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YADVASHEM-MOSBERG May-11-2009 (700 words) With photo. xxxi
American who met pope was only Holocaust survivor from his family
By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Edward Mosberg cannot forget certain images: A Nazi soldier ripping a baby from his mother's arms and smashing the baby's head against a wall; another soldier shooting through a rucksack to kill a hidden child.
Among the six Holocaust survivors to meet with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Yad Vashem Hall of Remembrance May 11, Mosberg, now an American and the only survivor from his extended family, said he would have liked a moment with Pope Benedict to tell him about his mother, father and two sisters, in addition to his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
Mosberg, now 83 and a resident of Union Township, N.J., was 13 years old when the Nazis entered his native Krakow, Poland, and put his family into the Krakow Ghetto.
"We were so happy we were all together," he recalled.
But soon his father was killed and, one by one, his grandparents were taken to the gas chambers. When the Nazis liquidated the ghetto March 13, 1943, his remaining family was sent to the Plaszow concentration camp, which was where German Catholic businessman Oskar Schindler drew up his famous list, saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews. Mosberg and his family, however, were not among those on the list.
From Plaszow, Mosberg's mother and sisters were taken to the Nazi-run Auschwitz concentration camp, where his mother was killed in the gas chambers. His sisters, Helena and Carolina, were taken to the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland. On the night before liberation, they were among a group of 7,000 young women the Nazis shot, killed and threw into the Baltic Sea.
Mosberg said he survived because he was a strong teenager able to do all kinds of work. He was taken to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria and forced to work in the stone mines, carrying heavy stones on his back up and down 186 steps all day.
"If you stopped for a moment, they either shot you or they pushed you off the cliff to your death," he said.
Although U.S. troops liberated Mauthausen May 5, 1945, the Nazis made one last attempt to kill the group of men Mosberg was with. Telling the men the Americans were coming and that they wanted to save them from the soldiers, the Nazi guards rounded them up into a cave rigged with dynamite. Mosberg said it was a miracle that the dynamite did not go off, and he was saved.
Alone, 19 years old and ill, Mosberg spent eight months in Italy for medical treatment before returning to Krakow, where he met his wife, Cecile, and her father, the only survivors from their family.
Following their wedding in Belgium, in 1951 the couple moved to the United States, where Mosberg went into the construction business.
Mosberg said he had felt a special affinity for Pope John Paul II since the late pope was Polish. They even had friends in common, some of whom Pope John Paul met with regularly when he returned to Krakow, said Mosberg.
Despite Pope Benedict's German background and his forced membership in the Hitler Youth movement as a child, Mosberg said he sees "something good" in the pope's face.
One cannot forget, said Mosberg, that the pope was a child when he was forced to join the Hitler Youth.
"He is German but I don't see him as a German; I see him as a human being and head of the Catholic Church," said Mosberg. "I want to give him all the respect that I can. I consider it a big honor to meet the pope and shake his hand. I hope the relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people will get better."
While he cannot forget or forgive what happened during the Holocaust -- only the dead can forgive what was done to them, he said -- he feels people must live in the present and future.
"We can't go with what was in the past. We have to go to with what will be," said Mosberg, who has three daughters -- one of whom accompanied her parents to Israel -- and six granddaughters.
Copyright (c) 2009 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
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