Gene Krasa and E.B. Kelly

Recorded August 17, 2008 Archived August 17, 2008 01:22:40
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 Locations

StoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth