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Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 50 kronen note, owned by a child inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2006.51.2

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    Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 50 kronen note, owned by a child inmate


    Brief Narrative
    Theresienstadt 50 kronen receipt that belonged to Michal Kraus, who at age 12 was interned with his parents Dr. Karel and Lotte Kraus in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp from December 1942-December 1943. They were then deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and placed in the family camp. In June 1944, his mother was sent to Stutthof where hse perished in January 1945. When the family camp was closed in July, his father was ill and sent to be murdered in the gas chamber on July 11. Michal was one of 90 boys selected by Dr. Josef Mengele to live at a neighboring men's camp, later known as the Birkenau boys. In January 1945, as Soviet forces approached, Michal and the others were sent on a death march and then taken by train to Mauthausen, then to Melk, and then back to Mauthausen. On April 28, they were sent on a 40 mile death march to Gunskirchen where they were liberated by American troops of the 71st Infantry. Michal was ill with typhus and after several weeks in hospital returned to Czechoslovakia. Of Michal's large extended family, only an aunt and one cousin survived.
    issue:  1943 January 01
    issue: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Michael J. Kraus
    face, lower right corner, black and blue ink : 50
    reverse, upper left, serial number, red ink : 005158
    reverse, right lower center, series letter, red ink : C
    reverse, lower left and upper right corner, light blue ink : 50
    reverse, center, black and light blue ink : Quittung / über / FUNFZIG KRONEN / THERESIENSTADT, AM 1.JANNER 1943 DER ALTESTE DER JUDEN / IN THERESIENSTADT / Jakob Edelstein [Receipt of FIFTY CROWNS THERESIENSTADT, ON 1. JANUARY 1943 THE ELDER OF THE JEWS IN THERESIENSTADT Jakob Edelstein]
    Subject: Michael J. Kraus
    Printer: National Bank of Prague
    Designer: Peter Kien
    Issuer: Der Alteste der Juden in Theresienstadt
    Michal (Miša, now Michael) J. Kraus was born on June 28, 1930, in Trutnov, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), the only child of Dr. Karel Kraus and Lotte (Lola) Goldschmid Kraus. His father was born in Nachod in 1891 and received his medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1910. While serving as a physician in the Austrian Army during World War I (1914-1918), he was gassed and wounded. After the war, he returned to Nachod and opened an office as a general practitioner. His mother was born in 1898 in Nachod, where her family had lived since the 1600s. Both parents were from large families and they often visited relatives in Prague. They spoke Czech at home, but were fluent in German. They were well off and, until he was eight, Michal had a nanny who was from the Sudetenland region bordering Germany. This region was identified by Hitler as ethnically German territory to be reclaimed by the Third Reich. In summer 1938, the Czech Army mobilized because of this threat. Nachod was near the border, so Michal and his mother left to stay with relatives in Hlinsko. That fall, Germany met with Great Britain, France, and Italy at Munich and it was agreed that Germany could annex the region. Michal and Lotte returned home.

    On March 15, 1939, German soldiers invaded the Bohemia and Moravia provinces, where Nachod was located. Michal’s aunt committed suicide after seeing troops camped outside her windows. The Germans enacted antisemitic ordinances. Michal was expelled from school and his father was prohibited from practicing medicine. The family's valuables were confiscated. In mid-1940, two families were moved into their house. In September 1941, Michal’s family was evicted and forced to live in a single room in a house without running water. In December 1942, the Kraus’s were sent to Hradec Kralove and on December 12 were put on the CH transport to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp near Prague. Men and women were housed separately, but Michal was allowed to stay with his mother in L-425. In March 1943, he was moved to the boy's dormitory B-IV, the Hanover Barracks. In June, he had an abridged bar mitzvah in the attic of a former army barracks. In September, Michal was moved to Q-609 with about two dozen 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old boys. One of the boys, Ivan Polak, a friend of Michal’s from Nachod, got the others to contribute stories and poems which he illustrated and with string and scrap paper made into a magazine, “Kamarad” [Friend.] Michal contributed a poem about a mouse that rescues a captured lion and a serial story about trappers looking for fortune in the Canadian northwest. On December 15th, Michal and his family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Michal was tattooed with the number 168497, his father with 168496, and his mother 71253. For six months they lived in the so-called family camp B 11.b. In June 1944, his mother was sent to Stutthof concentration camp in German occupied Poland. His father was ill when they liquidated family camp and was sent to the gas chambers on July 11, 1944.

    On July 6, Michal was one of 89 boys between the ages of 14 and 16 selected by Dr. Mengele and sent to a neighboring men’s camp, Maenner lager B.II.d. Later known as the Birkenau boys, they were housed on the punishment block number 13 under the command of the Blockelteste Bednarek. Michal was eventually moved and assigned to work in the Unterkunft where he ran errands. From here he could occasionally see neighboring camps as well as communicate with and provide minor assistance to recently arrived prisoners from Theresienstadt. In January 1945, as Soviet forces advanced towards Auschwitz, the camp was evacuated. Michal and other prisoners were put on a death march in extreme cold and snow to a railway station in Gleiwitz. Those who could not walk were shot. They were then put on open rail cars arriving after four days in Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. After a short time, they were shipped to Melk, a Mauthausen subcamp, where they worked peeling rotten potatoes. As the front advanced, Michal and the other boys were returned to Mauthausen. On April 28, they were put on a nearly forty mile death-march to Gunskirchen concentration camp. On May 5, the German guards fled and American troops arrived. Michal was severely ill with typhus, and was taken to an American-run hospital in Hoersching. In mid-June, he left for home, travelling by boat, on foot, and by train, reaching Prague on June 28. Michal learned that his mother was transferred from Stuffhof after two months to Danzig-Praust, then, in November, because she was ill, back to Stutthof where she perished in January 1945. Of Michal's large extended family, only an aunt and one cousin survived.

    Michal spent another six weeks in a sanitarium in Stirin, and then went to live with a friend of his parents, Vera Loewenbach, in Ceska Skalice. In September, he returned to Nachod to resume his schooling. He lived with family friends, Rudolf and Vilma Beck, who had survived the camps but lost their son who was Michal’s age. Rudolf was involved with Bricha, the organization which helped Jews from Eastern Europe travel illegally to the West and eventually to Palestine. That fall Michal began a memoir of his war years to honor the memory of his parents which he completed as a three volume work in 1947. In summer 1948, Michal's guardian arranged for him to join a Joint Distribution Committee orphans' transport to Canada. He sailed from England on the S.S. Aquitania and was sent to Montreal where he completed high school and attended McGill University for two years. A cousin had come from New York the week he arrived to register Michal for US immigration and, in September 1951, Michal immigrated to America. He enrolled in Columbia University's School of Architecture in New York and lived with his cousin’s family in New Jersey. After working for a NY architectural firm for two years, Michael returned to Europe in September 1957. He traveled until June 1958 when he accepted a position with an architectural firm in London. In October 1959, Michal took job in Geneva, Switzerland. He married Ilana Eppenstein, an Israeli medical student, in May 1963. During their honeymoon, they visited Nachod and Prague. In 1964, they moved to New York. They eventually settled in the Boston area and raised two daughters. Michael’s memoir was revised and published in English as “Drawing the Holocaust: A Teenager’s Memory of Terezin, Birkenau, and Mauthausen” in 2016.
    Franz Peter Kien was born January 1, 1919, in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), to Leonard and Olga Frankl Kien. His father Leonard was born in 1886, in Varnsdorf, and was a member of the German-speaking Jewish population in the, the Sudetenalnd, which bordered Germany. Leonard was a textile manufacturer with his own factory. Peter’s mother Olga was born in 1898, in Bzenec, Austro-Hungary (Czech Republic), to Jewish parents. After 1929, the Kien family moved to Brno. Peter enrolled at the German Gymnasium, where he excelled at drawing, painting, and writing. In 1936, he graduated and moved to Prague to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He also attended the Officina Pragensis, a private graphic design school run by a well-known Jewish artist, Hugo Steiner-Prag.

    On September 29, 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland. On March 15, 1939, Germany invaded Prague and annexed the Bohemia and Moravia provinces of Czechoslovakia, ruled by a Reich Protector. Jews were banned from participation in government, businesses, and organization, including schools. Peter had to leave the Academy, but continued to study at the Officina Pragensis. He also taught at Vinohrady Synagogue. In September 1940, Peter married Ilse Stranska, who was born on May 9, 1915, in Pilsen, to Jewish parents.

    In late September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, the SS head of RSHA, Reich Main Security Office, became Reich Protector. Soon there were regular deportations of Jews to concentration camps. At the end of November, Theresienstadt concentration and transit camp near Prague got its first shipment of Jewish prisoners. On December 14, Peter was transported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. He was assigned to the technical department where he worked as a draftsman and designer alongside other artists, including Bedrich Fritta, Leo Haas, and Jiri Lauscher. On July 16, 1942, Peter’s wife Ilse arrived in the camp. On January 30, 1943, Peter’s parents Leonard and Olga were transported from Bzenec to Terezin. Peter was assigned major projects by the Jewish Council that administered the camp for the Germans, such as the scrip receipts used in place of money in the camp. He secretly documented the inmate’s daily life, creating portraits and other drawings, and wrote plays, poems, and an operatic libretto. On October 16, 1944, Peter’s wife Ilse and his parents Leonard and Olga were selected for deportation. Peter volunteered to go with them. Before leaving, Peter and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. Peter survived the selection process, soon fell ill, likely with typhus, and died at age 25 in late October 1944. His wife and parents were killed at Auschwitz. Some of the work that Peter left with other prisoners or hid at Theresienstadt survived and has been exhibited worldwide.

    Physical Details

    Exchange Media
    Object Type
    Scrip (aat)
    Physical Description
    Theresienstadt scrip printed on watermarked, rectangular, offwhite paper in light green-blue ink. On the face is a vignette with Moses, a bearded man with a wrinkled brow, holding 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments in Hebrew. To the right is the denomination 50 and German text. The background rectangle has an abstract starlike pattern. On the right side is a wide margin with the denomination 50 in the bottom corner below a Star of David. The reverse has a blue oval strand pattern with a central purple streak overprinted with the denomination 50 in the upper right corner, and German text, an engraved signature, and a large scrollwork line in the center. On the left side is a wide margin with the denomination 50 in the bottom corner below a Star of David within a striped circle. The plate letter and number are in the upper left and lower right corners. It is uncirculated, with discoloration and spots of light orange residue.
    overall: Height: 2.750 inches (6.985 cm) | Width: 5.500 inches (13.97 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The scrip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Michael J. Kraus.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:30:18
    This page:

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