Like so many others in the dwindling fellowship of Holocaust survivors, Ed Mosberg is determined to speak out about what happened for as long as he can.
Last week on Tisha B’Av, Aug. 9, he did so yet again at the Rabbinical College of America, Chabad Lubavitch center in Morristown, drawing on a memory of an occurrence on that date that is still clear in his mind.
Addressing students of RCA’s Yeshiva Tiferes Bachurim, the Hillside resident — now in his mid-80s — described what happened in the Polish town of Stanislawow 70 years ago.
On Aug. 2, 1941, he left his home in Cracow to visit relatives in Stanislawow, now called Ivano-Frankovsk. To his horror, he saw German soldiers rounding up Jewish men and herding them away. According to later reports, 200 of the Jews, judged useful as workers, were released; the other 600 were taken to a forest outside the town and shot dead.
Speaking with NJ Jewish News before his talk, Mosberg said that growing up in Poland, he wasn’t particularly religious.
“All those years, when I heard people talk about the murder of the Jews of Stanislawow as ‘the Tisha B’Av Massacre,’ I just accepted it as an expression,” he said.
Only recently did he delve further into that designation. “I asked my daughter, ‘Do me a favor and check the calendar, see when Tisha B’Av was in 1941,’ and sure enough — it was Aug. 2,” he said.
Of course, there were atrocities on many other dates throughout that year and those that followed, but this particular date resonated for him. It is the day, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem — and coincides with a series of other historical tragedies.
Mosberg went on to witness horror after horror during the Holocaust, including the liquidation of the Cracow ghetto and the killing of friends and relatives. He endured incarceration in the Plaszow and Mauthausen concentration camps before being liberated in 1945.
He married a fellow survivor from Cracow, Cecile Storch, and a few years later they came to the United States with her father, the only other survivor from either family. They had three daughters and now have six grandchildren. Working with fellow survivor Harry Wilf, Mosberg became a successful real estate developer, and a philanthropist.
But as grateful as he is for his good life, he told the yeshiva boys, “The rest of my days are not enough to cry for this tragedy.”
Mosberg is a trustee of the RCA. With its dean, Rabbi Moshe Herson, at his side, he described how, on May 11, 2009, he shook hands with Pope Benedict XVI. He was one of a group of survivors chosen to meet with the pontiff when he visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Mosberg said, “I asked him to condemn all the denials. He squeezed my hand and said, ‘Yes.’”
He brought with him two striped camp uniforms, a whip like the ones used against him, and other artifacts from the time. He also showed photographs from more recent and far happier times — of him and his family visiting Cracow for his grandson’s bar mitzva and to take part in the March of the Living.
Michael Jungreis of West Orange, a student at the Jewish Educational Center’s Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy boys’ high school in Elizabeth, is studying at RCA for the summer. As grandnephew of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a prominent survivor and author, he has heard many accounts like Mosberg’s. But Mosberg, said Michael, “conveyed the atmosphere — the feeling about it — that our generation must remember and pass on.”
Marcy Lazar, a vice-president of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and chair of the committee that plans the annual Holocaust commemoration at Kean University in Union, attended Mosberg’s talk together with Adina Abramov, the federation’s director of marketing and communications, who produces the event.
Lazar said she found his testimony “a reconfirmation of the need for continued Holocaust education, lest the world forget this horrific period of time once there are no more survivors to tell their stories.” She said she is planning to ask Mosberg, who was one of the candlelighters at this year’s ceremony at Kean, to join the committee and help organize future programs.