Surviving the Holocaust: One Boulder Woman’s Struggle for Life and Her Journey to Freedom

Maria Krenz

Boulder resident Maria Krenz was born 77 years ago in the basement of a Budapest hospital while air raid sirens screamed and bombs exploded overhead. It was 1944 and World War II, though close to its end, was far from over.

At just one week old, Maria and her parents were forced to move out of their home. “If we didn’t want to move, the [Nazis] would be glad to throw me out the balcony,” Maria recalled the story her mother told her repeatedly when she was younger. “They said we had to go to a Yellow Star house.”

A Yellow Star house was a large home in the Hungarian city filled beyond capacity with Jews, often 20 or more people per room. “We were allowed outside for two hours a day to find food. But those two hours were also dangerous, because once we were outside, we had to wear a yellow star and that meant [anyone] could kick us, kill us, spit on us.”

Over the course of the next year, Maria’s relatives were rounded up, put on trains, shot in the back, drowned in the icy Danube, or exiled to the barren wastelands. Each day was a struggle for survival and each night, the uncertainty of being caught. Even after the war was over, Maria and her family had to continue hiding, though in plain sight.

“The Russians liberated us, but they never left… We were not only very hungry, but very scared.” To be a Jew – or any religion –  was dangerous. To be against the Soviet way of life was deadly. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the Hungarian KGB would stop at an apartment building and tell the residents they would be deported. “On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they would come back to take the people away.”

Maria will recount her story of survival this Wednesday, April 7th at 7:00 pm during Boulder’s Yom HaShoah program, presented by Haver, the Rabbinic Council of Boulder, and the Boulder JCC. In addition to her keynote address, the program will include a remembrance of the Six Million, a candle lighting ceremony by local youth, music from CU Professor Andrew Cooperstock, and liturgical prayers.

The virtual Zoom event is free and open to the public. To register, visit

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