What he did, immediately following the war:
The family fled Poland and moved to a DP [Displaced Persons] camp in Eggenfelden in Germany. In Eggenfelden Mr.Tannenzapf started by helping organize a school for Jewish children. He recalls, ‘I was aware of the housing problem but like several other like-minded residents, felt that that an even more tragic situation was the condition of the young camp population who were growing into illiteracy. There were no schools!’ As soon as the opening of the school was announced, the children rushed into it. I was teaching mathematics.”
In the meantime, he also realized that much of the camp population, remnants of Holocaust survivors, had no skills for gaining useful employment. He decided to do something about it. ‘ I contacted the district leaders of the UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration]-supported ORT trade school system and got full support for opening a school in Eggenfelden, with myself as designated principal.’
He organised courses in tailoring, machine knitting, upholstery, auto repair, electrical, home construction, machine weaving, morse code/communication, and machine shop.
‘I worked for ORT because I wanted to make a contribution to the young people for the same reason I helped to establish the school for children and taught there. I also wanted to help people to re-establish their lives by gaining useful skills and productive employment.’- recalled William Tannenzapf. Before leaving Germany, William Tannenzapf was also appointed as Director of the ORT school in Pocking, the largest ORT school in that district, which had been running into problems.
The family stayed in Eggenfelden until the camp was almost closed. As they had no relatives left in Europe, in November 1948 they went to Montreal in Canada, where Mr. Tannenzapf worked as an engineer and continued teaching at evening and weekend ORT courses.
Where the ORT initials reference the Russian origins of the organization: Obchestvo Remeslenogo Truda: Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades.
Thinking about so many children in refugee camps and initiatives like this…