Ilse Dahl was born in Hamm, Germany on May 8, 1916. She was the second child of Emil and Klara David Dahl, who were in the cattle business. Ilse was raised in Geilenkirchen, near Aachen, and lived there until 1936. As a youth, Ilse was an excellent athlete, who competed in many sporting events. In the mid-1930s, after Jews were excluded from German sports clubs, she participated in many competitions sponsored by the Jewish sports organization of the Jewish war veterans association [Reichsbund juedischer Frontsoldaten]. In 1936 the Dahl family moved to Berlin. Through the efforts of relatives in Kansas City, Missouri, the family was able to secure an American visa for Ilse. She left the country immediately after Kristallnacht, travelling through Belgium and Holland to England. From London, she sailed aboard the SS Manhattan for New York. Ilse settled with relatives in Missouri and two years later, married another German-Jewish refugee, Walter Cohn. Ilse's two siblings also survived the war, but her parents were deported and perished.
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