Paul Kraus and I share several unusual traits. We are both Jews of Hungarian decent who have fought, and continue to fight, for justice. Hungarians are known for being stubborn and we both are exceptionally tenacious. After uncovering documentary proof at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. that the U.S. Army misappropriated art, gold and other possessions of Hungarian Jews, I won the only Holocaust case ever brought against the United States (Rosner v. United States). In 2006, the U.S. government issued an unusual formal apology for stealing from Holocaust victims and paid $22.5 million to the survivors. My battle lasted seven years. Paul's battle with mesothelioma has been ongoing for more than 20 years.
In May of 1945, at the end of World War II, the U.S. Army seized a train in Werfen, Austria, filled with possessions of thousands of Hungarian Jews taken by the Nazis. At the same time, Paul Kraus was living in a forced-labor camp in Viehofen, Austria, only 40 miles away. The Americans bombed rail lines in Austria, causing the train to Auschwitz that carried Paul's mother with him in her womb to be detoured to another death camp in Viehofen, near St. Pölten, Austria. Approximately 180 men, women and children lived in three barracks in the camp where they were used as slave labor for the state-owned Traisen-Wasserverband company in St. Pölten and the surrounding area.
Paul was born in that concentration camp in October, 1944. Fortunately, I was born less than four years later in the comfortable safety of the United States. Near the end of the war, rumors spread throughout the concentration camp that the Nazis would force march the prisoners 150 miles to Mauthausen, another death camp. Most prisoners would not survive such a brutal journey. (My cousin Regina, a Hungarian Gold Train plaintiff, was on the death march from Auschwitz to Wodzisław Ślaski. With her feet bleeding badly and her entire body aching, she asked the SS soldiers to shoot her to put her out of her misery.) Inadequate nutrition, lack of hygiene, shootings by the SS, failed attempts to escape, and bombings by the Allied forces caused many deaths at the camp.
Despite these horrific conditions, Clara Kraus plotted an escape with her toddler and infant son (Paul). Giving birth in a Nazi forced-labor camp was one thing, but slipping out through the barbed wire at night, with two infant children, in April 1945 made Clara Kraus's survival extraordinary. After walking through the woods for days, without food or water, they were picked up by a passing Russian convoy and left at a railway station. Weary, weakened and thin, they arrived six months later at Clara's Budapest home. (As of today, there are only six living survivors of the Viehofen Forced-Labor Camp -- Greta Balog, Olga Balog, Vera Mahler, Susan Fisher, Peter Kraus, and Paul Kraus.)
Paul's father had miraculously survived in another death camp and the family was soon reunited in Hungary. The Krauses wanted to come to the United States, but were refused a visa. Disappointingly, the United States did not open its doors for European Jewish refugees. The U.S. consul promised to get back to the Krauses, but never did.
Australia gave the Krauses permission to emigrate. They suffered through a grueling three-month voyage on a small Greek ship that broke down several times during the difficult and arduous trip. They settled in Sydney and put together a normal family life.
Paul Kraus received his BA at Macquarie University and a Master of Arts and Education from the University of Sydney. During a summer vacation in the 1960s as an undergraduate student, Paul worked adjacent to an asbestos factory. Every evening when returning home from work, his clothes and body were covered with fine asbestos dust.
At that time it was not known that asbestos fibers were a deadly toxin. It took thirty years for the disease mesothelioma to develop in Paul's body. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops on the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, known as the mesothelium. The most common area affected by this deadly disease is the lining of the lungs and the chest wall.
In 1997, Paul was diagnosed with mesothlioma. He was 52 years old and was handed a death sentence. His doctors discovered that he had extensive tumors growing on his peritoneum, the lining of his abdominal wall. Following surgery and the subsequent pathological examination, Paul was given the grim news that he had peritoneal mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that was well advanced. His doctors gave him little hope and told him that he had only weeks to live.
That was twenty years ago and Paul is alive and well. He has survived his second brush with death. Now Paul is an advocate for the treatment for mesothelioma patients and he has written a book about how he has survived with meditation, diet and other treatments. He also explains how mesothelioma patients can receive financial compensation for their battle with the deadly disease. His book, Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient's Guide, is a best-selling book on the subject. Kraus pursued a course of integrative care combining modern medicine, traditional medicine, herbal medicine, and alternative medicine to fight mesothelioma.
Paul Kraus is the longest living mesothelioma survivor and wants to share his story and treatments with others. He contends that a diagnosis of mesothelioma is not necessarily a death sentence.
Justice in America
I have long complained about injustice in the American legal system. My book, Black Mondays: Worst Decisions of the Supreme Court, discusses injustice at our highest tribunal. However, the American legal system, in general, works fairly well. Concerning compensating mesothelioma patients, the courts have set up a multi-billion-dollar fund from asbestos manufacturers to compensate hundreds of thousands of victims injured by the harmful effects of asbestos. Paul Kraus has survived major threats to his life and wants to help others to survive cancer as he has done. You can find more resources on mesothelioma as well as more information on the man himself through his website.