Holocaust survivor, 86, remembers the 6 million
DON Krausz unfurls an image of a German doctor directing Jewish people in two directions: to the gas chambers or to the concentration-camp labour force during World War II.
It’s one of two posters he brings when he talks to schools about the Holocaust. The 86-year-old survivor from the Netherlands has spoken to more than 500 groups about what happened – to prevent history repeating itself.
Krausz has spent more than 70 years contemplating how Germans were okay with the killing of children. “This is a story where there are more questions than answers. For me, the main thing is how can any normal being kill a child?”
Krausz, who was 12 years old when he was first shipped between four German and Dutch concentration camps and lived through a death march, went in with his parents and his younger sister, 7. His father and 40 relatives did not survive.
Although the experience has taken its toll on Krausz, who still receives treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, he doesn’t hate the Germans.
Instead, he said, they were indoctrinated and influenced to the point they no longer viewed Jews as human. Krausz said he is motivated by Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s fight against dehumanisation, which was the Nazi tactic regarding the Jews.
The second item that Krausz shows schoolchildren is a poster announcing a 2009 Holocaust commemoration event in Joburg. “The next generation remembers and honours them… The Six Million,” it reads, referencing the number of Jews who died.
On Sunday, he will be one of the main speakers at the 2017 event at Westpark cemetery. Ceremonies will take place in six cities across the country.
Tali Nates, who has known Krausz for about 25 years through Holocaust education efforts, said he was one of the earliest people to speak as a young survivor. By contrast, some people waited for decades to speak or didn’t talk about their experience at all.
“Don managed always to go beyond that and to be able to see the big picture and teach about the Holocaust… and the lessons he hopes people will learn from it,” said Nates, the director of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.
Krausz said he’s always been a speaker. Three days after liberation, he shared his story with Jewish-American soldiers. He would later document his experiences in the 1950s when his nieces and nephews questioned him about the Holocaust.
His memoir is a living document that he adds to when he remembers more details.
Driven by his desire to understand why the Holocaust occurred, Krausz maintains a growing library of more than 200 books on the topic.
As the South African chairman of She’erit ha-pletah – Hebrew for “the surviving remnant” – he and other survivors look after one another. Those experiences forced him to grow up, he said.
“In 1945, I knew I was 14. I also knew I wasn’t a child any more, because in the interval I’d seen things that no child should ever see.”
LEGACY: Don Krausz, 86, survived four different concentration camps and a death march. He talks about the Holocaust to schools and other groups.