Edith Mayer Cord passed away at the age of 93 on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, after a courageous and valiant eight-year battle with cancer. She died peacefully surrounded by her family and many friends.
Born in Vienna in 1928, Edith moved to Italy with her family to escape the rise of Nazism in Austria. The family entered France illegally in April 1939, settling in Nice. Her father and brother were soon arrested as “enemy aliens” and sent to work camps. They were eventually deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942. Neither returned. Edith and her mother moved to a small village in Vichy, France.
When the mass deportations began, Edith was encouraged to go underground. With the help of the Jewish Scouts of France and their clandestine arm, the Sixième, Edith went into hiding at the age of 15 with false papers. She spent a year on the run, hiding in different schools, until she was smuggled into Switzerland, where she worked as a nanny until the end of the war.
After the war Edith rejoined her mother in France, where she earned her baccalauréat in philosophy and a Licence ès Lettres from the University of Toulouse. In 1952 she moved to the United States, settling in New York where she met her husband, Steven Cord, whom she married in 1954. Their two daughters, Emily and Louise, were born in New York shortly after.
In 1962, the family moved to Indiana, where their son Daniel was born. Edith worked for years as a professor of French and German at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In 1979, she started working in the financial services industry as a certified financial planner and securities broker. The family moved to Columbia, Md., in 1984.
While in Pennsylvania, Edith and Steve became active in the civil rights movement. They created a committee to offer scholarships for local Black students, and set up a Speakers Bureau to engage the community around topics of race and social inclusion. Edith also worked to desegregate the local community pool and set up an after-school study center, in addition to playing an active role in the local Hadassah group the Unitarian Fellowship. In 2006, Edith retired as a financial adviser to focus on writing. She published her first book, “L’Éducation d’un Enfant Caché,” in 2013, and her second book, “Finding Edith: Surviving the Holocaust in Plain Sight,” in May 2019.
In addition to her memoirs, Edith was a prolific writer of poems, short stories and fables. Edith took her legacy as a Holocaust survivor seriously. She was an active speaker at schools, universities, churches, civic groups and government and military audiences in the Baltimore/Washington area where she shared her experiences and the lessons she learned: how to rise above difficult circumstances, transcend hatred, find meaning and show tolerance. In her final years she took enormous satisfaction from her public speaking, particularly from touching the lives of so many young people.
Edith was a wonderful grandmother, connecting with each and every one of her seven grandchildren, helping them to identify their special gifts and supporting their passions. She sought to open their eyes to the world through travel, music, philosophy, the arts and good food. Edith’s connections to those around her extended to her students, with whom she kept up correspondence, and the families she helped achieve financial security. Later in life, Edith was able to connect with many first, second and even third cousins on both sides of her family who were scattered by the war and now reside in Melbourne, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Vienna and New York.
Edith was preceded in death by her son Daniel and her husband Steven. She will be dearly missed by her daughters, Emily and Louise; her daughter in-law, Leigh Hellner; her two sons-in-law, Vuong Duthinh and Philippe Guiot; her grandchildren, David, Caroline, Julien, Aaron, Ethan, Anna and Shane; and by her extended family and many cherished friends.
Donations may be made in Edith’s memory to HIAS, a Jewish refugee aid organization.