Marthe Cohn

Marthe Hoffnung Cohn (born April 13, 1920 in Metz) is a French author,[1][2] nurse, former spy and Holocaust survivor. She wrote about her experiences as a spy during the Holocaust in the book Behind Enemy Lines.

Marthe Cohn
Marthe Hoffnung

(1920-04-13) April 13, 1920 (age 100)
Metz, France
OccupationNurse, author

Early lifeEdit

On 13 April 1920, Marthe Cohn was born as Marthe Hoffnung in Metz, France. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family as one of seven children. Her family lived near the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. As the Nazi occupation escalated, her sister was sent to Auschwitz while her family fled to the south of France.


In November 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Marthe Hoffnung enlisted and became a member of the Intelligence Service of the French 1st Army, commanded by Marshal of France Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. After 14 unsuccessful attempts to cross the front in Alsace, she crossed the border into Germany near Schaffhausen in Switzerland. As a nurse fluent in German, she assumed the identity of a German nurse and claimed she was searching for her missing fiancée. She would then crawl back across the Swiss border to relay the information back to the French intelligence.[1] She was able to report to her service two major pieces of information: that northwest of Freiburg, the Siegfried Line had been evacuated and where the remnant of the German Army laid in ambush in the Black Forest.[3]

After the war Marthe returned to France to pursue a career as a nurse, but in 1956, while studying in Geneva, she met an American medical student, Major L. Cohn, who was the roommate of a friend. Within three years, they were married and living in the United States. Now both retired, they had worked together for years, he as an anesthesiologist and she as a nurse.[1]

Cohn was decorated with the Croix de Guerre in 1945 with two citations (Decisions Number 134 signed by Le Lieutenant-Colonel Bouvet on August 9, 1945 & Number 1322 signed by Marechal Juin on November 10, 1945). In 1999, the French government awarded her the Médaille militaire, Decree Number 3465 MR 1999.[4] She was awarded the title of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, Decree Number 2702, MR 2004, by André Bord, the national veterans minister in 2002. In 2006, she was again honored by the Government of France with the Medaille of the Reconnaissance de la Nation.

In 2002, she co-authored with Wendy Holden a book about her experiences entitled, Behind Enemy Lines: the True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany and was published by Harmony Books. The book was translated in French by Helene Prouteau and published by Plon as well as Selection du Reader's Digest and The Editions Tallandier, a prestigious publishing house in Paris.

Awards and honorsEdit


A 2019 film, Chichinette: The Accidental Spy, is about Marthe Cohn's life and was made by writer-director Nicola Alice Hens and produced by Amos Geva.[2][6][7]


  • Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany. Harmony Books. 2002. ISBN 978-0609610541.
  • Derrière les lignes ennemies : Une espionne juive dans l'Allemagne nazie. Editions Tallandier. 2009. ISBN 978-2847346145.


  1. ^ a b c d Garrison, Jessica (July 14, 2000). "Past Catches Up to Palos Verdes Woman—Carrying a Medal". Los Angeles Times. p. 1. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b Goldstein, Gary (April 14, 2020). "Review: 'Chichinette' reveals the World War II spy exploits of a Palos Verdes centenarian". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ Mindell, Cindy (June 24, 2015). "Conversation with Marthe Cohn". Connecticut Jewish Ledger.
  4. ^ "Décret du 4 août 2004 portant promotion et nomination".
  5. ^ Tugend, Tom. "Marthe Hoffnung Cohn Receives Germany's Highest Honor". AJC Global Jewish Advocacy. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  6. ^ Brown, Hannah (October 17, 2019). "Haifa hosts the Jewish nurse who spied on the Nazis". The Jerusalem Post.
  7. ^ "Chichinette: The Accidental Spy".

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit