Seymour Mayer Profile Photo

Seymour Mayer

January 10, 1926 — September 22, 2023


Seymour Mayer

Seymour Mayer, Auschwitz Survivor and Philadelphia Area Resident, Dies at 97


Jenkintown, PA, September 29, 2023 – Seymour Mayer, a Philadelphia area resident for over 70 years, died on September 22 at his home in Jenkintown, PA.  He was 97.

Mayer was born on January 10, 1926 in Bistrita, Romania, a town that features prominently in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.  The town is located in the Transylvanian region of Romania, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.

In May 1944, Mayer and his family were deported to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in Poland where 1.3 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and political prisoners were murdered.  Upon arrival at the camp, the family faced Dr. Josef Mengele, the officer and physician who decided on the fate of so many Jews and other prisoners.  Dr. Mengele directed Mayer’s mother and grandmother into the line to the gas chambers while Mayer and his father were selected for labor camps.  

Mr. Mayer’s sister was sent to a concentration camp in Latvia where she died in an unsuccessful escape attempt in 1945.  His brother was taken away before the deportation to serve a Nazi military unit and later killed as the Nazis retreated.

Mr. Mayer and his father spent a year as slave laborers in Mauthausen and its subcamp Melk on the Danube in Austria.  Among other things they were forced to dig tunnels that were used for building tanks and aircraft engines.  Mr. Mayer’s father died at Mauthausen three days before its liberation in March 1945.  In May, Mr. Mayer was liberated from Ebensee in Austria by units of General George Patton’s Third Army.  

Mayer recalled years later that after regaining his strength and making his way back to his home in Bistrita, the gate to his family’s yard would not open because the grass had grown so tall.  He realized then that he was the only survivor of his immediate family.  An older half-sister who fled ahead of the deportation and hid out in Bucharest, Romania also survived and later moved to Israel.   

After four years in displaced persons camps in Germany, Mr. Mayer emigrated to the United States, arriving in October 1949.

He later moved to Philadelphia in 1951 to work as a shoe designer for Caprini Footwear, one of several shoe factories in Philadelphia at the time.  Mr. Mayer later joined Thomas Cort Ltd, on Allegheny Avenue in North Philadelphia.  He became president of the company and retired in 1989.

A sculptor in his spare time, Mr. Mayer took up jewelry making in retirement.  He wrote a memoir, “And Then the Nazis Came,” and gave frequent lectures at colleges, high schools and community groups about his wartime experiences.

In a blog post following his death, Mr. Mayer’s grandson Brian, a Miami resident, observed that as a child he learned never to tell his grandfather that he was hungry.  

“Nothing would earn me a rebuke from my grandfather faster than complaining about being hungry. ‘You don’t know what real hunger is,’ he would say. No matter how long it had been since he had last eaten, he never complained. He knew that food, like life, was a gift. He ate when he could, and he never took what he had for granted.”

In 2022, Brian Mayer and his brother Marshall founded Ukraine Aid International to provide humanitarian relief to that war-torn country.  They cited their grandfather’s experience as inspiration for their effort which has paired 9 US cities including Sacramento, CA, Ashland, OR and Stamford, CT with similarly sized cities in Ukraine and has provided over $1 million in relief.

“Our grandfather and his family suffered because many good people did nothing,” Marshall said.

Mr. Mayer was buried on September 24 at King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton, New Jersey, next to his wife of 62 years, Roslyn Jean Komisar Mayer, who predeceased him in 2012.  Mayer is survived by his son Jeffrey, daughter-in-law Nancy, grandsons Brian and Marshall and Marshall’s wife Ebru, his brother-in-law Jerome Komisar, and many loving nieces and nephews in the United States and Israel.

Donations in Mr. Mayer’s memory may be made to Manna PA, an organization that prepares nutritious meals for people with serious illnesses.  Mr. Mayer prepared meals as a volunteer for Manna.

To order memorial trees in memory of Seymour Mayer, please visit our tree store.


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