Judge, retired colonel laid to rest
July 18, 2012
By Vince Little
FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 18, 2012) -- The tricommunity has lain to rest a longtime juvenile court judge and retired Army colonel who was influential on Fort Benning and throughout the Armor and Cavalry branches.
Aaron Cohn, a Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit judge who spent 46 years on the bench and participated in Europe's liberation as a Soldier fighting in World War II, died July Fourth in Columbus. He was 96.
His last interaction with the Army came less than a month ago. Though in failing health, he attended the change of command ceremony June 13 for Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general, at the National Infantry Museum's Soldier Field.
Retired Col. Greg Camp, the National Infantry Foundation's executive vice president and chief development officer, was among the speakers at Cohn's memorial service July 8 at Temple Israel, attended by about 500 mourners.
"He was always a Soldier," Camp said. "If you visited him in his Family room at his beloved home, you'd most likely find him dressed with his Army T-shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the season."
Cohn's parents immigrated to America in 1906, fleeing anti-Semitic riots in Russia, and eventually settled in Columbus. Thirty-one years later, he was commissioned a U.S. Cavalry Reserve officer through the University of Georgia's ROTC program. In 1940, after Hitler had overtaken most of Europe, he requested an active-duty commission.
Assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment as an operations officer in Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army, Cohn fought in four campaigns in France, Ardennes and Rhineland, earning multiple decorations. In Austria, he helped free Jews from the concentration camp at Ebensee.
Once the camp's survivors realized a Jewish officer had rescued them, they tried lifting him the air, though their bodies and muscles were almost nonexistent, Camp said while retelling the story. In an interview several years ago, Cohn described the scene:
"There was a gentleman there who was a fine-looking man who looked like a cadaver, who took my hand and he kissed it. And he said, 'Major Cohn, when you get back to the United States of America, you must tell the world what has happened to us.'"
Cohn honored that request the rest of his life, Camp told the gathering.
In April 2010, the judge was guest speaker at Fort Benning's Days of Remembrance Commemorative Service, an annual ceremony to mark the Holocaust.
After World War II, Cohn worked as a lawyer, coached youth baseball and football in Columbus, and became a juvenile court judge in 1965, according to an excerpt from his book, Judge Aaron Cohn: Memoirs of a First Generation American. He wound up as America's longest-serving juvenile court judge and his city's most beloved citizen.
His work garnered local and state accolades: He was honored by the Georgia Legislature for distinguished service in Georgia; the University of Georgia presented him with the Distinguished Alumni Merit Award; and the American Criminal Justice Association honored him for outstanding contributions to the Juvenile Justice System.
After the memorial service, Cohn received full military honors as he was laid to rest in the Jewish section of Riverdale Cemetery. McMaster, the first Cavalry officer to serve as Fort Benning's commanding general, who led the 3rd Cavalry Regiment during combat operations in Iraq, presented the Family an American flag on behalf of the Army.
Editor's note: Information from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer was used in this report.