Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Emanuel Tanay - March 16, 1987

Experience as a Survivor

Is there anything you want to add to this about the importance of making such testimony or what your hopes for future generations is?

I think one of the areas that has been neglected, I believe, is the survivor experience. That is, you know, variety of aspects have been talked about, written about, like people who died, who were annihilated or exterminated or whatever term you want to use, their resistance, but the people who survived, I think have been in a certain sense both in writing and teaching about the genocide, avoided. And that is why I think it is a value that we are discussing here today, and I certainly would think that the project that you were involved in of talking to survivors who have had a variety of experiences, I think it is very worthwhile because one day, once the last survivors are gone, there will be less ambivalence towards survivors and more appreciation of survivors as people who have achieved a great deal. You know, prior to my analysis, I would have never thought of my own survival as an achievement. I always thought of it as an accident, like most survivors. Oh, I view it now as an accomplishment and achievement. I needed help of great many people. But it began with me. And I think that is true of most survivors and there is limited understanding of that. You know, we, for example, the whole notion that there could have been resistance misses the point. Resistance at that time was a form of collaboration. The true resistance was to survive. I was aware of it even then as a youngster. I'll never forget the January 1, 1943, or rather, December 31, 1942, I was aware that this was a landmark. I was on a train and I had a sense of victory. I made it beyond January 1, 1943. Because already then, the rumors circulated that Hitler supposedly said that if a Jew will be free after January 1, he will tip his hat to him. I mean there was that kind of a, whether it was true or not, I don't know. It doesn't matter. The point is, there was a sense of accomplishment and achievement just in the very fact that one survived.

Thank you.

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