JUDr. Tomáš Kraus

* 1954

  • "They turned it around. They said, 'You know, you don't tell us much, but we tell you things.' And it's true that they were telling me the kind of gossip that they learned from other sources, especially about the community. They mixed in Israel, things that I had no idea about. It was kind of their monologue. Then this man called Vondráček came to me and said, 'You know what, this is all top secret. If the information leaked to the public, you would be the first suspect. So we would like you to sign a confidentiality agreement.' I said, 'I don't know, but I can do that. But I don't know why we should sign it on official paper. So let's write it down here.' I wrote one sentence on a piece of paper. And that was the end of it. And then the next time – it was couple of months later - he came to me and said, 'I gave it to my superiors, and it's not good enough. After all, it has to be on this form. It's the same, almost the same wording. Just sign it here...' And I was stupid to say okay. And it was the bundle." - "The pledge?" - "Yes, they basically tricked me into it."

  • "There are two types of survivors. The first type is silent. They don't share anything. To this day, I don't know what happened to my mother. I know only from her friends. She never told me anything. It's psychological, these people try to forget it, erase it as if it never happened. They don't even remember anymore. It's gone. And then the other type if my father who talked about it everywhere, he organized various sessions. Even back then, in the 1960s, he visited schools and talked to students about it. He published books while he could. Then the communists stopped him. But as long as he could, he shared his story."

  • "My parents got married before that. I keep calling myself a rare case, because my parents were married not before the war, but before the deportation. Whereas most of the people of my generation from the Jewish community were born from marriages of people who had already lost someone, and they married after the war, as the only survivors. But my parents got married before the deportation. My father went to Terezín. It must have been really hard for them. They didn't know where they were going at first. That's also described in my father's work. They thought they were going somewhere to work, as they were already used to work hard in Prague. So they took them to Terezín. They were travelling on a normal train, not the horrible cattle trucks. It was a normal, standard train that went to Bohušovice. From there they had to walk three kilometres. There was Czech police, a few SS men, but otherwise nothing much happened. The gates of the so-called hunting barracks slammed behind them. Only then did they realise what was going on. This Aufbaukommando had the task of turning Terezín, until then a military garrison town, into a ghetto."

  • "As far as compensation is concerned, we have found ourselves in a rather interesting situation, because Czechoslovakia was the only country in Europe where Holocaust survivors did not receive any compensation from Germany. In all the other countries it was achieved. I am not saying how. In Poland, for example, people didn't get that much. There were some agreements between Poland and West Germany in the 1970s. There is one thing that needs to be emphasised, which is very interesting from a legal and political point of view. In Germany, there was the Hallstein doctrine. Hallstein was the Foreign Minister, then he even became the President of the Council of Europe. He promoted the idea that the FRG was the sole legal successor to Germany as such. And the so-called German Democratic Republic was not. Only the FRG continued. There were, of course, certain legal implications from that. For example, as we talk about the compensation, which was going on in Germany from the 1950s, the so-called BEG, Bundesentschädigungsgesetz, there were compensation laws. They did not apply to people who lived in so-called Eastern Europe. He said, well, let the GDR compensate them. Which was total nonsense, the GDR never claimed it. The GDR, it was Ulbricht's vision that they were actually partisans and there were no Nazis in East Germany. That was, of course, nonsense. The effect of that was that the compensations were paid off only by West Germany, and only to the West."

  • "One of the Terezín episodes is quite crucial. My father wrote several stories about it, filmed a testimony, and recently a film was made about it. He was part of the Terezín task force that was sent to Lidice. He buried the dead in Lidice. He even found his colleague there, a journalist, who was among the shot men by mistake. My father wrote about it, and we have a testimony that Pavel Háša filmed for the Army Film. As he said, for him - even though he went through hell and survived - Lidice was an absolutely horrid experience."

  • "Spider operation was a list of all Jews in public life, but not only that. There was a database that wasn't even true. They mixed everything together, they included even Václav Havel and who knows who else was there. It was completely unjustified." -"So it was a list of Jews put together by the State Secret Police." - "Yes. That's what they were working with. I consulted it with my friends from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Office for the Documentation and the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism. To this day it is not clear why they wrote it. Whether it was on Moscow's orders or whether it was their own initiative. There was even speculation that some Arab matter played a role, that they wanted to sell it to them. To this day, it's not clear why it was done. All of us who went to the Jewish community were on the list. They called me in for questioning, it took two hours. My mother was worried about me. When the interrogation was over, one of them said, 'You know what, we can see that you're uncomfortable, how about we meet next time in a café?' I said, 'I don't know, I don't think I'll have time for that.' But eventually I agreed. I didn't think it would really happen. But it did. We ended up meeting about... it wasn't that many times. But we did meet."

  • "Yes, it did. And it worked wonderfully. It was a surrogate family for most people, including us. Those people were practically alone. They didn't have the family or friends they had before the war. This was a whole new community. For one thing, there were people who knew each other before the war. But it was only few of them. There were very few survivors, about five percent of the Jews of Prague. And then there were people from Subcarpathian Rus who settled in Prague. Even that was quite problematic at the beginning, because they came with a completely different religious rites, with a completely different world view. In Prague it was very secularized, you could say traditional, but it held on, somehow it was alive. And they brought in elements that were almost ultra-orthodox from today's point of view. Even if it wasn't really, it was just orthodoxy, but it was almost unimaginable for those Prague people. They had never experienced anything like that. And not only that. They began to argue about how to pray. My father was rather secular before the war, not atheist, but he went to synagogue only once a year. So suddenly he obviously felt the need to keep that tradition and he started going to synagogue on Fridays and Saturdays."

  • "That ideology controlled everything. In the beginning the communists had no idea what was being sung. Later on they found out that some of the English lyrics were basically subversive. They started to have them translated. They forbade titles that were critical of the communist regime. The Beatles white double album couldn't be released in our country because of the opening song called Back in the U.S.S.R. That was the only reason it didn't pass. But there was another aspect - money. Supraphon had a limited budget for licensing. They were also making sheet music, and that was exported. It was not only a music label, but a publishing house. Sheet music was also an export item. But I have to say that Supraphon was earning nice money. But as it was in the communist system of planned economy – we had to give away all of our earnings. And then, mercifully, we got a ration back to work with. So there was a struggle to pick a song for a cover version. I remember when Mr. Vinařický came back from the Cannes Music Festival with a bundle of contracts. They had to consider carefully which ones to realise. Or when there were song festivals around the world, Eurovision, which was broadcast here for a certain period of time, the next day the phones rang. Among others, it was also Helena Vondráčková calling us, asking us to buy the licence for certain song."

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 12.10.2021

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    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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    Praha, 02.11.2021

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    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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    Praha, 22.11.2021

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    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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    Praha, 24.01.2022

    duration: 01:52:56
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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    Praha, 07.03.2022

    duration: 01:58:38
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Jewish identity is part of me

Tomáš Kraus with his parents at Jarmilina skála
Tomáš Kraus with his parents at Jarmilina skála
photo: archiv pamětníka

Tomáš Kraus comes from a Jewish family, his parents are Holocaust survivors. His father František R. Kraus was a publicist and writer. His mother, Alice Kraus, née Flusser, came from a German-speaking family from Teplice and lost all her relatives during the Holocaust. Their son Tomáš was born on 19 March 1954 in Prague. He grew up in Prague’s Žižkov district and graduated from the grammar school on Sladkovského náměstí. From early childhood he was involved together with his parents in the Prague Jewish community, especially during informal meetings and holidays. After an unsuccessful attempt to gain admission to FAMU (Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague), he started studying at the Faculty of Law of Charles University in 1975. During his studies at the law school he worked with the Jazz Section. After graduation he joined the foreign department of Supraphon, where he was mainly involved in the export of Czech classical music abroad. From 1976, he was followed by the State Secret Police (StB) as part of the so-called “Spider” operation, aimed at tracking Jews. In autumn 1977, the Police contacted him for the first time. He met with the officers every few months until 1988. At first he was kept as a confidant, and in 1984 the State Secret Police pushed him to sign a pledge of secret cooperation. Tomáš Kraus states that he did so unknowingly, believing that he was signing a confidentiality agreement. In 1988, the State Secret Police terminated this cooperation because he did not bring any relevant information. From 1985 he worked at the Artcentrum Company, and in 1991 he became secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities. In his position, he was mainly involved in efforts to obtain compensation for Czech Holocaust victims from Germany and restitution of Jewish property. Today, he serves as an advisor to the Federation of Jewish Communities and is the director of the Terezín Initiative Institute.