It was a difficult decision for a Jewish family to go into hiding from the Nazis. There were many risks involved and the odds of success were low. It was also hard because going into hiding meant living at the mercy of helpers. No one could hide for very long without the help of non-Jewish neighbors, friends or compassionate strangers. Most Jewish families were used to providing for themselves, so relying on charity was a strange and unsettling experience. Accepting the charity put the helpers at risk too. Those caught aiding Jews were severely punished or even killed. In spite of the risks, Otto Wolf’s family decided to go into hiding in the summer of 1942 in order to avoid deportation.
The Wolfs lived in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia and hid in the forests and in various shelters around the region. For two years, their main helper was a man named Slávek. At first, Slávek was very dedicated to providing for the Wolf family. Over time, however, his dedication seemed to waver. Perhaps he tired of carrying such a great burden. Maybe the pressure of trying to hide his activities from nosy neighbors caused his nerves to fray. Whatever the case, he began to let days pass in between delivering food and supplies. He often failed to show up when he had promised to come. Of course, this placed the Wolfs under enormous stress. When they complained to Slávek, he perceived them to be ungrateful. On November 5, 1943, things had come to the breaking point. Otto wrote “Papa hasn’t been sleeping at nights: That’s how angry he is at Slávek. [ …] For lunch, we have soup made from the last of our potatoes. Slávek hasn’t brought more, even though we have been asking him for three days now. […] Papa is incredibly upset. He and I go for a walk. At half past eight, I take a bag and go to the Pluhařs’ to borrow some potatoes. I tell them that we are hungry. They lend me some, and we cook them in the hut. We then go for water and afterward to bed. We hope that Slávek will bring some bread and potatoes in the morning. It is sprinkling. Hunger.”
Later, when Slávek found out that the Wolfs went to the Pluhařs for help, he was angry. Perhaps he feared that they would betray them all. This didn’t happen, though. Instead, for awhile, Slávek and the Pluhařs became rivals in offering help. In the end, due to rising tensions among them all, the Wolfs had to leave both sets of helpers behind to seek refuge from others. Otto’s account shows how complex and difficult it was for people to give and to accept help during the Holocaust.
Click here to see the last page of Otto’s diary, completed by his sister Felicitas, two weeks after his death.
You may find out more about those who tried to evade the Nazis by hiding here.
April 19, 2015 at 4:00 PM
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