Holocaust Survivor Edward Mosberg, 96, Tireless Advocate for Remembrance

Thu, 09/22/2022 - 5:38pm

USC Shoah Foundation mourns the passing of Edward Mosberg, a Holocaust survivor whose passion for sharing his story through lectures, recorded interviews, and educational trips back to concentration camps in Europe taught and inspired people everywhere. He was 96.

Mosberg, born in Krakow, Poland in 1926, lost his entire family in the Holocaust. He told his story of surviving the Krakow Ghetto and German labor and concentration camps with urgency and eloquence, sometimes wearing a reproduction of his striped concentration camp uniform and a bracelet fashioned from his original labor camp ID tag. He accompanied multiple groups to Europe with the International March of the Living, an organization that brings teens and adults to Auschwitz-Birkenau for life-affirming ceremonies. His final trip to Poland with March of the Living took place just a few months ago.

“I go any place they need me,” Mosberg said in testimony now housed in USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive. “I go to schools, synagogues, [do] whatever they need me [to do] because this is my duty and obligation.”

Mosberg was a vital supporter of and participant in USC Shoah Foundation’s work. He recorded his Visual History Archive testimony in 2016 and two years later was one of the first Holocaust survivors to record answers to hundreds of questions for Dimensions in Testimony, USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive biography exhibit that enables viewers to converse with recorded videos of survivors. 

Portrait of Edward Mosberg by David Kassan (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist.
Portrait of Edward Mosberg by David Kassan (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Mosberg was tireless in his efforts. In 2017 he appeared in the documentary film Destination Unknown and was later the subject of a David Kassan painting featured in Facing Survival, an exhibition co-curated by the Institute and USC’s Fisher Museum of Art in 2019.

In 2018 Mosberg traveled to Europe with USC Shoah Foundation and March of the Living to be filmed with 360-degree video technology as he recalled the horrors he had witnessed firsthand. That testimony was featured in March of the Living’s documentary, Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations and is currently being incorporated into a range of educational material. His Visual History Archive testimony has also been included in USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness educational platform.

“It’s hard to overstate the legacy that Ed Mosberg leaves and the loss that we feel today,” said Dr. Kori Street, Interim Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation. “He told his story with such emotion and such passion that anyone who interacted with him walked away with a deeper understanding of the traumatic and tragic events of his life and also forged a connection to Ed himself. And because he was eager to record that story in multiple ways, through Dimensions in Testimony, through 360 Testimony on Location, students and others will continue to connect with Ed and his story for many years to come.”

Mosberg was 13 years old when Nazi Germany invaded his hometown of Krakow in September 1939. At the time his parents owned a department store and his large extended family was an integral part of the city’s 60,000-strong Jewish community. Beginning in 1940, the Nazis began deporting tens of thousands of Krakow’s Jews to the nearby countryside. Ed and his father Ludwig managed to escape the city but became separated as they sought safe haven for their family in Russian-controlled territory. A few months later Ed’s mother, Bronislawa, sent for him and he returned to the ghetto that had been established in Krakow in March 1941. He later learned that his father had been rounded up and killed in a police station in Czortków (present-day Ukraine) in September 1941.

Ed, his mother, sisters Halina and Karolina, grandmother, aunts and cousins were forced to live in a small apartment in the ghetto. Mosberg scrambled to find food for the family, as well as much-needed worker identification cards. In 1942 his grandmother, aunts, and cousins were deported from the city along with thousands of other Krakow Ghetto residents. News slowly trickled back that the deportees had been sent to Belzec Concentration Camp in German-occupied Poland.

By August 1943, the Nazis had sent almost all of Krakow Ghetto’s Jews to labor or concentration camps. Mosberg, his mother, and his sister were sent to Płaszów, a labor camp in Krakow that supplied slave labor to a nearby stone quarry and network of armament factories. Ed was made to work as an office worker in Płaszów, where he witnessed atrocities committed by the camp’s infamous commander, Amon Goeth, who would later be tried, convicted and hanged as a war criminal.

In 1944, in advance of approaching Soviet troops, the Germans began dismantling the Płaszów camp. Prisoners still able to work were forced onto trains destined for labor camps in Germany and Austria, while others were sent to Auschwitz. In his testimony, Mosberg remembers seeing his mother for the last time in May of that year.

“They took my mother to the gas chamber of Auschwitz,” Mosberg said. “I remember it like yesterday when she waved her hands to me and I never saw her again. This was the worst thing in my whole life.”

Soon after, Mosberg’s sisters, along with thousands of other women in the camp, were called for a selection. Seeing the trains ready to transport the female prisoners, Mosberg held his sisters back, hoping that by being at the end of the selection line there would be no room for them on the train. But at the last moment, the SS officer overseeing the selection switched the direction of the line, and his sisters—now at the front of the queue—were among the first in the group to be sent to Auschwitz.

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Edward Mosberg on Being Separated from his Sisters

Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg desribes how he was separated from his sisters at Plaszow concentration camp, and the guilt he has always felt for how it happened.

“I feel guilt for this all those years,” Mosberg said in his 2016 testimony. “If I would not interfere, to keep them on the end, maybe they would survive.”

Only days later, Mosberg himself was deported, first to Auschwitz and then on to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria. In 2018, Mosberg returned to Mauthausen to record the Institute’s first 360 Testimony on Location. In the footage, Mosberg sits at the bottom of the “Stairs of Death,” a set of stone quarry steps that Mauthausen inmates were forced to climb while carrying boulders to be used in construction projects.

“186 steps going up and down from early in the morning ‘til night,” Mosberg said. “If you think you will stop for a moment, they push you to [your] death or they beat you with their whips.”

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Ed Mosberg on the importance of sharing his story
Testimony on Location

In this excerpt from his interview for the Testimony on Location project, Holocaust survivor Ed Mosberg explains why it is important for him to record his testimony for future generations.

Throughout his time at Mauthausen, Mosberg would volunteer for extra work in the kitchen and eat anything that the office administrative staff left as scraps. This extra food—coffee grounds and mouthfuls of extra soup—gave him the strength to endure the grueling work regimen.

In 1944 Mosberg was sent to a slave labor camp in Linz, Austria, where he was put to work in a factory. The camp was liberated by the U.S. Armed Forces in 1945.

Mosberg would later find out that he was the only member of his family to have survived the Holocaust.

After liberation Mosberg was sent to Italy to recover from tuberculosis, and, while there, reconnected with Cesia (Cecile) Storch, a Krakow native who he learned had been imprisoned with his sisters. She, too, had lost many family members. The pair then moved to Belgium and were married in 1947. Four years later the couple immigrated to the United States, where they lived in Harlem with their 18-month-old daughter, Beatrice. Louise and Caroline were born soon after. Ed worked small jobs, often three at a time, before finding success as a real estate developer. The family eventually settled in Parsippany, New Jersey.

Because WWII started when he was only 13, Mosberg had never marked his bar mitzvah. In 1993, he was able to do so alongside his grandson, who shared the same birthday. 

Later in life, Mosberg began seeking opportunities to share his story, both for himself and on behalf of those who did not survive to tell their own stories. He spoke at schools, synagogues and community organizations, and became active with Yad Vashem, March of the Living and USC Shoah Foundation.

He was also a committed advocate for strengthening Polish-Jewish relations and recognizing the Polish Righteous Among The Nations, an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. In 2019, Polish President Andrzej Duda awarded Mosberg the Order of Merit, Poland’s highest civilian distinction.

In 2009, Mosberg was one of six people to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Mosberg was also the honorary president of From the Depths, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust.

“A lot of people, they survived, but they are afraid to talk, or they cannot talk, but I have to,” Mosberg said in his 2016 Visual History Archive testimony. “In memory of my family, and [of] the six million Jews who were murdered. If I don’t talk, they might be forgotten.”

Ed and Cecile were married for 72 years. Cecile died in February 2020.

Mosberg is survived by his children, Beatrice Mosberg, Louise Levine (Stuart), and Caroline Mosberg-Karger (Darren); his grandchildren, Barry Levine & (Jacqueline), Jocelyn Klar (Gregory), Alexander Levine (Lara), Jordana Karger, Zachary Karger & Matthew Karger; and his great-grandchildren, Juliana Klar, Sydney Klar, Levi Klar, Caleb Levine and Charles Levine.