Emanuel Moss

Emanuel Moss was born in Berezova, Czechoslovakia, on December 14, 1922 and passed away in Boca Raton, Florida on September 20, 2014. In the video below my mother Cheryl Moss-Mellman interviews my grandfather about his memories from the Holocaust.

My grandfather grew up in a town that laid in a valley of the Carpathian Mountains (eastern Czechoslovakia). The town had an approximate population of 5,000 people, of which 500 were Jews. Most individuals were farmers and they bartered among each other for goods. Emanuel was the second eldest of eight siblings. His parents were Eliezer and Miriam Moskowitz and he had two brothers Mordchai and Yurai and five sisters Sarah, Ilona, Rachel, Tova, and Feiga. Eliezer had three brothers who moved to the United States before WWII. Eliezer stayed behind with his family to take care of his mother Rosa. He was well known and wealthy amongst his Jewish community, and was a major employer of the townspeople, both Jews and non-Jews. He ran a manufacturing company that produced tiles for railroad tracks. Emanuel (Manny) and his siblings were raised Orthodox and went to hebrew school, known as the “Cheder” every morning and secular school every afternoon. After dinner Manny and his brother would return to Cheder for the rest of the evening. He recalls the only time they had for leisure was when they celebrated the Jewish holidays together. Their town did not have any form of communications: no phones, newspapers, or radios. They would have to go by horse and buggy to the nearest city called Hustz to pick up a newspaper.

The Nazis invaded his country in 1939. My grandfather’s family lived in eastern Czechoslovakia and therefore the occupation did not directly affect them until four years later. In 1943, my grandfather was 21 years old. Germany’s ally, Hungary was put in command of the territories in eastern Czechoslovakia, which was split into the Czecho-Slovack Republic when Hitler took over. In October of ’43 Emanuel was taken with many other young Jewish men to serve as free labor for the Hungarian army. While Manny was away, his family tried to seek refuge in the mountains, but the gentiles (non-Jews) who were once employed by his father would not help them. They showed up with axes and told his father if they did not go back and report themselves to the authorities they would kill them. In the weeks that followed Manny had to do tireless work from dawn till dusk digging ditches in freezing conditions. They were wet and cold and wore the same clothing every single day without being able to clean themselves. The ditches were for explosives being placed in the ground to blow up roads or bridges to slow the Russian front. The prisoners were guarded by soldiers with bayonets, there was no escape. Manny said they were given small amounts of food and were not abused too much. The daily labor was taking a toll on my grandfather and he made an excuse that he was sick and had to go to the hospital. After he was examined and the doctors found nothing wrong with him, he begged them to let him go see his family. He went back to his town and found his parents and siblings, but they told him he shouldn’t stay and would have to return to the Hungarian’s work camp. When he went back he made an excuse that he got lost on his way back. He was lucky that they did not hurt or kill him but they threatened to if he were to do something like that again.

In 1944, Manny was unaware what was happening to the Jews in his town or neighboring cities. He only got a hint that something bad was occurring when he witnessed Jews being rounded up in the town he was working in. At that point he assumed the same was happening to his family. Manny’s family members were brought to a ghetto in Hustz, Czechoslovakia before his mother and younger siblings were transported by cattle cars to Auschwitz in 1944. His father and his brother Mordchai were sent to a sub-camp of Mauthausen in Austria called Melk and were used as slave labor. As the Russians were approaching Germany’s borders the Nazis ordered the Hungarian soldiers to bring whatever Jews they still had to camps. Manny was brought to Mauthausen in the winter of 44-45. As they were approaching the camp he and a few other men snuck away from the group and hid in hopes that they could wait for liberation. Local townspeople threatened to kill them so they had to walk toward the camp and turn themselves in. Manny was in better condition than most of the people at the concentration camp because he was not abused or starved when he was working for the Hungarians. When he was imprisoned by the Nazis he truly experienced the hellish nightmare that left him starving and ridden with typhus (a virus caused by lice). The smell and the sight of death was all around him. They slept on concrete floors in warehouse-like buildings. They wore the same clothes every day and were not allowed to bathe. They had to share a latrine that would be occupied with hundreds of people at a time. It was ditch with planks of wood over it where people would urinate and defecate. He said people would fall into the ditch and when unable to get out they would simply die from being trapped or the stench would knock them unconscious. They were fed one rotten slice of bread a day that they would usually have to share among several people. As the allies were getting closer and the Nazis were losing their power, they sent the Jews on “Death Marches.” Manny was marched with hundreds of others out of the camp. While they were walking, he stepped out of line and a Nazi officer came over and started hitting him in the back with his rifle. He thought he would die then, but he wasn’t severely hurt and was able to continue. The prisoners were brought back to the concentration camp, because the road became too dangerous as the Russians were approaching.

The Nazis evacuated and left whoever was alive to their fate. Luckily, the American army arrived in May of 1945. Manny was like a skeleton, just flesh on bones. He was taken to a hospital to recuperate. When he had the strength to speak he asked his nurse “Is Hitler still alive?” When Manny recovered he went back to his hometown in Czechoslovakia to find any surviving family members. He only found his two sisters Sarah and Ilona. His sisters were at Auschwitz and told Manny that his mother and other siblings had died in the gas chambers. They went to the home they grew up in only to find it was occupied by Russians. Their home was then burnt down and they knew that had no choice but to leave. Ilona went to Palestine, which in 1948 would become Israel. Ilona is 90 years old today and still lives in Israel. It took Sarah and Manny three years to get permission and paperwork to travel to the United States. They arrived by ship in 1948 in New York. Manny lied about his age and place of birth to fit the demographic quota of people allowed into the country. The two siblings went to South Bend, Indiana, where their two uncles, Jacob and David lived. To read the rest of the story of how my grandfather started his new life in the US Click Here.