The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Joseph Tomasov

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Born
May 25, 1920 Trstena Orava, Czechoslovakia

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1968 Toronto

In the fall of 1944, the Slovak National Uprising both endangers and saves Joseph Tomasov’s life. At twenty-two years old and Jewish, Joseph has been a constant target of the Nazis and their Slovak allies. Joining the resistance movement is his only way out, even though life on the run is steeped in peril. In 1945, Joseph finally experiences the relief of liberation, but his safety lasts only ten years — imprisoned by the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, he is separated from his new family and faces a potential twenty-five-year-sentence. Once he rebuilds his life, Joseph and his family face yet another threat and he must find his way to freedom. Joseph’s journey From Loss to Liberation is the harrowing story of a young man who never gives up and who, ultimately, fulfills his hopes and dreams in Canada.

About Joseph

Joseph Tomasov was born on May 25, 1920, in Trstěná, northern Slovakia. After the war, he graduated from Prague’s Charles University with a degree in engineering. In November 1968, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Joseph immigrated to Canada with his wife, Agnes, and their two children. Joseph and Agnes, author of the Azrieli Series memoir From Generation to Generation, live in Toronto.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Joe’s mother, Margaret Duschnitz, and his father, Kalman Tomaschoff. Trstená, Slovakia, circa 1911.

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    Joe’s paternal grandmother, Gitl Fisch Tomaschoff. Veličná, Slovakia, 1930.

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    Joe’s father, Kalman Tomaschoff (centre), and brothers. Clockwise, from the left: Julius, Robert, William, Jenö, Joe. Budapest, Hungary, 1931.

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    The last family photo taken before Joe’s father, Kalman, died. Seated, left to right: Julius, Jenö, Kalman, William, Joe. Standing in the back: Aranka and Robert. Budapest, Hungary, 1931.

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    Joe’s brother Jenö, age seventeen. Budapest, Hungary, 1931.

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    Joe, age twelve. Budapest, Hungary, 1932.

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    A painting of Joe’s brother William, age twenty-four. Budapest, 1937.

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    Joe, age eighteen. Veličná, Slovakia, 1938.

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    Joe, left, and his brothers Robert and Julius. Veličná, Slovakia, 1938.

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    Joe’s father’s youngest brother, Dr. Bertalan Tomaschoff (left), and Joe’s cousin Amnon. Bratislava, Slovakia, 1939.

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    Joe’s wife, Agnes (Agika), age twenty-four. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1954.

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    Joe and his family on the balcony of their Thorncliffe Park apartment, shortly after their arrival in Canada. From left to right: Joe, Kathy, Agnes, Tom. Toronto, 1969.

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    Joe’s daughter, Kathy, and son-in-law, Steven Samuel, on their wedding day. Toronto, June 1976.

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    Joe and his surviving siblings gathered for the wedding of Joseph’s nephew Tom Kolín. Left to right: Joe’s brother Robert; Joe and his wife, Agnes; Joe’s sister, Aranka, and brother-in-law, Fred Kolín; Joe’s brother Jenö. Toronto, 1983.

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    Joe and Agnes on a cruise ship to Alaska, 1989.

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    Joe and Agnes (seated), surrounded by their children and grandchildren in the backyard of the home of their daughter, Kathy. Toronto, 1997.

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    Joe (left) and his siblings Aranka and Robert. Toronto, circa 2006.

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    Joe and Agnes at the birthday party of their friend’s daughter. Toronto, 2007.

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    Joe and Agnes hosting friends at a yearly get-together in the backyard of their home on Chelford Road. Toronto, 2009.

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    Joe and Agnes celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Toronto, 2010.

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    Joe and Agnes, seated on the couch, surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Toronto, 2013.

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    Joe’s daughter, Kathy, and son-in-law, Steven Samuel, and their eleven grandchildren. Toronto, 2016.

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    Joe’s son, Tom (centre), and grandchildren, Matthew, age nineteen, and Nicole, age twenty-two. Toronto, 2016.

The Book

Cover of From Loss to Liberation

From Loss to Liberation

At first we weren’t sure what was happening, but by looking through a small ventilation pipe we soon found out. We saw the Germans, who had followed our footsteps in the snow. There was no way out.

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From Loss to Liberation

The Slovak National Uprising

We made it to open space maybe an hour later. We weren’t even hungry due to the nervous pressure. We just kept on walking in the direction we had come from. I walked with Corporal Bystrický, also a Jewish soldier, who served at the outlook post like me. After an exhausting two-to-three-hour walk in the deep snow, our group arrived at Tři Vody, Three Waters. It is a confluence of three creeks, where three narrow roads also meet. There we found a sizable, slightly elevated wood stable; two or three steps led up to it. Since the door was unlocked, we walked in to sit down and rest.

The stable was already occupied by twenty-five to thirty partisan officers. We had been there with them, resting and talking, for maybe thirty minutes when, all of a sudden, we heard loud machine-gun shots very close to the cottage. At first we weren’t sure what was happening, but by looking through a small ventilation pipe we soon found out. We saw the Germans, who had followed our footsteps in the snow. A group of four or five of them were moving three machine guns on skis along the road, continuously firing parallel to the horse stable and the roads. There was no way out.

Some of the partisans in the stable jumped through the window and into the partly frozen creek. The Germans’ shots hit them all as they jumped out. We could see some of them fall through the ice. Some tried to run through another set of doors and into the dense forest that was only five metres away, across the narrow road. They were all hit, too, and died on the spot. Some twenty to twenty-five partisans and their officers were killed.

Corporal Bystrický and I both thought: why should we run into certain death? Let them come here and shoot us. One half of the door that faced the road was partly open, so we could see the dead bodies piled up near the doors and windows. Resistance seemed useless; death seemed inevitable. The shooting stopped, but we sat on the floor and waited. It was just the two of us, waiting inside the stable for the Germans to come and open fire. But they never came.