Edward Mosberg still remembers watching Amon Göeth, the sadistic commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland, shoot and beat prisoners. He will never forget seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms and smashed to death.
But most of all, the 94-year-old will never forget the loss of his entire family, including parents,
grandparents, two sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins at the hands of the Nazis.
“We must never forget or forgive,” the Parsippany resident told The Jewish Link in a phone interview. “To forgive and forget is to kill the victims a second time. How can we forget and forgive the burning of the Torah? They may have burned the parchment of the Torah, but the words are indestructible. They will live forever and ever.”
When Mosberg heard that DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles had posted social media messages citing what he believed to be a quote from Hitler, he reached out to the 33-year-old, offering to accompany him to Auschwitz. During a Zoom phone call arranged by Jonny Daniels, founder and director of From the Depths, Jackson accepted the offer.
The organization is dedicated to building a relationship between Poles and Jews by partnering with Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities.
“After what I saw I feel it is my duty and obligation to help people learn,” explained Mosberg. ‘It really bothered me he never learned about the Holocaust. I spoke to him twice and he told me, ‘I want to learn.’ You could tell from his statement he did not know much about the Holocaust. He accepted right away.”
Mosberg was just 13 years old when his family was sent to the Krakow Ghetto. His father died at the beginning of the war and the rest of his family was sent to Plaszow, from where his mother was taken by transport and murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He was sent to Mauthausen in Austria, where he worked carrying heavy boulders up the infamous 186 steps. He survived starvation and beatings.
“You can only learn if you go there and realize what happened,” said Mosberg. “If you go into a museum, this is not where you learn. You can only learn by visiting the crematorium. Then you have the feeling.”
Jackson’s comments drew immediate condemnation and he quickly apologized. However, the Eagles called the posts “absolutely appalling,” fined Jackson and warned that he would be released if he didn’t “support his words with actions.”
Mosberg said on their phone calls Jackson “behaved very nice, like a gentleman,” but added that no travel date for their excursion has been set because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I grew up in Los Angeles and never really spent time with anyone from the Jewish community and didn’t know much about their history,” Jackson said during the Zoom call, according to the Jerusalem Post. “This has been such a powerful experience for me to learn and educate myself. … I want to take the proper steps to let people know that I never intentionally had any hatred in my heart, I never wanted to put the Jewish community down, I want to educate myself more and help bridge the gaps between all different cultures.”
Dressed in a concentration camp uniform, Mosberg is a regular visitor to Auschwitz and other camps, sometimes going as often as twice yearly with his own family. He often accompanies young people on the March of the Living to Auschwitz, addressing as many as 15,000 about his experiences. His granddaughter, Jordana Karger—also dressed in a camp uniform—is often by his side during the march.
Mosberg has spoken at many schools and addressed recruits at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police and New Jersey State Police Training academies and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“In Belzec extermination camp I lost 16 members of my family and I have visited these places many, many times,” said Mosberg. “When I walk through Belzec, I can hear the voices of my family and the 600,000 who were murdered there saying, ‘Don’t forget us.’”
A memory that still resonates with him is finding a piece of meat in Plaszow and offering it to his starving mother, “but she would not swallow it because it was treif.”
Upon liberation, Mosberg returned to Poland, but was weak and suffering from tuberculosis and given months to live. Determined to survive, he went to Italy, and after spending several months in a sanatorium was cured. Upon returning to Poland he decided to accompany a survivor named Cecile from Krakow and her father to Belgium, where he and Cecile were married.
The couple came to the United States several years later with their small daughter and $10 in Mosberg’s pocket. They would have two more daughters, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Cecile died several months ago after 72 years of marriage.
“She was the best wife,” said Mosberg. ‘The one mistake is my wife passing away without me. My only wish is that she could have lived longer.”
Mosberg got his big break in America in 1954 when he was hired by Holocaust survivor brothers Harry and Joseph Wilf at Garden State Homes, a Short Hills real estate development company. The Wilfs became major philanthropists and today the company, run by Leonard, Zygmunt, Mark, Orin and Jonathan Wilf, is worth $5 billion. Mark Wilf is chair of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Last year, Mosberg was presented with the Order of Merit, Poland’s highest civilian distinction, by Polish president Andrzej Duda.
He has used his success in America to replenish Torahs lost in the Holocaust, donating 22, all but two of them to synagogues and institutions in the New York Metro Area. One of the other two was given to director Steven Spielberg and the last one to the Chabad synagogue at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel.
By Debra Rubin