From the founder
Born january 21, 1921, Marseille,
died september 20, 2018, Lausanne
My father is responsible for my long-time interest in the issue of non-citizens' rights. What these people went through concerned him throughout his entire adult life. This is generally not known, because the name Albert Cohen is primarily linked with that of Solal, the hero of his fictional writings, and his lover Ariane, the “Belle du Seigneur”. But in real life, as a diplomat and a trained lawyer, he headed the Protection Division of the Geneva-based International Organization for Refugees (IOR) from the 1940s on.
I especially remember the Forties, when we found ourselves in London as refugees. I was turning twenty and was starting to realize that it was necessary, as my father was doing, to help the refugees and stateless people who were suffering everywhere because they were pariahs, people on the fringes of mainstream society.
For thirty years, I have personally sought to help strangers, who today have become friends. I may well have waited a little too long to do something tangible in this area, but I did not think that longer-lasting answers were possible. The truth is that it is only recently that I thought of the idea of a foundation. This was as a result of talks I had with Max Mamou, a lawyer and long-time friend. It is thanks to him that in 1995, and again in 2005, less-well known aspects of my father's work were brought to the attention of new audiences and, notably, academic circles in the context of the Marseille-based Association A vous, frères humains (“To you, human brothers”). At my request, he has agreed to assume the arduous duties of President of our Foundation.
Our organization is called the Albert Cohen Memorial Foundation. Its endowment comes from the royalties from my father's literary works. I have every reason to believe that my father would have been delighted at our initiative: he liked to say that, of his writings, what he was proudest of was his “travel document for refugees (at the time called 'displaced persons')”.
The Foundation is headquartered in Switzerland, with its executive offices in Paris. Its mission is a European one. It has been operating for a number of weeks. We have great hopes and confidence, and are delighted that we have finally been able to bring this Foundation into being in Geneva on February 6, 2008.