The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Renate Krakauer

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Born
February 28, 1941 Stanislawów, Poland

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1948 Toronto, Ontario

William Tannenzapf never wavered in his determination to survive and save his wife and baby girl from the evil that gripped his home town of Stanislawów. Blond, cherubic, Renate Krakauer was a “miracle baby” born as the world descended into war and soon surrounded by misery and death. Starved and enslaved, Tannenzapf entrusted his daughter to a Polish family so that little Renate could live in “childhood oblivion” – yet still under the eyes of her loving parents. Later reunited and thrown into the trials of refugee and immigrant life, Krakauer’s thoughtful observations provide fascinating insight into the perceptions of a child survivor and offer a poignant counterpoint to Tannenzapf’s adult reflections on the same events. This gripping volume offers the reader the rare opportunity to read survival stories from two members of the same family.

About Renate

William Tannenzapf was born in 1911 and his daughter, Renate, was born in March 1941, during the Nazi occupation. The family immigrated to Canada in 1948. William Tannenzapf passed away in 2011 at 100. Renate Krakauer made her home in Toronto, writing and publishing numerous short stories and essays.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Renate's father, William, 1929.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte, 1929.

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    Renate's aunt Nitka (Johanna) Feld.

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    Renate's aunt Klara.

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    Nusko, Renate's uncle, and his son Milek.

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    Renate's grandmother, Raizel Mandel, 1926.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte (seated on the right) with the Menorah girls in Scout uniforms, 1927.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte, and her aunt Mańka Mandel, Prague, circa 1930.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte (back row, left), and Tulo Wuhl, the cousin of her father, William (front right), with their Menorah group. Stanisławów, February 1932.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte, centre, with her brothers Içio and Jacek, and Jacek’s wife, Halina. Zakopane. Poland, July 1935.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte, with family. Left to right: Mańka (Halina’s sister), Charlotte, Mańka (Charlotte’s sister) and Halina (Charlotte’s sister-in-law) holding her daughter, Sylvia. Łaziska Górne, 1937.

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    Renate, age four, in Stanisławów, September 1945.

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    Renate with her mother, Charlotte. Brzeg nad Odrą, 1946.

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    Renate with her mother, Charlotte, and father, William, at the Displaced Persons camp in Eggenfelden, Germany, 1946–1947.

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    Renate on stage. Eggenfelden, 1946.

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    Renate and her father, William, going on a picnic. Eggenfelden, 1947.

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    Renate (centre row, second from right) with her preschool class and teacher, Mrs. Silber. Eggenfelden, 1946.

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    Renate (second from right) with her best friend, Bogusia (far left) and other friends in Eggenfelden, 1947.

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    Renate's father, William (second from the right), in front of the ORT school, where he was principal. Eggenfelden, 1947.

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    An ORT vocational student training in communications at the Displaced Persons camp in Pöcking, Germany, circa 1947. Renate's father, William, was principal at the school.

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    Renate's father, William (third from the right), marching in a parade to celebrate the declaration of the State of Israel. Eggenfelden, May 1948.

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    The Union of Jewish Engineers membership card of Renate's father, William. US Occupation Zone, Germany, 1947–1948.

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    The Jewish Medical Association membership card of Renate's mother, Charlotte. Munich, US Occupation Zone, Germany, 1948.

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    Canadian immigration papers of Renate, her father, William, and her mother, Charlotte. 1948.

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    Renate’s Canadian immigration card, 1948.

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    Renate's aunt Ester with her husband, Mordechai, and daughter, Nili, in Israel, 1948.

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    Renate with her father, William, and mother, Charlotte. Montreal, circa 1950.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte, with friends. Left to right (back): Fellow Holocaust survivors Mr. and Mrs. Ackerman and Charlotte; left to right (front): Renate, Maxie Ackerman, (unknown) and Renate’s friend Charlotte. Val Morin, Quebec, 1953.

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    Renate's mother, Charlotte. Montreal, 1955.

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    Renate's father, William, in a Westinghouse News article announcing his award for one of three airport lighting control patents. Hamilton, Ontario, July 1979.

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    Renate's family at the bar mitzvah of her son, Rob. Toronto, 1978. Left to right: (back) Charlotte, Renate's mother; William, Renate's father; and Renate; (front) Renate's children, Lianne (left); Susan (right); and Rob (centre).

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    Renate at the wedding of her son, Rob, to Jill Nurse, 2008. Left to right: (standing) Lianne and Susan, Renate's daughters; William, Renate's father; Jill; Rob; Hank, Renate's husband; and Renate. Seated in front: Charlotte, Renate's mother.

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    Renate with her husband, Hank. Toronto, 2008.

The Book

Cover of Memories From the Abyss / But I Had A Happy Childhood

Memories From the Abyss / But I Had A Happy Childhood

The long shadow of the Holocaust touched my life and even reached into the lives of my children...

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Memories From the Abyss / But I Had A Happy Childhood

Hiding and Surviving

People were dying like flies in the ghetto, not only in the daily Aktionen but also in mass executions at the Jewish cemetery, where the victims had to dig their own graves before being shot. Others were taken away in carts to trains bound for the death camp at Belzec. There were also those who died from disease, primarily typhus, due to the complete lack of sanitation. And then, of course, there was always starvation. Bodies in the streets became a regular fact of life, even though carts came around to remove them.

The liquidation of the ghetto was imminent. By the end of February, the Stanisławów ghetto was declared judenrein, cleansed of Jews.

Prior to that fateful time, however, my mother had sensed that she had to do something before it was too late. By December 1942, she had lost most of her family and her baby looked sadder and thinner every day. I was almost two and I couldn’t walk yet. I barely talked. One cold overcast morning, she wrapped a comforter tightly around the two of us and approached the main Schleuse, or gate to the ghetto, where she saw her cousin Jakob Mandel in charge. He was a tough, stocky man who had had business dealings with the Germans before the war. His position of authority was a reward for loyal service. Later he too was executed by the Nazis. On this particular occasion, there was a quick exchange as the eyes of the cousins met before he turned away, allowing my mother and her precious bundle to slip behind his broad back.

Once outside the ghetto walls, my mother ripped off her blue-and-white Star of David armband and ran down the cobblestone street, fully expecting a bullet in the back. By this time I was well trained to be quiet. Just being so close to my mother was enough to make me happy. We reached the safety of the apartment of a former neighbour, who pulled us in quickly, no doubt fearing for her life. That night I was nestled in between my mother and Pani (Mrs.) Poliszowa on her bed.

My happiness didn’t last long. The next day, my mother handed me over to Józia, who had been a maid in her brother’s house, to take me to her widowed sister in Pozniki, a neighbouring village. Marynia and her two young sons were my new family for the next eighteen months. With my blond hair, blue eyes and button nose, I fit in easily as the baby sister. Suffering from malnutrition and one childhood illness after another, it took a while for me to become a healthy normal toddler.