Friday, September 22nd 2023   |

In memoriam: Sole survivor from family in Shoah expires at 90


The two phrases that best characterize the essence of my mother’s neshama are Aiyshet Chayil and Tzadeykess. She was born in Kuzmino, Czechoslovakia, ninety years ago. She was the sole survivor of her family who were all transported to and cremated at Auschwitz in 1944.

Gitel Moskowitz of blessed memory, right, with husband Lieb and great-granddaughter.

My mother informed me that one week prior to her family being rounded up and transported to the Munkács Ghetto, her grandmother, at the ripe old age of 82, died of natural causes. She had the zechut of having a proper Jewish burial; a zechut denied to all her other family members, a zechut which my mother now shares.

After my mother’s liberation she spent four lonely years in a British orphanage as part of the tail end of the Kindertransport program. She then came to the United States of America relatively penniless. My father, Leib Moskowitz, had a similar trajectory. Both my father and mother came from the same town. My father’s mother, Leah Moskowitz, who also survived the Shoah, made my parents’ shidduch. This was a very great and powerful shidduch lasting 69 years, producing thus far, two children, eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

My mother was a completely selfless human being. Everything she did, she did not for herself, but only and exclusively for others. For many years she worked as a seamstress in sweatshops in the Lower East Side slaving away, literally for pennies, so that she could pay for her children to have a Yeshiva education, so that they would grow up with Jewish values, and a love for yiddishkeit and for Am Yisroel.

When her mother-in-law, her shadchan, fell ill with a chronic debilitating neurological disease, she dedicated herself to looking after her like she was her own mother. This required enormous physical stamina and emotional endurance. She was her primary care giver, day and night, twenty-four /seven, for many years.

When children, grandchildren and great grandchildren needed emotional or financial support, she was always there with a smile and loving words. Countless of particular examples can be given, too numerous to enumerate. Her last dying words to my father in the hospital, immediately before she suddenly expired were: “What shall I make you for dinner tonight?”

She was selfless to the very end, to her last dying breath.

Her personality could be described as one of quiet strength. I cannot remember a single episode or time when she lost her temper or when she raised her voice. She was always the voice of reason, of peace, and of Shalom Bayit. There was not a trace of “raash gadol” in her voice, only that of “kol dimama daka“.

May her wonderful qualities live on in all her descendants, and may her memory be a countless source of inspiration and awe. May her nesahma have an aliya, and may she enjoy the fruits of Gan Aiden with all her holy ancestors and the martyrs of Am Yisroel.

Although it is true that her body, her guf, the very transient garment of her soul, has departed from us, her precious eternal neshama burns brightly in the heavens and illuminates us all.

Nathan Moskowitz MD, Ph.D is the author of “Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival”, “The Color of Prophecy: Visualizing the Bible in a New Light”, and “The Color of Conquest: Visualizing the Bible in a New Light”.

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