for much of the time and it is very likely that they wore pyjamas and ordinary clothes at other times.

Medical Facility

Another aspect that the children must have found puzzling was that they appeared to be in a hospital. Yet they did not feel ill but sometimes after an examination they would be given an injection. It was very puzzling. On one occasion they were operated upon. They received a local anaesthetic and then an operation lasting about 15 minutes was carried out. The doctor made cuts under the arms of the children.

NAZI Medical Experiments

The NAZI seizure of power created numerous new job opportunities for dictors. Physicians were needed as consultants for the Reich insurance panel. There were also physicians needed for the network of labor and concentration camps that were established. The German Labor Service (RAD) established camps throughout Germany. Dachau was the first concentration camps, but many more were opened on the Dachau model. These camps were run by the SS. The SS not only needed dictors for these camps, but for its own personnel. TheSS also ran variety of facilities that needed doctors, like the Lebensborn homes. The significant expansion of the Wehrmacht after conscription was reintroduced (1935) created the need for more doctors. The exoanded German Labor Front also required doctors. Hitler convened a meeting n the Reich Chancellery with War Minister Werner von Blomberg, Army Commander Werner von Fritsch, Navy Commander Erich Raeder, Air Force Commander Hermann Goering, and Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath (November 5, 1937). Also included was Hitler's Army adjutant, Colonel Count Friedrich Hossbach. Hossbach wrote up an account after the meeting. The obvious conclusion was that Hitler was planning a war. Thus it was obvious that Germany would need more doctors. The NAZI Government offered y Young doctors secure careers as Sanitätsoffiziere. With all the job opportunities, doctors flocked to join the NAZI Party. Membrship greatly assisted one's employment potential in the New Germany. Not only were more jobs created for doctors, but the NAZIs created many vacancies by first firing Jewish doctors and other medical personnel from state positions (this included clinics, hospitals, and univerity teaching and research programs) and subsequently prohibiting Jewish doctors from practicing their profession. Of course creating new positions for doctors at the same time that large numbers of well-trained doctors were fired created a doctor shortage in Germany. To fill the positions needed, the NAZIs persued a simple expedient, they began to lower the standards. The prerequisites for civil service physicians (Amtsärzte) were lowered througj shortening the training period and curricula and in some cases eliminating examinations (1935). The Reich’s health bureaucracy began looking for adjunct and part-time physicians in addition to their full-time Amtsärzte (1939). These were presigious positions. They received lucrative state-sponsored privileges. They were awarded the title “Medizinalrat” (senior medical officer). Titles like this caried great prestige in Germany. This NAZI title replaced titles previously earned through scholarly contributions. They also received authorization to operate a private practice. Thus in NAZI Germany it became possible for individuals with the proper political affiliation (NAI Party membership) to gain the material benefits and professional stature of academic achievement without the actual academic prerequesites formerly required. This meant that Germany began producing mediocre doctors with political credentials with limited training. Some were foisted on the German people. Included among these doctors were outright quacks. In fact Hitler's own personal doctor was one such quack--Theodor (Theo) Gilbert Morell. Although licensed before the NAZIs seized power, the drug concotions he gave Hitler appears to have adversely affected the Füher's health and judgement. NAZI medical policies created a cadre of pseudo-scholars who were more committed to politics (NAZI ideology). They were minimally prepared physicians, many of which had not quams with violating their Hippocratic oath when called for by NAZI ideology and eugenics was a major NAZI tenant. They took shortcuts in their academic studies and thus were illprepared to practice medice and even less well prepared to conduct medical research. Hitler in the middle of world War II decided that experimentation on hymans was permissible if it aided state objectives (1942). He authorized the use of concentration camp prisoners for such experimentation. He thought it unfair that camp inmates should remain unscathed by the War while German soldiers were dieing and being wounded in large numbers at the front and German civilians at home endured Allied bombs and increasing privation. This open the door for the hoorendous medical experiments conducted by SS doctors. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz was the most notorious, but there were many others. These doctors apparently did not need any encouragenent. None were ordered to experiment on humans. Rather they were anxioys to earn NAZI acafemic accolades from the knowlege to be gained by this research. The studies they carried out prived of no real scientific value. None of theresults were submitted to peer review. One of these SS doctors was Kurt Heissmeyer.

Dr. Kurt Heissmeyer

Kurt Heissmeyer was from Sanderhausen, Thuringiagrew up in an authoritarian home, a common experience for many NAZIs. His uncle August Heißmeyer was an early NAZI recruit and important SS commander. His aunt headed the Reich Women’s League. He studied Marburg Universirt. As a student hev joined a strident antisemitic fraternity--Arminia. He earn his medical licensed (1933). He began his internship in Freiburg and praticed for a while at the Davos-Clavadel clinic. He was accepted as a resident in the Berlin Auguste-Victoria Hospital. He joind the NAZI Party (1937). Given his family background, it seems a little curious that he waited this long. Heissmeyer became senior physician at Hohenlychen (1934). This was a health spa run by the Red Cross at Uckermark near Berlin. Heissmeyer became the assistant director of Hohenlychen. At Hohenlychen, Heissmeyer met many important NAZI officials and SS officers. As it was located close to Berlin, it was a popular way to get away from the pressure of Berlin and as the War progressed, the bombing. Hitler himself visited Hohenlychen, although it is unclear to what extent Heissmeyer met with him. Heissmeyer also met SS officers working at the nearby Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. Heissmeyer at Hohenlychen began to engage in research. To advance his career he needed to publish scientific papers. The result was a paper, " “Principles of present and future problems of TB sanatoriums” (1943). The thesis of his paper was that racially inferior patients, of course like Jews, were less resistant to diseases like tuberculosis, than racially superior Aryan patients. One wonders just how he reached this finding as there were no Jewish patients at Hohenlychen The paper was like a great deal of scientific work in NAZI Germany, politically motivated pseudo-science. Men like Heissmeyer knew thathe was more likely to get a paper published if it scientifically substabntiated Jewish inferiority. He seems to have deluded himself that this was in fact true. From his post at Hohenlychen, he advised other doctors to consider the race of their patients. He reached the conclusion that Jewish subjects would be a useful object for his research. Heissmeyer organized a meeting at at Hohenlychen of NAZI medical luminaries to discuss his research and the need for human subjects (Spring 1944). Attending the meeting was Dr. Leonardo Conti (SS Chief Physician), Dr. Ernst Grawitz (State Secretary for Health in the Reich Interior Ministry), Karl Gebhardt (Hohenlychen Medical Directo), and other medical specialists. r of Hohenlychen. It was Dr. Grawitz as head of the SS health services who was responsible for medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners. Heissmeyer wanted approval for his efforts aimed at finding a cure for tuberculosis. He wanted human subjects, specifically Jewish subjects. He did not want to waste time on animals. His theory was that pulmonary tuberculosis could be prevented by vacination with a cutaneous form of the disease which would bolstering the imune resonse. And the subjects chosen for his research were the children brought to Baracks 11. They very likely knew that their doctor was Dr. Heissmeyer. They might have know that he was in the SS if he wore his uniform. They probably did not know he specialzed in lung diseases. They did not know that he wanted to conduct experiments that might further his understanding of lung illnesses. They did not know that they had been selected to be human guinea-pigs for a series of medical experiments. They did not know that he had removed their lymph glands. They know that the 10 boys and 10 girls in the barracks were of different ages. The children were aged from 5 to 12. Georges and Jacqueline were amongst the oldest children. They also knew that they had one thing in common according to the Nazi race laws -- they were all Jewish children.

Neuengamme Concentration Camp

It was November 1944 when news came to the camp officials that the Russian liberation army was very near to Auschwitz. The Auchwitz medical Experiment facility was switched to the Neuengamme Concentration camp. The children and the adults were taken there that month. Most of the inmates at Auchwitz were shot or forced on a death march swest to the Reich with virtually nofood and only light clothing. Anyone who fell out was shot. The children involved in the medical experiments, however, were trasported more carefully. Neuengamme concentration camp was near Hamburg.

Medical Procedures

The children once at Neuengamme were subjected to a series of medical experiments. It was shortly before Christmas 1944 that the most horrendous of the experiments were conducted. The timing is very difficult to understand. It is of course difficult to understand why a doctor would carry out such research at all, particularly on children. But why Heissmeyer would do it not only at Christmas, but at a time when the NAZIs were obviously about to be defeated is baffeling. Some of these doctors apparently did not seem to think what they was doing was wrong. Perhps Heissmeyer believed Goebells propaganda about secret wepons. Here we just do not know. We do know what he did. NAZI doctors injected the children with a live tuberculosis bacterium. It was injected in two ways either into the vein or directly into the lungs. The reason for the experiment was to analysis the body’s immune system for to see if a natural ability to this illness developed. The children became very sick. Georges in particular reacted very badly. It was said that he could not even stand. Jacqueline was very kind to him. She would not leave his side, even though she too was ill.

Military Situation

With the failure of the German Ardennes campaign (December 1944)and the Allied build up the War was reaching in final stage. The Allies crossed the Rhine, the last important physical barrier, in force (March 1945). This left all of the Reich completely open to advancing Allied armies. British forces in the noth rapidly advanced toward Hamburg, one of Germany's largest cities and major port.


It was only a matter of time before the British would arrive at the Neuengamme concentration camp. The existence of the medical experimentation unit and what had gone on there would be discovered. Heissmeyer decided to hide the evidence of his experiments. He and SS Obersturmfurer Arnold Strippel decided to kill the inmate children and adults. They decided to do it away from the medical unit itself. They chose the basement of a former school called Bullenhuser Damm School. On April 21st 1945 they moved the children and their adult guardians and took them to the basement of the school. Here everyone waited. The children would have been excited because it was one of the few occasions that they had ventured outside barracks 11. [Bill-- Wasn't Barracks 11 at Auchwitz?] They chatted and so must have Georges and Jacqueline. Despite feeling unwell they must have chatted together about what was happening to them. Then the It was shortly after that Heissmeyer and Strippel administered injections of morphine. All the children and the adult prisoners were murdered in the basement of this building.

The Children

It is remarkable that in this terrible situation two children were able to become friends and develop a friendship that lasted throughout their captivity. It only ended with their death on that April day in 1945. The children who died that day were: Alexander Hornemann, 8, the Netherlands Eduard Hornemann, 12, the Netherlands Marek Steinbaum, 10, Poland Marek James, 6, Poland W. Junglieb, 12, Yugoslavia Roman Witonski, 7, Poland Roman Zeller, 12, Poland Sergio de Simone, 7, Italy Georges Andre Kohn, 12, France Eduard Reichenbaum, 10, Poland Jacqueline Morgenstern, 12, France Surcis Goldinger, 11, Poland Lelka Birnbaum, 12, Poland Eleonora Witonska, 5, Poland Ruchla Zylberberg, 10, Poland H.Wasserman, 8, Poland Lea Klygerman, 8, Poland Rywka Herszberg, 7, Poland Blumel Mekler, 11, Poland Mania Altman, 5, Poland


After the war the only members of Georges’ family to survive were his father and the older brother and sister who had escaped from the train. None of Jacqueline’s family survived.

Judicial Proceedings

SS Kurt Heissmeyer was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in 1966. SS Obersturmfurer Arnold Strippel was acquitted of all wrong doing.


In 1980 a memorial to these children was opened in Bullenhuser Damm School. It consists of a museum and a Garden of Remembrance.


Concentration Camp Memorial Neuengamme -

Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Of Tolerance -

Friedman, Steven G. "Terrorists in Hamburg Redux," Midstream (April 2002).

Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust and the French Jews


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Created: 1:39 PM 3/30/2008
Last updated: 1:39 PM 3/30/2008