Edith Ostern (born Edith Tennenbaum) is the daughter of Emil Tennenbaum and Dora Austein Tennenbaum. Her parents were born in born in Zalesczicki, Poland and Bobrka, Poland respectively. They had immigrated to Austria in 1914 and married in 1934. Edie was born in Vienna in on November 12,1936, and her younger brother George was born in 1938. On March 12, 1938 Nazi Germany annexed Austria. The following November the Kristallnacht pogrom broke out throughout Germany and Austria. That evening, together with other Jewish men, Edith's father was arrested and taken to Dachau. The Nazis bolted her apartment, and Dora being without food, diapers or drink for her babies ran across town with the two children to her sister-in-law's apartment where they remained until leaving Vienna. After a month and a half Emil was released after receiving forged papers identifying him as a Dutch national and Protestant. He then fled to Belgium. Meanwhile, in October 1939, Dora, left Vienna by train to Venice together with the two young children. Her paternal aunt had been living in the U.S. for years and she sponsored their immigration. They sailed out of Genoa on the "Rex," an Italian ocean liner. Because Dora did not have a job, language skills or money, her relatives convinced her to put the two children in a children's shelter. The two children became separated not only from their mother but also from each other. Edith's father Emil joined them the following year and the family reunited.
Edith's cousin Robert Tennebaum and his two parents and her cousin Paul Beller and his mother Mina also immigrated to the United States as did her paternal grandparents Malka and Lein Tennenbaum. Her uncle Leo Beller (Paul's father) failed a health exam and was rejected by the U.S. Consulate. He departed Europe on a ship bound for Palestine but was intercepted by the British and imprisoned on the island of Mauritius for several years before making it to the U.S. after the war. Edith's maternal grandparents Sara and Elia Austein followed, Sara having been briefly interned in Gurs, a camp in southern France.