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WWII vet, concentration camp liberator dies hours apart from wife of 78 years

A folded flag sits on a casket during ceremonial funeral training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 22, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)
April 19, 2020

David and Muriel Cohen, a Massachusetts couple happily married for 78 years, passed away just two hours apart at a nursing home on Friday. David was 102 years old and Muriel was 97.

David was a radio operator with the U.S. Army during World War II and witnessed firsthand the fears and terror of the Nazi concentration camps, MassLive reported.

David’s story is in The Republican’s Heritage Series Book, “Our Stories: Jews of Western Massachusetts.” He took part in the liberation of the concentration camp, Ohrdruf, ran by the Nazis near Gotha, Germany.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., has displayed some of David’s photographs from the war. He has been featured in numerous interviews in which he shared his personal experiences about being a concentration camp liberator.

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In one interview, Cohen said, “You saw your buddies die. You saw bloodshed. Then you saw this, and you couldn’t believe it.” David was referring to the stacked corpses he saw in April 1945.

Both David and Muriel were ill with pre-existing conditions, and Muriel contracted coronavirus. The family decided not to separate the couple in quarantine. They had been living at a nursing home for more than a year.

Frances Grosnick, daughter of the couple said, “We could not separate them.”

She added, “They were both very ill with other conditions, and aware only that they were together. This was comforting and they did not suffer.”

Frances explained that because of the coronavirus, the assisted living facility had implemented a no-visitor policy, recommended by public health officials, and she had not been able to visit her parents since March 12.

A hospice nurse was with the couple as David passed first and Muriel just two hours later. The nurse told Frances that she joined the couple’s hands before they passed and that gave her great comfort.

“I told her I regretted not being there to hold my mother’s hand,” Grosnick said.

Grosnick said her parents had “met when her mother was a nursing school student in Brooklyn” and then her mother quit nursing school to marry her father. “Their love story began in the summer of 1942 and continued until last Friday,” Grosnick said.

“I am 72 and my dad was always my hero,” said Grosnick. “His legacy was one to never hate, and to live in a world of respect for other people.”

David and Muriel Cohen are survived by two daughters, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.