Otto Wolf, a Czech-Jewish boy, wrote one of the most interesting diaries to survive the war years. His account of life in hiding revealed many of the problems that people faced every day as they tried to avoid detection and to stay alive. He and his family managed to stay one step ahead of danger for over three years, even though they had to move several times to avoid capture. Otto dated his diary entries, but also kept a running total of the weeks spent in hiding. His last entry was recorded on April 13, 1945 during week number 147.
One of the ongoing themes of Otto’s diary was trouble between hiders and their helpers. The Wolf family had several people over the years who took risks to help them to hide and who made sacrifices to provide them with food and supplies. Some of the helpers acted out of friendship and compassion, while others had more complicated motives. In both cases, the relentless danger put an enormous strain on everyone involved. As time went on, it was inevitable that neighbors, friends and relatives of the helpers would become suspicious that they were hiding Jews. It would only take one person to denounce them to the authorities. The consequences of discovery would most likely be death for both the hiders and the helpers, so the risk was significant. As the danger increased over time, the helpers often became frustrated, scared or angry. Even though Nazi Germany was responsible for this situation, the helpers could not vent their anger in that direction. Instead, they sometimes lashed out at the people they were trying to protect. This happened to the Wolf’s several times. One such occurrence came at the beginning of March, 1945.
Otto wrote about Mr. Zboril, the husband of their protector going into a drunken rage during which he threatened to kick the hiders out. This went on over the course of several days. Finally, On March 4, things came to the breaking point. Otto wrote on that day, “Mr. Zboril is carrying on like a madman: He does not want us here and so forth. He goes to church and we venture downstairs. For lunch, we have noodle soup. Mr. Zboril comes home at noon, raging. He looks like a beast. We therefore think it’s wiser to retreat upstairs. … He even comes up to the attic to tell us that we must go, everyone in all the huts allegedly knows about us. … During the night, Mr. Zboril was out in the yard three times, cursing like a sailor.” The next day, the Wolfs left for another hiding place. Even though the war would be over in two months, it would not be the last time they would have to move.
Excerpts from Otto Wolf’s diary have been published in a book entitled, .
Visit Alexandra Zapruder’s website to read about an exciting ongoing educational project based on Otto Wolf’s diary.
You may find out more about the dangers faced by children in hiding here. From this page, you may follow several more links to explore the topic in greater depth.
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