Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Emanuel Tanay - March 16, 1987

Denounced as Jewish

How were you denounced?

I was most likely denounced by another priest who sort of gave himself away and that's how I picked it up. He was my teacher of catechism and he might have picked up somehow that I was Jewish because um, on that particular day, I encountered him in a hallway in the monastery and we talked about something and he corrected my pronunciation. And you know, I had no accent; in a contrast to my English, but in my Polish I had no accent, [laughs] which in Poland meant being a Jew. Because you know, Poland was not a, Polish society was not a heterogeneous society. It was either you were either a Pole or a Jew. Uh, and that right away caused me anxiety when he corrected my pronunciation. So that night instead of sleeping in my cell, we had nice small rooms called cells, I did hide in an organ. And uh, when the Gestapo came to get me, um, I could even hear, but I was inside you know, an organ and uh, in the early morning hours after they left, I escaped.

You were how old?

Um, I would have been then 15.

Um, before we follow through on this, the night before you left for the monastery, do you remember what transpired in your, in your home?

Oh yes, I was sent off by my parents, I was, um I remember certain preparations were made, like for example, in my pants my mother sewed in some money, you know, that in case I needed it and so on. It's not all that clear, certain things are clear in my memory, others are not. I remember that night sleeping there and then, it wasn't far from the ghetto and in the early morning hours when the ghetto was surrounded I remember hearing, hearing it, observing it. I remember going to the train station with Mr. Godumski and they were scrutinizing people pretty carefully at that time and in this town, I was very well-known. My parents were very well-known, so you know, it was a pretty risky type of situation to get out of town and we made it.

Was this the last time you saw your father?

No, no that wasn't the last time I saw my father, uh, because as I told you when I was in monastery and my father was then in that particular, uh, uh, camp, he would come at least a number of occasions he came to the monastery and uh, even later after I left the monastery, I didn't see my father but there was another man who after I escaped monastery, Mr. Godumski put me in touch with another man named Stephan Yagojenski who lived in a small town, not town, small village, and um and he sort of adopted me like, he was older, he was in his early 20's, and uh, he lived, he was working supposedly in that village repairing the church organ and he claimed that I was his brother or nephew actually, the Polish word for it is "brat cioteczny" which it means "a brother by aunt" but he dropped the other word and usually referred to me as his brother, which was helpful not only did he take me in, but also by having a brother like that, it sort of enhanced my cover.

Did your father continue to see you there?

No, no, no, no. But Yagojenski would still be able to go to the camp and um, and somehow get in touch with my father.

Do you remember the last time you saw your father?

It would have been in the monastery, the last time. But I remember the last time I had a communication from my father. Uh, in fact, there were two times when I had the communication from my father after I saw him. Once was when to my great surprise, a young man came to the monastery looking for me and he was clearly a Jew, even though he didn't, but he looked like a Jew, and he had a letter from my father and it turned out it was a young man who escaped from Treblinka and my father gave him my address and told him, and told me in the note to help him because he must survive. And I did hide him in the monastery until some other contact was formed to help him. He never did survive, I know now, but I did help him. There was, I think that was the last communication I had from my father.

Until, when you found out later that...

Until there was that one more when we decided to go to Hungary. See the, obviously we are jumping over lot of activities, but we can't cover it all here.

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