Meeting contemporary witnesses: Michael Kraus and Frank Miša Grunwald

On May 8th, 2015 our 8th-graders had the unique opportunity to speak to two survivors of the concentration camp Gunskirchen.

 

 

Michael and Ilana Kraus as well as Frank and Barbara Grunwald visited our school.

 

Michael Kraus and Frank Miša Grunwald were about the same age as our students (14 and 12 years old) when they were liberated in Gunskirchen by the US army in May 1945.

They were both born in (then) Czechoslovakia and now live in the USA.

The students already knew Frank´s story; they had watched the movie "Miša´s Fugue",
a unique documentary which was done by students and teachers at Fleetwood Area High School in the USA.

Michael Kraus has been in touch with our school for 20 years now - he first spoke to our students in the 50-year-commemoration in May 1995; our last meeting took place two years ago, when a small group of students met with him in Linz.


Friday morning the students watched some short videos about Michael Kraus´ lifestory and then excitedly waited for the arrival of our visitors. Finally - there they were! Quiet as mice more than 50 students listened to what Frank and Michael had to say. Frank told his story in a presentation, followed by lots of students´ questions.

 

The two survivors touched our hearts. Given the fact that they´ve had such horrible experiences here in Gunskirchen, the teenagers could hardly believe how conciliatory and generous Michael and Frank manage to be. Time flew by, much too soon it was time to say goodbye. Many of Michael´s diaries needed to be signed, autographs given, pictures taken.

 

Meeting Michael Kraus and Frank Miša Grunwald will stay in our memories always.

 

Thank you so much, Michael and Frank!

We hope for a reunion some time soon!

With all our best wishes,

especially for good health!

As a thank-you for all the time and trouble they had taken to visit us in Gunskirchen, students and teachers as well as some mums and grannies had worked together to crochet two blankets for Michael and Frank.

 

Michael had once said, "We shared a torn blanket in Gunskirchen".

 

We can´t turn back time, as much as we´d wish to, to protect the then 12- and 14-year-olds. The least we wanted to do was give them a symbol of our compassion, full of warm thoughts and kind emotions woven into it.

May it remind you of us and keep you warm on cold days.

Our students knew Frank Miša Grunwald´s story after watching "Miša´s Fugue" in their history lessons. The movie tells Frank´s story in a very touching way; the story of the 10-year-old who is deported to Terezin with his family in 1942, very similar to Michael´s story. Later the family had to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the boys were separated from their families.

Frank and Michael met in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and, classified as not able to work, they escaped the fate of being gassed by pure chance.

They were sent on a death march, came to Mauthausen and Melk, back to Mauthausen, where they had to stay in tents as the camp was overcrowded.

In April 1945 they had to go on a death march again, this time to Gunskirchen. On these death marches thousands of inmates died from exhaustion, those who were not able to walk any longer were shot or slain. Conditions in the camp were even worse than what they had experienced before: there were only a few barracks for thousands of inmates, most of them suffering from typhoid fever and dysentery, there was hardly any food or water, every day hundreds of inmates perished.

After his liberation on May 4th and recovering from the typhoid fever, Michael Kraus went back to his homecountry. He knew that his father had been gassed in Auschwitz; the hope of seeing his mother, and the conviction that he had to survive for her had kept him going in the camps. When he returned to Prague on his 15th birthday, Michael had to learn that his mother had died in Stutthof.

He began writing down his memories.

 

A reproduction of this "diary" is on exhibition in the museum of Mauthausen Memorial.

Three years ago his memories were published in Michael´s mother tongue Czech.

On May 4th, the German edition was presented in Mauthausen.

 

After the war Frank Miša Grunwald learned that his mother had volunteered to go to the gas chamber with her older son, who was doomed to be gassed as one of his legs was slightly deformed. His father had survived and found Frank in Hörsching, were he was nursed in a makeshift hospital.

 

Michael as well as Frank tried to start a new life in their old homecountry, but they both decided to flee another totalitarian system, this time communism. They both went to live in the USA, where they caught up on their education, found good jobs and started families.


That same day, the movie "Miša´s Fugue" was  presented in Gunskirchen.

It was very well received, to be more precise: it left everyone speechless.



There were several requests about where to get the film.

The film can be purchased on vimeo.com.

Streaming for 30 days is $ 2.99, downloading is $ 5.99 (paypal or credit card),

English and German subtitles available.

 

Download here:   Miša´s Fugue