Emanuel “Emek” Tanay (1928-2014) was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and grew up in Poland. The Holocaust began while he was still young, and he spent the first part of it hiding in a Catholic monastery. After his father died in a concentration camp, Tanay led his family out of Poland, through Slovakia and Hungary, finding hiding places and falsifying papers to keep himself and his remaining family members alive. Following the war, he moved to the US and studied psychiatry. Tanay went on to become a professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University, and was internationally renowned in his field. He dedicated a major part of his career to treating Holocaust victims, as well as working with the German government to provide compensation for survivors. Because of his own experiences in the Holocaust, Tanay worked tirelessly for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was part of a group of scientists who got PTSD recognized as a real, treatable condition. At one point, he was described as “the nation’s premier psychiatric theorist on homicide”, and served as an expert witness in some of the most famous trials of recent history, including that of Jack Ruby and Ted Bundy. Meanwhile, Tanay worked for his local Jewish community, too, founding the Jewish Council in the town of Grosse Point, and serving as its president. Tanay wrote three important books, including his reflections on the Holocaust in a book called Passport to Life, highly praised by fellow Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. He appeared on numerous television shows, and his story is explored in the Oscar-nominated documentary Courage to Care. Sadly, Tanay passed away on the 5th of August from prostate cancer.
Words of the Week
If you wait until you find the meaning of life, will there be enough life left to live meaningfully? – Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Feigele Peltel (1921-2012) was born in Warsaw, Poland. At 21 she joined the Jewish Combat Organization. Using her “Aryan” looks and fluency in Polish, she was able to pose as a Pole and come in and out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Through this, she smuggled weapons and supplies in, while saving countless children (and adults) by bringing them out of the ghetto. Her code name was ‘Vladka’, which she later adopted as her legal name. She also worked as a recruiting agent to bring more people into the resistance. One of these was Benjamin Meed, whom she would later marry in the U.S. Together they were among the key organizers of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Vladka wrote a popular book about her experiences, and along with her husband, continued to work in Holocaust education for the rest of her life.
Meanwhile, Viktor Emil Frankl (1905-1997) was a distinguished psychiatrist and neurologist in Austria. He showed a talent for psychology at an early age, and provided psychoanalysis for high school students free of charge while in med school. He later worked in the dreaded “Suicide Pavilion” where he treated over 30,000 women at risk for suicide. After the Nazi takeover, Frankl was first demoted, then imprisoned, and spent three years in concentration camps. He used these experiences to develop a new philosophy of psychology, described in his world-famous book Man’s Search for Meaning (originally titled Saying Yes to Life in Spite of Everything). Frankl founded logotherapy, based on the belief that the central motivating force in humans is to find meaning in life, and most problems stem from this deficiency. Frankl revolutionized the field of psychology, wrote several highly-acclaimed books, and won multiple prestigious awards. Interestingly, he proposed that just as there is a Statue of Liberty on the East Coast, there should be a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. Plans are now in the works to build such a statue.
Words of the Week
Don’t argue with an idiot – they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. – Mark Twain