by Paul Kraus
For my parents, the 10 years before my birth in October 1944 were indeed uncertain ones. Both were Hungarian Jews. My mother, Clara, came from Budapest and my father, Emery (Jim), was from Banska Bystrica, a village originally in Hungary but belonging to Slovakia after World War I.
From 1935 onwards, it was clear that the net of Nazism was slowly closing in around them. My parents tried to migrate to New Zealand, Australia, the United States and South America but they were unsuccessful as they could not raise the money required.
Their lives were directly threatened on Palm Sunday in 1943, when Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital where they were living and working, was badly bombed. They escaped to a town my father had lived in as a child – Subotica in Central Slovakia – where they again began to re-establish their lives.
Within 12 months the men were taken for forced labour and, by the end of 1944, were transported to the infamous Mauthausen Concentration Camp. In the middle of 1944 my pregnant mother, together with my two-year-old brother Peter, was forced into a ghetto reserved for Jews who were destined for Auschwitz, an inescapable death sentence for both of them.
An incident that belied coincidence, but had all the hallmarks of divine intervention, resulted in my mother being called to jump from one line of prisoners to another, along with my brother. The first line was headed for Auschwitz, the second to an Austrian labour camp. She arrived in the labour camp in July 1944 after spending an unbearable and stifling three days in a cattle train, during which a number of people died.
Once in the camp she was unable to work because of her pregnancy. The Nazi elite corps, known as the SS, made regular visits but she hid whenever they came to the camp. The story of her survival is nothing short of miraculous.
Shortly after my birth in late October she had a vision of Jesus while in her cell and accepted him as her Messiah. She had become a believer in Jesus and promised Almighty God that whether or not she had a future, she and her sons would be his followers. She fervently prayed for survival for herself and her family and promised Jesus she would always follow him.