By Monise Neumann, International March of the Living
Peter Kraus was born on 5 June 1942 in Budapest. His parents, Imre and Clara, prior to the start of WWII, lived in formerly Hungarian town of Szabadka – which became the Yugoslavian town of Subotica when Europe was carved up by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. When Hitler came to power, Peter’s family was evicted from their home and Peter and his mother, and other members of the family, were interned in the ghetto. His father, Imre, was sent with other Jewish men into forced labor and sent ultimately to Mauthausen. When the Americans arrived at the conclusion of the war, Imre was nursed back to health and ultimately reunited with his family.
Clara, who was pregnant at the time, and Peter were loaded onto a train from the ghetto destined for Auschwitz. Luck or providence helped them survive as one of the bridges they crossed had been bombed and the train was unable to proceed to Auschwitz. All the people on the train were sent to a labor camp. Clara gave birth to Peter’s brother, Paul, in the labor camp. One of the Austrian guards who was very humane, secretly brought clothes for Paul when he was born because they had nothing for him- an act of kindness that has never been forgotten by Peter and his family.
This same guard warned the family that everyone was going to be moved to Mauthausen and urged them to escape as the Russians were coming closer. Peter’s mother took her two small children and followed his advice. Along the way, farmers provided shelter and food and ultimately the Soviets provided transportation that helped them get to Budapest. They had no idea whether their father was alive or dead. Again, fortuitously, Imre survived, and the family was reunited.
In 1948, the family was sponsored by the Nestel family, an old school friend of Clara’s older brother, to enter Australia and arrived in Melbourne on 5 November 1948. He has lived in Australia ever since.
When asked about the growing trend of Holocaust trivialization, in which the Holocaust is compared to the restrictions of the pandemic, including comparison of Dr. Fauci and Albert Bourla to Mengele – Peter’s responded that he finds the whole thing horrific: ” the pictures of piles of corpses that pervade Holocaust memory- are not just emaciated corpses, but rather individuals who lived full lives – with hopes and dreams and concerns that were never realized. The Holocaust cannot be compared to anything in terms of its scope and horror, however, the message of the danger of hate has already been ignored”.
Dr. Kraus says that he is concerned that the famous statement by the Nazi propaganda machine, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth” remains relevant – especially as it relates to the Holocaust and rising tide of antisemitism”.
“The Pandemic accelerated Antisemitism and its ties to the rising tide of intolerance” said Dr. Kraus. “I worry about keeping Holocaust memory alive”. In this regard, he has written his memoir entitled “Slow Train to Auschwitz.” He wrote this book to honor his family’s story and because he didn’t want his children/grandchildren future generations to forget where they came from- and not simply live in the moment. In terms of the general population – this memoir and Peter’s words – serve as a warning to others and a message that we need to know where we come from, so we know where we are going. Peter lives his life with the philosophy that he realizes that he can’t change the world, but he can change the world around him.
In Peter’s estimation, there is an absolute chance that the Holocaust will be erased from our history. One vital tool to ensure that this does not happen is education – and the focus on remembrance and honoring each person’s story and life. If his words and this interview help keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, it has been time well spent.