To escape, Mr. Krongauz’s mother prepared him and his 8-year-old brother for a nearly 900-mile train journey to the Republic of Bashkortostan. Shortly after the evacuation, Mr. Krongauz contracted cochlear neuritis, losing hearing in one ear. He learned to read lips to communicate.
Mr. Krongauz’s father, Moisei Erakhmiyelevich Krongauz, an ear, nose and throat doctor, was drafted in 1941 and spent the next three years treating wounded soldiers. Toward the end of the war, he was reunited with his family in L’vov, Ukraine, where he was serving as a military head of a hospital.
The situation in Ukraine was less dire than in Bashkortostan, where the family had struggled to find nourishment. Still, it was unstable as German forces retreated. Mr. Krongauz remembers watching the street from his balcony one afternoon and seeing a young girl get shot with a rifle.
After the war, the family returned to Moscow, where it met strong anti-Semitism. In 1953, for instance, the state news agency announced that “a terrorist group of doctors” was seeking to “shorten the lives of active statesmen of the Soviet Union by means of sabotage in the course of medical treatment.” Many of those implicated in the so-called doctors’ plot were Jewish. At least 19 doctors were arrested, including two from the hospital where Mr. Krongauz’s father worked. He kept a suitcase by the door, in case he had to leave quickly.
Mrs. Krongauz was a baby in 1941, and her family fled Moscow for Kazan, in southwest Russia. Her mother never forgot the pain of the Holocaust, and Mrs. Krongauz, now 76, remembers her mother’s words to a group of German prisoners paving a road.
“They would pay me a compliment when I passed by: ‘What a beautiful little girl,’” she said. “And my mother said to them, ‘How many of those beautiful girls did you throw in the dungeon?’”
Fear continued long after the war and throughout Stalin’s regime, Mrs. Krongauz said. She recalled a Jewish acquaintance being killed by an ax-wielding assailant. When she was 11, a stranger rang her family’s doorbell at 2 a.m., and she feared a similar attack. Her great-uncle, a former revolutionary, was accused of being an enemy of the state, charged as a foreign spy and imprisoned for 17 years.