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Oral history interview with Henry Tonkin

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

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    Oral history interview with Henry Tonkin


    Interview Summary
    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.
    Henry Tonkin
    Moshe Morris
    interview:  1996 March 31

    Physical Details

    1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Tonkin, Henry, 1926-

    Administrative Notes

    Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre conducted the interview on March 31, 1996, in Melbourne, Australia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum acquired the tape of the interview in July 1996.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 08:29:17
    This page:

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