February 4, 1943 – Otto Wolf

The Diary of Otto Wolf

Otto Wolf and his family had been hiding from the Nazis for 33 weeks when he recorded the following diary entry on February 4, 1943. “Dad and I go for water at 3 a.m., then we sleep until six and have breakfast right away. […] Today Stalingrad fell; also today, the Czech legionary unit took part in fighting for the first time (units under the command of General Ludvik Svoboda). Maybe our Kurt is there, too. Slavek sleeps here until five in the morning.”

Even though this diary entry was short, it was packed with meaning – some written and some hidden between the lines. On the surface, it is clear that Otto was trying to keep up with events from the world outside his hiding place. He mentioned the fall of Stalingrad, which was a very hopeful event to anyone wishing for the defeat of Nazi Germany. Beneath the surface, it had a personal meaning for Otto as well. His older brother Kurt had volunteered to fight in a unit of Czech soldiers assembled in the Soviet Union under the Czech national hero, Ludvik Svoboda. Otto probably felt a mixture of fear and pride at the news he recorded, since his brother may have been in harm’s way in the fighting. Nevertheless, to someone in hiding, the idea of being able to fight the enemy in the open would seem appealing in spite of the danger. He was certainly proud of his brother and the fact that he was participating in a form of Czech national resistance. 

Otto also mentioned in a matter-of-fact way that he and his father went to get water at 3 o’clock in the morning. He left unexplained the fact that they went so early to avoid the possibility of being seen by anyone who might betray their presence to the Nazis. This was probably the same reason that their outside helper Slavek stayed the night. It would be dangerous for him to go back to his house at a time that might attract suspicion from nosy neighbors.

By the time Otto wrote this diary entry, he had been in hiding for over seven months. He had probably gotten used to some of the things he described on this day, but the details of his entry reveal much about the stresses and dangers of life in hiding.

Read excerpts from Otto Wolf’s diary in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

Find out more about the Czechoslovak Army in exile that fought against Germany alongside the Red Army of the Soviet Union.