Henry Cohen (civil servant)
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Henry Cohen (1922–1999) was appointed in 1946 the director of Föhrenwald, the third-largest Displaced Persons camp in the American sector of post-World War II Germany. A native of New York City and a child of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, Cohen was a graduate of City College of New York. During World War II, he served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army.
He later served as research director of the New York City Planning Department and as Deputy City Administrator under Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr.. Later, he was First Deputy Administrator of the New York Human Resources Administration under Mayor John Lindsay.
After leaving the city government, Cohen became the founding Dean of the Milano School for Management and Urban Policy at The New School.
Cohen was born in New York City of parents who immigrated from a shtetl near Vilna. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, then from the City College of New York, and received a master's degree in Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In January 1946, at the age of 23, he was appointed director of Föhrenwald, aided by a multinational team from the UNRRA. By then, the camp had an exclusively Jewish population, composed of 5,600 refugees who had survived the Holocaust.
Cohen worked to ensure favorable living conditions for the camp's residents. This included providing for Jewish religious observance and supporting the activities of Zionist political parties and youth movements. He worked with a democratically elected Camp Committee that granted a degree of administrative autonomy to its residents. The camp sponsored rehabilitation activities that included school for children, adult education and vocational training, a thriving cultural life with musical and theatrical performances, and the publication of a weekly newspaper. Besides maintaining the camp's physical conditions, particularly sanitation, Cohen endeavored to contain the black market trade that was of particular concern to the American army administration in the sector.
Conflict with the Army
During his tenure, Cohen became aware of what he considered widespread anti-Semitism among U.S. Army personnel, including expressions of such attitudes in official administrative reports. An incident in May 1946, involving GIs who reportedly threatened several Jewish camp residents visiting in the nearby town of Wolfratshausen, provoked a riot by several hundred camp residents, who surged forth from the camp, heading for the town. Cohen and his staff quelleds the riot, but still drew the animosity of the American army. An operations report filed on July 23, 1946, by the 9th Infantry Division Asst. Chief of Staff, accuses Cohen of incitement and fails to mention any impropriety on the part of American soldiers. The recurring friction between the Army and Cohen prompted a campaign for his eventual removal from the director's post.
Service to New York City
After returning to the US, he received a master's degree in Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then served as Director of Research of the New York City Planning Department. He was Deputy City Administrator of New York City during the Wagner Administration. Later he was First Deputy Administrator of the New York Human Resources Administration during the Lindsay Administration.
After leaving the city government, Cohen became the Founding Dean of the Milano School for Management and Urban Policy at The New School.
He died in 1999 at the age of 77, leaving his wife, daughter, son, and two grandchildren.