Alan Moskin, Nazi Concentration Camp Liberator, Dies at 96
By: Eva Mandelbaum
“Ich bin auch ar Jude (I am also a Jew)”: the German words uttered by Alan Moskin when he helped liberate Gunskirchen Lager, a subcamp of Mauthausen Concentration Camp, in May 1945. These words that Alan conjured from the little German he knew had the power to brighten the faces of the sick and dying. They assured prisoners in the camp that Alan and the rest of his troop were not there to hurt them, but they were there to free them. When learning that he too was Jewish, a man in a prisoner’s uniform with open sores and lice crawling across his body kissed Alan’s muddy boots. Alan physically lifted him up and then the two hugged and cried.
Alan Moskin, a WWII Veteran and hero, self-proclaimed hugger, and unrelenting optimist among many other things, peacefully passed away on April 15, 2023 (coincidentally during Yom HaShoah, the international Holocaust Remembrance memorial ceremonies), in Charleston, South Carolina. A zealous advocate for Holocaust remembrance even after his traumatic time in the Armed Forces that began at age 18, Alan was special. You don’t have to have met him in person to know that Alan was a ray of sunshine, and he is someone everyone must remember, learn about, and learn from. He is forever an educator, forever changing the world.
Thanks to Common Circles, a non-profit that is working to battle bias by providing ground-breaking interactive and immersive experiences, and its partner USC Shoah Foundation, which uses cutting-edge technology to create testimonies of subjects’ firsthand experiences with genocide, Alan’s story and experiences will live on forever. The Dimensions and Testimonies of survivors and witnesses including Alan are a core component of the traveling educational museum experience entitled “We Are White Plains: Bridging, Belonging, and Building Community,” which was brought to life by creative master-minds Marla Felton and Sue Spiegel, Founder and Creative Director of Common Circles respectively. The White Plains City School District is the first to host this incredible experience, and it has already been a great success.
Students and staff at White Plains Public Schools have had the incredible opportunity to learn from Alan, ask any questions, and hear about who he was as a person. This interactive experience—which also includes Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch—humanizes, combats hate, and evokes empathy. Anyone can sit down and have a seemingly real conversation with Alan. You can ask any question that pops into your mind—from “What are your favorite sports teams?” to “How do you respond to Holocaust deniers?” to almost always get a beautiful, raw response in return.
In 1985, Alan began sharing his experiences and story and preaching against hatred. A few years ago, Alan took his advocacy work a step further and dedicated countless hours towards being recorded while answering questions for USC Shoah Foundation, which now makes it possible for anyone to “converse” with him. If you attend an interactive experience with Alan, you can feel like he’s sitting right in front of you, chatting with you. Alan was many things in his lifetime: a WWII infantry soldier who later became a Staff Sergeant, a civil trial attorney, a parent, and a grandparent. He was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame in 2014, and he was named the “2016 Veteran of the Year” by the Veterans Coordinating Council in Rockland County. But most importantly, he was kind. A “Hug Don’t Hate” club was started in his honor. His smile was infectious. He led with love, and he morphed his pain into an opportunity to educate others.
Although Alan’s passing leaves many with a heavy heart, there is no doubt that his memory, experiences, stories, and buoyant personality will live on. If you attend the interactive experience, you can hear anything and everything about him—from the fact that he loved the Giants and the Mets, to a heart-wrenching detailed description of what he saw and experienced at the concentration camp he helped liberate. “Let's be honest. In another five or 10 years at the outset, you're not going to see anybody like me, the liberators, the survivors, the hidden children, the Kindertransport, the righteous—we're going to be gone,” he said in his 2019 testimony. “So they've got to remember what they heard here and tell their children and grandchildren what they heard so that history doesn't repeat itself.”
Alan’s testimonies and this interactive experience can educate future generations, create hope and empathy, and hinder hatred. “The most important thing that I can get out there is that we must not hate...hate begets hate, hate doesn’t accomplish anything for the individual or for the people that they do hate,” he responds when asked what he hopes to tell future generations. “There’s nothing positive I can think of about hate... make every effort not to hate. Learn to love and hug each other and be friends with each other.”