Gene Krasa and E.B. Kelly

Recorded August 17, 2008 Archived August 17, 2008 01:22:40 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: LMN000551


Gene Luka Krasa, 89, is interviewed by her granddaughter E.B. Kelly, 27 about her early life, the holocaust and her marriage to Karel Krasa

Subject Log / Time Code

Gene on meeting her husband skiing in the thirties
Gene on her wedding day. She was married at City Hall in Prague, Czechoslovakia
Gene and her husband, Karel, wanted 5 boys but they ended up having one girl well into their marriage.
Gene on at 23 being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp with her husband and then being separated from him. Her husband was then sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Gene was sent to a Gross-Rosen concentration camp.
Gene on escaping the concentration camp with two friends.
Gene on receiving a note in the camp alerting her to try and escape the camp.
Gene on being bald after escape as the Germans shaved her head in the camp.
Gene on being approached by a German soldier in Prague after her escape. She was wearing a babushka to cover her shaved head. He said “I’m lonely. Could you take a walk with me.” She walked with the German soldier.
On belonging to an underground circle and getting new papers. Her new name was Maria Palicec.
On being proposed to by a old man while living underground.
While in Auschwitz-Birkenau, she learned her mother had been killed. The day was August 8th.
On working as nurse, a vocation she was not trained for, while living underground: “If you’re in need, you don’t have to have a degree, you do what you’re common sense tells you.
On her husband returning to Prague with American soldiers having been liberated by American forces in Dachau and subsequently hired as an interpreter.
On her change in demeanor/personality after the trauma of World War II and the holocaust and how it affected her marriage: “All of a sudden, I had my own mind.”
The communists took over Czechoslovakia soon after Gene and Karel got their affairs in order and regained ownership of much of their property. “We had becomes experts in losing.”
After the war Gene had to come to terms with living without family. 53 of her family members were killed in the war.
Gene’s family owned a hotel in Prague, the Europa, which still exists, which was frequented by Laurence Steinhardt, American ambassador to Czechoslovakia.They alerted him after they snuck across the Czech border on March 24, 1948 into Germany and he helped them in their multi-year escape through Europe into the U.S.A.
Gene and her husband emigrate to the U.S.A. with Navy since they couldn’t afford passage. The ship’s name was the USS General J. H. McRae.
They arrive in Hempstead with 6 dollars between them. Gene looks for work the morning after they arrive.
Gene finds work at hotels in Manhattan including the Waldorf Astoria as a dietician.
After their only daughter born, Gene notes they were no longer two individuals but a family.
Gene on her husband and her never yelling at each other. “Let’s put it this way, we had anything but money.”


  • Gene Krasa
  • E.B. Kelly

Recording Location

StoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth


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00:04 My name is Evie Kelly. I am 27 today is August 17th 2008. We are in Foley Square in Manhattan in New York and I am interviewing Bobby my grandmother.

00:19 Anybody with you, my name is Jean. Krasa. Today is August 17th.

00:28 We are being interviewed and I'm interviewed not by my granddaughter eb-1 almost. I'm almost naked.

00:43 Nobody what I wanted to talk about today is as you know in just about a year. I'll be getting married. And so I wanted to talk with you about your life. But particularly about your marriage and your relationship with Yetta and and all that you learn from that and all the wisdom. You can impart to me for for my marriage. First of all, I wish you all the luck in the world and happiness and I seen that you had your made a right choice. If you like Josh very much and meet the deal Avi. I don't have to tell you and maybe I was married 63 years and I must say that that I was very lucky because that I was a gentleman and whoever he was smart. He was good-hearted and then we had a marvelous time that I hope the same Stivers the same to you on you. So what is your earliest memory of when did you first remember meeting him? I remember meeting him skiing.

01:43 In the mountains as well see 1936 skiing

01:53 And I was at his my friend send them at all very lovely young boys, but that I'm ended an evil the young man that made a big difference and how do I know? It's a special well icing and our first date because I thought our housekeeper I'm going to let him wait and had a date at 4, and I went there about 10 past 4 never nobody did.

02:23 So I came home and I will see reason I said, can you imagine a guy didn't show up and my mother said because he's a man and you don't got to push him around and that's how it started where we supposed to go on your where did you go on your first day when I was growing up and you don't you didn't go to a public place. Coffee house at a given time. You said you didn't go along to the movies because of dark times 70 years ago from yesterday parkour box in the street and go up to the castle and drop to the church. R222 Museum website that concert or something like that.

03:10 That's one of them and did your parents knew Jenna's parents? Yes. They did they did and did they get along as well as they did they know they didn't get us parents lived in the country. They had you been there over and I'll drive it said that they have a big farm and my parents had a house down in peroxide. I've been they came to Prague they stayed in our hotel and that's how the parents knew each other was it was it ever strange for forgetting or forgetting his parents that knew he was he was dating the fancy City girl who whose parents on the hotel and I never asked him know I wouldn't know the reason I didn't finish my studies. So my mother decided that I'm not going to get married on July finish my studies and I said, that's all right. I'll go to school after and she said no you don't.

04:10 Then I wasn't even when I turn it on then they send me to England to school that I finish my urine Inns in Brighton in school and came back and got married. And so you met Yetta is that you remember meeting him and 1930s 36 and then you got engaged just two years. You got it on you heart. I do have it on my heart. That's right. And do you remember how you got engaged?

04:39 Yes, it did that. I want to ask you for my mother and my father and they said he'll right after I finish that is yes, and then he gave me a nicer letting you remember where he did that.

04:54 I don't think it was very romantic. I should have been eating for dinner and I had a box of Kleenex to my dinner plate and that's that was it.

05:03 And then and then what was your wedding like?

05:07 First freezing kiss on December 17th 1938 was freezing and I remember I didn't want driving to put boots on and my mother said if you put mousse and I'm not coming through already.

05:21 Be happy that Maddie to the city hall and the mayor was cuz my father was a philanthropist in the end.

05:30 Denim button-down people in track and after we had dinner, you know it in Europe you didn't have parties like everybody had to not everybody but but many people had to go home. So they invited us 5 minutes. We had a very nice dinner changed into equal segments skiing and I seen you have the picture.

06:00 And and when you got married, did you have a vision in your mind of what your married life was going to be? Like did you imagine you would live in a certain kind of cows have a certain kind of family. What was your apartment as a matter of fact because the office was around the corner of her eye lift when I was when I was single so my parents build a house on Lake now that you have seen so my parents moved and he stayed in the original apartment. Now. Wow, and did you think that would be where you would stay forever? Did you have a did you plan on saying you wanted to have a certain number of children? And this many boys in this many cars are the five boys.

06:50 Why because I like to have little boys that are around and we had after 15 years when girls you know, and so how long you and get a work-in-progress together. You were married for for a couple of years before you left to go to lunch to go to Poland. It's not even through yes. Yes.

07:18 Genevieve I separated favorite Bose imprisoned and separated in an hour shifts and I'm teaching and then I've been to the house and I've been to groceries and that was the ammunition underground ammunition Factory 4 4 weapons and I work there. I don't know how he didn't have a calendar. We have no idea what time they decided they aren't even if I was freezing renewal 12 winter, but then then then the Russian front near it and they transported us. So on foot for equipment doesn't bargain.

08:03 Turn on the right because I was already tired sick, but I was young that first occasion.

08:12 If it's possible, I had two very dear friend of a matching an Amazon return to stream younger than my children. We decided the three of us the first occasion that ever want their mind won't be looking like we're going to escape and read it.

08:32 Having a fever struggling, but we made it back to PS4.

08:41 And what were you thinking about when you were you were thinking about escaping were you thinking about food?

08:49 And at that point how how much were you and Yetta in communication or not? I'm not only man. I came to practice my aunt had a letter from him from Dachau this way I knew where he was and the prisoners are allowed to write Advanced a year.

09:15 And there was another check fellow that they gave you got a privilege to write to my aunt and I answered and he couldn't understand it because he was in that car and I was in track 2 when was the when was the last time you were together when you were in Poland and fall into if I wouldn't know the date we never has papers. He never has any communication if you didn't know what day it is.

09:43 And

09:45 And then were you in terms of thinking about how what would happen after the war instead of pushing too to survive and get through that were you know thinking how to survive.

09:59 And so just sort of hoping that yet it was doing the same thing where he was.

10:05 And and when you were in Auschwitz, you did not communicate with one another cuz you were separated V as a matter of fact next to us. It was a camp of prison prisoners that I was in a 30000 jacket women.

10:20 And we've had a distributed in two different textures and one night that somebody threw a stone wrap from paperback piece of thrown over the fence dividend electricity. You couldn't go near them and somebody threw a back a stone in a brown paper bag over the fence.

10:48 And Viera does being a girl that's a friend of mine and we escaped together. She picked it up and she adopted and she said you won't believe it because I need that from you know about seven or eight Nations. 7028 language is spoken. And it was thrown from the French prisoners camp.

11:11 Do that Gypsy camp and from the Gypsy Camp throw it to the humans can because there was written on it the name of women and have a city named funner than one of them was mine and they said there are certain that's in that little bit piece of ram Viper try to get out as fast as you can and but I know. You just nothing less. I didn't either then be that transported away. If I bought for that from from group, that was the group immunization Cyclery. They stripped us note and I ever bought it but hired

11:53 And I will hide this all those friends of my residue friends of mine and we are transported to groceries and then from there. 4 for many years. I don't know how long

12:08 Are you had no idea after I meet other than this unbelievable note that you got from?

12:17 Until I came to Brock and had a letter from from my aunt and then once you escaped and we're back in Prague, what were you thinking about? What did you want to do? First of all, I had no hair, you know date they shaved every 6 months. I would have either be. Completely bought the first we couldn't really look like monkeys. I have a feeling she already said you're so lucky that you don't have a mirror. You're going to kill yourself.

12:50 So that I wasn't bragging about 11 to mail a letter to Canada to that house I Street on Main Street in front of our hotel and I was thinking my God friended mind doing here if it's not with a life every one of us kids.

13:08 So

13:09 A German soldier came to me and he said to me and Jaron that I spoke fluently. He said that Miss I'm very lonely when you take a walk with me and I said sure why not cuz I'm lonely too severe off. I didn't talk. Of course. I couldn't talk because I understand false papers.

13:32 And I had no hair. I had done that. You know my book on my light on my head and it's for the strange how we are how he goes. I'm happy being German.

13:45 And it's a strange situation and I can imagine it must have been made on the one hand sword of incredibly strange method for me. Cuz if you walk with a German soldier, nobody would have backed come near me.

14:03 This was the safest safest woke I had since I had 1/4 papers. And and where did you where were you living when you I was living with my father.

14:16 And you don't need by that's my father by father said I liked it said that they had never know Jewish so that they're not persecuted.

14:29 The dialect in track and so when you came back to Prague what what were you thinking about doing that three things that you would wait for Genesis all my contacts in my father's attorney that didn't believe me and I called him and he said I don't know anybody by that name and I said, yes you do and you have to meet me and so he might Methodist Church and he said I I'm going every night through the church and I'll sit still still German off your face everyday every night to the church Saint Peter's Church on Saint Peter's square and I sit in a second for you. And I said, I didn't recognize you don't have to give me a description of you by your father's at 34 years and even to the church at night and I Nails next to him and I looked at him and I said, oh my God, what you going to do? And I said I go on the ground.

15:30 So so. I belong to the circle that is so cold in New York. It's it's a Organization for young people exercising. They have they have like Olympics.

15:43 And the leader of underground Circle was an employee of my father so he came and he took my picture and he gave me a you don't have anybody have to work like that little passport ID.

16:02 So he brought me the idea of a girl that claimed that she lost her sand gave me hers from Circle and I became Maria Paula service.

16:12 And so I add until the end of the war II working on the ground and I was worried about if so, did you start to think that was your real name? I made myself finger bacon Davis ever catch me that this is what I would like.

16:29 What does very hard because track wasn't big and I had a lot of friends.

16:35 I thought I do not to show up too much in track 7 to work at a gardener at Shiva. He was a vegetable Gardener in there in the suburb and we had a house that is so I'm going to work in his place as a mark out of the library.

16:55 I had it that he had an old man and he has a friend that used to come and they play pinochle at night and I would be knitting or sewing I slept in the kitchen behind that behind the stove because he had only one room.

17:11 And there was an old man retired from the arrow then he proposed to me. You don't need to marry me because he said I work so hard but I was too young to work too hard. And I said no because about 75. Be quite a pair but then and after before I went to see him and I missed a push mower. I bought some Brandon Salomon Ivy drove out there and he said I never saw in my life. And I said yes you did cuz I thought I didn't have a 75.

17:51 So this time while you were back in Prague you knew that get at least was in diluted. You didn't know that I invited for the next one. And did you did you know at that point that that your mother had been killed how did you know?

18:15 Actors on the 8th of August

18:20 And did you know how what was happening with guetta's family or your other friends that has the country that are farmers today to eat?

18:45 And so when you are in Prague, and you didn't know what was happening with Yetta did you distort of what were you trying to get as much news as you could or just know praying and hoping that he would come back? What were you thinking of sucking but I am hoping he comes back and I started to the end Ivan to work as a nurse in the hospital because they're the best deciding to the German Solitude shoot the checks under the checks the hospital staff. So my cousin just let that you didn't mean to have any better in progress because she was a Rebus sister-in-law Novartis nurses in a hospital and it was strange because you have to present your papers and then I came to work in the hospital the doctor looked at the paper and looked at me and look at a paper and he said come to my office.

19:45 Open office, and he said your name is Maria by so I said yesterday and he said no it is not. I will just got out at those my husband I was with him in the car very well. And he said you go home because he's going to get killed on the battery case and I said I'm not going home any place. I'm going to stay right here and I burnt listen to the end of the war. Did you did you know how to be a nurse or you deserve?

20:21 And it was it when Jenna was in the Cavalry. What was that? What was that? Like, what did he have to be trained? And he has a motorist life unit phones a program from the ball that we had and then that little booklet of anybody's phone anybody's listed that side was reading yesterday. I did horses and I was afraid of them, but then I went to same as little as I can.

21:07 I've also shaking so badly en dehors. Did they have to go and do they ever in, do they have every word favor as a matter of fact are devils a different but you know it Czechoslovakia not even 10 million people in Germany was big and they have things that we had about three of them try. It it was that photo contest no contact whatsoever on a horse. Yes. It's an adventure, but it didn't know that losing I ordered it from the very beginning.

21:55 And what what did he have to with you fighting with a sword or a gun or

22:05 But it was a very glamorous life to be in the formative or yes. Yes.

22:14 We're at your other friends other girlfriends were your age where they jealous that you had a phone conference very gassy and boring and I had a lot of boyfriends as boyfriends like butter for the voice as friends one of them nice president. And who was our neighbor I have at 11.

22:43 We grew up together and I have almost here visiting sorry that he invited us for dinner and he knows it but I didn't know I was given that he said do you remember going to have a c is all I says, yes, and I didn't look for you. Nobody was 17. You don't look for a three-year-old boy. You're not interested. So did the did the other gentleman who you are friendly with did they say?

23:20 Nothing ever looked up at the she was a man in those buckets.

23:26 Look like Father and Son but the dissident so so what was it like when when get I came back so you were in Prague you are hoping you had no information her that the bottom of the jealous friends lost his wife and at a time. It was a very big hunger in Prague and as a matter fact of the day they had my maiden name Luca.

23:56 And they stayed in Castle outage report my medicine.

24:01 So I bet I walked for spider walk down to see that guy because I heard it's his his wife got killed.

24:10 Infrared

24:13 Debra other two guys one of the most magnificent Escape to New York and we were sitting at a wonder why I picked up I think two eggs and a little brat and she was five of us as I might the two eggs scrambled and put that little icon each breath and that's what we had for dinner end of the war and reverse sitting at a table.

24:44 Just be careful with your bracelet.

24:51 Thanks. Just be careful with the shaking the race at cousin noise gets picked up, but that's okay.

24:59 Sobe by eating that that the little dinner and a doorbell rang Event open the door and that was a GI standing at a door and I didn't pay attention and and I look it goes dead after he came back he falls to Hyatt as a interpret the Run Divas liberated from the house.

25:29 So he knows liberated at the same time as a check hero and she positively brightest from Robbins brick. So they came together on one of the Jeep they came to Prague and then I went to see my aunt since there's a thought she meant to understand, and because he has five died and so he came to pick me up there. And what did you think when I didn't see the night under the table?

26:07 And were you have you been just hoping the whole time or have you been thinking it? Did you ever think maybe never could I see would have gotten mad?

26:23 I used to when I worked in the in a Munitions Factory, I used to sing myself in my mind because you're not allowed to talk in my mind. I would sing songs in every language. Ainu.

26:36 I say a little prayer every language. I know just to keep my brain.

26:43 But the sooner you forget that if it gets things good, but are you forget that special event?

26:50 So what was it? Like when when get I came back and you had been married for such a short. Of time before the war and then nothing until he is very strange certainly different than when we park it because then we parted I was young girl only child at Night Vale doing family and all of a sudden I became a partisan.

27:21 I was no longer than I was but I was before but I have been.

27:27 So we have to do some work on it cuz I have my own all of a sudden that my own mind and that didn't work. So very Jedi because your dad is very stubborn provided 12, but then you got busy trying to get their property back and you're not being very very hard to put it back into order that house the business and after we succeeded.

27:59 And the Communists came and we lost it for the second time again, so get it became expert in losing.

28:08 So your relationship with Jenna was was different after the war because you thought you were a grown up.

28:22 It became like you more like out of your life.

28:26 Was it difficult for Jetta that you you had grown up and be over? Yes. Oh, yes. Your mom used to say marriage is a compromise as long as a mommy gives it another time. It was very stubborn stubborn things to me that I was angry with my seldom for for not listening.

28:53 It sucks more. Each other.

28:57 So did your your vision of what you said before the war? You had thought you would have five boys and live in the house in Prague. Nothing after the war. What did you want? What was the year your dream to be very honest after the war. I wanted to get the two terms how to refill our family.

29:19 My cuz you would add a a big family in Prague and lots of people around and three people.

29:27 Did you think did you ever imagine that you would leave Prague before the Communists came as a matter of fact November George Wallace and his mother came to visit me from America and asks, if I don't see you go, but I saw that I could I use it and a year later we call them and we can ask them for a Visa.

29:50 Ask me that fortune is because in our hotel he has a club American Club and the American ambassador that mr. Steinhardt for the frequent guest in our house so that the Communists took over. I've been to see him and I said, what do I do now? Because I didn't want to get in prison tag and 5 years of more than enough for me, and he said I cannot help you here, but get out.

30:19 Call me from the border and I have your pick up them pick you up and said that and I and he's agreed to his friends with his wife and a little boy who is a physician now in Chicago.

30:34 Known in Chicago and Milwaukee he came and he said that off to me and to see if I don't you come with us. So you could off the Border. I think it was a force of March 48 across the border to Germany and German farmer from a farmhouse be called scic that sells American intelligence and they caught up Rock. Mr. Steinhardt was the Ambassador and he said yes, yes take care of her as military and reviled living as military guest until we were adopted by the Bentley family in Wiesbaden and look for them for a year-and-a-half that became very nobody to became very good friends. And so you got the permission to go across the border.

31:34 That's because my father sister they had a farm near the border. So that's how it that's very good.

31:41 Tell them they came to visit with them and then beat it over the Border after you spent your year or more than a year in Germany. And then you went off went to America. What do you think it was going to be? Like, what do you think your life was going to be like when you got here?

31:59 I have also be available and it it it was really unbelievable, you know, the glasses that are here already. They came in about six months before we came here tomorrow. So if you

32:13 Well, I didn't have any idea but the they picked us up at the day after Thanksgiving. We came to the Navy cuz we didn't have any money for the passage. So they put us listed as the sailors and Hench got that lives in California. And I remember I think almost the only human and I set privacy this aspect of his name wasn't kept Barker and then both of us named General like today and I said I got elected to you know, you'll have some privacy, but if I forgot the toils of Faith Baker

33:05 Every second every second second. That was a big bang so he came to New York have that.

33:13 It was at that vehicle, but it didn't help because like you're sitting on a Canon.

33:22 Have you made it and

33:25 Victor Victor glass pictures of pandas are in Roslyn the bus cuz I had only $3 and that I have found is $30 and I've been through the city with us bought myself than York Times and went to the city and I had only Army coat because I had nothing else and I said next to a woman on the bus and she said to me you're a soldier I said no. I met a few G and she said you have an accent. I just thought of you and she must check and she said where are you going after that? I'm going to do New York to follow an ad in the papers to get a job. But she said you just came in I said to you last night.

34:18 So I've been through an agency on Broadway, you know, I didn't know that you had to Social Security at the timer.

34:28 Anytime you didn't know I had I had no idea.

34:34 So I've been good agents and I said that about your qualification I said I went to school in Switzerland tied house out of school and I went to school in England and he said okay that was at Oliver Cromwell Hotel on 72nd Street, and he said I don't need you here, but my wife is running.

34:55 Posthotel resume service

35:00 It's cuz Adams on the park is still there. It's on 86th Street the second house from 5th Avenue and Shea at he said you have to go there she needs you so I said but I don't know where I am and I don't know how to get there and he said don't worry. I got a text so he put me on a taxi and I got off in front of your place and renting and very nice. But I think she was a total steps it and she said, oh, I'm so glad I need you and he gave me she gave me the keys and left and I have no idea what I'm doing, but I learned and tonight then somebody said you have to go to get a Social Security number.

35:45 So I deduct on my day off about couple months later, and if I didn't know better and I might better little money and get Evan to inquire about it. He could finish his little at the Columbia here. We never have money for the book.

36:02 And I said weather doesn't bring me any Versailles benefit of all of us Toria. And I manager the Personnel manager of us. Mr. And the lie and he said I have a joke for you and I said but I have to quit the traps and you know it. I'm from the bargain maybe next week. So after next week, I started that a Waldorf and I said, please put me away on the bottom because I don't know what I'm doing American. Why are you so different from the European?

36:33 And they said that's what I'd you learned it. And then you ready you tell me in so about I would say about two or three months later. I said, I think I'm getting is flowery. So I became the dietitian of the ballroom of the big party picture of murder Christmas balls and very very very busy.

37:02 And I was so skinny that a doctor said to me. Did you come to America to kill yourself? And I said, no, not really. He said then get another job because that was like from 6 in the morning. I have to leave at 5, and I never got home until midnight and I didn't eat much.

37:22 And it s coincidence was that opposites the water then now it's a new house down 50/50 asleep during high school and then I went home from work. I saw a note.

37:39 Food manager

37:42 They're looking for a food manager dietitians. So I went in and head of the church will sister Alicia and I told her that I was working and what I was doing and she said fine, but I can't run. Can you start and I said, but I have to quit the first so I can read that now after a week. I started to work. At 11 then I'll answer for a kind and good and quiet. It's felt so different from The D Hotel.

38:13 Then I worked out till about two weeks before your mom was born.

38:21 A bit more time. Are we great? How after mom was born? How was how are things different? What was what was your relationship with Greta? Like was it different? How is it like to have a family, you know that I like to do single people, but that Mom was boring became of your family and yet I have different parenting Styles different things you thought were how did you work that out? I see you came like a full circle and I'm for us to be that mad at 15 years before my mom was born when I gave up on her a few miscarriages quite a few and then I said enough is enough and then tell your mom was born and she was very cute and very good.

39:14 And how did how did you keep your your relationship with Jetta? How do you balance being focused on being a wife with also being focused on being a mother and having a job at the same time? I don't think it made any difference is that the most concentrated on your mother and your relationship was different was only sort of you became the family instead of no not at all.

39:44 And how would you resolve it? When you disagreed either over something that you wanted to do with mom or something that that you two were talking about? How would you resolve your your disagreements? There was never any yelling never grows. Even if I would want the 300 I would say what you couldn't you couldn't ever no fighting. No yelling at you got a very happy it is what it is. Like we have everything but money.

40:14 How do you spell all right?

40:17 That's wonderful. And the weather in New York everything every Museum everything as those three at a time. You didn't pay the most as a metropolitan census.

40:30 I want to stop being so ever seen every everything that you could see for nothing. If you couldn't afford to pay Tennessee one last question to you and you were married for 63 sixty-three years until I am about to tip start will hopefully be a 60 + year marriage. Would you be willing to help so I expected what's the most important thing for me to remember to love each other and not nothing but I see your point if it doesn't make any sense, it's it's it's it's really not worth it.

41:06 But I do understand the other side the price of organ out of paper shoes.

41:13 Excellent advice. Thank you, baby. You very welcome.