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OCT 8, 2019

Million Dollar Listing's Josh Flagg tells how Holocaust heroine grandmother Edith helped hundreds of Jews escape then became a millionaire fashion trailblazer

By Ryan Parry, West Coast Editor for

Josh Flagg has shared with DailyMailTV the inspirational story of how his heroic grandmother survived the Holocaust during World War II and helped save the lives of hundreds of Jews before fleeing to America to set up a fashion empire.

The Million Dollar Listing LA star spoke of beloved Edith Flagg after being invited to join the board of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust which displays artifacts of the late fashion trailblazer and philanthropist.

In an exclusive interview, Beverly Hills real estate agent Josh, 34, said it's vital that the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors continue to remind and educate people about Nazi atrocities against the Jews.

And he wants to be able to share the incredible story of his grandmother and others like her for generations to come.

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews - around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population - by the Nazi regime and its allies between 1933 and 1945.

Josh Flagg told how his late grandmother Edith (pictured in 2009) went from Holocaust survivor to fashion trailblazer in an exclusive interview with DailyMailTV
Josh Flagg told how his late grandmother Edith (pictured in 2009) went from Holocaust survivor to fashion trailblazer in an exclusive interview with DailyMailTV


The outbreak of World War II in 1939 saw the acceleration of the Nazi 'final solution' - the German policy of extermination and millions of Jews were sent to death camps where they were shot or gassed.

Josh's grandmother was one of the fortunate few who survived.

Born Edith Feuerstein on November 1, 1919 in Vienna, Austria she was raised in Galati, Romania, where her father was a professional photographer.

At 15 she moved back to Vienna to study fashion and was in the city on March 12, 1938 when Nazi troops marched in.

Edith watched from her Aunt Frieda's balcony as Adolf Hitler led a parade down the main avenue in Vienna in an open top Mercedes.

The despot was followed by hundreds of helmeted soldiers carrying red flags and swastikas and lines of tanks.

'My grandmother was terrified by what she saw,' explained Josh. 'She realized immediately that this was going to be a matter of life or death.'

Soon after Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany a wave of antisemitism swept across the country.

'People turned into animals,' said Josh, who sat with his grandmother for hours and hours listening to her stories of survival.

'At school her friends refused to associate with her or Martha (Edith's sister) because they were Jewish.

'People emptied chamber pots and toilets into the streets and made Jews crawl in the filth. They threw feces at them and beat them up.

'Many Jewish people didn't realize what was going to happen, but my grandmother was a pretty smart woman. She said, "I'm getting out of here, I'm going to Holland".'

Edith insisted her sister Martha return to Romania, her Aunt Frieda went to England to work as a maid and her son and Edith's uncle went through Yugoslavia with Aliyah Bet to Palestine.

Edith and her boyfriend Hans Stein - Josh's biological grandfather - had different plans.

'My grandmother went to Holland with Hans to become a cheese farmer and they got married,' says Josh.

'Nobody knew that the Germans were going to invade Holland though, Holland always thought they were going to be a neutral country.'

Having conquered Poland in 1939 thus sparking World War II, the Germans began their march to France by eliminating Holland first.

They invaded by air on May 10, 1940.

Five days later - one day after the bombing of Rotterdam - the Dutch forces surrendered.

Edith sat in her kitchen listening to the Germans bombing the harbor at Den Helder.

Her boyfriend Hans was away on Texel, an island in the North Sea that is part of the Netherlands and Edith decided to try to reach him.

Josh says: 'She bicycled there and had to pass through several German checkpoints. She hid what little food she could find under cow's manure and her short hair and tiny 4ft 10in frame made her pass for a school boy so no one stopped her.'

When Edith got to the dock at Den Helder she approached a Nazi Kommandatur and said in German: 'I need to see my mother and father. They are on Texel and I would like to cross.'

Incredibly, she made it through.

Soon afterwards the Germans began the mass deportation of Jews to labor and concentration camps and Nazis officials were carrying out house to house searches.

To avoid deportation to camps like Auschwitz some 25,000 Jews went into hiding.

Edith and Hans decided they would resist rather than surrender and soon joined the ranks of the Dutch Resistance - known as 'The Underground' - helping hundreds of Jews to flee.

Assuming the identity of a deceased woman, Lydia Voskuilen, Edith lived among the enemy and fooled them - day in, day out.

'My grandparents hid Jews, spied on the Germans and listened in on conversations,' said Josh.

'She walked around in a Red Cross nurse uniform and spoke German impeccably so they had no idea she was Jewish.

'If you can imagine this little Jewish woman listening in on conversations. Then she'd relay what she heard to the Dutch underground, they'd figure out where to hide Jews because they knew where the Germans were going to invade that day. It was like a spy movie.'

Edith and a small group of Dutch resistance fighters helped hundreds of Jews escape from Westerbork concentration camp in the northeastern part of the Netherlands.

They dug tunnels that ran through the toilet system of the camp and into the town of Westerbork and a chain of people helped the escapees get to Amsterdam.

The brazen group even smuggled people into the camp to tell the detainees how to escape.

During the height of her heroics, Edith became pregnant by Hans and gave birth to Michael, Josh's father, at a hospital in Deventer on June 18, 1943.

The baby, however, jeopardized Edith's fake identity.

Fearing nosy neighbors in the small farming community might tell the Nazis of the undocumented baby's existence, she checked her uncircumcised son into a Catholic hospital to get him out of harm's way.

Posing as a Red Cross nurse she was able to visit and care for him by de-licing patients.

Josh recalls his grandmother's story: 'She visited him every day in disguise. Nobody knew she was Jewish, so she'd go there to de-lice the heads of all the children there. But she was really there to take care of my dad.

'After the hospital for a year he lived in a drawer in an apartment - which explains why he's claustrophobic.'

Edith's husband Hans wasn't so lucky, however.

After a botched attempt to escape to France, he was captured and taken to the death camp at Auschwitz, Poland where he died in 1944.

Josh says his grandmother then met a guy named Eric Flegenheimer, who later became Eric Flagg - the man Josh would call his grandfather, albeit not his biological one.

'They were also in the Dutch resistance together and survived the war. They saved many lives together,' says Josh.

'There's a clip on my show on Bravo where my grandmother basically admits to us over dinner, killing two Nazis. So that was interesting.

'So what happens is my grandfather, they're not married yet. My grandfather says, I'm going to San Francisco, California. My grandmother goes, I'm going to Israel.'

After the war Edith made her way to Palestine, where she spent time on a kibbutz in primitive pre-statehood conditions.

'Israel is not even Israel yet. My grandmother is there, but this is not so attractive,' explains Josh.

'I remember her telling me, "I'm sitting on a kibbutz. I was almost raped by somebody. Everyone has no money here. I'm getting outta here. I'm going to California".

'She waits until Israel becomes Israel, the state of Israel in 1948. She says, "I've done my job. I'm outta here".

'She and my dad travel to New York and take a train to San Francisco. My grandmother had $2 in her pocket - literally all she had.

'She had no plan what to do when they get there other than to reunite with my grandfather.'

'They get to San Francisco and immediately she sees a fabric store in Union Square which is still there and she becomes a seamstress,' says Josh.

'Now mind you, this is a woman that comes from a very good family and now she's a seamstress.'

Edith saved $2,000 while making patterns and cutting fabric and she and Eric decided to move to Los Angeles to start their own business Edith Flagg Inc.

It wasn't long before business-minded Edith began importing a fabric called polyamine - a form of polyester.

The material was used for parachutes and military uniforms during the war, but once the bombing stopped a surplus prompted European entrepreneurs to use it for other purposes, like underwear.

Edith jumped at the opportunity and a shrewd $2,000 investment would ultimately make her a millionaire several times over.

'Within the next six years the company becomes one of the most popular lines in California and by the 60s, it's say the number three women's sports wear company in America,' says Josh.

'This is not high end fashion, my grandmother used to say it's for the modern woman in America who wants to dress well.'

Josh says his grandmother's keen business savvy and negotiating skills were what drove the company but her gamble on wash-and-wear polyester really paid off.

'My grandmother really was the first person to use polyester in mass amounts and popularized it. And that was a mega, mega, mega thing and really just took the company from, you know, really good to like insane,' he said.

Josh says his philanthropic grandparents became stalwarts in the Jewish community in Los Angeles and gave their time and money to many charitable causes.

Josh said: 'Hopefully my generation, the grandchildren, can keep doing what our grandparents started. No one else is gonna do it. Who else is going to do it?'

Josh says the connection to the Holocaust is 'dying away' among the third generation, so he believes it is his duty to do his bit to keep it alive and remind and educate people about what happened.

Josh's grandmother died from natural causes on August 13, 2014 at the age of 94.

Flicking through old black and white photos of her held in the archive vault at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust Josh has fond memories of the woman he considered his 'best friend' and who featured heavily on his Bravo show during her final years.

He explained that while it was 'difficult' to lose her, it was 'comforting' that she had enjoyed such a long, prosperous life.

'I spent time with my grandma all the time. We went to 70 countries around the world together.

'When you know someone is gonna pass away and they're at an age of almost 95, it's comforting and it's not really as rough as you would think. It's going to happen no matter what. 

'People always go, "it must have been so hard". It wasn't that hard. I was prepared for it.

'I'm not saying I'm not sympathetic, of course it's difficult. You lose one of your best friends, but they live to an age of almost 95-years-old. How cool is that?'

Josh says he's now proud to continue his work with the museum in his grandmother's name.

'I first became associated with the museum in 2010 when the new building was built.

'The museum has been here for many years, but when the new building was built I came to see it with my grandmother.

'It is special to me because my grandmother and grandfather were Holocaust survivors. 

'Technically my dad was a Holocaust survivor too. I mean, he was two-years-old when the war was over.

'We have a lot of artifacts in the museum and the archives on my family and when my grandmother died, we donated them to the museum because I think it's important that people be able to see these things.'

Located in LA's Pan Pacific Park the museum attracts over 60,000 visitors a year and aims to educate people about the Holocaust and preserve the memories of those who survived.

'We commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust,' the museum's CEO Beth Kean told DailyMailTV.

'We educate the public about what happened and we inspire people who come here to learn the lessons from the past in order to promote a better future.

'I think our museum is special because we were founded by Holocaust survivors in 1961 making us the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States.'

Beth said they were honored to be able to share Edith's harrowing story.

'We're really excited to have Josh on our board and have his grandmother's artifacts - it's really important to teach this history through artifacts,' she added.

'So when the students come here, they are face to face with these artifacts. For example, they can see the yellow star that people were forced to wear on their arms.

'They see the objects on loan from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, so they can see a children's shoe or a makeup compact that a woman took with her on the train to Auschwitz.

'And by looking at these objects, you can really understand that they had no idea where they were going. They didn't know that they were going to be killed in the gas chamber.

'Like Josh, I'm also a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors...and I think for us, it's just really important to safeguard our grandparents' memory and to keep their memory alive.'.

Josh has written a book based on his grandmother's stories of survival, called 'A Simple Girl: Stories My Grandmother Told Me'.

He says it feels he's doing 'what he's supposed to do' by honoring her and others at the museum.

But he says Edith never considered herself a heroine.

'She'd say, "I'm not special. I did what I was supposed to do. I'm not a hero. I'm nothing more than a person that did what I needed to do. And there was hundreds of other people who did just as much as I did and they need to be honored too".'

'She'd say, "I'm not special. I did what I was supposed to do. I'm not a hero. I'm nothing more than a person that did what I needed to do. And there was hundreds of other people who did just as much as I did and they need to be honored too".'

'She'd say, "I'm not special. I did what I was supposed to do. I'm not a hero. I'm nothing more than a person that did what I needed to do. And there was hundreds of other people who did just as much as I did and they need to be honored too".'

For more information on the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust visit: