Holocaust Awareness Week

All events, except the closing ceremonies, are in the University Memorial Center, Room 235.

Wednesday:

11 a.m. -- Survivor Doris Small

1 p.m. -- Survivors Mr. and Mrs. Zachary Kutner

2:30 p.m. -- Stephen Feinberg, director of international Holocaust education at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

7 p.m. -- "Blessed is the Match" movie, followed by Q&A with director Roberta Grossman

Thursday:

11 a.m. -- Survivor Ella Mandel

1 p.m. -- Survivor Eric Cahn

Friday:

2:30 p.m. -- Closing ceremonies in the UMC atrium

As a baby, Maria Krenz lived in hiding with her Jewish family on the sixth floor of an apartment building in Hungary, concealed by an armoire.

"My mother's job was to keep me quiet at all costs so cries wouldn't be heard by neighbors," Krenz told her audience Tuesday at a Holocaust Awareness Week talk on the University of Colorado campus.

Krenz -- who came to CU as an undergraduate in 1964 and has remained a Boulder resident since -- was born two decades earlier, during a bombing raid on Budapest. She arrived six weeks early, and her timing was crucial because a few weeks later Jews weren't allowed in the hospital.

Krenz was 10 days old when the Nazis came to her family's apartment, declaring that all Jews needed to "get out." When her father, a Hungarian patriot, asked about his newborn daughter, they replied: "The world doesn't need anymore Jews."

She told her story to a crowd of about 150 on Tuesday, piecing her early survival story together with journals that her mother kept. She has also published a memoir, titled "Made in Hungary: A life forged by history."

Krenz is among the speakers for CU's Holocaust Awareness Week, sponsored partly by the Jewish organization Hillel. Outside of her talk, in the University Memorial Center, student volunteers took turns Tuesday reading off names of Holocaust victims.

Maria Krenz talks about growing up in Hungary during the Holocaust as part of Holocaust Awareness Week at the University of Colorado on Tuesday.
Maria Krenz talks about growing up in Hungary during the Holocaust as part of Holocaust Awareness Week at the University of Colorado on Tuesday. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )

While in hiding, Krenz said her parents huddled over her baby basket so that if a bomb hit, they'd die together.

Somebody ratted them out, and Arrow Cross soldiers raided and ransacked the apartment, searching for the harbored Jews. Her family was able to show them baptismal certificates, and they took refuge in a bomb shelter with falsified papers that countered their Jewish heritage so they could live among Christians. Krenz became known as "Anna Fabo," an adopted child of her parents.

As an 8-month-old baby, Krenz weighed less than when she was 2 months old. Her mother had been soaking dry beans and feeding a half-dozen of them to her every day. A sympathetic woman donated a potato to Krenz's mother to feed her, but her mother was heartbroken because "she knew she wouldn't have given us a potato if she knew we were Jewish."

Following liberation, Krenz's immediate family was able to find one another. But 38 relatives and friends had been killed, she said.

Krenz told of how her half-sister Eva watched the "men with swastikas" on their arms shoot her husband, Willie, after he had escaped a concentration camp and found his family. Eva begged that they leave him, and one of the Nazis replied "OK," pulled out a pistol and killed Willie in front of his wife and toddler.

Krenz also told of how her boyfriend in grade school discovered she was Jewish and told her he couldn't talk to her ever again. Just a couple of years ago, Krenz was visiting Hungary and learned that the boy, too, was Jewish and disguising his heritage. Even after almost a decade, Jews were still afraid to associate with one another for fear they'd be discovered, Krenz said.

"The Holocaust never ended," she said.

Boulder resident Marc Wind sat in the front row of the talk with his 8-year-old daughter, Jenna. He said he wants his daughter to hear first-hand what past generations of Jews experienced instead of just reading history.

"It's important to understand the culture and reality," Wind said.

CU freshman Hannah Mandel, of Los Angeles, invited her grandmother Ella Mandel to Boulder to talk about her survival at Auschwitz.

"Everybody has a beautiful story to tell," Hannah Mandel said. "She's my grandma, so it's more personal. The pain that she went through is so upsetting."

She said her grandmother survived typhoid fever during the Holocaust because a friend scavenged for medicine. Her grandfather -- also a Holocaust survivor -- pretended to be dead in a snow bank and was overlooked by Nazis.

Her grandparents met at a "displaced persons" camp.

Ella Mandel will speak at 11 a.m. Thursday in the UMC, Room 235.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.