Rudolf Vrba

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Rudolf Vrba
photograph
Vrba in New York, November 1978, during an interview with Claude Lanzmann for the documentary Shoah
Born Walter Rosenberg
(1924-09-11)11 September 1924
Topoľčany, Czechoslovakia
Died 27 March 2006(2006-03-27) (aged 81)
Vancouver, Canada
Nationality Czechoslovak
Citizenship British (1966), Canadian (1972)
Education
Occupation Associate professor of pharmacology, University of British Columbia
Known for Vrba–Wetzler report[1]
Spouse(s) Gerta Vrbová (m. 1947), Robin Vrba (m. 1975)
Children Dr. Helena Vrbová (1952–1982), Zuzana "Zuza" Vrbová Jackson (b. 1954)
Parent(s) Elias Rosenberg, Helena Rosenberg (née Grünfeldová)
Awards
  • Czechoslovak Medal of Bravery (c. 1945)
  • Order of Slovak National Insurrection (Class 2)
  • Medal of Honor of Czechoslovak Partisans
  • Doctor of Philosophy Honoris Causa, University of Haifa (1998)
  • Order of the White Double Cross, 1st class, Slovakia (2007)

Rudolf "Rudi" Vrba (born Walter Rosenberg; 11 September 1924 – 27 March 2006) was a Slovak-Jewish biochemist who, as a teenager in 1942, was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. He became known for having escaped from the camp in April 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, and for having co-written a detailed report about the mass murder that was taking place there.[2] Distribution of the report is credited with having halted the mass deportation of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz in July 1944, saving more than 200,000 lives. After the war Vrba trained as a biochemist, working mostly in England and Canada.[3]

Vrba and fellow escapee Alfréd Wetzler fled Auschwitz three weeks after German forces invaded Hungary and shortly before the SS began mass deportations of Hungary's Jewish population to the camp. The information the men dictated to Jewish officials when they arrived in Slovakia on 24 April 1944, which included that new arrivals in Auschwitz were being gassed and not "resettled" as the Germans maintained, became known as the Vrba–Wetzler report.[1] When the War Refugee Board published it in November 1944, the New York Herald Tribune described it as "the most shocking document ever issued by a United States government agency".[4] While it confirmed material in earlier reports from Polish and other escapees,[a] historian Miroslav Kárný wrote that it was unique in its "unflinching detail".[10]

There was a delay of several weeks before the report was distributed widely enough to gain the attention of governments. Mass transports of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz began on 15 May 1944 at a rate of 12,000 people a day.[11] Most went straight to the gas chambers. Vrba argued until the end of his life that the deportees might have refused to board the trains, or at least that their panic would have disrupted the transports, had the report been distributed widely and sooner.[12]

From late June and into July 1944, material from the Vrba–Wetzler report appeared in newspapers and radio broadcasts in the United States and Europe, particularly in Switzerland, prompting world leaders to appeal to Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy to halt the deportations.[13] On 2 July American and British forces bombed Budapest, and on 7 July Horthy ordered an end to the mass deportations, possibly fearing he would be held responsible after the war.[14] By then, 437,000 Jews had been deported—almost the entire Jewish population of the Hungarian countryside—but another 200,000 in Budapest were saved.[15][b]

Early life and arrest[edit]

Vrba at school (front row, fourth left), Bratislava, Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia), 1935–1936

Vrba was born Walter Rosenberg in Topoľčany, Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia), one of three boys and a girl to Elias Rosenberg and Helena Rosenberg, née Gruenfeldová. His mother was from Zbehy, Slovakia;[17] his maternal grandfather, Bernat Grünfeld, an Orthodox Jew from Nitra, was killed in the Majdanek concentration camp.[18] Vrba took the name Rudolf Vrba after his escape.[c]

The Rosenbergs owned a steam sawmill in Jaklovce and lived in Trnava.[20] In September 1941 the first Slovak republic, a client state of Nazi Germany, passed a "Jewish Codex", similar to the Nuremberg Laws,[21] which introduced restrictions on Jews' education, housing and travel. They were required to wear a yellow badge and live in certain areas, and available jobs went first to non-Jews. When Vrba was excluded, at age 15, from the gymnasium (high school) in Bratislava as a result of the restrictions, he found work as a labourer and continued his studies at home, particularly chemistry, English and Russian.[22] He met his future wife, Gerti Sidonovi, around this time; she and Vrba were among a group of Jewish teenagers excluded from school who met regularly in a meadow outside town called "the pond" to talk about Zionism and the antisemitism they faced.[23]

Vrba learned to live with most of the restrictions; they had been "introduced discreetly, falling almost imperceptibly around us, like gentle snow". But he rebelled when the Slovak authorities announced, in 1942, that Jews were to be deported to "reservations" in German-occupied Poland.[24][d] (Only around 300 of the 58,000 Slovakian Jews who were deported between March and October 1942 survived.[26]) Aged 17, Vrba decided instead to join the Czechoslovak Army in England; when he told his mother, she asked: "Why not slip up to the moon and cut yourself a slice of green cheese?" He replied that he would not be "deported like a calf in a wagon", so she gave him the equivalent of ₤10, and he set off in a taxi for the border, with a map and a box of matches.[27] He made his way to Budapest, Hungary, but for various reasons decided to return to Slovakia, where he was, he wrote, "arrested for being Jewish" at the Hungarian border. The Slovak authorities sent him to the Nováky transit camp for Jews awaiting deportation; he managed to escape briefly but was caught by a gendarme who noticed that he was wearing two pairs of socks. Returned to the camp, he was beaten by Hlinka guards.[28]

Majdanek and Auschwitz[edit]

Majdanek[edit]

Vrba was deported from Czechoslovakia on 15 June 1942 to Majdanek, a German concentration and extermination camp in occupied Poland,[29] where he briefly encountered his older brother, Sammy. They saw each other "almost simultaneously and we raised our arms in brief salute"; it was the last time he ever saw him.[30] He also encountered "kapos" for the first time: prisoners appointed to police other prisoners, one of whom he recognized from Trnava. Most wore green triangles, signalling that they had been categorized as professional criminals (Berufsverbrecher):[31]

German camps in occupied Poland

They were dressed like circus clowns ... One had a green uniform jackets with gold horizontal stripes, like something a lion tamer would wear; his trousers were the riding breeches of an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army and his headgear was a cross between a military cap and a priest's biretta. ... I realized that here was a new elite, a prisoners' establishment, so to speak, recruited to do the elementary dirty work with which the S.S. men did not wish to soil their hands. It was clear to me, too, that they were fulfilling this task with an efficiency and brutality which equalled and occasionally excelled that of their masters.[32]

On arrival, Vrba's head and body were shaved, and he was given clothes, wooden shoes and a cap. Caps had to be removed whenever an SS man came within three yards. "We were troops in an armless army," Vrba wrote.[33] At roll call each morning, prisoners who had died during the night were piled up behind the living. Vrba was given a job as a builder's labourer inside the camp; it was several days before he understood the significance of the building with the tall chimney.[34] Toward the end of June one of the kapos asked for 400 volunteers for farm work elsewhere. Vrba signed up eagerly, anxious to leave or find an opportunity to escape. A Czech kapo who had befriended Vrba hit him when he learned that Vrba had volunteered; he explained that the "farm work" was in Auschwitz.[35]

Auschwitz I[edit]

On 29 June 1942, the Reich Main Security Office transferred Vrba and the other volunteers to Auschwitz I,[36] the main camp (Stammlager) in Oświęcim and the administrative centre of the Auschwitz camp complex. Vrba considered trying to escape from the train on the way there, a journey of over two days, but the SS said that ten men would be shot for every one man who went missing.[37]

On his second day in Auschwitz, he watched as a cart pulled by Ukrainian prisoners stopped outside a windowless building. Two Polish prisoners emerged, and began throwing bodies onto the cart, stacked in piles of ten, "the head of one between the legs of another to save space. Slap, slap, slap"; after 15 minutes, 200 bodies had been stacked on top of one another neatly.[38] The following day Vrba and around 400 other men were beaten into a cold shower in a shower room built for 30, then marched outside to register, still naked, "as if we were entering some weird new university". The prisoners were tattooed—Vrba on his left forearm as prisoner no. 44070—and given striped tunics, trousers, caps, and wooden shoes.[39] After registration, which took all day and into the evening, he was shown to his new barracks, an attic in a block next to the main gate and the Arbeit macht frei sign.[40]

Young and strong, Vrba was "purchased" by a kapo, Frank, in exchange for a lemon (sought after for its vitamin C content), and assigned to work in the SS food store. This gave him access to soap and water—the SS expected those handling their food to be clean—which helped to save his life. Frank, he learned, was a kind man who would pretend to beat his prisoners when the guards were watching, although the blows always missed.[41] The camp regime was otherwise marked by its pettiness and cruelty. When Heinrich Himmler visited on 17 July 1942 (during which he watched a gassing), the inmates were told everything had to be spotless.[42] An orchestra of prisoners assembled by the gate, waiting for a sign that he was about to arrive:

And then it happened. The catastrophe that every actor dreads. The moment of horror that only great occasions merit. ... In the tenth row outside our Block, the Block Senior found Yankel Meisel without his full quota of tunic buttons.

It took some seconds for the enormity of the crime to sink. Then he felled him with a blow ... I saw the Block Senior, with two of his helpers, hauling Yankel inside the barrack block.

Out of sight, they acted like men who have been shamed and betrayed will act. They beat and kicked the life out of him.[43]

Auschwitz II[edit]

"Canada commando"[edit]

photograph
"Selection" of Hungarian Jews on the Judenrampe, Auschwitz-Birkenau, May or June 1944. Vrba worked here August 1942–June 1943. The entrance to the camp is in the background.

In August 1942 Vrba was re-assigned to the Aufräumungskommando (the "clearing" commando,[44] also known as the "Canada commando") in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp in Brzezinka, four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the main camp. Around 200–800 prisoners worked there on the Judenrampe, where trains carrying Jews arrived, removing the dead from the freight cars and clearing out any blood and excrement, then sorting through the new arrivals' property.[45] Many would bring kitchen utensils and clothes for different seasons, suggesting to Vrba that they believed the stories about resettlement.

It took 2–3 hours to clear out the freight cars, by which time most of the new arrivals were already dead.[45] A few were selected to work as slave labour, but those deemed unfit for work were taken by truck in groups of 100 to the gas chamber, including children, women with children, the elderly and the sick.[46] He estimated that 90 percent were selected to die.[47] He told Claude Lanzmann in 1978:

There was always an amount of people who could not get out of the railroad cars, those who also died on the road, or people who were sick to such a degree that even persuasion with violent beating wouldn't get them moving fast enough. So those people remained in the wagons. So our first job was to get into the wagons, get out the dead bodies—or the dying—and transport them in laufschritt, as the Germans liked to say. This means "running". Laufschritt, yeah, never walking—everything had to be done in laufschritt, immer laufen. So, very sporty—they are a sporty nation, you see. ... There was not much medical counting to see who is dead and who feigns to be dead ... So they were put on the trucks; and once this was finished, this was the first truck to move off, and it went straight to the crematorium. ...

The whole murder machinery could work on one principle: that the people came to Auschwitz and didn't know where they were going and for what purpose. The new arrivals were supposed to be kept orderly and without panic marching into the gas chambers. Especially the panic was dangerous from women with small children. So it was important for the Nazis that none of us give some sort of message which could cause a panic ... And anybody who tried to get into touch with newcomers was either clubbed to death or taken behind the wagon and shot ...[48]

Confiscated clothing, the "Canada" barracks, c. May 1944

The new arrivals' property was taken to storage facilities known as Effektenlager I and II; inmates called them Canada/Kanada I and II because they were a "land of plenty".[49] The Canada barracks were in Auschwitz I before Vrba's escape but were later moved to the BIIg section of Birkenau.[50] Everything was there: medicine, food, clothing, utensils, spectacles, gold, dollars and pounds, much of it repackaged by the Aufräumungskommando to be sent to Germany.[51] It was because of this access that Vrba was able to stay healthy.[52]

Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp

The Aufräumungskommando lived in Auschwitz I in block 4 until 15 January 1943, when they were transferred to block 16 in Auschwitz II, sector Ib, where Vrba lived until June 1943.[53] After he had been in Auschwitz for about five months, he fell sick with typhus; his weight dropped to 42 kilos and he was delirious. At his lowest point, he was helped by Josef Farber, a Slovakian member of the camp's resistance movement, who brought him medication and thereafter extended to him the protection of the Auschwitz underground.[54]

In early 1943 he was given the job of assistant registrar in one of the blocks; he told Lanzmann that the resistance movement had manoeuvered him into the position because it gave him access to information.[55] A few weeks later, in June, he was made registrar (Blockschreiber) of block 10 in Birkenau, the quarantine section for men (BIIa), again because of the underground.[56] The position gave him his own room and bed,[57] and he could wear his own clothes. He was also able to speak to new arrivals who had been selected as slave labour, and he had to write reports about the registration process, which allowed him to ask questions and take notes.[58]

Estimates of numbers killed[edit]

From his room in BIIa, Vrba could see the lorries drive towards the gas chambers.[59] In his estimate, 10 percent of each transport was selected to work and the rest killed.[47] During his time on the Judenrampe from 18 August 1942 to 7 June 1943, he saw at least 200 trains arrive, each containing 1,000–5,000 people, according to an interview in 1978 for the documentary film Shoah (1985).[60] In a 1998 paper, he wrote that he had witnessed 100–300 trains arrive, each locomotive pulling 20–40 freight cars and sometimes 50–60.[61] He calculated that, between the spring of 1942 and 15 January 1944, 1.5 million had been killed.[62] According to the Vrba–Wetzler report, 1,765,000 were killed in Auschwitz between April 1942 and April 1944.[63] In 1961 Vrba swore in an affidavit for the trial of Adolf Eichmann that he believed 2.5 million had died overall in the camp, plus or minus 10 percent.[64]

Vrba's estimates are higher than those of Holocaust historians. For example, Polish historian Franciszek Piper estimated in 1993 that nearly 88 percent of those deported to Auschwitz had been killed,[e] against Vrba's 90 percent. Piper's estimate of the death toll in Auschwitz for the period April 1942 to April 1944 was 450,000,[65] against Vrba's 1,765,000.[66] According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1,082,000 inmates were killed in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945,[f] against Vrba's figure of 2.5 million, which he insisted decades later was correct.[68] Yad Vashem places the figure at 1.2 million.[g]

Hungarian Jews[edit]

Rough ground plan of Auschwitz II, showing the area under construction, from the Vrba–Wetzler report (1944)

According to Vrba, a German kapo and former trade unionist by the name of Yup told him, on 15 January 1944, that he was part of a group of prisoners building a new railway line to lead straight into the crematoria. Yup said he had overheard from an SS officer that a million Hungarian Jews would soon arrive and that the old ramp could not handle the numbers.[70] In addition Vrba heard directly, courtesy of drunk SS guards, he wrote, that they would soon have Hungarian salami. When Dutch Jews arrived, they brought cheese; likewise there were sardines from the French Jews, and halva and olives from the Greeks. Now it was Hungarian salami.[71] Vrba wrote: "I believed that if I could escape and spread the news of the fate awaiting potential candidates for 'resettlement', I could make some significant difference. I felt that I might undermine one of the principle foundations—the secrecy of the operation—upon which the success of the mass-murder process rested."[72]

Vrba had been thinking of escape for two years but was now determined. A Russian captain, Dmitri Volkkov, advised him: he would need Russian tobacco soaked in petrol, then dried, to fool the dogs; a watch, which he could use as a compass; matches to make food; and salt, because salt and potatoes would be nutrition enough.[73] Vrba began studying the layout of the camps. Both Auschwitz I and II consisted of inner camps where the prisoners slept, surrounded by a six-yard-wide trench full of water and high-voltage barbed-wire fences. The area was lit at night and guarded by the SS in watch towers. When a prisoner was reported missing, the guards searched for three days and nights. He reasoned that the key to a successful escape would be to remain hidden just outside the inner perimeter until the search was called off.[74]

His first escape was planned for 26 January 1944 with Charles Unglick, a French Army captain, but the rendezvous did not work out; Unglick tried to escape alone and was killed. The SS left his body on display for two days, seated on a stool.[75] An earlier group of escapees had been killed and mutilated with dumdum bullets, then placed in the middle of Camp D with a sign reading "We're back!".[76]

Czech family camp[edit]

On 6 March 1944 Vrba heard that the Czech family camp was about to be sent to the gas chambers.[77] The Czech group had arrived from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in September 1943, around 5,000 of them, including women and children. In contrast, most women with children were killed immediately in Auschwitz; correspondence found after the war between Adolf Eichmann's office and the International Red Cross suggested that the Germans set up the family camp as a model for a planned Red Cross visit to Auschwitz.[78] The group was housed in relatively good conditions in block BIIb near the main gate, although in the six months they were held there 1,000 died despite the better conditions.[79] They did not have their heads shaved, and the children were given lessons and access to better food, including milk and white bread.[80]

After warning Fredy Hirsch, supervisor of the group's children's barracks,[81] that they were about to be killed, Vrba urged him to organize an uprising, but Hirsch died shortly thereafter of a barbiturate overdose, possibly by his own hand.[82] On 7 March, according to the Vrba–Wetzler report, the group of 3,791 was gassed, except for 11 twins kept alive for medical experiments.[77] A week before the gassing, the group had been told to write postdated postcards to relatives, explaining how they were doing and asking for food parcels.[83] On or around 20 December 1943 a second Czech family group was placed in quarantine, so Vrba assumed that they would be killed in June 1944.[84]

Escape[edit]

Vrba resolved again to escape. In Birkenau he had encountered an acquaintance from Trnava, Alfréd Wetzler (prisoner no. 29192), who had arrived in Auschwitz on 13 April 1942 and was working in the mortuary,[85] and together they hatched a plan. Wearing Dutch suits, overcoats, and boots they had taken from "Canada", at 14:00 on Friday, 7 April 1944—the eve of Passover—they climbed inside a hollowed-out space they had prepared in a pile of wood stacked between the camp's inner and outer perimeter fences, in section BIII in a construction area in Auschwitz-Birkenau known as "Meksyk" ("Mexico"). They sprinkled the area with Russian tobacco soaked in gasoline, as advised by Dmitri Volkkov. Two Polish prisoners moved the planks back in place once they were hidden.[86]

According to Wetzler, they carried notes about the camp hidden inside two metal tubes, including a sketch of the crematorium produced by a Russian prisoner, Wasyl, and part of a label of a Zyklon B cannister acquired from Filip Müller, another Jewish inmate from Slovakia. One of the tubes contained data about the transports. During the escape they lost some of the notes and the sketch. According to Vrba, they took no notes and wrote the Vrba–Wetzler report from memory.[87] In 1984 he told John Conway that he had used "personal memotechnical methods" to remember the statistics.[88]

Kárný writes that at 20:33 on 7 April SS-Sturmbannführer Fritz Hartjenstein, the Birkenau commander, learned by teleprinter that two Jews were missing.[89] The Gestapo at Auschwitz sent telegrams with descriptions to the Reich Main Security Office in Berlin, district commanders, and others.[90] The men hid in the wood pile for three nights and throughout the fourth day; they knew from escape attempts by others that the guards would search for three days.[91] According to Wetzler's memoir, they tied strips of flannel across their mouths and tightened them to muffle coughing.[92] At 9 pm on 10 April, they crawled out of the wood pile and, using a map they'd taken from "Canada", headed south toward Slovakia 130 kilometres (81 mi) away, walking parallel to the Soła river.[93]

Vrba–Wetzler report[edit]

Walking to Slovakia[edit]

Escape route
Map of Vrba and Wetzler's escape,
Auschwitz to Žilina, 9–25 April 1944

Martin Gilbert

According to Henryk Swiebocki of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, local people, including members of the Polish underground who lived near the camp, did what they could to help escapees.[94] Vrba wrote that there was no organized help for them on the outside. At first the men avoided contact with other people, moving only at night; they ate bread they'd taken from Auschwitz and drank water from streams. On 13 April, finding themselves lost in Bielsko-Biala, they knocked reluctantly on the door of a farmhouse, and a Polish woman agreed to take them in for a day. Feeding them bread, potato soup and ersatz coffee, she explained that most of the area had been "Germanized" and that Poles helping Jews risked death.[95]

After leaving her, they continued following the river; every so often, a Polish woman would drop half a loaf of bread near them. They were shot at on 16 April by German gendarmes but managed to lose them. Two other Poles helped them with food and a place to stay, until they finally crossed the Polish–Slovakian border near Skalité on 21 April 1944.[96] By this time, Vrba's feet were so swollen he had had to cut off his boots, and was walking in a pair of slippers one of the Polish peasants had given him.[97]

A peasant family in Skalité took them in for a few days, fed and clothed them, then put them in touch with a Jewish doctor in nearby Čadca, Dr. Pollack. Vrba had met Pollack before, in a transit camp in Nováky.[98] Pollack had a contact in the Slovak Judenrat (Jewish Council, Ústredńa Żidov or UZ), which ran an underground group known as the "Working Group" (Pracovná Skupina), and he arranged for them to send people from Bratislava to meet the men.[99] Pollack was distressed to learn the probable fate of his parents and siblings, who had been deported from Slovakia to Auchwitz in 1942.[100]

Writing the report[edit]

diagram
Sketch from the English-language version of the Vrba–Wetzler report. Prepared by Vrba in Žilina on 25 April 1944, the sketch shows, on the left, Auschwitz I, the DAW, Siemens and Krupp factories (the Canada facilities were next to DAW), and on the right, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with four gas chambers and crematoria.[101]

Vrba and Wetzler spent the night in Čadca in the home of a relative of the rabbi Leo Baeck, and over the next two days in Žilina met members of the Judenrat, including its chairman, Dr. Oskar Neumann, a lawyer, on 25 April.[102] Neumann placed the men in different rooms in a former old people's home and interviewed them separately over three days. Vrba began by sketching the layout of Auschwitz I and II, and the position of the ramp in relation to the camps. He described the camps' internal organization; how Jews were being used as slave labour for Krupp, Siemens, IG Farben and DAW; and the mass murder in gas chambers of those chosen for Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment"), including the destruction of the Czech family camp in March 1944.[103]

The report was written and re-written several times over two or three days. Wetzler wrote the first part, Vrba the third, and they wrote the second part together. They then re-wrote it six times. Neumann's aide, Oscar Krasniansky, an engineer and stenographer (who later took the name Oskar Isaiah Karmiel), translated it from Slovak into German, as it was being written, with the help of Gisela Steiner. The original Slovak version is lost.[104] The report was completed by Thursday, 27 April 1944; according to Vrba, it was also translated at that point into Hungarian.[105]

diagram
Layout of the crematoria, Vrba–Wetzler report

The report contains a detailed description of the geography and management of the camps; how the prisoners lived and died; and the transports that had arrived at Auschwitz since 1942, their place of origin, and the numbers "selected" for work or the gas chambers.[106] According to Kárný, the report describes the camp "with absolute accuracy", including its construction, installations, security, the prisoner number system, the categories of prisoner, the diet and accommodation, as well as the gassings, shootings and injections. It provides details known only to prisoners, including, for example, that discharge forms were filled out for prisoners who were gassed, indicating that death rates in the camp were actively falsified. Although presented by two men, it was clearly the product of many prisoners, including the Sonderkommando working in the gas chambers.[107]

It also contains sketches and information about the layout of the gas chambers, and states that there were four crematoria in operation, each of which contained a gas chamber and furnace room. It estimates the total capacity of the four gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz to be 6,000 daily.[108]

The unfortunate victims are brought into hall where they are told to undress. To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued by two men clad in white coats. They are then crowded into the gas chamber in such numbers there is, of course, only standing room.

To compress this crowd into the narrow space, shots are often fired to induce those already at the far end to huddle still closer together. When everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then there is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature to rise to a certain level, after which SS men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labeled 'CYKLON For use against vermin', which is manufactured by a Hamburg concern.[h]

In a sworn deposition for the trial of SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann in 1961, and in his book I Cannot Forgive (1964), Vrba said that he and Wetzler had obtained the information about the gas chambers and crematoria from Sonderkommando Filip Müller and his colleagues who worked there. Müller confirmed this in his Eyewitness Auschwitz (1979).[109] Auschwitz scholar Robert Jan van Pelt wrote in 2002 that the description contains errors, but that given the circumstances, including the men's lack of architectural training, "one would become suspicious if it did not contain errors".[110]

Deportations continue[edit]

Hungarian Jews from the Tét ghetto on the Judenrampe, Auschwitz-Birkenau, May–July 1944

Arnost Rosin (prisoner no. 29858) and Czesław Mordowicz (prisoner no. 84216) escaped from Auschwitz on 27 May 1944 and arrived in Slovakia on 6 June, the day of the Normandy landings. Hearing about the invasion of Normandy and believing the war was over, they got drunk to celebrate, using dollars they had smuggled out of Auschwitz. They were promptly arrested for violating the currency laws, and spent eight days in prison before the Judenrat paid their fines.[111]

Rosin and Mordowicz already knew Vrba and Wetzler; Vrba wrote that anyone who survived more than a year in Auschwitz was a senior member of the "old hands Mafia".[112] On 15 June Rosin and Mordowicz were interviewed by Oscar Krasniansky, the engineer who had translated the Vrba–Wetzler report into German. They told him that, between 15 and 27 May 1944, 100,000 Hungarian Jews had arrived at Birkenau; most were killed on arrival.[113] Vrba concluded that the Vrba–Wetzler report had been suppressed.[114] The Rosin-Mordowicz report was later combined with the Vrba–Wetzler report and Polish Major's report to become the Auschwitz Protocols.[115] Mordowicz was arrested again in Bratislava and ended up back inside Auschwitz, but the SS did not recognize him and both he and Rosin survived the war.[116]

Distribution[edit]

Europe, 1939–1945, showing the major concentration camps

Vrba and Wetzler shared a rented apartment for a time in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš, Slovakia, where they kept a copy of the Vrba-Wetzler report, in Slovak, hidden behind a picture of the Virgin Mary. They made clandestine copies with the help of a friend, Josef Weiss of the Bratislava Office for the Prevention of Venereal Disease, and handed them out to Jews in Slovakia with contacts in Hungary, for translation into Hungarian.[117] The dates on which the report was distributed became a matter of importance within Holocaust historiography. Vrba alleged that lives were lost because Jewish leaders, particularly Rudolf Kastner[118] of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee (Vaada), had not distributed it quickly enough.[119] The committee had organized safe passage for Jews into Hungary before the German invasion, and thereafter sought to help them escape the deportations.[120] According to Randolph L. Braham, Jewish leaders were slow to distribute the report, fearful of causing panic.[121]

Oscar Krasniansky of the Slovak Judenrat, who translated the report into German as Vrba and Wetzler were writing and dictating it, said after the war that he had handed the report to Rudolf Kastner at the end of April 1944, during the latter's visit to Bratislava. There are apparently three statements from Krasniansky about this.[122] One said that he gave Kastner the report on 28 April;[123] another dated it to 26 April. The report was not completed until 27 April, but Krasniansky may have passed on an early draft. (Hansi Brand, Kastner's lover and the wife of Joel Brand, said that Kastner was not in Bratislava until August.[124]) It is clear in any event from Kastner's post-war statements, Bauer writes, that he did have early access to the report.[125]

According to Braham, Kastner had a copy by 3 May, when he paid a visit to Kolozsvár (Cluj), his home town, but it was not until the second half of June 1944 that Jewish leaders in Hungary began to distribute it to government and church leaders.[121] Reverend József Éliás, head of the Good Shepherd Mission in Hungary, said he had received the report by late April or early May from Géza Soós, a Hungarian Foreign Ministry official and leading member of the Hungarian Independence Movement, a resistance group.[126] Bauer believes that Kastner (or possibly Otto Komoly, leader of the Vaada) gave Soós the report.[127] Éliás's secretary, Mária Székely, translated it into Hungarian and prepared six copies. These copies made their way to several Hungarian and church officials, including Miklós Horthy's daughter-in-law, Countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai.[128] Braham writes that this distribution occurred before 15 May.[129]

Kastner's reasons for not distributing the report further are unknown. Vrba argued until the end of his life that Kastner withheld it in order not to jeopardize negotiations between the Vaada and Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of the transport of Jews out of Hungary. As the Vrba–Wetzler report was being written, Eichmann had proposed to the Vaada in Budapest that the SS trade up to one million Hungarian Jews for 10,000 trucks and other goods from the Western Allies. The proposal came to nothing, but Kastner collected donations to pay the SS to allow over 1,600 Jews to leave Budapest for Switzerland on what became known as the Kastner train. In Vrba's view, Kastner suppressed the report in order not to alienate the SS.[130]

The Hungarian biologist George Klein was shown the report as a teenager in 1944 while working as a junior secretary for the Judenrat in Síp Street, Budapest. In late May or early June, his boss, Dr. Zoltán Kohn, told him that two Jews had escaped from one of the major camps; he showed Klein a carbon copy of the Vrba–Wetzler report in Hungarian and said he should tell only his closest family and friends.[131] Klein had heard Jews mention the term Vernichtungslager (extermination camp), but it had seemed like a myth. "I immediately believed the report because it made sense," he wrote in 2011. "Nothing else made sense. The dry, factual, nearly scientific language, the dates, the numbers, the maps and the logic of the narrative coalesced into a solid and inexorable structure."[132] Klein told his uncle, a well-known physician, who nearly hit him and asked how Klein could believe such nonsense: "I and others in the building in Síp Street must have lost our minds under the pressure." It was the same with other relatives and friends: middle-aged men with property and family did not believe it, while the younger ones wanted to act. In October that year, when the time came for Klein to board a train to Auschwitz, he ran instead.[133]

Report arrives in Switzerland[edit]

The report was first published in Geneva, in German, on 17 May 1944 as Tatsachenbericht über Auschwitz und Birkenau by Abraham Silberschein of the World Jewish Congress.[134] Florian Manoliu of the Romanian Legation in Bern took the report to Switzerland and gave it to George Mantello, a Jewish businessman from Transylvania, who was working as the first secretary of the El Salvador consulate in Geneva. It was thanks to Mantello that the report received, in the Swiss press, its first wide coverage.[135] According to David Kranzler, Mantello asked the Swiss-Hungarian Students' League to make 50 mimeographed copies of the Vrba–Wetzler report and two shorter Auschwitz reports (jointly known as the Auschwitz Protocols), which by 23 June 1944 he had distributed to the Swiss government and Jewish groups. The students made thousands of copies, which were passed to other students and MPs.[136] Around 383 articles about Auschwitz appeared in the Swiss press between 23 June and 11 July.[114] According to Michael Fleming, "[t]his figure exceeds the number of articles published about the Holocaust during the entire war in The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Manchester Guardian and the whole of the British popular press."[137]

On 19 June Richard Lichtheim of the Jewish Agency in Geneva, who had received a copy of the report from Mantello, cabled the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to say that they knew "what has happened and where it has happened", and reported the Vrba–Wetzler figure that 90 per cent of Jews arriving at Birkenau were being killed.[138] At the request of the Slovakian Judenrat,[139] Vrba and Czesław Mordowicz (one of the 27 May escapees), along with a translator and Oscar Krasniasnky, met Vatican Swiss legate Monsignor Mario Martilotti at the Svätý Jur monastery on 20 June.[140] Martilotti had seen the report and questioned Vrba about it for six hours;[141] according to Vrba, Martilotti cried.[142] Possibly as a result of that meeting, on 25 June Pope Pius XII sent a telegram directly to Miklós Horthy asking him to ensure that "the sufferings ... endured by a large number of unfortunate people, because of their nationality or race, may not be extended or aggravated".[143] Also at the Judenrat's request, Vrba and Mordowicz met Michael Dov Weissmandl, an Orthodox rabbi and one of the leaders of the Bratislava Working Group,[144] who asked what could be done:

We explained to him ... that once [the Jews] are surrounded on the ramp [at Auschwitz], there is nothing that can be done. ... The only thing to do is to explain to them that they are not going into a settlement camp, that they should not board the trains, that they should not obey orders, that they should run away wherever they can. They should be hunted down like deer, not slaughtered like pigs.[145]

Weissmandl also wanted to know what should be done militarily. Hoping he had some influence, Vrba explained that the railway lines into Birkenau should be bombed.[146] (Weissmandl first suggested this on 16 May 1944 in a message to the American Orthodox Jewish Rescue committee.)[147] Vrba wrote about the incongruity of visiting Weissmandl at his Yeshiva: "The visibility of Yeshiva life in the center of Bratislava, less than 150 miles south of Auschwitz, was in my eyes a typical piece of Goebbels–inspired activity as well as both a tragic and comic deception. There—before the eyes of the world—the pupils of Rabbi Weissmandel could study the rules of Jewish ethics while their own sisters and mothers were being murdered and burned in Birkenau."[146]

News coverage, deportations halted[edit]

Details from the Vrba–Wetzler report began to appear elsewhere in the media. On 4 June 1944 the New York Times reported on the "cold-blooded murder" of Hungary's Jews.[148] On 16 June the Jewish Chronicle in London ran a story by Isaac Gruenbaum of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem with the headline "Bomb death camps"; the writer had clearly seen the Vrba–Wetzler report.[149] Also on 16 June the BBC's German service reported the murder in March of the Czech family camp, and mentioned the second Czech group the Vrba–Wetzler report indicated would be killed on or around 20 June, with a warning that "[a]ll those responsible for such massacres from top downwards will be called to account."[150] A 22-line story on page five of the New York Times, "Czechs report massacre", reported on 20 June that 7,000 Jews had been "dragged to gas chambers in the notorious German concentration camps at Birkenau and Oświęcim [Auschwitz]".[151] On 26 June the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that 100,000 Hungarian Jews had been executed in gas chambers in Auschwitz. The BBC repeated this on the same day but omitted the name of the camp.[152]

Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy ordered an end to the deportations on 7 July 1944.[153]

The following day the Manchester Guardian published two articles; the first said that Polish Jews were being gassed in Auschwitz and the second that information about Hungarian Jews being killed "has lately become more substantial".[154] Daniel Brigham, the New York Times correspondent in Geneva, published a story on 3 July, "Inquiry Confirms Nazi Death Camps", with the subtitle "1,715,000 Jews Said to Have Been Put to Death by the Germans up to April 15", and on 6 July a second, "Two Death Camps Places of Horror; German Establishments for Mass Killings of Jews Described by Swiss".[155] According to Fleming, the BBC Home Service mentioned Auschwitz as an extermination camp for the first time on 7 July. It said that over "four hundred thousand Hungarian Jews [had been] sent to the concentration camp at Oświęcim" and that most were killed in gas chambers; it added that the camp was the largest concentration camp in Poland and that gas chambers had been installed in 1942 that could kill 6,000 people a day. Fleming writes that the report was the last of nine on the 9 pm news.[156]

Several appeals were made to Horthy, including by the Swiss government, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gustaf V of Sweden and, on 25 June, Pope Pius XII.[157] On 26 June Richard Lichtheim of the Jewish Agency in Geneva sent a telegram to England calling on the Allies to hold members of the Hungarian government personally responsible for the killings. The cable was intercepted by the Hungarian government and shown to Prime Minister Döme Sztójay, who passed it to Horthy.[158] The following day John Clifford Norton, a British diplomat in Bern, cabled the British government with suggestions for action—apparently at Lichtheim's urging—which included bombing government buildings in Budapest.[159] On 2 July American and British forces did bomb Budapest, killing 500[14] and dropping leaflets warning that those responsible for the deportations would be held to account after the war.[160] Horthy ordered an end to the mass deportations on 7 July, and they stopped two days later.[158] That the Germans had used gas chambers was confirmed on 23 July 1944, when the Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin, Poland, was captured by Soviet soldiers, with its gas chambers intact and 820,000 shoes.[161]

War Refugee Board publication[edit]

The Vrba–Wetzler report received widespread coverage in the United States and elsewhere when John Pehle of the US War Refugee Board issued a 25,000-word press release on 25 November 1944,[162] including a full version of the report and a preface calling it "entirely credible".[4][163] Entitled The Extermination Camps of Auschwitz (Oświęcim) and Birkenau in Upper Silesia, the release included the 33-page Vrba–Wetzler report; a six-page report from Arnost Rosin and Czesław Mordowicz, who escaped from Auschwitz on 27 May 1944; and the 19-page "Polish Major's report", written in December 1943 by a Polish escapee, Jerzy Tabeau.[1] Jointly the three reports came to be known as the Auschwitz Protocols.[164]

The Washington Times Herald said the press release was "the first American official stamp of truth to the myriad of eyewitness stories of the mass massacres in Poland",[165] while the New York Herald Tribune called the Protocols "the most shocking document ever issued by a United States government agency".[4] Pehle passed a copy to Yank magazine, an American armed-forces publication, but the story, by Sergeant Richard Paul, was turned down as "too Semitic"; the magazine did not want to publish it, they said, because of "latent antisemitism in the Army".[166] In June Pehle had urged John J. McCloy, US assistant secretary of war, to bomb Auschwitz, but McCloy had said it was "impracticable". After the publication of the Protocols he tried again. McCloy replied that the camp could not be reached by bombers stationed in France, Italy or the UK, which meant that heavy bombers would have to fly to Auschwitz, a journey of 2,000 miles, without an escort. McCloy told him: "The positive solution to this problem is the earliest possible victory over Germany."[167]

After the report[edit]

Resistance activities[edit]

After dictating the report in April 1944, Vrba and Wetzler stayed in Liptovský Mikuláš for six weeks, and continued to make and distribute copies of the report with the help of a friend, Joseph Weiss. Weiss worked for the Office for Prevention of Venereal Diseases in Bratislava and allowed copies to be made in the office.[168] The Judenrat gave Vrba papers in the name of Rudolf Vrba, showing Aryan ancestry going back three generations,[c] and supported him financially to the tune of 200 Slovak crowns a week, equivalent to an average worker's salary; Vrba wrote that it was "sufficient to sustain me in an illegal life in Bratislava". On 29 August 1944 the Slovak Army rose up against the Nazis and the reestablishment of Czechoslovakia was announced. Vrba joined the Slovak partisans in September 1944 and was later awarded the Czechoslovak Medal of Bravery.[169][52]

Auschwitz was liberated by the 28th and 106th corps of the 1st Ukrainian Front of the Red Army on 27 January 1945; 1,200 prisoners were found in the main camp and 5,800 in Birkenau. The SS had tried to destroy the evidence, but the Red Army found what was left of four crematoria, as well as 5,525 pairs of women's shoes, 38,000 pairs of men's, 348,820 men's suits, 836,225 items of women's clothing, large numbers of carpets, utensils, toothbrushes, glasses and dentures, and seven tons of hair.[170]

Marriage and education[edit]

External image

In 1945 Vrba met up with a childhood friend, Gerti Sidonovi from Tvrnava. They both wanted to study for degrees, so they took courses set up by Czechoslovakia's Department of Education for those who had missed out on schooling because of the Nazis. They moved after that to Prague, where they married in 1947; Sidonovi took the surname Vrbová, the female version of Vrba. She graduated in medicine, then went into research.[171] In 1949 Vrba obtained a degree in chemistry (Ing. Chern.) from the Czech Technical University in Prague, and in 1951 he received his doctorate (Dr. Tech. Sc.) for a thesis entitled "On the metabolism of butyric acid".[172] The couple had two daughters: Helena (1952–1982)[173] and Zuzana (b. 1954).[174] Vrba undertook post-doctoral research at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, where he received his C.Sc. in 1956. From 1953 to 1958 he worked for Charles University Medical School in Prague.[172] His marriage ended around this time.[175]

Defection to Israel, move to England[edit]

With the marriage over, Vrba and Vrbová both defected, him to Israel and her to England with the children. She fell in love with an Englishman and was able to defect after being invited to an academic conference in Poland. Unable to obtain visas for her children, she returned illegally to Czechoslovakia and walked her children back over the mountains to Poland. From there they flew to Denmark with forged papers, then to London.[176]

In 1957 Vrba became aware, when he read Gerald Reitlinger's The Final Solution (1953), that the Vrba–Wetzler report had been distributed and had saved lives; he had heard something about this in or around 1951, but Reitlinger's book was the first confirmation.[177] The following year he received an invitation to an international conference in Israel, and while there he defected too.[52] For the next two years, he worked at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.[178][172] He said later that he had not been able to continue living in Israel because the same men who had, in his view, betrayed the Jewish community in Hungary were now in positions of power there.[52] In 1960 he moved to England, where he worked for two years in the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit in Carshalton, Surrey, and seven years for the Medical Research Council.[179] He became a British subject by naturalization on 4 August 1966.[180]

Eichmann and Mulka trials, book publication[edit]

Adolf Eichmann during his trial in Jerusalem, 1961

On 11 May 1960 Adolf Eichmann was captured by the Mossad in Buenos Aires and taken to Jerusalem to stand trial. (He was sentenced to death in December 1961.) Vrba was not called to testify because the Israeli Attorney General had apparently wanted to save the expense.[181] Because Auschwitz was in the news, Vrba contacted the Daily Herald in London,[182] and one of their reporters, Alan Bestic,[183] wrote up his story, which was published in five installments over one week, beginning on 27 February 1961 with the headline "I Warned the World of Eichmann's Murders."[182] In July 1961 Vrba submitted an affidavit to the Israeli Embassy in London, stating that, in his view, 2.5 million had died in Auschwitz, plus or minus 10 percent; the affidavit explained how he had arrived at the figure.[184]

In 1964 Vrba testified against Robert Mulka of the SS at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, telling the court that he had seen Mulka on the Judenrampe at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The court found that Vrba "made an excellent and intelligent impression" and would have been particularly observant at the time because he was planning to escape. It ruled that Mulka had indeed been on the ramp, and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.[185]

Following the Herald articles, Bestic helped to write Vrba's memoir, I Cannot Forgive (1963), also published as Factory of Death (1964). Bestic's writing style was criticized; reviewing the book, Mervyn Jones wrote that it has the flavour of "the juicy bit on page 63" and excites where it should appall.[186] The book was published in German (1964), French (1988), Dutch (1996), Czech (1998) and Hebrew (1998);[172] it was republished in English in 1989 as 44070: The Conspiracy of the Twentieth Century and in 2002 as I Escaped from Auschwitz.[187]

Move to Canada, Zündel trial[edit]

Claude Lanzmann interview
Interviewing Rudolf Vrba,
New York, November 1978

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Vrba moved to Canada in 1967, where he worked for the Medical Research Council of Canada from 1967 to 1973,[172] becoming a Canadian citizen in 1972. From 1973 to 1975 he was a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, focusing on cancer research, where, in 1974, he met his second wife, Robin Vrba,[188] originally from Fall River, MA.[189] They married in 1975 and returned to Vancouver, where she became a real-estate agent and he an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia. He worked there until the early 1990s, publishing over 50 research papers on the chemistry of the brain, diabetes and cancer.[188]

Vrba testified in January 1985, along with Raul Hilberg, at the seven-week trial in Toronto of German Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel, which ended with Zündel's conviction for knowingly publishing false material about the Holocaust.[190][191][192] Zündel's lawyer, Doug Christie, tried to undermine Vrba by arguing that his knowledge of the gas chambers was secondhand.[193] According to Vrba's deposition for Eichmann's trial in 1961,[194] he obtained information about the gas chambers and crematoria from Sonderkommando Filip Müller and others who worked there, something that Müller confirmed in 1979.[109] Christie asked whether he had seen anyone gassed. Vrba replied that he had watched people being taken into the buildings and had seen SS officers throw in gas canisters after them: "Therefore, I concluded it was not a kitchen or a bakery, but it was a gas chamber. It is possible they are still there or that there is a tunnel and they are now in China. Otherwise, they were gassed."[190]

In the spring of 1987 the Swedish–Hungarian biochemist George Klein, who read the Vrba–Wetzler report in 1944 in Budapest and escaped rather than board one of the trains, travelled to Vancouver to thank Vrba, writing about the meeting in an essay, "The Ultimate Fear of the Traveler Returning from Hell" (1992).[195] Klein had seen Vrba for the first time in Claude Lanzmann's film Shoah (1985). He disagreed with Vrba about Kastner; he had seen Kastner at work and viewed him as a hero. He told Vrba how he had tried himself, in the spring of 1944, to convince others in Budapest of the report's veracity, but no one had believed him, which inclined him to the view that Vrba was wrong to argue that the Jews would have acted had they known about the death camps. Vrba said that Klein's experience illustrated his point: distributing the report via informal channels had lent it no authority.[196]

Klein asked Vrba how he could function in the pleasant, somewhat provincial atmosphere of the University of British Columbia, where no one had any concept of what he had been through. Vrba told him about a colleague who had seen him in Lanzmann's film and asked whether what the film had discussed was true. Vrba replied: "I do not know. I was only an actor reciting my lines." "How strange," the colleague replied. "I didn't know that you were an actor. Why did they say that film was made without any actors?"[197] Klein wrote:

Only now did I understand that this was the same man who lay quiet and motionless for three days in the hollow pile of lumber while Auschwitz was on maximum alert, only a few yards from the armed SS men and their dogs combing the area so thoroughly. If he could do that, then he certainly could also don the mask of a professor and manage everyday conversation with his colleagues in Vancouver, Canada, that paradise land that is never fully appreciated by its own citizens, a people without the slightest notion of the planet Auschwitz. Neither the children of paradise nor the children of hell can dissociate themselves altogether from their own worlds.[198]

Death[edit]

Vrba's fellow escapee, Alfréd Wetzler, died in Bratislava, Slovakia, on 8 February 1988. Wetzler was the author of Escape From Hell: The True Story of the Auschwitz Protocol (2007), first published as Čo Dante nevidel (1963) under the pseudonym Jozef Lánik.

Vrba died of cancer, aged 81, on 27 March 2006 in hospital in Vancouver.[188] He was survived by his first wife, Gerta Vrbová; his second wife, Robin Vrba; his daughter, Zuza Vrbová Jackson; and his grandchildren, Hannah and Jan.[52][179][188] He was pre-deceased by his elder daughter, Dr. Helena Vrbová, who died in 1982 in Papua New Guinea during a malaria research project.[173] Robin Vrba made a gift of Vrba's papers to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in New York.[199]

Reception[edit]

Documentaries, books, annual walk[edit]

Several documentaries have told Vrba's story, including Genocide (1973), directed by Michael Darlow for ITV in the UK, and Auschwitz and the Allies (1982), directed by Rex Bloomstein and Martin Gilbert for the BBC. Claude Lanzmann interviewed Vrba in November 1978, in New York's Central Park, for Lanzmann's nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah (1985).[200] He told Lanzmann:

Claude Lanzmann interviewed Vrba in 1978 for the documentary Shoah (1985)[200]

Constantly, people from the heart of Europe were disappearing and they were arriving to the same place with the same ignorance of the fate of the previous transport. ... I knew of course that within a couple of hours after they arrived there, ninety percent would be gassed or something like that. ... Somehow in my thinking it was difficult for me to comprehend that people can disappear in this way. And nothing is going to happen, and then there comes the next transport, and they don't know anything about what happened to the previous transport, and this is going on for months, on and on.[201]

Vrba was also featured in Witness to Auschwitz (1990), directed by Robin Taylor for the CBC in Canada; Auschwitz: The Great Escape (2007) for the UK's Channel Five; and Escape From Auschwitz (2008) for PBS in the United States. George Klein, the Hungarian-Swedish biologist who read the Vrba–Wetzler report in Budapest as a teenager, and who escaped rather than board a train to Auschwitz, wrote an essay about his meeting with Vrba decades later in Canada, "The Ultimate Fear of the Traveller Returning from Hell", published in Klein's book Pietà (MIT Press, 1992).[195] In 2001 Mary Robinson, then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Vaclav Havel, then President of the Czech Republic, established the "Rudy Vrba Award" for films in the "right to know" category.[179][202] In 2014 the Vrba–Weztler Memorial began organizing an annual 130-km, five-day walk from the "Mexico" section of Auschwitz, where the men hid for three days, to Žilina, Slovakia, following the route they took.[203]

Vrba's place in Holocaust historiography was the focus of Ruth Linn's Escaping Auschwitz: A Culture of Forgetting (Cornell University Press, 2004). The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies at the City University of New York held an academic conference in April 2011 to discuss the Vrba–Wetzler and other Auschwitz reports, resulting in a book, The Auschwitz Reports and the Holocaust in Hungary (Columbia University Press, 2011), edited by Randolph L. Braham and William vanden Heuvel.[199] In 2014 the British historian Michael Fleming reappraised the impact of the Vrba–Wetzler report in Auschwitz, the Allies and Censorship of the Holocaust (Cambridge University Press, 2014).[204]

Awards[edit]

The University of Haifa awarded Vrba an honorary doctorate in 1998 at the instigation of Ruth Linn,[205] with support from Yehuda Bauer.[206] For having fought during the Slovak National Uprising, Vrba was awarded the Czechoslovak Medal for Bravery, the Order of Slovak National Insurrection (Class 2), and the Medal of Honor of Czechoslovak Partisans.[207] In 2007 he received the Order of the White Double Cross, 1st class, from the Slovak government.[208] British historian Martin Gilbert supported an unsuccessful campaign in 1992 to have Vrba awarded the Order of Canada.[209] Similarly, Bauer proposed unsuccessfully that Vrba be awarded an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University.[206]

Dispute about Hungarian Jews[edit]

Vrba is clear in his memoir that warning the Hungarian community was one of the motives for his escape. In January 1944, he wrote, a kapo told him the Germans were building a new railway line to bring the Jews of Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau.[210] Historians have disputed this because there is no mention of Hungarian Jews in the Vrba–Wetzler report.[211] Miroslav Kárný argued in 1998 that, long after the war was over, Vrba wanted to testify about the deportations out of a sense of longing, to force the world to face the magnitude of the Nazis' crimes, and that this desire led to a degree of embellishment.[212] Randolph L. Braham has also questioned Vrba's later recollections, although neither Kárný nor Braham doubt the veracity of the Vrba–Wetzler report.[213]

According to the Vrba–Wetzler report, a large compound was being built at Auschwitz: "Work is now proceeding on a still larger compound which is to be added later on to the already existing camp. The purpose of this extensive planning is not known to us." It also stated: "When we left on April 7, 1944 we heard that large convoys of Greek Jews were expected."[214] Vrba's statement that he had escaped to warn Hungarian Jews was first published on 27 February 1961, in the first installment of a five-article series for the Daily Herald in England, written up by a journalist, Alan Bestic. In the second installment, the following day, Vrba described having overheard the SS say they were looking forward to Hungarian salami, a reference to the provisions the Hungarian Jews could be expected to bring.[215]

Dr. Oskar Neumann, head of the Judenrat in Slovakia, whose interviews with Vrba and Wetzler in April 1944 helped to form the Vrba–Wetzler report, wrote in his memoir in 1946 (published in 1956) that the men had indeed mentioned Hungarian salami: "These chaps did also report that recently an enormous construction activity had been initiated in the camp and very recently the SS often spoke about looking forward to the arrival of Hungarian salami."[216] Vrba wrote that the original Slovak version of the Vrba–Wetzler report, some of which he wrote by hand, may have referred to the imminent Hungarian deportations. That version of the report did not survive; it was the German translation that was copied around the world. Vrba wrote that he had argued strongly for the inclusion of the Hungarian deportations, but he recalled Oscar Krasniansky, who translated the report into German, saying that only actual deaths should be recorded, not speculation, to lend the report maximum credibility. He could not recall which argument prevailed.[217]

Vrba's allegations[edit]

Negotiations with the SS[edit]

photograph
Rudolf Kastner (1906–1957)

The Vrba–Wetzler report was not distributed widely until June–July 1944, weeks after Vrba's escape in April.[141] Between 15 May and 9 July 1944, 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz, most killed on arrival. Arguing that they would have run or fought had they known they were being sent to their deaths, or at least that any panic would have slowed down the transports, Vrba alleged that the Hungarian and Slovakian Jewish Councils, and specifically the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee (chiefly Rudolf Kastner and Joel Brand) and the Bratislava Working Group (Gisi Fleischmann and Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl), had held back the Vrba–Wetzler report to avoid jeopardizing a series of complex, and mostly futile, negotiations with Adolf Eichmann and other SS officers to exchange Jews for money and goods.[218]

Vrba argued that these proposals were not real; the SS was merely placating the Jewish leadership to get them on side and to avoid panic and rebellion within the larger community.[219] He referred to the Jewish leaders as "quislings" who were essential to the smooth running of the deportations.[220] "Would anyone have got me alive to Auschwitz if I had had this information?" he wrote. "Would thousands and thousands of able-bodied Jewish men have sent their children, wives, mothers to Auschwitz from all over Europe, if they knew?"[221]

Part of a series of articles on
the Holocaust
Blood for goods
Auschwitz entrance.JPG

In one proposal, known as "blood for goods", Eichmann told members of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee (the Vaada) that he would exchange up to one million Jews for 10,000 trucks and other goods from the US or UK.[222] Eichmann first met Joel Brand on 25 April 1944 to propose the deal.[223] Shortly thereafter, Rudolf Kastner, the Vaada's most prominent member, received a copy of the Vrba–Wetzler report, possibly in German; the report was completed on 27 April.[224]

Vrba alleged that Kastner, in collaboration with Eichmann, was allowed to buy the escape of over 1,600 Hungarian Jews, in exchange for allowing the mass deportations to continue unimpeded.[225] The escapees left Budapest on 30 June 1944 on what became known as the Kastner train, headed for Switzerland (arriving in August and December because of an unexpected stop in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany). The Vaada saw the train as a Noah's Ark; its passengers were Zionists, Orthodox Jews, scholars, farmers, bankers, nurses and teachers, including 388 people from Kastner's home town of Cluj, his family, and 200 children, some of them orphans.[226] Kastner, who became a press officer after the war for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Israel,[227] was assassinated in Tel Aviv in 1957 following a ruling by Judge Benjamin Halevy, overturned in part by the Supreme Court of Israel in 1958, that he had collaborated with the SS, saving his friends and family instead of warning the community.[228]

Responses[edit]

In the view of Yehuda Bauer, by the time the Vrba–Wetzler report had been prepared, it was too late for anything to alter the Nazis' deportation plans.[229] Arguing that Vrba's "wild attacks on Kastner and on the Slovak underground are ahistorical",[206] he writes that many survivors share Vrba's view "and it is patently wrong." The Jews in Hungary knew about the mass murder in Poland, he argues, even if they did not know the particulars about Auschwitz. Even if they had seen the Vrba–Wetzler report, they would have been forced onto the trains by guards with weapons and dogs.[230] Bauer also cautions about the need to distinguish between the receipt of information and its "internalization": "During the Holocaust, countless individuals received information and rejected it, suppressed it, or rationalized about it, were thrown into despair without any possibility of acting on it, or seemingly internalized it and then behaved as though it had never reached them."[231] Vrba, in response, alleged that Bauer was one of the Israeli historians who, in defence of the Israeli establishment, had downplayed Vrba's place in Holocaust historiography.[232]

Michael Fleming argued in 2014 against the view that Hungarian Jews had sufficient access to information. After the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, the British government's Political Warfare Executive (PWE) had directed the BBC's Hungarian Service to run Allied warnings to the German government about the deportation of people (Jews were not mentioned).[233] The London-based Jewish Chronicle ran a story on 7 April 1944 headlined "Zero hour in Hungary", and on 28 April the headline: "300,000 Hungarian Jews arrested—the hideous process begins". But on 13 April the PWE decided against broadcasting warnings directly to Hungarian Jews on the grounds that it would "cause unnecessary alarm" and that "they must in any case be only too well-informed of the measures that may be taken against them".[234][i] Fleming writes that this was a mistake: the Germans had tricked the Jewish community into thinking they were being sent to Poland to work.[234] The first mention of extermination camps in the PWE's directives to the BBC's Hungarian Service came on 8 June 1944.[237]

According to Randolph L. Braham, writing in 2011, by the time the Vrba–Wetzler report was available, the Jews of Hungary were in a helpless state: "marked, hermetically isolated, and expropriated". In northeastern Hungary and Carpatho-Ruthenia, the women, children and elderly were living in crowded ghettos, in unsanitary conditions and with little food, while the younger men were in military service in Serbia and the Ukraine. There was nothing they could have done to resist, Braham argues, even if they had known about the report.[238]

Vrba was criticized in 2001 in a collection of articles in Hebrew, Leadership under Duress: The Working Group in Slovakia, 1942–1944, by a group of Israeli activists and historians, including Bauer, with ties to the Slovak community. The introduction, written by a survivor, refers to the "bunch of mockers, pseudo-historians and historians" who argue that the Bratislava Working Group collaborated with the SS, a "baseless" allegation that ignores the constraints under which the Jews in Slovakia and Hungary were living. Vrba (referred to as "Peter Vrba") is described as "the head of these mockers", although the introduction makes clear that his heroism is "beyond doubt". It concludes: "We, Czechoslovakian descendants, who personally experienced [the war] cannot remain silent in face of these false accusations."[239]

The dispute stems in part from the tension between what Linn calls survivor and expert discourse.[240] Vrba often dismissed the opinion of historians, arguing that they did not know enough about Auschwitz.[241] Bauer referred to Vrba's memoir as "not a memoir in the usual sense", alleging that it "contains excerpts of conversations of which there is no chance that they are accurate and it has elements of a second-hand story that does not necessarily correspond with reality". When writing about his personal experiences, Vrba's account is an important and true one, Bauer wrote, but he argued that Vrba was not justified in viewing himself as an expert.[206]

Vrba's place in Holocaust historiography[edit]

In Vrba's view, Israeli historians tried to erase his name from Holocaust historiography because of his views about Kastner and the Hungarian and Slovak Jewish Councils, some of whom went on to hold prominent positions in Israel. When Linn first tried to visit Vrba in British Columbia, he practically "chased her out of his office", according to Uri Dromi, saying he had no interest in "your state of the Judenrats and Kastners".[205]

Linn wrote in 2004 that Vrba's and Wetzler's names had been omitted from Hebrew textbooks, or their contribution minimized: standard histories refer to the escape by "two young Slovak Jews", "two chaps", and "two young men", and represent them as emissaries of the Polish underground in Auschwitz.[242] Dr. Oskar Neumann of the Slovak Jewish Council, who interviewed Vrba and Wetzler in April 1944 for the report, referred to them in his memoir as "these chaps"; Oskar Krasniansky, who translated the report into German, mentioned them only as "two young people" in his deposition for the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961. There was also a tendency to refer to the Vrba–Wetzler report as the Auschwitz Protocols, which is a combination of the Vrba–Wetzler and two other reports. The 1990 edition of the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, published by Yad Vashem in Israel, did name Vrba and Wetzler, but in the 2001 edition they are "two Jewish prisoners".[243]

Vrba's memoir was not translated into Hebrew until 1998, 35 years after its publication in English. As of that year, there was no English or Hebrew version of the Vrba–Wetzler report at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, an issue the museum attributed to lack of funding. There was a Hungarian translation, but it did not note the names of its authors and, Linn wrote, could be found only in a file that dealt with Rudolf Kastner.[244] Linn herself, born and raised in Israel and schooled at the prestigious Hebrew Reali School, first learned about Vrba when she watched Claude Lanzmann's film Shoah (1985), for which Vrba was interviewed.[245] In 1998 she polled 594 students at the University of Haifa, either third-year undergraduates or first-year graduate students; 98 percent said that no one had ever escaped from Auschwitz, and the remainder did not know the escapees' names.[246] This failure to acknowledge Vrba has played into the hands of Holocaust deniers, who have tried to undermine his testimony about the gas chambers.[247][205]

In 2005 Uri Dromi of the Israel Democracy Institute responded that there were at least four Israeli books on the Holocaust that mention Vrba, and that Wetzler's testimony is recounted at length in Livia Rothkirchen's Hurban yahadut Slovakia ("The Destruction of Slovak Jewry"), published by Yad Vashem in 1961. Robert Rozett, head librarian at Yad Vashem and author of the entry on the "Auschwitz Report" in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, said of the Vrba controversy in 2005: "There are people who come into the subject from a certain angle and think that they've uncovered the truth. A historian who deals seriously with the subject understands that the truth is complex and multifaceted."[205]

Selected works[edit]

Holocaust

  • (1998). "Science and the Holocaust", Focus, University of Haifa (edited version of Vrba's speech when he received his honorary doctorate).
  • (1997). "The Preparations For The Holocaust In Hungary: An Eyewitness Account", in Randolph L. Braham, Attila Pok (eds.). The Holocaust in Hungary. Fifty years later. New York: Columbia University Press, 227–285.
    • (1998). "The Preparations For The Holocaust In Hungary: An Eyewitness Account", in Randolph L. Braham, Scott Miller (eds.). The Nazis' Last Victims: The Holocaust in Hungary. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 55–102.
  • (1996). "Die Missachtete Warnung. Betrachtungen über den Auschwitz-Bericht von 1944". Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 44(1), 1–24. JSTOR 30195502
  • (1992). "Personal Memories of Actions of SS-Doctors of Medicine in Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau)", in Charles G. Roland et al. (eds.). Medical Science without Compassion, Past and Present. Hamburg: Hamburger Stiftung für Sozialgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts. OCLC 34310080
  • (1989). "The Role of Holocaust in German Economy and Military Strategy During 1941–1945", Appendix VII in I Escaped from Auschwitz, 431–440.
  • (1966). "Footnote to the Auschwitz Report", Jewish Currents, 20(3), 27.
  • (1963) with Alan Bestic. I Cannot Forgive. London: Sidgwick and Jackson.
    • (1964) with Alan Bestic. Factory of Death. London : Transworld Publishers.
    • (1989) with Alan Bestic. 44070: The Conspiracy of the Twentieth Century. Bellingham, WA: Star & Cross Publishing House.
    • (2002). I Escaped from Auschwitz. London: Robson Books.

Academic research

  • (1975) with E. Alpert, and K. J. Isselbacher. "Carcinoembryonic antigen: evidence for multiple antigenic determinants and isoantigens". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 72(11), November 1975, 4602–4606. PMID 53843 PMC 388771
  • (1974) with A. Winter; L. N. Epps. "Assimilation of glucose carbon in vivo by salivary gland and tumor". American Journal of Physiology, 226(6), June 1974, 1424–1427.
  • (1972) with A. Winter. "Movement of (U- 14 C)glucose carbon into and subsequent release from lipids and high-molecular-weight constituents of rat brain, liver, and heart in vivo"]. Canadian Journal of Biochemistry, 50(1), January 1972, 91–105. PMID 5059675
  • (1970) with Wendy Cannon. "Molecular weights and metabolism of rat brain proteins". Biochemical Journal, 116(4), February 1970, 745–753. PMID 5435499 PMC 1185420
  • (1968) with Wendy Cannon. "Gel filtration of [U-14C]glucose-labelled high-speed supernatants of rat brains"]. Journal of Biochemistry, 109(3), September 1968, 30P. PMID 5685853 PMC 1186863
  • (1967). "Assimilation of glucose carbon in subcellular rat brain particles in vivo and the problems of axoplasmic flow". Journal of Biochemistry, 105(3), December 1967, 927–936. PMID 16742567 PMC 1198409
  • (1966). "Effects of insulin-induced hypoglycaemia on the fate of glucose carbon atoms in the mouse". Journal of Biochemistry, 99(2), May 1966, 367–380. PMID 5944244 PMC 265005
  • (1964). "Utilization of glucose carbon in vivo in the mouse". Nature, 202, 18 April 1964, 247–249. PMID 14167775
  • (1963) with H. S. Bachelard; J. Krawcynski. "Interrelationship between glucose utilization of brain and heart". Nature, 197, 2 March 1963, 869–870. PMID 13998012
  • (1962) with H. S. Bachelard, et al. "Effect of reserpine on the heart". The Lancet, 2(7269), 22 December 1962, 1330–1331. PMID 13965902
  • (1962) with M. K. Gaitonde; D. Richter. "The conversion of the glucose carbon into protein in the brain and other organs of the rat". Journal of Neurochemistry, 9(5), September 1962, 465–475. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.1962.tb04199.x PMID 13998013
  • (1962). "Glucose metabolism in rat brain in vivo". Nature, 195 (4842), August 1962, 663–665. doi:10.1038/195663a0 PMID 13926895
  • (1961) with Kunjlata Kothary. "The release of ammonia from rat brain proteins during acid hydrolysis". Journal of Neurochemistry, 8(1), October 1961, 65–71. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.1961.tb13527.x
  • (1959) with Jaroslava Folbergrova. "Observations on endogenous metabolism in brain in vitro and in vivo". Journal of Neurochemistry 4(4), October 1959, 338–349. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.1959.tb13215.x
  • (1958) with Jaroslava Folbergrova. "Endogenous Metabolism in Brain Cortex Slices". Nature, 182, 26 July 1958, 237–238. doi:10.1038/182237a0
  • (1957) with Jaroslava Folbergrova, V. Kanturek. "Ammonia Formation in Brain Cortex Slices". Nature, 179(4557), March 1957, 470–471. doi:10.1038/179470a0 PMID 13577795
  • (1956). "On the participation of ammonia in cerebral metabolism and function". Review of Czechoslovak Medicine, 3(2), 81–106. PMID 13466187
  • (1955). "Significance of glutamic acid in metabolic processes in the rat brain during physical exercise". Nature, 176(4496), 31 December 1955, 1258–1261. PMID 13321878
  • (1955). "A source of ammonia and changes of protein structure in the rat brain during physical exertion". Nature, 176(4472), 16 July 1955, 117–118. PMID 13244627
  • (1955). "Effect of physical stress on metabolic function of the brain. III. Formation of ammonia and structure of proteins in the brain". Chekhoslovatskaia Fiziologila., 4(4), 397–408 (in German). PMID 13330105
  • (1954) with Arnošt Kleinzeller, Jiři Málek. Manometrické metody a jejich použití v biologii a biochemii. Prague: Státní Zdravotnické Nakladatelství ("State Health Publishing").

Sources[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The British historian Michael Fleming tracked over 40 pieces of source data from November 1942 to early July 1944 that discussed what was happening to the Jews in Auschwitz, and which produced 50 distinct pieces of distributed data (e.g. news reports).[5]
    Several prisoners had escaped from Auschwitz before Vrba and Wetzler. Three or four prisoners, including Kazimierz Piechowski, another Pole, escaped on 20 June 1942 and reported what was happening inside the camp. Kazimierz Halori, also from Poland, escaped on 2 November 1942.[6] A report entitled Obóz śmierci ("Death camp") was published in Warsaw in December 1942 by Natalia Zarembina, a member of the Polish underground who had escaped.[7]
    On 10 December 1942 Edward Raczyński, Foreign Affairs Minister for the Polish government-in-exile, delivered an address, The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland, to the fledging United Nations. It estimated that, out of a pre-war population of 3,130,000 Jews in Poland, one in three were already dead.[8]

    According to Raul Hilberg, a two-part report on Auschwitz was prepared in August or December 1943 by a female Polish agent. It concluded: "History knows no parallel of such destruction of human life." The report included details about the gas chambers, "selection", and the sterilization experiments. It stated that there were 137,000 inmates, three crematoria in Birkenau able to burn 10,000 people daily, and that 468,000 Jews had been gassed by September 1942; 30,000 people had been gassed in one day. It estimated that just two percent of those who arrived between September 1942 and early June 1943 had survived. The report was sent to the Office of Strategic Services in London and, on 17 March 1944, to US War Department Military Intelligence.[9]

  2. ^ Braham (2011): "[F]rom May 15 through July 9, close to 440,000 of the Jews of Hungary were deported to Auschwitz–Birkenau, where most of them were murdered soon after their arrival. By July 9, when Horthy's decision to halt the deportations took effect and Raoul Wallenberg arrived on his rescue mission, all of Hungary (with the notable exception of Budapest) had become judenrein."[16]
  3. ^ a b Rudolf Vrba (1998): "[A]fter our escape from Auschwitz, in view of the fugitive warrants we presumed had been issued, we of course used different names—I picked the name Rudolf Vrba (a not uncommon name in Czechoslovakia). I subsequently retained this name as my 'nom de guerre', and had the change of name legalized as soon as a normal legal system was reestablished in Czechoslovakia after the defeat of the Nazis. Meanwhile, in April 1944 in Zilina, the Slovak Jewish Council provided me with a set of fake documents of excellent quality which showed that I, Rudolf Vrba, was certified as a 'pure Aryan' for three generations back ..."[19]
  4. ^ Henryk Świebocki (1998): "At the end of February 1942 an agreement for the deportation of Slovakian Jews to the east was concluded between Germany and the fascist government of Slovakia. The Jews were collected in five holding camps in the towns of Sereď, Bratislava, Nováky, Poprad and Žilina."[25]
  5. ^ According to Piper, 1,095,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz, and 960,000 were killed (nearly 88 percent). Of the 520,000 deportees who arrived between April 1942 and April 1944, at least 450,000 were killed.[65]
  6. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: "The best estimates of the number of victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, including the killing center at Auschwitz-Birkenau, between 1940 and 1945 are: Jews (1,095,000 deported to Auschwitz, of whom 960,000 died); Poles (147,000 deported, of whom 74,000 died); Roma (23,000 deported, of whom 21,000 died); Soviet prisoners of war (15,000 deported and died); and other nationalities (25,000 deported, of whom 12,000 died)."[67]
  7. ^ Yad Vashem: "In Auschwitz-Birkenau, more than 1,100,000 Jews, 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) and some 15,000 prisoners of war from the USSR and other countries were murdered."[69]
  8. ^ Vrba–Wetzler report (April 1944): "At present there are four crematoria in operation at BIRKENAU, two large ones, I and II, and two smaller ones, III and IV. Those of type I and II consist of 3 parts, i.e.,: (A) the furnace room; (B) the large halls; and (C) the gas chamber. A huge chimney rises from the furnace room around which are grouped nine furnaces, each having four openings. Each opening can take three normal corpses at once and after an hour and a half the bodies are completely burned. This corresponds to a daily capacity of about 2,000 bodies. Next to this is a large 'reception hall' which is arranged so as to give the impression of the antechamber of a bathing establishment. It holds 2,000 people and apparently there is a similar waiting room of the floor below.
    "From there a door and a few steps lead down into the very long and narrow gas chamber. The walls of this chamber are also camouflaged with simulated entries to shower rooms in order to mislead the victims. This roof is fitted with three traps which can be hermetically closed from the outside. A track leads from the gas chamber to the furnace room. The gassing takes place as follows:
    "The unfortunate victims are brought into hall where they are told to undress. To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued by two men clad in white coats. They are then crowded into the gas chamber in such numbers there is, of course, only standing room.
    "To compress this crowd into the narrow space, shots are often fired to induce those already at the far end to huddle still closer together. When everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then there is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature to rise to a certain level, after which SS men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labeled 'CYKLON For use against vermin', which is manufactured by a Hamburg concern.
    "It is presumed that this is a 'CYANIDE' mixture of some sort which turns into gas at a certain temperature. After three minutes everyone in the chamber is dead. No one is known to have survived this ordeal, although it was not uncommon to discover signs of life after the primitive measures employed in the Birch Wood.

    "The chamber is then opened, aired, and the 'special squad' carts the bodies on flat trucks to the furnace rooms where the burning takes place. Crematoria III and IV work on nearly the same principle, but their capacity is only half as large. Thus the total capacity of the four cremating and gassing plants at BIRKENAU amounts to about 6,000 daily."[108]

  9. ^ George Hall, parliamentary under-secretary of state for foreign affairs, wrote to Alexander Easterman [journalist, lawyer and representative of the World Jewish Congress] on 2 May 1944 (Fleming (2014), 220): "As we agreed in conversation on 13 April it seems superfluous to inform the Jewish population in Hungary in wireless broadcasts from this country what they should do to seek refuge ... we feel we have done all that we can in the present circumstances and think it inadvisable to make any reference to Riegner's report [Gerhart Riegner, World Jewish Congress][235] which, even if entirely reliable (and this may unfortunately be the case), would surely only cause unnecessary alarm amongst the Jews of Hungary who must in any case be only too well informed of the measures which may be taken against them and against which they will presumably take such measures as they are able."[236]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The Extermination Camps of Auschwitz (Oświęcim) and Birkenau in Upper Silesia" (PDF). War Refugee Board. 26 November 1944. pp. 1–33. 

    Also see "The Auschwitz Protocol: The Vrba–Wetzler Report" (PDF). Vrba–Wetzler Memorial. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2018. 

  2. ^ Hilberg (2003), 1213.
  3. ^ Ritchie, Méabh (22 January 2015). "The man who revealed the horror of Auschwitz to the world". The Daily Telegraph.

    "Rudolf Vrba Memorial Lecture 2014", University of British Columbia, 21 March 2014.

  4. ^ a b c Lipstadt (1993), 264.
  5. ^ Fleming (2014), 266.
  6. ^ Szabó (2011), 87.
  7. ^ Szabó (2011), 87, citing Zarembina, Natalia (2005). Auschwitz: Obóz śmierci. Warszawa: Wydawn. Originally published as Obóz śmierci, 1942, and The camp of death. London: Liberty Publications, 1944. See "Auschwitz: obóz śmierci ...". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  8. ^ Zimmerman (2015), pp. 181–182.
  9. ^ Hilberg (2003), 1212–1213; also see Breitman (1989), 86.
  10. ^ Kárný (1998), 554.
  11. ^ Kranzler (2000), 104.
  12. ^ Vrba (2002), 279–282.
  13. ^ Fleming (2014), 238–246.
  14. ^ a b Yahil (1991), 638–639.
  15. ^ Bauer (1997), 194, for 437,000 deported from the provinces; Bauer (1994), 156, for 437,000 deported to Auschwitz between 14 May and 7 July, according to German figures.
    Bauer (1994), 233, for "probably close to 200,000" Jews remaining in Budapest; also see Bauer (1994), 156: "[w]hat was left were the 250,000 Budapest Jews".
  16. ^ Braham (2011), 45.
  17. ^ Vrba (2002), 445.
  18. ^ Vrba (1998), 86.
  19. ^ Vrba (1998), 82.
  20. ^ Vrba (2002), 13, 445.
  21. ^ Kubátová (2014), 513.
  22. ^ Vrba (2002), 14–15, 59.
  23. ^ Vrbová (2006), 17, 166.
  24. ^ Vrba (2002), 15.
  25. ^ Świebocki (2002), 169.
  26. ^ Tönsmeyer (2005), 662.
  27. ^ Vrba (2002), 13–14, 16–17.
  28. ^ Vrba (2002), 22–29, 38–39 (for the socks and beating); for "arrested for being Jewish", see "About the author", 445.
  29. ^ Vrba (2002), 56.
  30. ^ Vrba (2002), 56, 63–64.
  31. ^ For Berufsverbrecher, see Vrba (2002), 387.
  32. ^ Vrba (2002), 57.
  33. ^ Vrba (2002), 61.
  34. ^ Vrba (2002), 62, 64.
  35. ^ Vrba (2002), 66.
  36. ^ Świebocki (2002), 29.
  37. ^ Vrba (2002), 71.
  38. ^ Vrba (2002), 78–79.
  39. ^ Vrba (2002), 82–83.
  40. ^ Vrba (2002), 3, 85.
  41. ^ Vrba (2002), 86–90, 93, 97.
  42. ^ Vrba (2002), 2; for Himmler's visit, also see Longerich (2012), 573.
  43. ^ Vrba (2002), 4.
  44. ^ Gilbert (1990), 194.
  45. ^ a b Vrba (1998), 63.
  46. ^ Vrba (1998), 64.
  47. ^ a b Vrba (1961), 366.
  48. ^ Lanzmann (1995), 112–113.
  49. ^ Strzelecki (1998), 250–251; Vrba (1978), 03:25:06.
  50. ^ Vrba (1978), 03:23:30; Strzelecki (1998), 250–251.
  51. ^ Vrba (2002), 90–91; Vrba (1998), 65, 96, n. 11; Vrba (1978), 03:25:40.
  52. ^ a b c d e "Rudolf Vrba". The Daily Telegraph. 12 April 2006. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. 
  53. ^ Vrba (1998), 59; van Pelt (2011), 144.
  54. ^ Vrba (2002), 160, 165–166.
  55. ^ Vrba (1978), 04:05:04; Vrba (2002), 184.
  56. ^ Vrba (1978), 04:05:04; Vrba (1998), 66; Vrba (2002), 184; Świebocki (2002), 30; Gilbert (1990), 194.
  57. ^ Vrba (2002), 186
  58. ^ Gilbert (1990), 194;Vrba (2002), 184.
  59. ^ Vrba (1978), 4:06:23; Vrba (1998), 66–67.
  60. ^ Vrba (1978), 02:01:28.
  61. ^ Vrba (1998), 63.
  62. ^ Vrba (1998), 67.
  63. ^ Vrba & Wetzler (1944), 33; Vrba (1998), 96–97, n. 12; Piper (1998), 63.
  64. ^ Vrba (1961), 368.
  65. ^ a b van Pelt (2011), 121, citing Piper, Franciszek (1993). Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz. Oswiecim: Verlag Staatliches Museum in Oswiecim, tables D, 29 and 31.
  66. ^ Vrba & Wetzler (1944), 33; Vrba (1961), 368.
  67. ^ "Auschwitz", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  68. ^ Vrba (1961), 368;Vrba (1998), 80.
  69. ^ "Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp", Yad Vashem.
  70. ^ Vrba (1998), 58, 68.
  71. ^ Vrba (1998), 56, 69–70; also see Vrba (1996), 4; Vrba (2002), 206–207; Gilbert (1990), 194.
  72. ^ Vrba (1998), 70.
  73. ^ Vrba (2002), 214.
  74. ^ Vrba (2002), 211.
  75. ^ Vrba (2002), 219, 222–225.
  76. ^ Vrba (2002), 218.
  77. ^ a b Vrba & Wetzler (1944), 16–17; Vrba (1978), 04:06:54; Vrba (2002), 191, 198–205.
  78. ^ Keren (1998), 429.
  79. ^ Keren (1998), 428; Vrba (1978), 04:06:23; Vrba (1998), 80.
  80. ^ Keren (1998), 431; Vrba (1978), 04:14:08.
  81. ^ Vrba (1978), 04:16:50, 04:27:20.
  82. ^ Vrba (2002), 200–202;Hilberg (1995), 176.
  83. ^ Gilbert (1998), 549; Gilbert (1998), 549.
  84. ^ Vrba (1998), 80; Gilbert (1998), 549; Fleming (2014), 231.
  85. ^ Vrba (2002), 391; Conway (2002), 293; for the date of arrival, see Kárný (1998), 554.
  86. ^ Vrba (1998), 74; Vrba (2002), 237, 241; Gilbert (1990), 196; Świebocki (2002), 31; Wetzler (2007), 108 (in Wetzler's book, Wetzler is "Karol" and Vrba is "Val").
  87. ^ Świebocki (2002), 38, n. 25, citing notes from Wetzler in APMO (Auschwitz Museum archives) and personal correspondence with Vrba. For the data in metal tubes, see Kárný (1998), 564, n. 7.
  88. ^ Kárný (1998), 564, n. 7.
  89. ^ Kárný (1998), 553.
  90. ^ Kulka (1985), 300.
  91. ^ Świebocki (2002), 31.
  92. ^ Wetzler (2007), 124.
  93. ^ Vrba (2002), 392–394.
  94. ^ Świebocki (2002), 12.
  95. ^ Vrba (1998), 74–77; also see Kulka (1985), 300; Gilbert (1999), 127; Vrba (2002), 253–260.
  96. ^ Vrba (1998), 74–77; Vrba (2002), 255–260.
  97. ^ Vrba (2002), 258–259.
  98. ^ Vrba (1998), 77; Vrba (2002), 260–263.
  99. ^ Vrba (1998), 78–79; for Ústredńa Żidov, see Paldiel (2017), 101, and "Jewish Center, Slovakia", Yad Vashem.

    For the "Working Group", see Fatran & Greenwood (1994), 166, and for Pracovná Skupina, see Braham (2011), 40.

  100. ^ Vrba (1998), 78–79.
  101. ^ Vrba (1998), 62.
  102. ^ Vrba (1998), 79; Vrba (2002), 262; Szabó (2011), 97; also see Rothkirchen (1989), 674.
  103. ^ Vrba (1998), 79–80.
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  212. ^ Kárný (1998), 559.
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  215. ^ Braham (2011), 46–47.
  216. ^ Bogdanor (2017), 28, n. 34; Linn (2004), 57; Vrba (1998), 100, n. 46; and Vrba (1996), 19–20, n. 32, citing Neumann, Oskar (1956). Im Schatten des Todes. Tel Aviv: Olamenu, 178–181, and notes 21 and 27.
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  220. ^ Vrba (2002), 282.
  221. ^ Rubinstein (2002), 209.
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  223. ^ Fleming (2014), 230–231.
  224. ^ Bauer (1994), 156.
  225. ^ Vrba (1978), 09:23:23
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  227. ^ Segev (2000), 257.
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  247. ^ Linn (2004), 61.

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Further reading[edit]

External links

Books and articles

"A Survivor of the Holocaust". The Harvard Crimson. 2 May 1974. Archived from the original on 11 September 2018. 
Berenbaum, Michael (14 October 2004). "Righteous Anger Fuels 'Auschwitz'". Jewish Journal. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 January 2006. 
Conway, John S. (1979). "Frühe Augenzeugenberichte aus Auschwitz—Glaubwürdigkeit und Wirkungsgeschichte" (PDF). Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. 27 (2): 260–284. 
Conway, John S. (1984). "Der Holocaust in Ungarn. Neue Kontroversen und Überlegungen" (PDF). Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. 32 (2): 179–212. 
Fleming, Michael (2014). "Allied Knowledge of Auschwitz: A (Further) Challenge to the 'Elusiveness' Narrative". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 28 (1): 31–57. doi:10.1093/hgs/dcu014. 
Kasztner, Rezső (1946). Der Bericht des jüdischen Rettungskomitees aus Budapest, 1942–1945. Basel: Va'a'dat Ezra Vo-Hazalah. Also published as The Kasztner Report: The Report of the Budapest Jewish Rescue Committee, 1942-1945. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. OCLC 934651095
Linn, Ruth (Spring 2001). "Naked Victims, Dressed-up Memory: The Escape from Auschwitz and the Israeli Historiography". Israel Studies Bulletin. 16(2): 21–25. JSTOR 41805451
Linn, Ruth (December 2003). "Genocide and the Politics of Remembering: The Nameless, the Celebrated and the Would-Be Holocaust Heroes". Journal of Genocide Research. 5(4): 565–586. doi:10.1080/1462352032000149503
Linn, Ruth (13 April 2006). "Rudolf Vrba". The Guardian.
Linn, Ruth (2011). "Rudolf Vrba and the Auschwitz reports: Conflicting Historical Interpretations". In Braham, Randolph L.; Vanden Heuvel, William. The Auschwitz Reports and the Holocaust in Hungary. New York: Columbia University Press. 
Rose, Hilary and Rose, Steven (25 April 2006). "Letter: Rudolf Vrba", The Guardian.
Vrba, Rudolf (14 April 2006). "The one that got away". The Guardian (extract from I Escaped from Auschwitz).
Wetzler, Alfred (as Jožko Lánik) (1945). "Oswiecim, hrobka štyroch miliónov l'udí". Košice: Vyd. OCLC 22143212 and OCLC 664734464
Wetzler, Alfréd (as Jozef Lánik) (1964). Čo Dante nevidel. Bratislava: Osveta. OCLC 833945571
Wetzler, Alfréd (as Jozef Lánik); Mehnert, Erich (1964). Was Dante nicht sah. Roman. Berlin: Verlag der Nation. OCLC 65468990
Wetzler, Alfréd (2006). Escape From Hell: The True Story of the Auschwitz Protocol. Oxford: Berghahn Books. OCLC 173880038