František Kraus

* 1925  †︎ 2014

  • „In August 1942 I got a summons to the transport BA. I hang a number 63 on my neck. Everybody had to come with 50 kilo luggage into the Palace of Fair. On the cement floor were painted white squares with numbers, so everybody knew where to sit. The procedure took three days. We had to sign an agreement that we voluntarily hand over our property to Germans, including the house key. Our papers were marked by big ‘J’, which meant ‘a Jew’. After 1.000 people got ready, we were escorted to the railway station Bubeneč at four o’clock in the morning and we left for Terezin.”

  • „In 1959 I was exposed to a trial. I wanted to get out of the prison, so I agreed to become an agent of the State Security (StB). Chief of the labor camp summoned me to his office: ‘Look, if you will not sign it, all your appeals will be turned down.’ Someone was able to resist, but I was not. The third time I have signed. I had been in jail eight years for nothing. So I have tried it. I had no idea what it would practically mean in the future. Once a year they called me. We met somewhere in Prague. They have asked if everything was all right, if I needed something. That was all. But they were still keeping an eye on me and waiting. Finally I got a high position in Czech Jewish community in 1986. Their opportunity came. A StB officer called me by phone that a secret circumcision would happen at rabbi’s place. I had to forbid to all my employees to attend it. But one refused to comply. Immediately after the circumcision the StB officer called me again: ‘You have to sack him.’ So I fired him.”

  • „I got a summons to the transport eastwards in December 1943, just before Christmas. Tracks were already laid all the way to the Terezin Ghetto. We were loaded on railway trucks and three days we rode to east. In the middle of the night we arrived to Auschwitz. Camp Birkenau was three kilometers away approximately, so we were reloaded on trucks. They drove us straight to the gas chambers. One half of the building we came into constituted real showers, the second one the gas chamber. The gas chamber was situated downstairs, but this we didn’t know. Each of us – there were one thousand people in the transport – was completely shaved and got a number. They tattooed on my forearm the number 170464. In fact the numbers meant we were not going straight to the gas chamber.”

  • „I successfully passed trough the selection. We had to run across the hospital barrack in front of the commission. Doctors either judged ‘tauglich’ or not. Weak or ill had no chance. I was 19 years old and healthy. Within three days we left by train. I remember we had to walk just along one gas chamber. The doors to the yard were open. I saw there a mountain of dead bodies. Murdered people had to be pulled out of the gas chamber and burned to ashes. One crematorium stood right next to it. All worked as a factory, where one corpse burned the other. One day cycle gobbled up 2.400 men. This was the first time I saw it directly. Each commando who worked there was liquidated after three months in order to eliminate possible witnesses. We got on the train and left.”

  • „My detention in Ruzyň lasted one year already, when I have tried to commit suicide by running my head against the central heating. Then the doctor ordered I must not be left alone in the cell. You wouldn’t believe who was put in my cell: the former Gestapo commander in Brno. The cell was virtually empty: no seat, no bed nor a small table – nothing! There was only a toilet. Everything was closed up in the wall. At ten o’clock p.m. came the guard and opened the bed. You had to sleep with your arms on the top of the blanket, so it would be clear you were not committing suicide. In the cell across the corridor was placed Slánský. The small window in his cell doors was opened all the time. There was sitting a guard on a bar stool and was permanently watching him.”

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    Praha, 08.11.2006

    duration: 02:18:48
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The number 170464 was tattooed on my forearm. In fact it meant we were not going straight to the gas chamber

Kraus in miltary service after the war
Kraus in miltary service after the war
photo: archiv pamětníka

František Kraus was born on 6th October in 1925 in Prague in a Jewish family. After his whole family successively disappeared in transports during the year 1942, he himself was sent to Terezina in August 1942. There he had spent more than a year, before he was transported to Auschwitz in December 1943 as a punishment. In Auschwitz Kraus survived till the spring of 1944 in a ‘family camp’.  Then he has luckily passed trough a selection and was sent to Reich, where he worked in a synthetic gasoline factory in Schwarzheide. In April 1945 Krause managed to survive the death march and he returned to Terezin. In years 1948-49 Kraus fought in Izrael as a volunteer. After he had returned to Czechoslovakia he was arrested for alleged spying in 1952 and sentenced for 22 years in labor camps. He have served his sentence mostly in the camp Nikolaj in Jachymov area. In 1959 Kraus agreed to become a secret agent of the State Security and was prematurely released from prison. As agent he have served next 30 years. In 1986 he became the Secretary of Jewish Religious Communites Council.