Romi Cohn in Budapest, 1944
Video still from interview, December 2004
Romi Cohn was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia on March 10, 1929. He was only ten years old when Germany invaded his country in 1938. When mass deportations of Jews from Slovakia began in 1942, his family was granted an 'economic exception' and allowed to stay. However, as the war dragged on, they realized that their position was becoming dangerous. Romi was eventually smuggled over the border into Hungary.
Eventually Romi was arrested on suspicion of carrying false documents and, after a daring escape, he decided to join the partisans hiding in the mountains. To reach the mountains, Romi forged a German military travel order, sending him to the last German outpost before partisan-controlled territory. "[The Germans] all shook my hand and wished me luck. They thought I was going to go strike a blow for the Reich," Romi remembered. By the time he joined the partisans, the Germans were already in retreat, and Romi's brigade drove them back westward, while capturing, interrogating, and executing SS officers. When Hungary was liberated, Romi returned to Czechoslovakia. Romi wrote a book about his wartime experiences, entitled The Youngest Partisan.
On January 29, 2020, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Romi delivered the opening prayer before the United States House of Representatives and shared his Jewish partisan story of resistance and resilience as a Jewish partisan.
Rabbi Romi Cohn passed away on March 24, 2020. He was 91 years old.