Otto Wolf: July 7, 1944

For almost three years during World War II, Otto Wolf kept one of the most remarkable diaries to survive the Holocaust era. Otto was a Czech-Jewish boy whose family went into hiding in mid-1942 and had to move several times in order to avoid detection. Considering the turmoil in his life, it was a significant feat for him to be able to write so consistently over such a long period of time.

On July 7 1944, Otto recorded an event that must have brought out mixed feelings in all people who eagerly anticipated the defeat of the Nazis. He wrote, “Around half past eleven, we hear a horrible noise: the tiles on the roof are ringing. It turns out to be aircraft, flying high and in several waves. Later, we are told that they were American. One aircraft dropped about eight bombs near Grygov, and the forest caught on fire. So, that’s how strong the German air defenses really are! We thought at first that those were German planes, but they turned out to be American. Not a single German fighter challenged them: they were just free to ‘stroll’ across the sky. There were more than two hundred of them. This is the first time we have seen any of ‘our boys’ anywhere near us.”

It must have been a thrilling realization for Otto to realize how weakened the German air force had become by the summer of 1944. This was a vivid demonstration that the tide of war had turned decisively against Nazi Germany. It was not cause for unalloyed happiness, though. Otto’s family sometimes had to hide in the forest when they were between safe houses. He had just observed that the forest was aflame. Allied bombs were a real threat, even though the Allies were approaching as long-awaited liberators. Furthermore, as the German forces were pushed back westward from their occupation of Eastern Europe, heavy fighting would pass through the very places where Otto’s family would have to hide. This meant that freedom would not be able to come without a period of even greater peril.

Excerpts from Otto Wolf’s dairy have been published in a book entitled, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

To learn more about the many dangers faced by children who were in hiding from the Nazis, click here.

You may read a moving story about a class project that culminated in the creation of a memorial to Otto Wolf at one of the family’s hiding places here.

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