Hans Peter Kraus was born in Vienna on 12 October 1907 as the son of Emil and Hilda Kraus (née Rix). After graduating from the Handelsakademie in 1925, he trained as a librarian from 1925 to 1927 at Universitätsbuchhandlung R. Lechner in Vienna. Then he worked for Buchhandlung Wasmuth in Berlin and for some time at Buchhandlung und Verlag Karl W. Hiersemann in Leipzig. He returned to Vienna in 1932 and opened an antique bookshop at Praterstraße 16/1 in the 2nd district specializing in rare old prints, with visits by appointment only. He moved across the street two years later to Praterstraße 17/1. As he was refused permission by the Korporation der Wiener Buch-, Kunst-, und Musikalienhändler (Corporation of Viennese Book, Art and Music Sellers) and the trade authorities to operate a bookstore open to the public, he specialized in mailing antiques catalogues. From 1934 he issued these several times a year and also sent them to customers overseas, with the result that he was well known both in Austria and other countries and became one of the most successful antiques dealers in Vienna. He focused on scientific literature and old maps. During the economic crisis in the 1930s, his stocks were enlarged above all through the purchase of large private libraries (Thun-Hohensteinsche Bibliothek, "Teschner Bibliothek"), monastery libraries and public libraries. He states that his warehouse in 1938 had around 32,000 books and magazines.
After the annexation he was denounced to the Gestapo by his long-standing employee Alfred Wolf on account of his Jewish origins. He was interned at Rossauer Lände prison in Vienna and then at Dachau and Buchenwald. He was released from there in April 1939 on condition that he left the country. Shortly before the outbreak of war he fled first to Sweden and then in October 1938 with his mother, who had also managed to leave Vienna, to New York. Antiquariat Kraus was liquidated on 31 December 1938. Beforehand, the former employee Alfred Wolf had already transported all of the books and the shop inventory as a whole to Antiquariat Alfred Wolf – Reise- und Versandbuchhandlung, Antiquariat und Export at Schottenring 35 in the 1st district, which he had established in December 1938.
Through his lawer Friedrich Köhler in Vienna, Kraus brought criminal charges against Alfred Wolf in December 1945 under Sections 6 and 7 of the War Criminals Act (Unlawful Enrichment and Denunciation) and attempted to secure the books and to have Antiquariat Alfred Wolf closed. On 28 August 1946 the US military government appointed a public administrator of the 50 per cent shares in the antique bookshop held at the time respectively by Alfred Wolf and Richard Riedmann. Richard Riedmann, who had helped Wolf with the Aryanization of Kraus's stocks, was managing director of the antique bookshop from 1943. When the Third Restitution Act came into force, Kraus submitted an application to the Restitution Commission in Vienna. Thanks to Riedmann's successful concealment, frequent changes in the public administration and interventions by the political section in the Bundesministerium für Vermögenssicherung und Wirtschaftsplanung (Federal Ministry for Securing Property and Economic Planning), the restitution was delayed. Moreover, from 1944 until the early post-war years, Riedmann managed to transfer stocks from the antique bookshop to Germany (Aschaffenburg, Homburg). In 1950 a settlement was reached at the Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen (provincial court for civil matters) in Vienna between Kraus and Riedmann, who was once again sole director of Antiquariat Wolf, because Alfred Wolf had been missing since the end of the war. This enabled Kraus to take possession again at least of a small part of the original 2,000 volumes in the library as well as four framed maps from his former map collection.
In the 1960s, Kraus progressed to become one of the most reputed antiques dealers in the USA. He died on 1 November 1988 in Ridgefield, Connecticut. After his death, his wife continued to manage the antique bookshop at 16 East 46th Street in New York for another fifteen years. In 2014, it was recommended that the University Library of the Medical University return to the heirs of Hans Peter Kraus the books purchased from Antiquariat Alfred Wolf after 1938 by the former Institut für Geschichte der Medizin (Institute of the History of Medicine).
The research was supported by MA 7 – Vienna Municipal Department for Cultural Affairs, Science and Research Fund.