The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

William Tannenzapf

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Born
January 06, 1911 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 William

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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    William, 1929.

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    William's future wife, Charlotte, 1929.

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    William's sister, Nitka (Johanna) Feld.

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    William's eldest sister, Klara.

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    Nusko, husband of William's sister Nitka, and Nusko's son Milek.

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

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    William's wife, Charlotte (back row, left), and William’s cousin Tulo Wuhl (front right), with their Menorah group, Stanisławów, February 1932.

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    William's mother-in-law, Raizel Mandel, 1926.

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    William's wife, Charlotte, and her sister Mañka Mandel. Prague, circa 1930.

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

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    William's wife, 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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    William's daughter, Renate, age four, in Stanisławów, September 1945.

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    William's wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Renate. Brzeg nad Odrą, 1946.

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    William, his wife, Charlotte, and their daughter, Renate, at the Displaced Persons camp in Eggenfelden, Germany, 1946–1947.

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    William and his daughter, Renate, going on a picnic. Eggenfelden, 1947.

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    William's daughter, Renate, on stage. Eggenfelden, 1946.

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

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

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    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. William was principal at the school.

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    William’s youngest sister, Ester, with her husband, Mordechai, and daughter, Nili, in Israel, 1948.

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    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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    William’s Union of Jewish Engineers membership card. US Occupation Zone, Germany, 1947–1948.

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

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    Canadian immigration papers of William, his wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Renate, 1948.

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    Canadian immigration card of William's daughter, Renate, 1948.

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    William, his daughter, Renate, and his wife, Charlotte. Montreal, circa 1950.

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

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    William's wife, Charlotte. Montreal, 1955.

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    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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    William's family at the bar mitzvah of his grandson, Rob. Toronto, 1978. Left to right: (back) Charlotte, William's wife; William; and their daughter, Renate; (front) Renate's children, Lianne (left), Susan (right), and Rob (centre).

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

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    Renate, William's daughter, 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 tragic decade of our lives during the war and its aftermath came to a close. We entered a new era with great hopes.

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Memories From the Abyss / But I Had A Happy Childhood

Under German Occupation

Some Hungarian officers showed up at the power station, visiting different departments. They came into my office and we had a brief professional conversation. Before they left, they told me they knew I was a Jew, explaining that this made no difference to them but that they would soon be replaced by Germans, at which point I could expect extremely bad times. They suggested it would be safer for me to stop working and not come back to the office. I agreed.

The Hungarian army left Stanisławów in late July of 1941 and was replaced by small contingents of German special operations units. Among them was the Gestapo. They made their headquarters in the vacated Polish district courthouse building. Along with heavily armed German police in heavy jackboots and large helmets, they patrolled the streets and intimidated the entire population. The Jews felt like the breath of death was coming their way – a feeling confirmed within hours of the Germans entering the city. They rounded up former members of the city’s kahal (the local elected body authorized by the Polish government before the war to represent Jewish communities), which had been dissolved by the Soviets. The Germans began by beating up those gathered, breaking the arm of one man named Seibald. Then the Germans established a Judenrat (Jewish Council) and appointed a former banker named Lamm as its deputy chairman. To demonstrate their contempt, they called him “Lämmchen” (little lamb). The Judenrat served as the intermediary between the Gestapo and the Jewish people; in other words, it transmitted and executed Gestapo orders.

The first order that affected us directly came just two days later when all Jewish professionals and leaders of the community were ordered to assemble in the Gestapo headquarters building at specific hours, organized according to their professions. Failing to comply would be punished by death. My sister Nitka’s husband, Nusko Feld, a high-school teacher, and Charlotte’s sister Mañka, a pharmacist, both complied. Charlotte, being a pharmacist, wanted to join her sister. But I had been educated in German schools in Prague and didn’t trust the Germans, so I definitely refused to go and tried hard to persuade Charlotte not to go. Eventually I threatened her that if she left the baby, who was unwell at the time, I wouldn’t look after her. This worked and she didn’t go to the Gestapo headquarters. Only a few doctors were later released, including a dentist friend of ours who trusted us and told us what happened. The rest were detained without explanation and no communication with them was allowed nor was information released about why they had been detained.

We heard from our friend that the detainees were viciously beaten and psychologically abused by the Gestapo, who used sophisticated torture methods. Soon, rumours (most likely planted) were spreading that food parcels for the prisoners would be accepted. Family members delivered them in spite of the extreme difficulty in obtaining food and despite the absence of confirmation that their loved ones actually received them. A few months later we found out that not a single parcel had reached the prisoners, who had all been starved and tortured. Some were killed and some died; those who were still alive were transported in trucks to nearby woods, where they were executed.