Holocaust victim's family brought together by pendant found beneath death camp floorboards

FRANKFURT, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Dozens of relatives from three continents lay a brass plaque in the pavement in Frankfurt on Monday, in memory of a Jewish schoolgirl who perished in the Holocaust and whose fate was revealed this year when her pendant was discovered beneath floorboards at the Sobibor death camp.

Karolina Cohn may have known the Holocaust diarist Anne Frank: the two girls were born in Frankfurt just three weeks apart. At age 12 in 1941, Cohn was deported to the Minsk ghetto along with her parents and sister.

Nothing more was known of her fate until archaeologists excavating the site of Sobibor in Poland found her pendant, inscribed with her date and place of birth and the words "good luck" in Hebrew. It was similar to one that belonged to Frank.

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Holocaust victim's family brought together by pendant
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Holocaust victim's family brought together by pendant
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family mourn after German artist Gunter Demnig layed four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: A replica of the amulet is shown after German artist Gunter Demnig layed four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family lay down flowers after German artist Gunter Demnig layed four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: A detailed view of German artist Gunter Demnig's four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: German artist Gunter Demnig lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Ernst Ludwig Heineman, a member of the scattered Cohn family looks on as German artist Gunter Demnig lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family mourn after German artist Gunter Demnig layed four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: German artist Gunter Demnig lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: German artist Gunter Demnig lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family watch as German artist Gunter Demnig to lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family watch as German artist Gunter Demnig to lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family watch as German artist Gunter Demnig to lays four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the scattered Cohn family watch as German artist Gunter Demnig prepares to lay four stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Ernst Ludwig Heineman a member of the scattered Cohn family lays down a flower after German artist Gunter Demnig layed four 'stumbling stones' to commemorate Jewish schoolgirl and Holocaust victim Karolina Cohn and her family outside the building where they once lived on November 13, 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany. Karolina's fate came to light after Israeli archeologists digging at the former World War II Sobibor concentration camp found an amulet inscribed with Karolina's birthdate and birthplace, which helped them to confirm that she and her family were killed there. The Nazis deported Karolina, then 12, and her family to Minsk in 1941, though the rest of their journey had been unknown until now. Approximately 30 members of the Cohn family came from the United States, Israel, Japan and Canada to attend today's ceremonies. 'Stumbling stones,' in German called 'Stolpersteine,' are commemorative cobblestones affixed with a brass plate with the names of victims laid in the sidewalks outside the former residences of Jews in Germany killed in the Holocaust. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
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After the pendant was found, researchers used the database of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to contact Cohn's family members around the world. On Monday 34 of them came together to witness the placing of a brass "Stolperstein" - literally "stumbling stone" - in the pavement outside Cohn's former family home.

Many had not known of her existence or that they were related to one another.

"I never had any family on my mom's side. As of last night, these guys who are shaking my hand are my cousins," said Shawn Ruby, a 41-year-old schoolteacher from Houston, Texas, who made the trip to Germany after learning that his grandmother was Cohn's first cousin.

Ruby had for many years not even known that he had Jewish roots, as his grandmother suppressed her history when she emigrated to New York, converted to Catholicism and married a Marine, he said.

The "stumbling stone" plaques are part of a project begun by German artist Gunter Demnig to place small memorials across Europe where victims of the Nazis lived or worked, to call attention to the individual victims and the Nazi war crimes.

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Notes from US leaders at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem
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Notes from US leaders at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem
The note signed by U.S. President George W. Bush is seen in the guest book at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem January 11, 2008. Accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres, Bush toured on Friday Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust of World War Two, a traditional stop for foreign dignitaries visiting Israel. REUTERS/Jim Hollander/Pool (JERUSALEM)
The message written by US President Donald Trump at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum guest book and signed by him and his wife Melania is seen after their visit on May 23, 2017, in Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / DEBBIE HILL (Photo credit should read DEBBIE HILL/AFP/Getty Images)
The guest book signed by US Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama is seen at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum, which commemorates the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, in Jerusalem on July 23, 2008. Obama started his visit to Israel and the West Bank during which he will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM - MARCH 3: A Yad Vashem official displays the page in the guest book signed by U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to the Holocaust memorial March 3, 2009 in Jerusalem. Clinton, on her first visit to the region as Secretary of State, laid a wreath in memory of the Six Million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis in World War Two. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)
A picture taken on October 18, 2015, shows the message left in the guest book by Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem commemorating the six million Jews killed by the German Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 21, 2015 shows the message left in the guest book by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem commemorating the six million Jews killed by the German Nazis during World War II. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - APRIL 21: United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's message left in the guest book after his tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial April 21, 2013. in Jerusalem, Israel. Hagel will visit Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates on his first trip to the Mideast as Pentagon chief. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
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More than 60,000 of the brass plaques have been set into pavements across Europe. They are traditionally cleaned on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom that was carried out against Jews across Germany on Nov. 9, 1938.

Much still remains unknown about Cohn's story, including whether she knew Anne Frank. Did she bring her pendant to the death camp herself? Or was it dropped through the floorboards by someone else, perhaps a family member on the way to the gas chambers?

"We know that Anne Frank wore a similar pendant, but people know her story because of her words," Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, which represents the interests of Jewish Holocaust victims in Germany and helped track down Cohn's relatives, said at the plaque-laying ceremony.

"We don't have Karolina's words but doesn't she deserve the same - to be known, to be remembered?"

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Peter Graff)

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