|No one can tell me that the Holocaust never happened as the arms of my parents were marked with blue numbers by evil in Auschwitz, and most my family is gone. My father, Otto (Ota) B. Kraus lost his family in the Holocaust yet somehow survived Auschwitz and other camps to live on and tell the story to his children. He wrote several books
on the subject and led a full, productive life after the war as writer
and teacher. Otto passed away in peace on October 5th, 2000. He was at
home and surrounded by his family. Otto left a wife, two sons, grandsons
and a granddaughter. We all miss him very much. Otto's wisdom, humor
and kindness were quite unique.
Dr. Ron Kraus
Books by Otto (Ota) B. Kraus were published in the USA, Israel, Germany and the Czech Republic. The book "Land Without God"
(Zeme Bez Boha) is mentioned in the Encyclopedia Judaica p. 1207 C "The
Jewish contribution to Czech literature". Among other publications by
O. B. Kraus are: Mountain Wind, The Dream Merchant, Tel Kotzim (Thorny Hill-in Hebrew) and The Painted Wall, telling the story of the children's block in Auschwitz.
Prior to The Children's Block in Auschwitz, the prisoners, including my mother Dita, were in Ghetto Terezin. Watch
a segment from CBS' 60 Minutes program aired February 25, 2007 to learn
more about the Nazi deception and Brundibar, the children's opera in Terezin (click link below for CBS segment):
Eli Wiesel (Boston University, Massachusetts): "I read Ota Kraus' manuscript and am impressed. Yes, it deserves to be published".
(Former Minister of Education, Israel) "...I read The Painted Wall and
was moved... the important collective memory will be cherished".
Dr. Judith Kestenberg (Jerome Riker International Study of Organized Persecution of Children): "I
think it is very important that this authentic fiction be published. I
expect that this moving book will also become a best seller".
Dr. Ronald Hischfeld (Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung, Bonn, Germany): "Personally I was deeply impressed after reading the book. I think it should be published in my country".
Dr. Nili Keren (Head of Holocaust Studies Department, Teacher's College, Tel Aviv):
"The history of the Children's Bolck in Auschwitz-Birkenau is an
interesting and touching subject. It is a pedagogical and human epic
which reveals a new face of Jewish resistance and deserves to be made
Sections from The Painted Wall
and Land Without God are posted in Otto's memory.
LAND WITHOUT GOD
Belzebub himself arrived from the
scorching furnace of hell to lend a hand to the task. No doubt that it
was the devil with his red fiery eyes. Just look around and notice the
warp and the weft of barbed wire, the wire is the cobweb of a hellish
spider on which every ten paces glows a devil's red eye. And through
these eyes the devil looks, sees and his glee makes him chortle, roar
with laughter, split with terrible merriment and pull his tail.
how did I trick you, Lord God, when I ground your commandments to dust
on a hellish mill. My kingdom has arrived on earth. And Lord God
dismally turns away his face from this piece of earth because his
merciful heart can't bear the pity he feels for the people he created in
And so it is a land without God.
dimly glittering winter drags through a Polish night while a train
dully ploughs the endless plain. The train slowly undulates, only here
and there flickers a small light and the fifty wagons meant to transport
cattle heave with the un-restful breath of the damned. They are packed
in the guts of the train, for a third day and third night without a ray
of hope, they sit and recline, crowd at the tiny barred window to taste a
drop of freedom and silently listen to the steely refrain of the
wheels, towards hell, towards hell, towards hell.
A six-year old
curly child with sad Sepharadic eyes pulls at his father's sleeve.
Daddy, give me some water. Haven't got any, child, wait until we arrive.
And strangely, the boy understands and stops asking. You would expect
at least one childish why, you would feel easier if that dark, grimy,
curly kid whined, whimpered or complained. Yet the boy sagely nods his
head and falls silent. Daniel crouches close to the window on a heap of
ragged bundles. He is cold but he sees the snowy landscape and when he
pushes close to the bars he glimpses a piece of sky. His heart is heavy,
darling Eva cried when they parted. She said bless you but meant
good-bye forever. She gave him her picture and a small coin for luck. In
the corner in a skein of bodies stands his mother. She presses her
mouth so firmly that her lips disappear and become a cramped scar. The
wagon is silent and the silence is an oppressive question mark. The
eyes, enlarged by terror and darkness, are asking:
And the wheels answer: Towards hell, towards hell, towards hell.
the train grow patches of lights, they arrange themselves into angular
patterns and fade in the distance like a sound in an open field. The
guts of the wagon swell and people awake from their terrified lethargy.
The train snorts, twitches three times like a dying animal, then emits a
last long sigh. The ramp quivers with expectation and a sharp command
cuts the uncertainty into fear and hope. Finally the door opens. Daniel
holds a bundle with food and mother carries a cloth bag. Strange men in
loose blue and white striped coats and ridiculous berets throw out
luggage from the wagons. Leave it, leave it, it'll arrive later, shout
the strange men and suddenly they hold canes intheir hands, terrible
threatening sticks, dad grows scared and steps back. They'll bring it
later, says Daniel. At least if I had a blanket, complains dad, how will
Out of the mist arrive huge gray lorries which eat away
from the thousand-headed crowd. The strange blue white men shout
hoarsely and swing their sticks above their heads. Here and there stands
a lazy uniform and smokes a cigarette. To Daniel it seems like a
confused dream, faces and bodies merge into one and vanish in the hungry
mouths of the lorries. People are so crowded that they can't move an
arm. Daniel feels utterly helpless, he is sorry for mother, for brother
Jani, for dad and for the bearded old man who has lost his hat and
whimpers, he is also sorry for himself. What is darling Eva doing now?
And he makes up his mind that he would marry her when they meet after
the war. A winter rain starts. Daniel hears the drops falling on the
canvas roof and, because the lorry doesn't move, he is gripped by
dispair. Outside somebody curses in German and beats metal against
metal. People wonder wearily where they are, so wearily that they start
arguing, voices ebb and rise, somebody from outside hits the tarpaulin
and spits out a curse. The seconds pulse like the stabbing in a
festering wound and dawn begins to rise. After several vain attempts the
engines awaken and he hears another German curse. At last the lorry
On the wooden floor human limbs lie like snakes in a strange
tangle. Daniel has sunk into an oaken sleep, tiredness has transformed
somebody's nailed shoe into a feather pillow and sealed his eyes so fast
that even a pair of horses wouldn't pry them open. The bloated clouds
spatter the tin roof with drops that patter over the silence like feet
of mice. Evening waddles in and settles at a table where some time ago
the day played cards with the devil. The day left but the devil stayed
and his eyes glow mischievously in the darkness.
The door bursts open
and the canes wake the sleepers. Daniel holds brother Jani's and dad's
hand and squints uncomprehendingly with sleepy eyes. The canes chase
them over a muddy yard to a brick shed called sauna. In a windowless
room stands a long table over which bend bald- headed scribes with a
black number on their hearts. The line of naked men form a repulsive
queue. You feel awkward being naked, you don't know what to do with your
arms, you have lost the last vestige of self-confidence and security.
And the touch of naked male bodies is strangely offensive, you want to
puke in disgust or wake up. Can this be true? And does it hurt when the
scrofulous scribe pricks a number on your forearm? Eh, it doesn't, you
are a man, you laugh at your own fear, you laugh with relief because it
is already behind you. Only boys, with hairless private parts cry a bit,
but their whimper is lost in the hum of the crowd.
After three days
the door of the shed opens and releases a herd of ragged, desperate,
unshaven wretches. In their eyes there is resignation because they
We are in Auschwitz December 23, 1943