USC Shoah mourns the death of Edward Mossberg, a Holocaust survivor whose passion was to share his story through lectures, recorded interviews, and educational trips to concentration camps in Europe that he taught and inspired people everywhere. He was 96 years old.
Born in Krakow, Poland in 1926, Mossberg 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 copy of his striped concentration camp uniform and a bracelet made from his original labor camp ID card. He has accompanied multiple groups to Europe with the International Walk for Life, an organization that brings teenagers and adults to Auschwitz-Birkenau for life-affirmation ceremonies. His last trip to Poland was with March of the Living just a few months ago.
“I go wherever they need to,” Mossberg said in testimony now in the Archives of Visual History for the USC Shoah Foundation. “I go to schools and temples, [do] All they need for me [to do] Because that is my duty and my obligation.”
Mosberg has been a vital supporter and participant in the work of the USC Shoah Foundation. He recorded his testimony in the Archives of Visual History in 2016, and two years later he was one of the first Holocaust survivors to record answers to hundreds of questions about Dimensions in Testimony, the USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive biographical exhibit that allows viewers to speak with recorded videos of survivors.
Mosberg was tireless in his efforts. In 2017, he appeared in the documentary Destination unknown He was later the subject of a David Cassin painting that appeared in Confronting Survival, an exhibition co-curated by the Institute and the University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art in 2019.
In 2018, Mossberg traveled to Europe with the USC Shoah Foundation and March of the Living to be filmed using 360-degree video technology as he remembers the horrors he witnessed firsthand. This testimony appeared in the March of the live documentary, Witness: Passing the Torch Memory of the Holocaust to New Generations, and is currently being incorporated into a suite of educational materials. His testimony is also included in the Archives of Visual History at the USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness educational platform.
“It is hard to overstate the legacy that Ed Mosberg left and the loss we feel today,” said Dr. Corey Street, interim executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation. “He told his story with such passion and emotion that anyone interacting with him walked away with a deeper understanding of the tragic and traumatic events in his life, and also established a relationship with Ed himself. Because he was keen to record that story in multiple ways, through dimensions in testimony, through 360 testimonies On the site, students and others will continue to connect with Ed and his story for many years to come.”
Mossberg was 13 years old when Nazi Germany invaded his hometown of Krakow in September 1939. At that time his parents owned a department store and his 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 Jews to the nearby countryside. Ed and his father Ludwig managed to flee the city but were separated when they sought safe haven for their family in Russian-controlled territory. A few months later, Ed’s mother, Bronslawa, sent for him and he returned to the established ghetto in Krakow in March 1941. He later learned that his father had been arrested and murdered in a police station in Chertkov (present-day Ukraine) in September 1941.
Ed, his mother, sisters Helena and Carolina, and his grandmother, aunts, and cousins are forced to live in a small apartment in the ghetto. Mossberg scrambled to find food for the family, as well as much-needed worker ID cards. In 1942 his grandmother, aunts, and cousins were deported from the city, along with thousands of other residents of the Krakow ghetto. News slowly returned that the deportees had been sent to the Belzec concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.
By August 1943, the Nazis had sent nearly all of the Jews of the Krakow Ghetto to labor or concentration camps. Mossberg, his mother, and sister were sent to Płaszów, a labor camp in Krakow that provided slave labor for a nearby stone quarry and a network of arms factories. Ed was forced to work as an office worker in Płaszów, where he witnessed atrocities committed by the notorious camp leader, Amon Goth, who would later be tried, convicted and hanged as a war criminal.
In 1944, before the Soviet forces approached, the Germans began to dismantle the Płaszów camp. Prisoners still able to work were forced to board trains bound for labor camps in Germany and Austria, while others were sent to Auschwitz. In his testimony, Mossberg recalls seeing his mother for the last time in May of that year.
“They took my mother to the gas chamber at Auschwitz,” Mossberg said. “I remember it like yesterday when she waved her hand at me and I never saw her again. It was the worst thing in my whole life.”
Soon, the Mossberg sisters, along with thousands of other women in the camp, were summoned for selection. Seeing the trains ready to transport the prisoners, Mossberg stopped his sisters, 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 changed the direction of the line, and his sisters – now at the front of the waiting list – were among the first in the group sent to Auschwitz.
“I’ve been feeling guilty about this all these years,” Mossberg said in his 2016 testimony. “If I don’t step in, to keep them in the end, maybe they’ll survive.”
Only days later, Mossberg himself was deported, first to Auschwitz and then to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. In 2018, Mossberg returned to Mauthausen to record the institute’s first 360 degree testimonial about the site. In the footage, Mossberg is seated at the bottom of the “Stairs of Death,” a set of stone steps of stairs that Mauthausen’s inmates were forced to climb while carrying boulders to use on construction projects.
“186 degrees up and down from early morning until night,” Mossberg said. “If you think you’re going to stop for a moment, they push you into it [your] Death or they will hit you with their whip.”
Throughout his time at Mauthausen, Mossberg would volunteer to do extra work in the kitchen and eat anything the office’s administrative staff left as scraps. This extra food – ground coffee and extra morsels of soup – gave him the strength to withstand the hard work regime.
In 1944, Mossberg was sent to a forced labor camp in Linz, Austria, where he was put to work in a factory. The camp was liberated by the US Armed Forces in 1945.
Mossberg later discovered that he was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
After the liberation, Mossberg was sent to Italy to recover from tuberculosis, and while there, he reconnected with Cesia (Cecile) Storch, a native of Krakow who learned he had been imprisoned with his sisters. She, too, has lost several members of her family. The couple then moved to Belgium and 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 at small jobs, often three at a time, before he found success as a real estate developer. The family eventually settled in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Because World War II began when he was just 13 years old, Mossberg hadn’t ticked his bar mitzvah. In 1993, he was able to do this together with his grandson, who shared the same birthday.
Later in his life, Mossberg began looking for opportunities to share his story, both for himself and on behalf of those who did not survive to tell their own stories. He has spoken at schools, synagogues, and community organizations, and has become active with Yad Vashem, March of the Living and the USC Shoah Foundation.
He was also a committed advocate for strengthening Polish-Jewish relations and recognition of the Polish righteous among the nations, a tribute the State of Israel used to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. In 2019, Polish President Andrzej Duda Mossberg awarded the Order of Merit, Poland’s highest civilian honor.
In 2009, Mossberg was one of six people who met Pope Benedict XVI at Yad Vashem’s Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Mossberg was also the honorary president of From the Depths, an organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
“A lot of people have survived, but are afraid to speak, or can’t speak, but I must,” Mossberg said in his 2016 testimony in the Archives of Visual History. “In memory of my family, and [of] The six million Jews who were killed. If I don’t speak up, they may be forgotten.”
Ed and Cecil have been married for 72 years. Cecil passed away in February 2020.
Mossberg is survived by his sons Beatrice Mossberg and Louise Levine (Stuart) and Caroline Mossberg-Karger (Darren); his grandchildren, Barry Levine (Jacqueline), Jocelyn Clare (Gregory), Alexander Levine (Lara), Jordana Karger, Zachary Karger and Matthew Karger; and grandchildren, Juliana Clare, Sidney Clare, Levi Clare, Caleb Levine and Charles Levine.
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