From early on in his life, David Cohen (1882-1967) devoted his efforts to helping Jewish refugees. He was a professor in the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Union of Dutch Zionists. In 1941, together with Abraham Asscher, he was appointed chairman of the Jewish Council. He died in 1967.
From a young age Cohen was a Zionist and a member of the Dutch Zionist Student Organisation (NZSO). Later he became a member of the Union of Dutch Zionists (NZB). Only a small number of intellectuals were attracted to this group. In addition to David Cohen, the group included Fritz Bernstein, Jacobus Kann, Abel Herzberg, Henri and Karel Edersheim, and Nehemia De Lieme. The Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad (NIW) (The New Jewish Weekly Paper) initially decried Zionism. As a result of the developments in Nazi Germany, and especially after the Kristallnacht in 1938, the NIW ultimately became a supporter of Zionism. David Cohen witnessed this change as a member of the NZB. For twenty-five years he had supported Zionism. He devoted himself in the same way to the Committee for Special Jewish Interests, of which he was the secretary. Abraham Asscher was the chairman of this committee and together they raised concerns about the danger of National Socialism.
In 1941 the Germans appointed Cohen and Asscher to be chairpersons of the Jewish Council. The actual function of the Jewish Council was to serve as a link between the Jews and the Dutch and German authorities. The job of the Council was not only to announce the anti-Jewish measures, but to also enforce some of them. Both Cohen and Asscher survived the war and in 1945 Cohen returned to the Netherlands from the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The Jewish Community Tribunal found Cohen to be partially guilty for what had happened to the Dutch Jews and just like Asscher, he was forbidden from fulfilling any Jewish or official functions. Although prior to the war Cohen had done a lot for the Jews, especially for Jewish refugees, he was scorned after the war for becoming chairman of the Jewish Council. David Cohen did in 1967 at the age of 84.