Born Vilna, Poland
June 16, 1928
Tania grew up in Smorgonie, a Polish town where Jews constituted more
than half of the population. Her father was a successful businessman
who sold farming equipment and purchased flax for export. Her
grandfather, an affluent merchant, traveled frequently and brought the
first truck to Smorgonie. The Marcuses took part in the town's vibrant
Jewish culture, attended the theater, and hosted discussions about art
in their home.
1933–39: On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland,
triggering World War II. Sixteen days later, Soviet armies drove in
from the east and occupied Smorgonie. Tania was just entering the
fifth grade. Soviet authorities quickly began to implement communist
policies, seizing the businesses, assets, and valuables of those
individuals deemed "capitalists." The Marcus family lost their
businesses and much of their property. Tania's Jewish school was
converted into a Soviet school, where classes were taught in Russian.
1940–44: On Sunday, June 22, 1941, the German army invaded the Soviet
Union and occupied Smorgonie that same day. The Marcuses fled eastward
to Lebedev, but were soon captured. Tania returned home with her
mother and older sister. She soon learned that an SS mobile killing
squad had shot her father. Her younger brother, Nathan, was retrieved
from Lebedev, and, a few weeks later, the family was forced to move
into the Smorgonie ghetto. Two years later, the Marcuses were
transported to the Kovno ghetto. In March 1944, the SS shot more than
1,000 young children there, including nine-year-old Nathan.
Evacuated to the Stutthof concentration camp, Tania, her mother, and
older sister were sent on a death march in January 1945. Tania
contracted typhus and lost consciousness. When she awoke from the
coma, she realized that they had been liberated by Soviet troops.
Tania became a Hebrew teacher in several Jewish displaced persons
camps in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1950.