Valtr Kraus

Escaped with his brother on 28.Oct.1939 to the then British Mandate of Palestine.
During the war serviced in a unit of the British army in Palestine and North Africa.
Returned to Prague in May 1946.

37 members of his family were victims of the Holocaust.

With Hitler’s invasion on 15. March 1939, I immediately lost my job. I then began planning to escape from the occupied republic. Finally my younger brother and I succeeded at the end of October – with the help of a certain Herr Mandler, who in co-operation with the Gestapo organized transports to Shanghai (illegally to Palestine) – to take part in one of those transports. In turn, we had to agree to leave all our possessions to the Germans and to promise never to return. Unfortunately my parents refused to join us. We took a train to Bratislava, where we were imprisoned for several moths by the Hlinka-Guards; then we proceeded on an overcrowded pleasure steamer under SS-supervision to the Danube harbor of Sulina on the Black Sea in Romania. The Romanians would not let us disembark. The SS threatened to take us back if we did not leave he ship within three days. It was uncertain whether we would be able to continue our journey; everything was just a fraud; they only wanted our money and to get rid of us.

Jewish relief organizations provided us with three barges which we were loaded onto after three days and which froze in the Danube with about 3000 refugees on board. We were sent boards and tools, to use making bunks, a cooking place, and hygienic installations. walter-kraus The temperature was -40°C; and in these unbearable conditions (only one refugee was a doctor, but he was a laryngologist) three children were born who together with their mothers amazingly survived because the extreme cold prevented infections. Others died. It is impossible to describe here a fraction of our two month’s of suffering. When the ice finally melted, the above mentioned organizations organized a seaworthy ship for us. We were towed there in a gale with heavy sea.

We younger people spent the entirely day, till dark on the rope ladders helping older people and women and children on board. Our ship was a former Turkish coal barge. On the walls there was a thick layer of coal dust, which we had to scratch off and throw into the sea. Then we dismantled all the wooden parts of the boat in order to build bunks. Departure through Bosporus and Dardanellae, on the way our ship’s propeller broke, repairs. When we continued an English war ship stopped us and forced the captain, who had a group visa for all of us to Shanghai to proceed directly to Haifa. Two weeks in quarantine off the harbor with a temperature of 40°C and with thousands of rats on board, that came swimming from the harbor. We tried to fight them off with clubs, because they attacked the children. After that six months in an internment camp controlled by the English, because of “illegally“ entering Palestine. When released hard work, then service in the English army as a civil employee until the end of the war.

In spring I met my future wife Helena, like me a refugee from Prague, and in the uniform of the ATS of the English army. I married her after a year of intensive correspondence and after the war and after similarly difficult repatriation we returned to Prague. She died in 1998 after 53 years of marriage.

Translator and interpreter, born October 6, 1912 in Prague, widower, 2 children.

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