National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Lighting the darkness

October 2013

by Hans Martin Wuerth

Among the many narratives about the Holocaust is the memoir of Max Krakauer, Lichter im Dunkel (Lights in Darkness). Published in 1947, this small book is one of the first autobiographical accounts by a German Jew who, with his wife Karoline, managed to escape detection and capture inside Nazi Germany between 29 January, 1943 and their liberation 27 months later on 23 April, 1945.

Lights in Darkness describes a unique survival story. Immediately after they were warned by a neighbour of their imminent arrest, this Jewish couple were on the run for more than two years, without staying longer than a month in the home of any rescuer. As they fled from one home to another, over hundreds of miles, they were temporarily sheltered in 66 homes across northern and southern Germany. The majority of their rescuers were Protestant pastors, their wives and other family members.

Krakauer’s memoir is a very personal recollection of how, where and why he and his wife were able to endure being pursued relentlessly by Nazi government officials and to stay alive in a climate of anti-Semitism, segregation, hatred, persecution, war and genocide. The Krakauers’ survival was due to their perseverance, the remarkable assistance of their Christian helpers, and, as Krakauer never failed to add, God’s protection.

Lights in Darkness describes Max Krakauer’s futile attempts to emigrate from Nazi Germany. In January 1939 the Krakauers’ daughter, Inge, left for safety in England, while Max and Karoline were subjected to hard, dehumanising forced labour (Zwangsarbeit). This continued until both went underground in January 1943, literally a few steps ahead of the Gestapo …