It's been more then 65 years since World War II ended and the concentration camp inmates were liberated. But for some, even after they were set free from the camps, there was another kind of prison that kept them captive: a prison of the heart, the mind and the soul.
I thought I knew the basic details of my life: I was born in Bedzin, Poland, on July 13, 1942, and smuggled out of the ghetto there when I was a few months old, rescued by a Catholic family.
Often, I heard details of my parents' life in hiding, their decision to have me smuggled out of the ghetto and how a friend of my dad's in the summer of 1945 discovered a note posted on a wall where survivors gathered that said I was alive and that my Christian family was looking for any survivors of my biological family.
My dad, Henek Taus, and I were reunited in 1945, but it wasn't until 1947, after my dad remarried, that he came back to Poland, against difficult odds, and successfully smuggled me into West Germany. In the summer of 1949, our little family — my dad; new mother, Hanka Weinstock Taus; baby brother, Albert; and I — arrived in America.
Purely by accident in 1989, I discovered that Hanka was not my biological mother. Rosia Kozubska Taus had been murdered in Auschwitz.
Nine years later, I was shocked to discover another secret: My murdered mother, Rosia, had a younger sister who'd survived — as had her mother! My parents knew that my Aunt Lola and her husband, Willy, also a survivor, had moved to the United States in 1948. But I had been kept away from family members who survived because of the new life and emotional protection that my parents wanted to create for all of us.
Desperately, I searched for Tanta Lola hoping that she could tell me about my biological mother and her family. I hoped there was an image of Rosia so I could see how she looked. Realizing that my pursuit of this information was relentless, my dad told me that a photo did exist. He promised he would try to get the wallet-sized photo that had been placed in my blanket when I was smuggled out of the ghetto. The photo was to help identify my parents when they came for me.
In 1998, my dad was living in Philadelphia. I was in Texas (where I've been since 1966 when my husband joined the Air Force). My dad said the photo didn't belong to him, so I promised that I would make a copy of the image and return it right away. Although I followed my dad's instructions, I never believed that the photo wasn't his. When I asked about the "other man" in the photo, my dad would only say, "Just a man who stepped in because he wanted to be in the photo."
My dad and my adoptive mother Hanka died 11 days apart in October 2001. It wasn't until September of 2011 that I had the opportunity to go through my parents' documents, hoping desperately to find clues about the past. I wasn't consciously looking for the photo; no matter, it wasn't in among those papers.
It's now been over six months since I dug through those boxes. One evening recently, I was thinking about the photo my dad had sent me 13 years ago and I had an epiphany. The man in the photo must have been alive in Philadelphia in 1998 since it only took a few days for the image to arrive in Austin.
I struggled to put the pieces of my story together — and I struggle still with the simple but crucial question: "Who was that man and why did my dad keep him a secret?"
There were so many secrets — my mother's murder, my aunt's survival, my aunt's mother (who was my grandfather's second wife and my grandmother) and so much more. Why did my dad not just unburden himself when the opportunity presented itself? Why did he keep holding on to those secrets?
Please help me find this man or someone who might know him. Because my dad died so suddenly after my adoptive mother, I can only hope and believe that if he'd lived a little longer, he would have told me the truth about the many secrets left untold.
If you know this man, or have any information about this photo, please contact me at . [email protected] com