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‘A few were still coughing, but that was an act’

27 January 2009 – In 1941, the Grüne Polizei raided the Koco icecream parlor at the Van Woustraat, an incident that would eventually lead to the February Strike. Was ammonia sprayed at the police? Zuidelijke Wandelweg publishes new documents.

What exactly happened at the Koco is a matter of debate. The issue is slightly reminiscent of a recent controversy over squatters who would have installed a booby trap in a building that was to be evicted.

Koco was run by two Jewish immigrants from Germany, Ernst Cahn en Alfred Kohn. On 19 February, when the business was visited by policemen, there was an incident involving ammonia. The owners were arrested and one of them was executed on 3 March.

The Zuidelijke Wandelweg website now publishes two statements on the incident that have been found in the archives of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. An anonymous witness offers the following description: “The German police raided a Jewish icecream seller at the Van Woustraat”.

“In the turmoil in this man’s room, a bottle of ammonia fell over, which stood on a shelf and had probably been knocked over by a German. However, the fellows were so scared, they thought they were being attacked and they were the ones who started shooting and carried off the man”.

However, a resident of the Jozef Israëlskade states that the ammonia incident was no accident. After the place had been raided by National-Socialists, the owners would have installed a pipe with small holes in it, which could be used to spray ammonia in case of raids (but not with great power, the witness adds).

After the raid, the policemen went to the police station. “A few were still coughing, but in my view that was an act”. After the incident, the Germans carried out razzias in the Jewish quarter, which would provoke the February Strike.

Last year, the bridge over the Amstel Canal was renamed Ernst Cahn en Alfred Kohnbrug at the initiative of council member Daphna Brekveld (VOZ).


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