Ed Mosberg’s hands stay steady as he slips into the striped cotton jacket and matching cap — an outfit identical to one he was issued 75 years ago, as a prisoner of the Plaszów concentration camp in Poland.
Although it brings back unspeakable memories, the 92-year-old occasionally dons the uniform, “so people remember [the Holocaust] happened. When I wear the uniform, they know,” Mosberg told The Post.
He still wears his original number plate — issued by camp guards as a way to dehumanize Jewish prisoners by taking away their names — every day. It’s now strung on a gold bracelet to replace the wires that once covered his wrists during his four years of hell.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the 1945 Soviet Red Army liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, is on Jan. 27. But the Morris Plains, NJ, resident explained that, “For me, every day is my Holocaust Day.”
He is the sole survivor of his family, as Mosberg’s parents and two sisters all died in the camps.
Born in Krakow, Poland, to an engineer father and a mother who helped run the family haberdashery, Mosberg was 13 when World War II began. In 1941, the family was forced into the Krakow ghetto, but not before Mosberg’s father was rounded up with some other men and never seen again. In 1943, the ghetto was “liquidated”; his mother ended up in Auschwitz, where she was murdered. The kids went to Plaszów.
There, Mosberg worked in the office of notorious Nazi Amon Goeth, portrayed in the film “Schindler’s List” by Ralph Fiennes. He recalls the machinations of the monster commander, like when a mother was holding her child. “They took the infant out of the mother’s hand and smashed it against walls and it was killed instantly,” Mosberg recalled.
He remembers when officers told prisoners with canes to abandon the aids, promising that whoever could cross the square would be free: “They were crawling on their hands and knees. When they got [to the other side] they were shot.”
Moved to the Mauthausen camp in Austria in the summer of 1944, Mosberg was assigned to a quarry dubbed “the stairs of death.”
“Everybody had one boulder [twice his weight] on his shoulder. You had to walk up, without stopping. If you couldn’t make it, this was your death.”
The day before liberation, SS officers told Mosberg and others at Mauthausen, “The Americans are coming and we want to save you.” Scores of them were led to caves booby-trapped with dynamite — which failed to go off.
His sisters were not so lucky. That same day, the two were among some 7,000 women who were lined up on a Baltic beach and shot dead.
Mosberg was so beaten down that when he was free to go, “I didn’t want to leave — I didn’t know where to go,” he said.
He entered a sanitarium in Italy for months, battling tuberculosis. But the 19-year-old vowed to go on with his life and reconnected with Cesia Storch, a girl from Krakow who was in a barracks with his sisters. With just a seventh-grade education and $10 in his pocket, he came to New York with his new bride in 1951, settling into Harlem with their 18-month-old daughter. (They went on to have two more daughters and six grandchildren.)
Mosberg worked three jobs a day, including sewing pocketbooks for 50 cents an hour, before carving out what would become a successful career in real estate development.
For the recent Holocaust documentary “Destination Unknown,” he returned to the site of the Mauthausen camp, wearing his prisoner uniform and carrying a hard rubber whip just like the one the Nazis used to beat him. He bought the paraphernalia from collectors over the years, paying $50 for the hat and a couple hundred dollars for the jacket, to which he added his number.
Jonny Daniels, founder of the Holocaust foundation From the Depths, estimates that, of the 500,000 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, only 100,000 are still alive today. Mosberg’s wife, now 90, is bedridden and still has nightmares about her time in the camps. Mosberg, too, is stuck there.
“[Cesia] will tell you that I never left the concentration camp,” he said.
He sees it as his life’s mission to keep that memory alive.
“As long as I live I have to go and talk about this so the Holocaust will never be forgotten.”
This story originally published on nypost.com