Emmy winner tells moving story in new documentary

By David Saffer

HOLOCAUST survivor and multi-Emmy award winner Alex Moskovic has experienced the extremes humanity can offer.

Surviving the Buchenwald death camp, Alex started a new life in America where he made his name as a post-production editor with ABC Sports.

A Holocaust educator since 1995, his testimony is archived at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, University of Southern California and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

Now his remarkable tale is told in a documentary, Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald, currently on release around America.

The film came about after Alex was an American delegate at a Holocaust conference in Prague two years ago.

With his son, Steven, an award-winning film producer, he made an emotional return to Buchenwald.

"All that remains of children's barrack Block 66 is a marker saying '66' and it got me thinking what happened to the survivors," he said.

"The film will be used for educational purposes for years to come."

Born in Sobrance, Slovak Republic, in 1931, Alex was 13 when his family was in the Uzhorod Ghetto before being sent by cattle cars to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the spring of 1944.

Infamous Josef Mengele - dubbed the 'Angel of Death' - sent Alex's younger brother Erwin to the gas chambers and his mother to the women's camp. She did not survive.

Alex's father Josef and elder brother Zoltan were separated from Alex, who was put in the boys barrack in Camp D under the control of Mengele, renowned for horrific medical experiments.

Tattooed with the number B14662, Alex worked on the Scheise Commando for six months until January, 1945. He was one of 51 boys from 3,000 to survive.

When the Soviet Army advanced on Birkenau, Alex went on the 'Death March' to Gleiwitz, Poland, in early 1945.

Surviving the trek, incredibly he was reunited with his father and brother at the end of the journey.

"Dad told us to make our way to our home town when the war ended and we'd decide where to move," he recalled.

The trio were transported on open coal cars to Buchenwald, arriving January 26, 1945.

"Zoltan and I were transferred to Block 66," recalled Alex.

"A few days before liberation, Zoltan was sent on another death march. I never saw him again."

The surviving boys of Block 66 were protected by Antonin Kalina, of the German communist-led underground until being liberated by US 3rd Army, 6th Armoured Division, on April 11, 1945.

Building up his strength for three months under the care of American medics, Alex returned to his home town as agreed with his father, but discovered no family members had survived.

Deciding on his future, Alex received a forwarded letter to his father from his mother's brother, Leo Rosner, who had lived in New York City since the First World War.

"I wrote back saying I was the only survivor," recalled Alex.

"Leo's younger brother, uncle Maurice, had also moved to America and served in Italy during the war.

"He came to see me in Sobrance, we then visited Michalovce, Medzilaborce, Presov, Bardejov and Kosice where they had brothers and sisters. He realised my story was true.

Leo organised Alex's documentation for a new beginning and he was the only passenger on freight ship The Bialistock that departed Dansk and arrived in America on July 3, 1946.

Alex lived in the Bronx and Manhattan, attended a public school in the Bronx then evening school where he received a degree in TV engineering.

"My adjustment to life in America was quite easy once I learned how to speak English," he recalled. "I became Americanised very quickly."

A keen sports fan, Alex played 'soccer' for the New York Hungarians, but followed American sports.

Alex married Jo in 1960 and applied for jobs at television stations.

"My first job in television was in Cincinnati then Providence," he said.

"I kept sending resumes to the TV networks in New York and eventually received an offer from ABC in the engineering department."

The couple moved to Long Island before Alex transferred to ABC Sports as a post-production video editor.

And his timing was perfect as he was part of a hit Saturday sports show.

ABC's Wide World of Sports ran from 1961 until 1998.

Produced by Roone Arledge, it included sports not previously seen on American television such as hurling, rodeo, curling, surfing, slow pitch softball and badminton.

Olympic sports soon became popular along with Mexican cliff diving.

The show was the first in America to cover Wimbledon, the Indianapolis 500, NCAA Men's Basketball championship, Daytona 500, Monaco Grand Prix, Little League World Series and British Open Golf.

In 1963, ABC Sports selected its Athlete of the Year which has been won by, among others, Muhammad Ali, Mario Andretti, Wayne Gretzky, Carl Lewis and Tiger Woods.

Alex first covered the Olympics at the 1972 Munich games.

US swimmer Mark Spitz won seven gold medals, but the games also saw the massacre of Israeli athletes in the country where Alex had witnessed the dark side of humanity.

"ABC set up special studios for the Games four weeks beforehand," recalled Alex.

"I was there to cover the sport, but we also covered what happened to the Israelis. The world now knows what happened.

"Everyone at ABC Sports thought the Germans should have asked for Israel's help in dealing with the situation."

Alex added: "We worked 16 hour days so it did not dawn on me until after it was over what I went through.

"My mind was some place else, but knew everything that was happening as I was one of the first to see the videos.

"We sent the tapes to New York and Roone decided CBS and NBC could share the coverage after we'd shown audiences."

Alex was part of the ABC crew to receive an Emmy for reporting the events that shook the world and coverage of the Olympics.

The coming decades would see Alex cover the winter and summer Olympics until 1988.

High-profile stories included American athlete Carl Lewis winning four gold medals at LA in 1984 and drugs cheat Ben Johnson four years later in Seoul.

"There were so many highlights, it's impossible to select just one," recalled Alex, who scooped a further nine Emmy's for Olympics and Wide World of Sports events before retiring to Hobe Sound, Florida in 1993.

During his working life, Alex saw how technology changed in sport.

"Every four years we'd get the newest equipment, which we'd use for the Olympics but it was soon outdated," he said.

"The pace of change was amazing and continues to be that way."

A huge sports fan, Alex enjoys watching tennis, American football, baseball and basketball.

And he follows the fortunes of the Yankees, NY Jets and college football.

"Professional football is too perfect," he said. "They make very few mistakes, but college football has mistakes and it's very exciting."

As for Alex's first love of 'soccer', he enjoys European and South American football.

And he noted the sport in America is growing especially with the arrival of high-profile personalities such as David Beckham.

"The national team is getting better and is well-respected around the world," he said.

Two years after retiring, Alex began his second career as a Holocaust educator, speaking at schools and adult groups, and as an activist on survivor issues.

Alex was awarded the Gold Good Citizenship medal from St Lucie Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution for his outstanding contribution to education in 2007.

"I do not want a repeat of the Shoah," he said. "Only by teaching new generations can we accomplish this.

"Speaking to schools and the documentary is my repayment for what this country has given me.

"I'm very grateful to the United States for accepting me and giving me the opportunity to restart my family name."

© 2013 Jewish Telegraph