Zdeněk Kraus

* 1933  †︎ 2021

  • “The division commander was general Tesařík, the Hero of the Soviet Union. At that time he was not general yet, and he had only one eye. I came there, we got transferred there, and so I went there with the group. I led two or three other guys who served with me. A car, Tatra 8, arrived, some officer got out about twenty or thirty metres from us. He looked at me and commanded: ‘Come to me!’ We walked to him. A command was shouted: ‘Run!’ We thus ran to him, and I saluted him. He asked: ‘What is the proper distance for salutation, comrade staff sergeant?’ I replied: ‘Three to five steps, as per regulation.’ ‘If somebody salutes me, the Hero of the Soviet Union, from the distance of three to five steps, he will see me get him into trouble.’ So that was my first meeting with him, and fortunately it was also the last.”

  • “The area gradually became depopulated, but Czechs started moving there right afterwards. But they would move in and be gone again in three weeks or one month. They arrived with nothing and they moved out. It was an era of gold-diggers, when they looted and took with them the furniture and anything else they could find, and then they left again. Some of them stayed and they immediately moved into the houses, which had already been looted two times before… That’s it, that’s the reason why it was probably happening, because for example the swimming pool was already completely devastated, and there were more places like that. Other people no longer wanted to move into houses which had already been looted several times. The houses thus remained empty until they were torn down. The roofs would collapse, and that was it.”

  • “Over there, they were dispersing the demonstration, and what happened to me and my sister Jiřina was that an armoured vehicle was trying to run into us, but it instead ran onto a sidewalk. Luckily we were standing in a place where there was an entrance to some building, and we jumped in there and we managed to avoid it so closely that it missed us. I pushed Jiřina in there and I jumped after her. There was only little space in front of the door. We squeezed inside and the vehicle just passed by very close to us. (That happened on the town square?) Not, it was in Barvířká Street.”

  • “It was a very intense experience for me (When was it?) It was on May 8th, 1945. It was before noon. I think that it was after eleven o’clock, around half past eleven. I was walking from the town square where the convoys were passing through, and I was going home because I wanted to drink something and I was hungry, and suddenly I could hear a loud bang. Then I heard something which sounded like a rattle, but these were machine guns. I don’t know exactly if they were firing at airplanes, or if it was the shooting from the airplanes. I ran into my father at Bělské Square and he told me to run to the shelter, to the basement, quickly and hide there. I thus ran home for my suitcase, and I as was nervous, I could not find it immediately. So I ran out without the suitcase, and as I was running down to the basement and opening the door from the basement, suddenly there was a terrible blast, and the door flew open like this and I fell down from the stairs. The blast threw me down there. People were already hidden inside and together we have somehow survived the air raid there. As I said, we could hear explosions from far away, and then they were getting closer, and then, when I believed that it was already over, they could be heard from a greater distance again. That happened about three or four times.”

  • Full recordings
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    Liberec, 28.11.2014

    duration: 02:29:08
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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They evicted the Germans and the gold-diggers left

Zdeněk Kraus, photo from his graduating class poster
Zdeněk Kraus, photo from his graduating class poster
photo: archiv pamětníka

 Zdeněk Kraus was born February 9, 1933 in Kateřinky near Liberec in a mixed Czech-German family as the first of two sons. His father, a Czech patriot, worked as a policeman, and his mother, who came from a German family, worked as a hairdresser in the parlour which belonged to her parents. In autumn 1938 after the occupation of Sudetenland and the annexation of the border regions to Germany, the four-people Kraus family fled from the border region inland. They spent several weeks in an assembly camp in Jabkenice, later they stayed for a short time with their relatives in Letiny near Pilsen, and then they spent the six years of the war in Mladá Boleslav. Zdeněk’s father, who was a criminologist, joined the resistance movement. As a twelve-year-old, Zdeněk experienced the bombing of Mladá Boleslav on May 8, 1945 as well as the end of the war in the city. In May 1945 the family returned to Kateřinky from where most of the German inhabitants were deported after the war. After completing his vocational training and his studies at Higher Technical School of Mechanical Engineering, Zdeněk Kraus did his basic military service in 1954-1956 in Český Krumlov and in Mladá near Milovice. After his return from the army he worked in the Liberec Air Conditioning Company (LVZ) as a design engineer until his retirement. While in Liberec he experienced the events of August 21, 1968 as well as the protests during the first anniversary in August 1969. Zdeněk Kraus, who raised five daughters, lived in Liberec at the time of the filming. He died on April 14, 2021.