Otto Wolf was fifteen years old when he began keeping his diary in 1942. He started his writing when his family decided to go into hiding to avoid deportation. Hiding from the Nazis was very difficult. Anyone trying this type of resistance needed support from sympathetic non-Jewish helpers who could provide food, shelter and information. Even when a place of safety could be found, it often did not last. Throughout the course of their ordeal, the Wolf family had to change hiding places several times. Each time, the change was prompted by their helpers’ fears that they were about to be discovered. When Jews in hiding were exposed, their helpers were severely punished, often even killed. Sometimes helpers decided that the risk was too great and that the people in hiding had to leave. By October 1944, the Wolfs were hiding in the attic of the Zboril family. Maria Zborilova had been their maid before the war.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about life in hiding was that the struggle began anew each day. Past success was no guarantee of future safety. The passage of time raised tensions, bringing the fear of doom instead of the hope of liberation. Every close call seemed to beg the question, “How many more times can we be lucky?” Otto noted in his diary entry for October 3, 1944 that it was his family’s 120th week of hiding. On that day he wrote, “While downstairs, Licka was taken by surprise by Klimisova (a visitor to the home), but fortunately she doesn’t know Licka.” A cover story was quickly invented that Licka was a visiting cousin. Even though that seemed to be the end of the matter, Otto acknowledged later that “…Mr. Zorbil already has visions of himself on the gallows.” As this event foreshadowed, eventually the Wolfs would have to move on from this hiding place as well.
Excerpts from Otto Wolf’s writings have been published in a book entitled, “Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust” by Alexandra Zapruder.
To find out what happened to Otto, and to see a copy of his last diary entry in his own handwriting, visit the documents section of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website
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