Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Emanuel Tanay - March 16, 1987

Monastery in Maciejowa

Um, your parents sent you to a monastery, what were the circumstances surrounding that?

It was shortly before the ghetto was liquidated and my mother, in contrast to my father, was sort of obsessed with a notion that something terrible is happening. She couldn't quite put in words, but she was full of fear and she talked to people she knew. Polish people. What can be done, my father didn't quite believe it. He had more of a notion that uh, that these were all rumors, uh, Germans are civilized people, I mean here there are excesses because of some individual situations. So he was much more uh, given to the idea that things will work out whereas my mother was full of anxiety and she was the one who arranged with some woman that she knew who, who had a, my mother used to buy, it was a bakery on the Polish side. And my mother could leave the ghetto, again she had the permit to do so. She talked to her and through her, she arranged for uh, a man who was in the monastery named Godumski, to come and pick me up and take me to that monastery just outside of Maciejowa in Krakow, near Krakow. And that happened really by sheer coincidence and that very night when the final liquidation of the ghetto has occurred, so when I was sleeping in the home of that woman to be picked up next morning, we discovered that the ghetto was surrounded and was liquidated and I didn't really know what happened to my family, but I was taken by that man, Mr. Godumski, to Krakow and then we went to the monastery and he introduced me to the Opat [Abbot], the head of the monastery, whom he did not tell that I was a Jew. He told him that I was a converted Jew. And uh, and that we were in danger, and would he accept me into the novitiate, you know, to study for priesthood. And I was accepted by him. And that's where I was for most likely less than two years, year and a half until I was denounced as a Jew and Gestapo came one night to get me.

Now, Mr. Godumski?

Godumski, yeah.

Godumski, he knew...

Oh, he knew, he picked me up from Miechow. He knew, he later on even, my mother who escaped the ghetto, and that's a complicated long story, also was in Krakow and there were contacts between Godumski and my parents and so on. Um,

But he also knew like, the German soldier, that what, what the punishment would be if he were caught doing this, do you think?

Certainly, that every Pole knew that assisting Jews was very dangerous and most likely would end up with death penalty or on the spot or at least being sent to a concentration camp.

Why do you think he did it?

You know, it is always difficult to understand why people were endangering their own life to help, to help others. I think people did it for very individual reasons, it was something that simply they had to do. Uh, and it was usually some type of personal encounter. I, I have not encountered any one who did it for some ideological reason. Mostly it was a person-to-person type of situation. Um, obviously, there were some who did it for money. But those who did it not for money uh, did it out of a personal commitment to save somebody else's life. More likely someone will jump into the water to rescue a drowning person. Why do they do it? Others will stand by and do nothing. Um.

Do you think the Opat knew?

Oh, yes, he clearly knew. He knew that it wouldn't matter that if I was a converted or Jew or not, but he also knew that I wasn't a converted Jew, because I'll tell you how he let me know that. I was sort of like his personal valet, if you will. And um, one time when I was serving Mass, you know, I was... he went by and he really sprinkled me very heavily with the holy water and afterwards I asked him, because he had the twinkle in his eye as he did it, I asked him what this was all about when I was in the privacy of his office, and he with a smile said to me in German because he was a Yugoslav, he was sent from Rome to be the head of the monastery, he was not Polish, he said "sicher ist sicher" which means "sure is sure" and he laughed. What he was saying, [laughing] was he wanted to make sure that I was sort of say "baptized," or he knew that it wasn't true.

And he was taking a risk then, too.

Oh, clearly he, incidentally, he ended up in Auschwitz. Not because of me. But he died in Auschwitz. Um, he not only did assist me, unbeknownst to me, he did have number of Polish underground people in the monastery, uh, masquerading as priests and when this was discovered, he was sent to Auschwitz.

Do you remember his name?

No, I don't.

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