František Kraus

In August 1941 he was deported to Terezin, transferred to Birkenau in December 1943, did forced labor in Schwarzheide concentration camp in June 1944, forced to walk the death march to Terezin in April 1945; his mother was arrested late in 1941, deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp; his father died in Majdanek.

He is the only survivor in his family.

In Smichov, a municipal district of Prague, I was requested to work without pay in a former Jewish factory, which had been German since 1941. They produced capacitors for the army. One evening I came home from work to find out that my mother was no longer there. A neighbor told me that mother had gone to the police but not returned. I went to look for her. frantisek-kraus After a while the police told me that she had been arrested and was in the Gestapo-prison. For several months I brought her clean laundry. Then, she was transferred. I was sent a letter from Ravensbrück concentration camp. Three months afterwards she died. They sent her purse with her personal belonging to my address and offered me to send her urn as well. I was supposed to go in the fifth transport to Litzmannstadt. They sent me to a support organization which was headed by Freddy Hirsch, who was supposed to help me packing. Excitedly I went there, but when I crossed the street I was hit by a German car. They stopped, and when they realized that I was a Jew they left me on the sidewalk and drove away. A passing coal dealer took me onto his buggy and drove me to the Jewish hospital. That way I gained some time, and I was put on a later transport.

In Terezin there were also my grandparents and other relatives. In January there was a transport of 10 000 old people, leaving for the extermination camp in Treblinka. I did not have the courage to say farewell to my grandparents. After they had been deported I went to the building where they had been. The room was empty, and the windows were open. I will never forget this moment. I tried to get work in the kitchen. Some other boys and I used a makeshift cart to take food to all the shacks. One day the kitchen staff had miscounted, giving us 100 sweet buns too many – we shared them out in the children’s home. Someone told on us and we had to go to be interviewed.

Freddy Hirsch, who was in charge of the youths, was supposed to defend us before the juvenile court. He was unsuccessful. My friend was sent to Birkenau in a penal transport in September 1943, I followed three months later. In the ghetto I had a considerably quiet time. Whenever I could I went to the theater or the cabaret, I had a girl friend and I was never hungry. It was a coincidence that I got into an SS – depot, where the children’s confiscated suitcases were stored. There I found my own luggage with my favorite books, detective- and Wild West stories. I took them with me to Birkenau. When I arrived I traded them with a Czech foreman for a pair of solid winter boots, which I wore until the war was over. Wearing those boots, I survived the death march. They saved my life.

Born October 6, 1925 in Prague, married.

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