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Oral history interview with Henry Tonkin

Oral History | Accession Number: 1996.A.0586.46 | RG Number: RG-50.407.0046

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Henry Tonkin, born April 20, 1926 in Lvov, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine), discusses his family background; his father (Herschel Yakka), who had two brothers and was in the transport business; his mother (Nettie Yakka), who had two sisters; having three brothers and being the youngest; the Russian occupation of Lvov in 1939; his oldest brother who was mobilized into the Polish army; being chosen for the Russian Youth Organization; spending six months in Moscow, Russia; his father’s business being taken; the German invasion in June 1941; the establishment of a ghetto; Jews being issued identification cards; the deportation of the elderly to camp Belzec; his middle brother being sent to camp Janowska; the deportation of his father to camp Belzec; one of his brothers hiding with a Polish dentist; having a work permit; digging trenches at the Lvov airport and then working as a painter; being arrested by Jewish police; being taken to gestapo headquarters; being held for three months for changing jobs without permission; his work while in prison, supplying wood and coal for German apartments; stealing food from cellars; being put on a transport to camp Belzec; escaping and returning to the ghetto; registering as a rail worker; seeing transports of prisoners; being arrested by Ukrainian police twice; being beaten and imprisoned for two weeks; being put on a transport, escaping, and returning to the ghetto; purchasing Polish ID cards and shedding his Jewish identity; taking the name Vladislov Yachavsky, born June 5, 1925; working on the railroad; being sent to Stalino (Donets’k, Ukraine); going to OT (Organisation Todt) headquarters and getting a work assignment; being given a pass back to Poland; being given a German uniform and returning to Lvov, where the ghetto had already been liquidated; returning to Stalino; traveling to Katowice, Poland; going to Prague, Czech Republic and working in the steel industry; the arrival of the Russians; returning to Katowice; his father who was drafted into the Russian army but escaped and survived in Poland; living as a Pole from 1945 to 1948; being arrested in 1948 by Polish police for having American currency; being sentenced to a labor camp for three years; escaping and leaving Poland for political reasons; the difficulty of adapting to life after the war; his suicidal thoughts; going to Lübeck, Germany; being arrested and imprisoned for weeks; denying being Jewish, but reading Seder and receiving help from Jewish authorities; going to a displaced persons camp for a year; immigrating to Australia; getting married in 1956; and his thoughts on Israel and Zionism.

Interviewee
Henry Tonkin
Date
1996 March 31  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
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Record last modified: 2018-11-07 13:55:34
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn505829