Holo­caust sur­vivor, 86, re­mem­bers the 6 mil­lion

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - BEN­JAMIN DIN ben­jamin.din@inl.co.za

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.

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