Rudolf Vrba & the Deportation of Hungarian Jews; attacked by Both Sides

Peter Myers, February 9, 2009; update February 25, 2011.

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Rudolf Vrba & the Deportation of Hungarian Jews; attacked by Both Sides

Rudolf Vrba was not the first escapee from Auschwitz to try to warn the world about what was happening; but he was the first to be believed. His report led to the first BBC & NYT news about the Nazi Holocaust.

Vrba says that his primary purpose in escaping was to head off the imminent Deportation of Hungarian Jews; workers in Auschwitz had tipped him off (at risk to their own lives) about preparations to receive them.

His initial report was written in Slovakian; he says he referred to the Hungarian Jews there; but the German translation omitted that part, on the basis that the outside world would give weight to facts - what had already happened - rather than speculation about what WOULD happen.

Alerts were sent to the Pope, and to Kastner and other Hungarian Jewish leaders. At the time, Hungary was under German occupation and its leader, Admiral Horthy, felt squeezed between Hitler on one side and the encroaching Allies on the other.

Vrba says he wanted Hungarian Jewish leaders to publicly expose what "resettlement in the East" meant, so that hundreds of thousands would refuse to board the trains.

Kastner was bargaining with Eichmann for the safety of a few select Jews, allowed to take a train to Switzerland and proceed to Palestine; the price of this deal was payment in gold and foreign currency, and not alerting the other Jews to their impending fate.

Vrba and Lenni Brenner later accused Kastner of collaborating with the Nazis. The Israeli Supreme Court exonerated him of this, on the basis that it was better to save a few - otherwise the lot might have perished - but he was assassinated anyway.

After the war, Vrba refused to use the German name 'Walter Rosenberg' by which he was known in Auschwitz; instead he used his Slovakian name 'Rudolf Vrba'. In his subsequent books about his experiences at Auschwitz, he used his Slovakian name 'Vrba' in the text rather than his German name 'Rosenberg'.

Vrba was called as a witness in the first Zundel trial, and cross-examined by the Revisionist side on this substitution of names. Vrba admitted to "poetic licence" in this matter.

For this, the Revisionists brand him a liar and dismiss all his testimony.

I think that the name change and substitution is perfectly reasonable. The matter is a trifle.

Vrba estimated the number of Jews killed by keeping tally of the number of trains arriving. His total is higher than that accepted by Raul Hilberg and Yehuda Bauer. They dismiss him and he dismisses them.

So he's attacked by all sides - the Zionists and the Israeli establishment, who defend Kastner - and the Revisionists, who don't like his revelations about Auschwitz.

But I think Vrba comes out ahead of his critics. As for his numbers, that issue is not of great importance to me.

(1) Witold Pilecki, a non-Jewish Pole, the first to alert outside world about Auschwitz; but not believed (2) Rudolf Vrba's report on Auschwitz leads to first BBC & NYT news about Nazi Holocaust (3) Vrba-Wetzler report aimed at saving Hungarian Jews; Hitler's ultimatum to Horthy (4) Kastner's collaboration with Eichmann - saving a few Hungarian Jews at the expense of the rest - Lenni Brenner (5) The Vrba-Wetzler Report on Auschwitz (6) The Preparations for the Holocaust in Hungary, by Rudolf Vrba (7) Vrba's Testimony at the first Zundel trial (1985) (8) Faurisson says Vrba is #1 witness but admits "poetic license" ie errors & lies (9) Vrba "a liar" on account of "poetic licence"

(1) Witold Pilecki, a non-Jewish Pole, the first to alert outside world about Auschwitz; but not believed

Witold Pilecki was born in Poland in 1901. When the German Army invaded the country in September, 1939, Pilecki joined the Tajna Armia Polska, the Secret Polish Army.

When Pilecki discovered the existence of Auschwitz, he suggested a plan to his senior officers. Pilecki argued he should get himself arrested and sent to the concentration camp. He would then send out reports of what was happening in the camp. Pilecki would also explore the possibility of organizing a mass break-out.

Pilecki's colonel eventually agreed and after securing a false identity as Tomasz Serafinski, he arranged to be arrested in September, 1940. As expected he was sent to Auschwitz where he became prisoner 4,859. His work consisted of building more huts to hold the increased numbers of prisoners.

Pilecki soon discovered the brutality of the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) guards. When one man managed to escape on 28th October 1940, all the prisoners were forced to stand at attention on the parade-ground from noon till nine in the evening. Anyone who moved was shot and over 200 prisoners died of exposure. Pilecki was able to send reports back to the Tajna Armia Polska explaining how the Germans were treating their prisoners. This information was then sent to the foreign office in London.

In 1942 Pilecki discovered that new windowless concrete huts were being built with nozzles in their ceilings. Soon afterwards he heard that that prisoners were being herded into these huts and that the nozzles were being used to feed cyanide gas into the building. Afterwards the bodies were taken to the building next door where they were cremated.

Pilecki got this information to the Tajna Armia Polska who passed it onto the British foreign office. This information was then passed on to the governments of other Allied countries. However, most people who saw the reports refused to believe them and dismissed the stories as attempts by the Poles to manipulate the military strategy of the Allies.

In the autumn of 1942, Jozef Cyrankiewicz, a member of the Polish Communist Party, was sent to Auschwitz. Pilecki and Cyrankiewicz worked closely together in organizing a mass breakout. By the end of 1942 they had a group of 500 ready to try and overthrow their guards.

Four of the inmates escaped on their own on 29th December, 1942. One of these men, a dentist called Kuczbara, was caught and interrogated by the Gestapo. Kuczbara was one of the leaders of Pilecki's group and so when he heard the news he realized that it would be only a matter of time before the SS realized that he had been organizing these escape attempts.

Pilecki had already arranged his escape route and after feigning typhus, he escaped from the hospital on 24th April, 1943. After hiding in the local forest, Pilecki reached his unit of the Tajna Armia Polska on 2nd May. He returned to normal duties and fought during the Warsaw Uprising in the summer of 1944. Although captured by the German Army he was eventually released by Allied troops in April, 1945.

After the Second World War Pilecki went to live in Poland. The Polish Secret Police had him executed in 1948. It is believed that this was a result of his anti-communist activities.

(2) Rudolf Vrba's report on Auschwitz leads to first BBC & NYT news about Nazi Holocaust

Rudolf Vrba

Rudolf 'Rudi' Vrba, born Walter Rosenberg (September 11, 1924 ­ March 27, 2006), was a professor of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia. He came to public attention in 1944 when, in April that year, he and a friend, Alfr...d Wetzler, escaped from the Auschwitz concentration camp and passed information to the Allies about the mass murder that was taking place there.[1] The 32 pages of information that the men dictated to horrified Jewish officials in Slovakia became known as the Vrba-Wetzler report. It was the first detailed information about the camp to reach the Allies that they accepted as credible.[2]

Details from the report were broadcast on June 15, 1944 by the BBC, and on June 20 by The New York Times, prompting world leaders to appeal to Hungarian regent Mikl"s Horthy to halt the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, which had been proceeding at a rate of 12,000 a day.[3] [4] After 475,000 had already been deported, the mass deportations were stopped on July 9, 1944, saving up to 200,000 Jews from the gas chambers; most of them survived the Holocaust, although many died in massacres and death marches.

The timing of the report's distribution remains a source of significant controversy. It was made available to officials in Hungary and elsewhere before the deportations to Auschwitz had begun,[3] but was not further disseminated until weeks later. Vrba believed that more lives could have been saved if it had been publicized sooner, reasoning that, had Hungary's Jews known they were to be killed in the gas chambers - and not resettled, as the Nazis were telling them - they might have chosen to run or fight rather than board the trains.[ ...

{photo caption} Professor Yehuda Bauer calls Vrba one of the "Heroes of the Holocaust," but also says he is "not credible," as well as "embittered and furious." {end}

Vrba was criticized in 2001 in a series of articles - Leadership under Duress: The Working Group in Slovakia, 1942­1944 - edited by a group of leading Israeli historians with ties to the Slovak community, including Yehuda Bauer, Hanna Yablonka, Gila Fatran, and Livia Rothkirchen. The introduction by Giora Amir refers to those who argue that the Slovakian Jewish Council may have collaborated with the Nazis, as "a bunch of mockers and pseudo-historians ..." ...

The tension between what Ruth Linn calls the "survivor discourse" and the "expert discourse" lies at the heart of this criticism of Vrba. ... For his part Vrba often dismissed the opinion of Holocaust historians; for example, regarding the number of people killed at Auschwitz, he said "Yehuda Bauer simply doesn't know what he's talking about, but with his impressive title, he thinks he can throw around figures without doing any research. Hilberg and Bauer don't know enough about the history of Auschwitz or the Einsatzgruppen."[83] ...

Czech historian Miroslav Kárny ... argues that, although Vrba and Wetzler did not, in his view, have advance warning of the imminent Hungarian Endloesung, Vrba later - long after the war was over - wanted to testify about it out of a longing to force the world to face the magnitude of the Nazis' crimes. ...

This page was last modified on 19 January 2009, at 04:20. ==

(3) Vrba-Wetzler report aimed at saving Hungarian Jews; Hitler's ultimatum to Horthy

Vrba-Wetzler report

The Vrba-Wetzler report, also known as the Vrba-Wetzler statement, the Auschwitz Protocols, and the Auschwitz notebook, is a 32-page document about the German Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland during the Holocaust. It was written by hand and dictated in Slovak between April 25 and April 27, 1944 by Rudolf Vrba and Alfr...d Wetzler, two Slovakian Jews who had escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, and typed up in the form of a report by Dr. Oscar Krasniansky of the Slovak Judenrat, or Jewish Council, who simultaneously translated it into German.

The report represents one of the first attempts to estimate the numbers of people being killed in the camp. Copies of it are held in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in the Hudson River Valley, New York, in the Vatican archives, and at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.[1]

The report is often referred to as the Auschwitz Protocols, although in fact the protocols incorporated information from three reports, of which the Vrba-Wetzler report is only one.

The Vrba-Wetzler report was first written in Slovak by Vrba and Wetzler and simultaneously translated into German by Oscar Krasniansky. Details from the report were leaked to the press in June 1944, but the full text of the report, under the title "German Extermination Camps - Auschwitz and Birkenau," was first published in an English translation on November 26, 1944 by the Executive Office of the U.S. War Refugee Board.

It was this document that combined the testimony of Vrba-Wetzler with two other reports, and these came to be known jointly as the Auschwitz Protocols.[2] The protocols consisted of the Vrba-Wetzler report, and an earlier two-part report from August 10 and 12, 1943 written by Witold Pilecki who was a member of the Polish underground in Auschwitz, and sent to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (the forerunner to the CIA) in London. The August 1943 Polish report included details about the gas chambers, "selection" process, and sterilization experiments. It stated that there were three crematoria in Birkenau with the capacity to incinerate 10,000 bodies daily, and that 30,000 people had been gassed in one day. The author wrote: "History knows no parallel of such destruction of human life." Raul Hilberg writes that the report was filed away with a note that there was no indication as to the reliability of the source.[3] ...

According to one of Krasniansky's postwar statements, he personally handed a copy of the report to Kastner at the end of April.[10] According to British writer Laurence Rees, Kastner received a copy during his visit to Bratislava on April 28.[11] [12]

Although Kastner did not make the report public, he did pass it on. ...

A copy was sent to the Vatican on May 22 ...The Pope then issued an unprecedented appeal on June 25 in an open telegram to the Hungarian regent Mikl"s Horthy, addressing "the sufferings [...] endured on account of [...] national or racial origin"[19] and calling on Horthy to "spare so many unfortunate people further sufferings," but without mentioning Jews.[18] ...

The report is known to have reached the British and U.S. governments by mid-June. Elizabeth Wiskemann of the British Legation in Bern sent it to Allen Dulles, the head of U.S. intelligence, who sent it to the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 16.[15] ...

Details from the report were first broadcast by the BBC on June 15 1944, and on June 20, The New York Times published the first of three stories about the existence of "gas chambers in the notorious German concentration camps at Birkenau and O?wi?cim [Auschwitz] ."[11]

Several world leaders, including Pope Pius XII, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and King Gustaf V of Sweden, subsequently appealed to Admiral Horthy to stop the deportations.[11] On June 26 1944, Richard Lichtheim, a member 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.[11] The cable was intercepted by Hungary and shown to Prime Minister Döme Szt"jay, who passed it to Horthy, and the mass deportations stopped on July 9 1944,[11] after 437,402 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz in 147 trains, most of them to their deaths.[22] Hitler was infuriated by Horthy's decision and instructed the Nazi representative to Hungary, Edmund Veesenmayer, to relay an angry message to the Admiral.[23] Hitler's ultimatum to Horthy read:

"The Führer expects that the Hungarian Government will take measures against the Budapest Jewry without any further delay...[and would not tolerate anything] that could or would weaken their fighting spirit or that could possibly stab the fighting soldiers in the back."[24] ...

This page was last modified on 24 January 2009, at 14:40. ==

(4) Kastner's collaboration with Eichmann - saving a few Hungarian Jews at the expense of the rest - Lenni Brenner

Lenni Brenner

Zionism in the Age of the Dictators

25. Hungary, the Crime within a Crime {on Kastner}

The destruction of Hungarian Jewry is one of the most tragic chapters in the Holocaust. When the Germans finally occupied Hungary on 19 March 1944, the leaders of the Jewish community knew what to expect from the Nazis, as Hungary had been a refuge for thousands of Polish and Slovakian Jews, and they had been warned by the Bratislava working group that Wisliceny had promised that Hungary's 700,000 Jews would eventually be deported.

The Nazis summoned the Jewish community leaders and told them not to worry, things would not be so bad if the Jews co-operated. As Randolph Braham has written, "History and historians have not been kind to the leaders of Hungarian Jewry in the Holocaust era." [1] For as Braham admits, many "tried to obtain special protection and favours for their families". [2] Some did not have to wear the yellow star and, later, were allowed to live outside the ghettos and were permitted to look after their property. In post-war years the roles of two Hungarian Labour Zionists ­ Rezso Kasztner and Joel Brand, leaders of the Budapest Rescue Committee ­ were subjected to detailed scrutiny in Israeli courtrooms. Kasztner had been accused of betraying the Hungarian Jewish masses.

"They ... begged them to hush up the matter"

On 29 March 1944 these two Zionists met Wisliceny and agreed to pay him the $2 million he had previously mentioned to Weissmandel, if he would not put the Hungarian Jews in ghettos or deport them. They also asked for transport along the Danube of "some hundred people" with Palestine certificates, saying that it would make it easier for them to raise the cash from their people abroad. [3] Wisliceny agreed to take their bribe and to consider the transport, but was concerned that it be done secretly in order not to antagonise the Mufti who wanted no Jews released. The first instalments of the bribe were paid, but the Nazis nevertheless set up ghettos in the provinces. Then, on 25 April, Eichmann summoned Joel Brand and told him that he was to be sent to negotiate with the WZO and the Allies. The Nazis would allow a million Jews to leave for Spain in exchange for 10,000 trucks, soap, coffee and other supplies. The trucks were to be used exclusively on the eastern front. As a token of Nazi good faith, Eichmann would allow the Zionists the preliminary release of a Palestine convoy of 600. ...

The destruction of Hungarian Jewry took place at a time when the Nazi structure was showing all the signs of collapse. Canaris's Abwehr Intelligence had concluded that the war was lost; it therefore started making its own contacts with Western Intelligence, and had to be taken over by the SD. Count Klaus von Stauffenberg's bomb on 20 July 1944 came in the middle of the Hungarian crisis and almost destroyed the Nazi edifice. The Germans had invaded the country because they knew that Admiral Miklos Horthy was planning to pull Hungary out of the war. The neutrals, under the prodding of the War Refugee Board, protested against the new murders, and some made efforts to extend diplomatic protection to some of the Jews. From the beginning Eichmann, who had responsibility for the deportation of the Hungarian Jews, was concerned that Jewish resistance or attempts at escape over the border to Romania, which by then was unwilling to hand over Jews to the Nazis, would trigger off political shock waves that could slow down his operation.

When Eichmann first went to work for von Mildenstein, the fervent philo-Zionist gave him Herzl's Judenstaat. He liked it. He was also fond of Adolf Bohm's Die Zionistische Bewegung (The Zionist Movement) and once, in Vienna, he recited an entire page of it by heart during a meeting with some Jewish leaders, including the mortified Bohm. He had even studied Hebrew for two and a half years, although, he conceded, he never really spoke it well. He had had many dealings with the Zionists before the Second World War. In 1937 he had negotiated with the Haganah's representative, Feivel Polkes, and had been their guest in Palestine. He had also had close contacts with the Czech Zionists. Now, again, he would negotiate with the local Zionists.

In 1953 the Ben-Gurion government prosecuted an elderly pamphleteer, Malchiel Gruenwald, for having libelled Rezso Kasztner as a collaborator for his dealings with Eichmann in 1944. The trial had considerable international coverage throughout 1954. Eichmann must have followed it in the press, for he described his relationship with Kasztner at length in taped interviews he gave to a Dutch Nazi journalist, Willem Sassen, in 1955, parts of which were later published in two articles in Life magazine after his capture in 1960. Gruenwald had denounced Kasztner for having kept silent about the German lies that the Hungarian Jews were only being resettled at Kenyermezo. In return, he was allowed to organise the special convoy, which ultimately became a train to Switzerland, and place his family and friends on it. Further, Gruenwald claimed, Kasztner later protected SS Colonel Becher from being hung as a war criminal by claiming that he had done everything possible to save Jewish lives. Eichmann described Kasztner as follows:

This Dr Kastner [many sources Anglicise Kasztner's name] was a young man about my age, an ice-cold lawyer and a fanatical Zionist. He agreed to help keep the Jews from resisting deportation ­ and even keep order in the collection camps ­ if I would close my eyes and let a few hundred or a few thousand young Jews emigrate illegally to Palestine. It was a good bargain. For keeping order in the camps, the price of 15,000 or 20,000 Jews ­ in the end there may have been more ­ was not too high for me. Except perhaps for the first few sessions, Kastner never came to me fearful of the Gestapo strong man. We negotiated entirely as equals. People forget that. We were political opponents trying to arrive at a settlement, and we trusted each other perfectly. When he was with me, Kastner smoked cigarettes as though he were in a coffeehouse. While we talked he would smoke one aromatic cigarette after another, taking them from a silver case and lighting them with a little silver lighter. With his great polish and reserve he would have made an ideal Gestapo officer himself.

Dr Kastner's main concern was to make it possible for a select group of Hungarian Jews to emigrate to Israel ...

As a matter of fact, there was a very strong similarity between our attitudes in the SS and the viewpoint of these immensely idealistic Zionist leaders who were fighting what might be their last battle. As I told Kastner: "We, too, are idealists and we, too, had to sacrifice our own blood before we came to power."

I believe that Kastner would have sacrificed a thousand or a hundred thousand of his blood to achieve his political goal. He was not interested in old Jews or those who had become assimilated into Hungarian society. But he was incredibly persistent in trying to save biologically valuable Jewish blood ­ that is, human material that was capable of reproduction and hard work. "You can have the others" he would say, "but let me have this group here." And because Kastner rendered us a great service by helping keep the deportation camps peaceful, I would let his groups escape. After all, I was not concerned with small groups of a thousand or so Jews. [19]

Andr... Biss, Joel Brand's cousin, who worked with Kasztner in Budapest, and who supported his policy, nevertheless corroborated Eichmann's statement in part in his book, A Million Jews to Save, when he described who boarded the famous train which reached Switzerland on 6 December 1944:

Then came the most numerous group, Kasztner's pride ­ the Zionist youth. These were composed of the members of various organisations of agricultural pioneers, of extreme right-wing "revisionists" who already possessed immigration certificates, and a number of orphans ... Lastly came those who had been able to pay cash for their journey, for we had to collect the sum the Germans demanded. But of the 1684 in the train 300 at the most were of this category ...

Kasztner's mother, his brothers, sisters and other members of his family from Klausenburg [Kluj] were passengers ... Members of the families of those who had fought for the formation of this convoy formed at the most a group of 40 to 50 persons ... In the confusion that ensued about 380 persons managed to clamber into the train which left Budapest, not with 1300 passengers as expected, but crammed full with more than 1700 travellers. [20] ...

On 3 March 1957 Kasztner was gunned down. Zeev Eckstein was convicted of the assassination, and Joseph Menkes and Dan Shemer were found guilty of being accessories on the basis of a confession by Eckstein. The assassin claimed that he was a government agent who had infiltrated a right-wing terrorist grouping headed by Israel Sheib (Eldad), a well-known right-wing extremist. [28] However, the matter did not end with Kasztner's death. On 17 January 1958 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Kasztner-Gruenwald case.

The court ruled, 5 to 0, that Kasztner had perjured himself on behalf of Colonel Becher. It then concluded, 3 to 2, that what he did, during the war, could not be legitimately considered collaboration. The most forceful argument of the majority was put forward by Judge Shlomo Chesin: ...

Last updated on 24.3.2002

(5) The Vrba-Wetzler Report on Auschwitz

The Auschwitz Protocol

The Vrba-Wetzler Report

[Transcribed from the original O.S.I report of the US Department of Justice & the War Refugee Board Archives] (Photos added to enhance the text)


ON THE 13TH April, 1942 our group, consisting of 1,000 men, was loaded into railroad cars at the assembly camp of SERED. The doors were shut so that nothing would reveal the direction of the journey, and when they were opened after a long while we realized that we had crossed the Slovak frontier and were in ZWARDON.

The train had until then been guarded by Hlinka men, but was now taken over by SS guards. After a few of the cars had been uncoupled from our convoy, we continued on our way arriving at night at AUSCHWITZ, where we stopped on a sidetrack.

The reason the other cars were left behind was apparently the lack of room at AUSCHWITZ. They joined us, however, a few days later. Upon arrival we were placed in rows of five and counted. There were 643 of us. After a walk of about 20 minutes with our heavy packs (we had left Slovakia well equipped), we reached the concentration camp of AUSCHWITZ.

We were at once led into a huge barrack where on the one side we had to deposit all our luggage and on the other side completely undress and valuables behind. Naked, we then proceeded to an adjoining barrack where our heads and bodies were shaved and disinfected with Lysol. At the exit every man was given a number which began with 28,600 in consecutive order

With this number in hand we were then herded to a third barrack where so-called registration took place. This consisted of tattooing the numbers we had received in the second barrack on the left side of our chests. The extreme brutality with which this was effected made many of us faint. The particulars of our identity were" also recorded.

Then we were put in groups of a hundred into a cellar, and later to a barrack W here we were issued striped prisoners' clothes and wooden dogs. This lasted until 10 a.m. In the afternoon our prisoners' outfits were taken away from us again and replaced by the ragged and dirty remains of Russian uniforms. Thus equipped we were marched off to BIRKENAU.

AUSCHWITZ is a concentration camp for political prisoners under so-called "protective custody." At the time of my arrival, that is in April of 1942, there were about 15,000 prisoners in the :amp, the majority of whom were Poles, Germans, and civilian Russians under protective custody. A small number of prisoners came under the categories of criminals and "work-shirkers." ...

The Jewish girls deported from Slovakia in March nod April, 1942, over 7,000 of them, lived in the house separated by this wall up to the middle of August, 1942. After these girls had been removed to BIRKENAU, the wall between the second and and third row of houses was removed. ...

The buildings we found on our arrival had been erected by 12,000 Russian prisoners of war brought there in December, 1941. In severe winter weather they had to work under inhuman conditions as a result of which most of them, with the exception of a small number employed in the kitchen, died of exposure. ...

A week before our arrival in AUSCHWITZ the first group of Jews reached the camp: (the women were dealt with separately and received numbers parallel to those of the men; the Slovak women received serial numbers from 1 to 8,000) 1,320 naturalized French Jews from Paris. They were numbered from 27,500 onwards.

It is clear, therefore, that between this French group and our convoy no other men arrived in AUSCHWITZ, since we have already pointed out that our numbers started with 28,600. We found the 700 French Jews who were still alive in terrible condition, the missing 600 having died within a week after their arrival. ...

Together with the remaining Russian prisoners the Slovak Jews worked at the construction of buildings, whereas the French Jews had to do spade work. After three days I was ordered, together with 200 other Slovak Jews, to work in the German armament factories at AUSCHWITZ, but we continued to be housed in BIRKENAU. We left early in the morning returning at night and worked in the carpentry shop as well as 011 road construction. Our food consisted of one liter of turnip soup) at midday and 300 grams of bad bread in the evening. ...

Working conditions were inconceivably hard, so that the majority of III weakened by starvation and the inedible food, could not stand it. The mortality was so high that every day our group of 200 had 30 to 35 dead. Many were simply beaten to death by the overseers - the "Capos" - during work, without the slightest provocation.

The gaps in our ranks caused by these deaths were replaced daily by prisoners from BIRKENAU. Our return at night was extremely painful and dangerous, as we had to drag along over a distance of 5 kilometers our tools, firewood, heavy caldrons, and the bodies of those who had died or had been killed during the working day. With these heavy loads we were forced to maintain a brisk pace, and anyone incurring the displeasure of one of the "Capos" was cruelly knocked down, if not beaten to death.

Until the arrival of the second group of Slovak men some 14 days later, our original number had dwindled to 150. At night we were counted, the bodies of the dead were piled up on flat, narrow-gauge cars or in a truck and brought to the Birch Forest (BRZEZINSKI) where they were burned in a trench several meters deep and about 15 meters long.

Every day on our way to work we met a working party of 300 Jewish girls from Slovakia who were employed on ground work in the vicinity. They were dressed in old Russian uniform rags and wore wooden clogs. Their heads were shaven and, unfortunately, we could not speak to them. Until the middle of May, 1942, a total of four convoys of male Jews from Slovakia arrived at BIRKENAU and all received similar treatment to ours.

From the first and second transports 120 men were chosen (including myself) and placed at the disposal of the administration of of the camp of AUSCHWITZ, which was in need of doctors, dentists, intellectuals, and clerks. This group consisted of 90 Slovak and 30 French Jews.

As I had in the meantime managed to work my way up to a good position in BIRKENAU -being in command of a group of 50 men, which had brought me a considerable advantage-I at first felt reluctant to leave for AUSCHWITZ. However, I was finally persuaded to go and left.

After eight days, 18 doctors and attendants as well as three further persons were selected from this group of 120 intellectuals. The doctors were used in the "sick building" or "hospital" at AUSCHWITZ, while we three were sent back to BIRKENAU.

My two comrade, Ladislav Braun from Trnava and Gross from Vrbove' , both of whom have since died, were sent to the Slovak block while I was ordered to the French section where we were employed collecting "personal data" and at "nursing" the sick. The remaining 99 prisoners were sent to work in the gravel pit where they all died within a short time. ...

Shortly thereafter a so-called "sick-building" (Krankenbau) was set up. It was destined to become the much dreaded "Block 7" where at first I was chief attendant and later administrator. The chief of this "infirmary" was a Pole. Actually this building was nothing else than an assembly center for death candidates. All prisoners incapable of working were sent there.

There was no question of any medical attention or care. We had some 150 dead daily and their bodies were sent for cremation to AUSCHWITZ. At the same time the so-called "selections" were introduced.

Twice weekly, Mondays and Thursdays, the camp doctor indicated the number of prisoners who were to be gassed and then burned. These" selections" were loaded into trucks and brought to the Birch Forest. Those still alive upon arrival were gassed in a big barrack erected near the trench used for burning the bodies.

The weekly "draft" in dead from "Block 7" was about 2,000, of whom 1,200 died of "natural death" and about 800 through "selection." For those who had not been "selected" a death certificate was issued and sent to the central administration at ORANIENBURG, whereas for the "selectees" a special register was kept with the indication "S.B." ("Sonderbehandelt" -special treatment).

Until January 15, 1943, up to which time I was administrator of "Block 7" and therefore in a position to directly observe happenings, some 50,000 prisoners died of "natural death" or by "selection,"

As previously described, the prisoners were numbered consecutively so that we are able to reconstruct fairly dearly their order of succession and the fate which befell each separate convoy on arrival.

The first male Jewish transport reaching AUSCHWITZ for BIRKENAU was composed, as mentioned, of 1,320 naturalized French Jews ...

This whole convoy consisted of about 1,600 individuals of whom approximately 200 girls and 400 men were admitted to the camp, while the remaining 1,000 persons (women, old people, children as well as men) were sent without further procedure from the railroad siding directly to the Birch Forest, and there gassed and burned.

{image} Rudolf Vrba's sketch of the Crematorium at Birkenau {end}

From this moment on all Jewish convoys were dealt with in the same manner. Approximately 10 percent of the men and 5 percent of the women were allotted to the camps and the remaining members were immediately gassed.

This process of extermination had already been applied earlier to the Polish Jews. During long months, without interruption, trucks brought thousands of Jews from the various "ghettos" direct to the pit in the "Birkenwald."

38,400 - 39,200 800 naturalized French Jews, the remainder of the convoy was - as previously described, gassed.

39,200 - 40,000 800 Poles (Aryans), political prisoners. 150 Slovak Jews with their families.

40,000 - 40,150 Slovak Jews with their families. Outside of a group of 50 girls sent to the women's camp, all other members were gassed in the Birch forest. Among the 150 men who came to the camp, there was a certain "Zucker", and Sonneschein, Viliam, both from eastern Slovakia.

40,150 - 43,800 Approximately 4,000 French naturalized Jews, almost all were intellectuals; 1,000 women were directed to the women's camp, while the balance of about 3,000 persons were gassed in the usual manner.

400 Slovak Jews from LUBLIN, including Matej Klein and No. 43820, Meiloch Laufer from Eastern Slovakia. This convoy arrived on June 30, 1942.

200 Slovak Jews. The convoy consisted of 1,000 persons. A number of women were sent to the women's camp, the rest gassed in the Birch Wood. Among the prisoners sent to camp were: Jozef Zelmanovic -Snina, Adolf Kahan -Bratislava, Walter Reichmann -Sucany, AND Esther Kahan from Bratislava.

2,000 Frenchmen (Aryans), communists and other political prisoners, among whom were the brother of Thorez and the young brother of Leon Blum. The latter was atrociously tortured, then gassed and burned.

500 Jews from Holland, in the majority German emigrants. The rest of the convoy, about 2,500 persons, gassed. About 300 so-called Russians under protective custody.

{photo} Sonderkommando engaged in open-air cremations {end}

320 Jews from Slovakia. About 70 girls were transferred to the women's camp, the remainder, some 650 people, gassed in the Birch Wood. This convoy included about 80 people who had been handed over by the Hungarian police to the camp of SERED.

Others from this convoy were: Dr. Zoltan Mandel (since deceased)-Holz (Christian name unknown), butcher from Piestany, Miklos Engel, from Zilnia and Chaim Katz from Snina, (his wife and 6 children were gassed).

15,000 naturalized French, Belgian and Dutch Jews. This figure certainly represents less than 10 percent of the total convoy. This was between July 1 and September 15, 7942. Large family convoys arrived from various European countries and were at once directed to the Birch Wood.

The special squad ("Sonderkommando") employed for gassing and burning worked in day and night shifts. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were gassed during this period.

Sonderkommando engaged in open-air cremations

320 Jews from Slovakia. About 70 girls were transferred to the women's camp, the remainder, some 650 people, gassed in the Birch Wood. This convoy included about 80 people who had been handed over by the Hungarian police to the camp of SERED.

Others from this convoy were: Dr. Zoltan Mandel (since deceased)-Holz (Christian name unknown), butcher from Piestany, Miklos Engel, from Zilnia and Chaim Katz from Snina, (his wife and 6 children were gassed).

15,000 naturalized French, Belgian and Dutch Jews. This figure certainly represents less than 10 percent of the total convoy. This was between July 1 and September 15, 7942. Large family convoys arrived from various European countries and were at once directed to the Birch Wood.

The special squad ("Sonderkommando") employed for gassing and burning worked in day and night shifts. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were gassed during this period.


200 Slovak Jews. Out of this transport about 100 women were admitted to the camp, the rest of them gassed and burned. Among the newly arrived were: Ludwig Katz, Zilina-Avri Burger, Bratislava-Poprad (wife dead)Mikulas Steiner, Povazska Bystrica-Juraj Fried, Trencin-Buchwald-Josef Rosenwasser, Eastern Slovakia-Julius Neuman, Bardejov-Sandor Wertheimer, Vrbove-Misi Wertheimer, Vrbove -Bela Blau, Zilina.


Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. Not more than 1,000 women were "selected" and sent to the camp. The others, at the lowest estimate 30,000, were gassed.


Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. The prisoners brought to the camp hardly represent 10 percent of the total transport. A conservative estimate would be that approximately 65,000 to 70,000 persons were gassed.

On December 17, 1942, the 200 young Slovak Jews, the so-called "special squad" employed in gassing and burning the condemned, were in turn executed at BIRKENAU. They were executed for having planned to mutiny and escape. A Jew betrayed their preparations. This frightful job had to be taken over by a group of 200 Polish Jews who had just arrived at camp from MAKOW.

The men belonging to the "special squad" lived separately. On account of the dreadful smell spread by them, people had but little contact with. them. Besides they were always filthy, destitute, half wild and extraordinarily brutal and ruthless. It was not uncommon to see one of them. kill another. This was considered by the others a sensation, a change. One simply recorded that number so-and-so had died.

Once I was an eyewitness when a young Polish Jew named Jossel demonstrated "scientific" murder on a Jew in the presence of an SS guard. He used no weapon, merely his bare hands, to kill his victim.

No. 80,000 marks the beginning of the systematic extermination of the Polish ghettos.


{photo} Jews selected for special work details at Birkenau {end}

Approximately 5,000 Jews from various ghettos in MLJAWA-MAKOW-ZICHENOWLOMZA-GRODNO-BIALYSTOK. For fully 30 days truck-convoys arrived without interruption. Only 5,000 persons were sent to the concentration camp; all the others were gassed at once. The "special squad" worked in two shifts, 24 hours daily and was scarcely able to cope with the gassing and burning.

Without exaggerating it may be said that out of these convoys some 80,000 to 90,000 received "special treatment." These transports also brought in a considerable amount 01 money, valuables, and precious stones.


6,000 Jews from GRODNO, BIAL05TOK and CRACOW as well as 1,000 Aryan Poles. The majority of the Jewish convoys were directly gassed and daily about 4,000 Jews were driven into the gas chambers. During mid-January, 1943 three convoys of 2,000 persons, each from THERESIEN5TADT arrived.

They bore the designations "CU," "CR" and "R" (The meaning of these signs is unknown to us). These markings were also stamped on their luggage. Out of these 6,000 persons only 600 men and 300 women were admitted to the camp. The remainder were gassed.


End of January, 1943 large convoys of French and Dutch Jews arrived; only a small portion of them reached the camp.


In February, 1943, 2,000 Aryan Poles, mostly intellectuals.


700 Czech Aryans. Later those still alive were sent to BUCHENWALD.


3,000 French and Dutch Jews and 2,000 Poles (Aryans). During the month of February, 1943, two contingents arrived daily. They included Polish, French, and Dutch Jews, who in the main, were sent to the gas chambers. The number gassed during this month can well be estimated at 90,000.

At the end of February, 1943 a new modern crematorium and gassing plant was inaugurated at BIRKENAU. The gassing and burning of the bodies in the Birch Forest was discontinued, the whole job being taken over by the four specially built crematoria.

{photo} Jewish women & children wait in a clearing near the gas chambers at Birkenau {end}

The large ditch was filled in, the ground leveled, and the ashes used as before for fertilizer at the farm labor camp of HERMENSE, so that today it is almost impossible to find trace of the dreadful mass murder which took place here.

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 hermitically 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 whites 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 55 men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labeled "CYCLONE" "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 amount's to about 6,000 daily.

On principle only Jews are gassed; Aryans very seldom, as they are usually given "special treatment" by shooting. Before the crematoria were put into service, the shooting took place in the Birch Wood and the bodies were burned in the long trench; later, however, executions took place in the large hall of one of the crematoria which has been provided with a special installation for this purpose.

Prominent guests from BERLIN were present at the inauguration of the first crematorium in March, 1943. The "program" consisted of the gassing and burning of 8,000 Cracow Jews. The' guests, both officers and civilians, were extremely satisfied with the results and the special peephole fitted into the door of the gas chamber was in constant use. They were Lavish in their praise of this newly erected installation. ...

During the week following September 7, 1943 family transports of Jews arrived from THERESIENSTADT. They enjoyed quite an exceptional status which was incomprehensible to us. The families were not separated and not a single one of them received the customary and "normal" gas treatment. Their heads were not even shaven, they were able to keep their luggage, and were lodged in a separate section of the camp, men, women and children together.

The men were not forced to work and a school was even set up for the children under the direction of Fredy HIRSCH (Makabi, Prague). They were allowed to correspond freely. The worst they had to undergo was mistreatment at the hands of their" camp eldest," a certain professional criminal by the name of Arno BOHM, prisoner NO.8. Our astonishment increased when we learned of the official indication given to this special treatment: "SB" -transport of Czech Jews with six months' quarantine.

{photo} SS guards direct new arrivals on ramp at Birkenau {end}

We very well knew what "SB" meant ("Sonderbehandlung"), but could not understand the long period of six months' quarantine and the generally clement treatment this group received. The longest quarantine period we had witnessed so far was only three weeks. Towards the end of the six months period, however, we became convinced that the fate of these Jews would be the same as that of most of the others, -the gas chamber.

We tried to get in touch with the leader of the group and explain their lot and what they had to expect. Some of them declared (especially Fredy HIRSCH who seemed to enjoy the full-confidence of his companions) that if our fears took shape they would organize resistance.

Thus some of them hoped to instigate a general revolt in the camp. On March 6, 1944 we heard that the crematoria were being prepared to receive the Czech Jews.

I hastened to inform Fredy HIRSCH and begged him to take immediate actions as they had nothing to lose. He replied that he recognized his duty. Before nightfall I again crept over to the Czech camp where I learned that Fredy HIRSCH was dying; he had poisoned himself with luminol.

The next day, March 7, 1944, he was taken, unconscious, along with his 3,791 comrades who had arrived at BIRKENAU on September 7, 1943 on trucks, to the crematoria and gassed. The young people went to their death singing, but to our great disappointment nobody revolted. Some 500 elderly people had died during quarantine. Of all these Jews only 11 twins were left alive. They are being subjected to various medical tests at AUSCHWITZ, and when we left BIRKENAU they were still alive.

Among the gassed was Rozsi FURST, from SERED. A week before the gassing, that is to say on March I, 1944, everyone in the Czech group in the camp had been asked to inform his relatives about his well-being. The letters had to be dated March 23 to 25, 1944 and they were requested to ask for food parcels. ...

Somewhere around the middle of August, 1942 all the Jewish girls from Slovakia who lived next to our quarters, on the other side of the wall, were transferred to BIRKENAU. I had the opportunity to talk to them and was able to see how weak and half-starved all of them were. They were dressed in old Russian uniform rags and wore wooden clogs. Their heads where shaven clean. The same day we again had to undergo a strict examination and those suspected of having typhus were removed to the Birch Wood.

The remainder were shaved afresh, bathed, issued a new set of clothes and finally billeted in the barracks the girls had just left.

By chance I learned that there was an opening in the "clearance squad" and I handed in my application. I was detailed to this task. This squad consisted of about a hundred Jewish prisoners.

{photo} Prisoners at "Canada" sorting the belongings of murdered Jews {end}

We were sent to a far corner of the camp, away from all our comrades. Here we found huge sheds full of knapsacks, suitcases, and other luggage. We had to open each piece of baggage.' and sort the content into large cases specially prepared for each category of goods, i.e., combs, mirrors, sugar, canned food chocolate, medicines, etc. The cases were then stored away. Underwear, shirts and clothes of all kinds went to a special barrack, where they were sorted out and packed by Jewish girls.

Old and worn clothes were addressed to the "TEXTILE FACTORY" at MEMEL, whereas the useable garments were dispatched to a collecting center in BERLIN. Gold, money, bank notes, and precious stones had to be handed over to the political section. Many of these objects were, however, stolen by the SS guards or by prisoners.

A brutal and vile individual who often struck the women is commander of this squad. He is SS "Scharfurhrer" WYKLEFF. Every day the girls who came to their work from BIRKENAU described to us the terrible conditions prevailing there. They were beaten and brutalized and their mortality was much higher than among the men. Twice a week "selections" took place, and every day new girls replaced those who had disappeared.

During a night shift I was able to witness for the first time how incoming convoys were handled. The transport I saw contained Polish Jews. They had received no water for days and when the doors of the freight cars were open we were ordered to chase them out with loud shouts. They were utterly exhausted and about a hundred of them had died during the journey. The living were lined up in rows of five. Our job was to remove the dead, dying, and the luggage from the cars. The dead, and this included anyone unable to stand on his feet, were piled in a heap.

Luggage and parcels were collected and stacked up. Then the railroad cars had to be thoroughly cleaned so that no trace of their frightful load was left behind. A commission from the political department proceeded with the "selection" of approximately 10 percent of the men and 5 percent of the women and had them transferred to the camps.

The remainder were loaded on trucks, sent to BIRKENAU, and gassed while the dead and dying were taken directly to the furnace. It often happened that small children were thrown alive into the trucks along with the dead. Parcels and luggage were taken to the warehouses and sorted out in the previously described manner. ...

attention and in the first stages of the epidemic a great many were killed by phenol injections, and later on others were gassed wholesale.

Corpses of dead Jewish women in Block11

Some 15,000 to 20,000, mostly Jews, died during these two months. The girls' camps suffered the most, as it was not fitted with sanitary installations, and the poor wretches were covered with lice. Every week large "selections" took place and the girls had 10 present themselves naked to the "selection committee," regardless of weather conditions.

They waited in deadly fear whether they would be chosen or given another week's grace. Suicides were frequent and were mostly committed by throwing ones self against the high tension wires of the inner fence. This went on until they had dwindled to 5 percent of their original number.

Now there are only 400 of these girls left and most of them have been able to secure some sort of clerical post in the women's camp. About 100 girls hold jobs at the staff building in AUSCHWITZ where they do all the clerical work connected with the administration of the two camps. Thanks to their knowledge of languages they are also used as interpreters.

Others are employed in the main kitchen and laundry. Of late these girls have been able to dress themselves quite well as they have had opportunities to complete their wardrobes which, in some cases, even include silk stockings. Generally speaking they are reasonably well off and are even allowed to let their hair grow. Of course this cannot be said of the other Jewish inmates of the women's camp. It just so happens that these Slovak Jewish girls have been in the camp the longest of all. But if today they enjoy certain privileges, they have previously undergone frightful sufferings.

I was not to hold this comparatively good job with the" clearance squad" for long. Shortly afterwards I was transferred to BIRKENAU on disciplinary grounds and remained there over a year and a half. On April 7, 1944 I managed to escape with my companion.

(Transcribed from the OSI translation of the report by Carmelo Lisciotto) ==

(6) The Preparations for the Holocaust in Hungary, by Rudolf Vrba

The Preparations for the Holocaust in Hungary: An Eyewitness Account

by Rudolf Vrba

{this material is now on the internet for the first time - Peter M.}

Appendix V in I Escaped From Auschwitz, by Rudolf Vrba (Barricade Books, Fort Lee NJ, 2002)

{p. 372} Until March 18,1944 Hungary was an "independent" ally of Nazi Germany, whereas after that date an influx of German troops as well as a number of imprecisely defined "legalistic" changes marked the "occupation" of Hungary. The Regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy, remained in power, but the German presence became more and more intrusive. Significantly, Horthy's police and gendarmerie apparatus continued to function throughout this period. Beginning April 5th Jews were compelled to wear the Yellow Star. Shortly thereafter, within four to six weeks, massive deportations of Jews began, clearly with Horthy's approval. On July 7, after various appeals and threats of reprisals had been issued by neutral and allied powers, Horthy ordered these deportations to cease. But by that time 437,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz. About 400,000 were murdered on arrival. The rest were sent to slave labor. Less than five percent of these deportees ever returned.1

Historians are often puzzled by the remarkable swiftness of this whole operation. Between March 18 and July 7 less than four months elapsed. However, it is not often appreciated that preparations for the murder of these Hungarian Jews had begun in Auschwitz much earlier. I myself learned about these preparations as early as January 15,1944 in Auschwitz, where I had been a prisoner since June 1942. The previous procedures employed by the Nazis, which had been used for the mass murder of Jews arriving from all the Nazi-occupied countries throughout Europe from September 1942 to March 1944, were now to be changed. Specifically, a new railway ramp, giving direct access to the gas chambers and crematoria, was to be constructed in Auschwitz-Birkenau, allowing for the much more rapid and effective mass murder of the hundreds of thousands of victims scheduled to be transported from Hungary - the last and largest surviving Jewish community in Europe.

1 Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide. The Holocaust in Hungary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), p. 1144. (Cited hereafter as Braham, Genocide.)

{p. 373} Secrecy was essential for the success of this mass murder program.2 I escaped from Auschwitz, together with my fellow prisoner Alfred Wetzler, on April 7,1944, with the intention of alerting the Jewish Council in Hungary about the impending and imminent danger facing the Jews in Hungary. Here, I shall describe the principal relevant events before, during and after our escape to Slovakia. In brief, within 14 days after escaping from Auschwitz we were able to make contact with the Jewish Council in Slovakia, and they gave us the facilities to write down our experiences in a document known as the Vrba-Wetzler Report,3 sometimes also referred to as the Vrba-Wetzler statement4 or anonymously as "Auschwitz Notebook"5 or Auschwitz Protocols."6 At the same time we reported on the preparations

{p. 374} being made in Auschwitz for the impending "reception" of the Hungarian Jews. This report was in the hands of the Jewish Council in Hungary before the end of April 1944.

Post factum, we can say that none of the 437,000 Hungarian Jews deported between May 15 and July 9,1944 to Auschwitz was ever given this information. There can be no doubt that the failure of the Jewish official representatives in Hungary to inform the Hungarian Jewish population about the death-mills in Auschwitz contributed to Adolf Eichmann's stunning success in organizing so rapidly the deportation of the majority of the Hungarian Jews. It is my contention that this tragedy could have been greatly impeded if our warnings had been effectively and swiftly communicated to the intended victims. Of course, the full and enthusiastic cooperation of Horthy's gendarmerie was another crucial factor. The result was that the annihilation of this community proceeded more swiftly than any other in the whole tragic history of the Holocaust.

Lately, some historians have tried to argue that I and Wetzler were not acting on our own initiative, but were only "messengers" of some mythical organization also operating in Auschwitz. Others indicate that we were able to describe only those events which took place in Auschwitz during the period of our incarceration (i.e., from April 1942 for one of us, or June 1942 for the other, to April 7,1944). They claim that we were not aware of the impending fate facing the Hungarian Jews,7 and hence were not in position to alert anyone in Hungary of what was about to happen. But quite apart from the fact that the information contained in the Vrba-Wetzler Report was detailed and graphic enough to alert any potential victim of the dreadful danger, there is evidence that leading Jews in both Slovakia and Hungary immediately recognized the importance of our eyewitness account and the reliability of our prediction that the

{p. 375} Holocaust in Hungary was imminent. As evidence I quote here the letter sent by Rabbi Michael Beer Weissmandel (signed M. B.) and Gisi Fleischmann (signed G. Fl.), a leading Zionist activist in Slovakia and a relative of Rabbi Weissmandel's, both of whom were active members of the Jewish Council of Slovakia. This letter,8 which was dispatched from Bratislava in Slovakia to Hechalutz in Switzerland on May 22, demonstrates that the Jewish Councils in both Slovakia and Hungary were well-informed, on the basis of the report submitted by Wetzler and myself, as early as the end of April 1944 about the preparations made in Auschwitz expressly and specifically for the impending mass murder of the Hungarian Jews. Hence the urgency of their appeals to their contacts in Switzerland for help. Even though no immediate response was forthcoming from the recipients, the subsequent publication of the contents of the Vrba-Wetzler Report in the West resulted in pressure upon Horthy's government in Hungary,9 and the massive deportation of Hungarian Jews was stopped early in July 1944. Thereafter the death toll among Jews in Hungary declined in absolute numbers, although the Horthy regime was soon replaced by the more radically pro-Nazi government of Ferenc Szalasi and his Arrow Cross organization.10

Streamlined Methods of Mass Murder and Robbery in Auschwitz (June 1942-April 1944)

On January 15,1944 (i.e., about two months before the formal occupation of Hungary) at about 10:00 a.m., I heard for the first time about the impending mass murder of about a million

{p. 376} Hungarian Jews who were then still living in Hungary in relative freedom. This news was communicated to me in Birkenau i at the southern end of Section BIIa, also known as the Quarantine Camp. The bearer of the news was a German capo (a prisoner who was a trustee of sorts and had been assigned to administrative or specialized duties), a Berliner identified by a political prisoner's Red Triangle whose first name was Yup (Joseph), who at that moment was standing on the other side of the southern end of the electric fence surroundirg Section BIIa of the camp (see Fig. 1). Specifically, he was standing on the road between Sections BI (women's camp) and Section BII (men's camp), about 30 meters west of the main entrance into Camp Birkenau on the road leading directly into Crematorium II and Crematorium III, both situated about 1 km west of this point, within the internal perimeter (Kleine Postenkette) of Birkenau. I had known Capo Yup for well over a year, but had not seen him for at least a year before the meeting I am describing took place. Various circumstances were favorable in connection with our acquaintance and our January meeting; furthermore, it was a lucky break that he managed to pass on this communication which, under the circumstances, was highly confidential. This German political prisoner risked his life by giving me this information. In fact, a certain mutual trust had become well established a longtime before our accidental meeting in mid-January 1944.

At the time of this event I had been a prisoner in Auschwitz (under my former name Walter Rosenberg, prisoner no. 44070) for more than a year and a half and on the basis of my previous experience in this place I had good reasons to believe that the information communicated to me by Capo Yup was reliable. In order to explain the background of my past experiences in Auschwitz and why I believed this information to be true, I shall have to start this story from June 30,1942 when I was transferred to Auschwitz from the concentration camp Maidanek near Lublin.

While a prisoner in Auschwitz I, less than two months after my arrival there, in August 1942, I was included in a special working group of prisoners which was called Aufrdumungskommando. This name, which translated into English means a "clean-up working group" or "putting-in-order working group,"

{p. 377} was a Nazi euphemism. The actual assignment of this group (comprising 200 to 800 prisoners at various periods) was to eliminate the traces of the routinely organized murder and robbery of transports of Jews brought by the German administration to Auschwitz under the pretext of "resettlement." These transports arrived at a ramp specially built for this purpose. The first such ramp (the so-called "old ramp" to differentiate it from the "new" one built in 1944) was a wooden platform I estimated to be about 300 to 500 meters long. Along this ramp the arriving deportees were unloaded from the freight cars, made to leave their luggage on the ramp, and hurried down a wooden staircase stretching along the whole ramp and then to the eastern dead end of a special road that reached another dead end about two kilometers to the west, at the gates of the gas chambers in Birkenau. The ramp was situated between camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (i.e., Birkenau), on a piece of ground which belonged to neither camp and was theoretically "civilian territory." This oddity was due to the fact that the main railway line connecting Vienna to Cracow passed between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II; from this railway line a short side-line branched off, and it was this side-line along which the ramp had been built (see Fig. 2).

The prisoners belonging to the Aufraumungskommando (also called the "Canada" commando in the prisoners slang)11 were housed in Block (i.e., barrack) 4 in Auschwitz I. However, on January 15,1943 these prisoners were transferred to Birkenau and housed in Block 16 (Birkenau, Section Ib) where we stayed until June 8,1943. The general procedures on the old ramp and in the Aufraumungskommando remained unchanged during this time, except that the prisoners of the Aufraumungskommando were marched there from Birkenau rather than from Auschwitz I.

11 In the storage areas of the Aufrafumungskommando there were clothing, shoes, blankets, food and kitchen utensils, medicine, jewels, gold and hard currency all brought by the arriving deportees, i.e., their last possessions. These storage areas appeared to represent a "plentiful paradise" in the eyes of the Polish prisoners, and because by tradition in the eyes of Polish peasants the image of a "plentiful paradise" was the country of Canada, the storage areas of the Aufraumungskommando were named "Canada" in the camp slang.

{p. 378} I had first become acquainted with Capo Yup while I was still imprisoned in Auschwitz I, before I was moved to Birkenau, in 1942. He was a former German trade unionist (not a Jew) who had been arrested in the thirties for failure to comply with the Hitlerian "new order." He spent a number of years in various concentration camps until finally he was transferred as a German capo to Auschwitz I. He was known to me as a "red" capo (wearing the Red Triangle denoting a political prisoner). Although outwardly he complied with the concentration camp system (and what else could he do?!), inside he remained an anti-Nazi. Among the non-Jewish German prisoners in Auschwitz there were a very few of this kind. I got to know him through common friends (other "red" prisoners in Auschwitz), and he was aware that I had had some involvement with "leftist" anti-Nazi activities before I was brought to Auschwitz, which resulted in a certain amount of mutual trust between us After I was transferred to Birkenau, I did not see him again for at least a year, when he suddenly and unexpectedly appeared in Birkenau at the place I described above. As I will describe below in more detail, the reasons for his being in Birkenau in January 1944 were connected with the building of a new ramp for unloading the arriving deportees.

The work of the group of prisoners to which I had been assigned in the Aufrdumungskommando had the following routine. Whenever the arrival of a transport was announced (by telephone from one of the railway stations situated near to Auschwitz), an SS-man on a motorcycle arrived at the barrack where the prisoners belonging to the Aufraumungskommando spent the nights. A group of these prisoners (100 to 200 men depending on the size of the expected transport) was then marched out from the heavily guarded camp to the ramp (as previously mentioned, this is the ramp I often refer to for clarity as the "old ramp" even though at this time it was really still the only ramp in operation) while surrounded by a group of about a dozen heavily armed SS men. When we arrived at the ramp, a group of about fifty SS-men with firearms at the ready would surround the ramp. Numerous lampposts along the ramp were lit so that the light was as bright as in daytime, no matter whether it was summer or winter, rain, snow, or fog. After a group of SS officers accompanied by NCO's (all carrying bam-

{p. 379} boo walking canes, not truncheons) arrived, the train (usually consisting of 20 to 40 but occasionally 50 to 60 freight cars) was pulled into the illuminated area by a steam locomotive and positioned along the now surrounded and brightly illuminated ramp. (As mentioned earlier, the ramp was situated between the outer chains of guards of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II respectively.)

The freight cars were unlocked by the SS and opened in rapid succession all along the length of the train. More or less the same sight was unveiled to us each time, although these transports arrived from various countries in Europe, i.e., from France, Belgium, Holland, Bohemia (Terezin), Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine (mainly from Grodno and Byalistok), and Greece. During the time I worked in the Aufraumungskommando (August 1942 to June 1943), I estimate that I saw well over one hundred (but less than three hundred) such transports arrive on the ramp. As I never made any written notes on these events during my incarceration in Auschwitz, I cannot give a closer estimate about the exact number of arriving transports during that time, although I tried to keep (and kept) a reasonably good mental record of the total number of people who arrived in this way.12

12 According to the Vrba-Wetzler Report, a careful estimate of the total number of people murdered in Auschwitz by gassing was 1,765,000 at the date of our escape. It was relatively very well established that after April 7,1944 (i.e., after the Vrba-Wetzler Report was released), there were further 400,000 victims from Hungary alone; moreover transports of Jews from the Terezin and Lodz Ghettos, Greece, Berlin, Paris, Trieste, Belgium, Northern Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Holland, Vienna, Kovno and other places arrived in Auschwitz after April 7,1944 which would bring the number of victims close to 2.5 million in total. On the other hand, Yehuda Bauer in the Jerusalem Post of September 22,1989 claims that the figure for Jews murdered by gassing [in Auschwitz, RV] is 1,323,000, (which is about a half of the Vrba-Wetzler estimate). He writes: The basis for these figures is the clandestine registration carried out by a group of very courageous men and women who worked as clerks in the camp administration and had a fairly clear picture of what was going on." Bauer does not state who these very courageous men and women were, what sorts of documents they saw and why their "new" figures were published only in 1989. See also H. Swiebocki, "Raporty Uciekinierow z KL Auschwitz" (Reports of Escapees from the Auschwitz Concentration Camp), Zeszyty {footnote continued on p. 380}

{p. 380} The floor of the freight cars were covered with luggage on which cowered the mass of the deportees, usually eighty per freight car, sometimes a hundred or in certain cases even more. In such extreme cases of overcrowding, the number of dead on arrival could be several dozen people, since the transports traveled in these locked and heavily guarded freight cars for two to ten days. As a rule the deportees carried along enough food in their luggage, but they were not given enough drinking water during the journey and usually arrived in a hardly imaginable stage of hygienic, physical, and mental deterioration and were tormented by thirst. Thus, they were generally willing to obey any order when promised water, a promise hardly ever kept. Most of them (80 to 90 percent) were killed soon after their arrival in the nearby gas chambers, and died thirsty. They were first ordered by the SS noncommissioned officers, swinging their walking canes, to leave the freight cars and descend the staircase of the ramp onto the wide dead-ended road built along the ramp, while leaving their luggage in the freight cars. "Raus, raus, alles liegen lassen, raus" was most often the order barked at the arrivals by the SS-men, who usually added more emphasis by an ndiscriminate use of the walking canes which they wielded as truncheons. The deportees were marshalled into a column that had to pass by an SS doctor who performed the "selection," dividing the arriving deportees into those destined for the gas chambers and the "others," i.e., those found suitable for slave labor which were immediately marched off from the ramp either into Auschwitz I or Auschwitz II (Birkenau) for registration as

{footnote 12 continued} Oswiecimskie. Numer Specjalny IV (Oswiecim: Wydawnictwo Panstwowego Muzeum w Oswiecimiu, 1991), pp. 77-129 and pp. 207-8. In the "Report of a Polish Major" (Dr. Jerzy Tabeau) who escaped from Auschwitz in November 1943, an estimate of 1.5 million victims was given, which is in good agreement with the Vrba-Wetzler estimate (1.75 million) made in April 1944. The estimates made by former SS-officers in Auschwitz about the number of victims murdered there are of great interest in this connection. Hermann Langbein collected numerous statements made independently of one another, and these all point to a number of two to three million. See his Menschen in Auschwitz (Vienna: Europa Verlag 1972), p. 79. This is in good agreement with the estimate in the Vrba-Wetzler Report.

{p. 381} prisoners. No additional registration was made of the larger group of deportees, who were immediately transported on trucks (not marched) to the gas chambers.

A fleet of heavy trucks - not too many, perhaps half a dozen - used for this purpose were parked on the dead-end road. Those identified as "unfit for work" (all women with children, all children, all the old and infirm) were immediately ordered to ascend a wooden portable staircase and were loaded onto the platforms of one of these trucks. Any given truck started on its way to th enearby gas chamber in Birkenau as soon as exactly one- hundred persons had been loaded. In the meantime the prisoners working in the Aufraumungskommando would have sprung into feverish activity, frequently prodded on by a hail of well-directed blows with walking canes by the SS supervisors. Their first task was to empty the freight cars of their contents. The dead and the dying were dragged im Laufschritt (a Nazi euphemism for frantic running under a hail of blows by walking canes) to one of the waiting trucks, which departed as soon as one hundred dead or dying deportees had been loaded and went directly to the crematoria. The trucks then returned to the dead-end road near the ramp ready to be reloaded, either with a further batch of people destined for the gas chambers, or with the luggage of the victims.

Collection of this luggage was also a task of members of the Aufraumungskommando. The trucks loaded with luggage went in the opposite direction, into a separate storage area (called "Canada" in the camp's slang) situated in Auschwitz I, very near the facilities of DAW (Deutsche Ausrustungswerke, see Fig. 2). Altogether, then, the trucks followed a pendulum-style trajectory from the dead-end road: when carrying victims they moved westwards about two kilometers to the crematoria in Auschwitz II, and when carrying the luggage of the newly arrived deportees they moved eastwards about two kilometers to the "Canada" storage areas in Auschwitz I. When all the freight cars were empty, the workers of the Aufraumungskommando meticulously cleaned the cars of all traces of the former human cargo (blood, excrement, rubbish, etc.). After a strict inspection confirmed the cleanliness of the cars and the train departed, the last traces had to be eliminated from the ramp and carted away; a dozen SS guards would then march the

{p. 382} Aufraumungskommando back into their barracks. No more than two to three hours elapsed from the arrival of each transport to the removal of its last traces from the ramp. By the time we pris oners belonging to the Aufrdumungskommando left the scene, 80 to 90 percent of the arrivals were dead in the gas chambers and were already being "processed" in the crematoria, their luggage was already stored in the "Canada" storage areas in Auschwitz I, and the ramp was again immaculately clean and ready to receive the next transport. Thus, outwardly visible signs of this well organized robbery and mass murder disappeared within two to three hours after a train arrived at the ramp. When we prisoners were not working on the ramp we worked in the "Canada" storage areas where, under close supervision of the SS, we broke the locks or ripped the luggage of all the new arrivals regardless of their further fate and sorted the contents. We burned all papers, books, documents, and photo albums. Hundreds of thousands of first to third-quality men's suits and women's clothes, blankets, underwear, furs, kitchenware, baby carriages, eyeglasses, medicaments, shoes, etc. were carefully sorted, packed according to quality, and dispatched to Germany fom the "Canada" storage areas in more or less irregular transports, as the goods accumulated. Fourth-quality clothing not deemed worth disinfecting was dispatched to a paper factory in Memel. Almost every day we would fill an entire separate suitcase with hard currency (dollars, pound sterling, Swiss francs) as well as diamonds, gold, and jewelry that had been found more or less well hidden in the luggage or its contents, i.e., inside a can of shoeshine cream or toothpaste, in the heel of a shoe, sewn into a seam or disguised pocket in clothing. These valuables were carried away daily by the SS, presumably for the Reichsbank. Sometimes the collection suitcase was so full with jewelry and banknotes that the SS-men "in service" (usually SS-Unterscharfuhrer Otto Graf from Vienna or SS-Unterschar-fuhrer Hans Kuhnemann from Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia)13 had to use their boots to press down the contents

{p. 383} so that the suitcase could be closed. Prisoners attempting to hide any valuables or declared guilty of not finding them ("dereliction of work duties") were usually disciplined on the spot by clubbing or by a pistol shot, sometimes both.

While I was a member of the Aufraumungskommando (from August 1942 to June 1943), I of course had firsthand experience on the number of "resettled" Jews arriving in Auschwitz from Europe. I stopped being a member of the Aufiaumungskommando on June 8,1943, when certain major administrative changes took place in Birkenau. During this reorganization I became a Blockschreiber in Block 15 of the Quarantine Camp (BIIa). Blockschreiber as a word is typical Nazi concentration camp slang and means "barracks pen pusher," although the translators of the Vrba-Wetzler Report14 in Washington sometimes translated it as "Registrar" for lack of a better English equivalent. This new assignment again gave me an excellent observation post for obtaining firsthand information on the number and origin of virtually all arriving transports, as I will explain in more detail below.

Until June 8,1943 all prisoners in Auschwitz II (Birkenau) occupied Section I, which was divided into Section BIa, a women's camp, and Section BIb, the men's camp. Meanwhile, during 1942-43 a new section, BII, was under construction. It was divided into six subsections, BIIa through BIIf (the capital

{384} B denotes Bauabschritt, i.e., section). On June 8,1943, all the (male) prisoners in Blb were transferred into BIId, and both BIa and BIb became female camps. BIIa became a "Quarantine Camp" for new arrivals, i.e., for those men from each transport who were chosen for slave-labor and given a prisoner number, while the rest of their transport was murdered in the nearby gas chambers. Sections BIlb, BIIc, and BIIe remained empty for some time after the major reorganization on June 8,1943, and Section BIIf became a Krankenbau (sick bay) where sick prisoners were deposited either to recover (primitive medical treatment was sometimes available) or to die on their own or to be sent in due course to the crematorium to be gassed and cremated.

Although I was no longer a member of the Aufrdumungskommando after June 8,1943, from my new placement in BIIa (see Fig. 1) I again was able to observe the influx of new victims into Auschwitz very well, for the following reason. From the old ramp there were only two possible roads to the gas chambers: (a) As described above, trucks carrying new arrivals passed under the main gate to Birkenau and continued between Section I and Section II to crematoria II and III with their adjacent gas chambers; (b) Other trucks did not enter the main gate but instead made a 90-degree turn to the right, continued 800 meters northwards along BIIa until they reached the northern end, then made a 90-degree turn to the west (left) and continued along the northern edge of BIIa through BIIf for about one kilometer into the complex of crematoria IV and V with the adjacent gas chambers (see Fig. 1). In both cases the trucks passed about 50 meters or less from Block 15 of Quarantine Camp BIIa, where I was Blockschreiber. As I was well aware from my previous experience on the ramp that each truck carried exactly one hundred people, counting the number of trucks passing by gave me a good estimate of the size of each transport. Moreover, those men of each transport who were not gassed on arrival were (after a shower, disinfection, and change into prisoners' garb) first brought into BIIa where they were registered. During the process of registration, I as a Blockschreiber of course had the opportunity to talk to them and to find out from which country and locality their transport had come. These new prisoners also usually knew how many persons had been included in their particular transport. This gave me a means of double checking

{p. 385} the estimates based on counting the number of trucks carrying the new arrivals into the crematoria. (I could easily count these trucks at night as well as in the daytime since the whole barrack shook when one passed by.) From the spring of 1942 to January 15,1944, according to my calculations, more than 1.5 million Jews had been murdered in Auschwitz.15 All these masses of people had arrived on the old ramp, and their robbery and murder had been carried out smoothly and without a hitch when viewed from the point of view of the SS. I was convinced that if at this point the SS wanted to introduce major changes in the well-established and smoothly-running procedure, there would have to be a very good reason.

The Significance of Changes in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944

On January 15,1944 at about 10:00 a.m. I saw from my barrack in BIIa that a group of unusual-looking prisoners were being marched through the arched gate of Birkenau into the space between Sections BIa and BIIa (see Fig. 1). These prisoners were relatively well dressed and therefore it was obvious to me that they were neither Jews nor from Birkenau. (In some cases, groups of "old" Polish prisoners in Auschwitz I were better dressed.) When I approached the electric fence that separated them from me, I could hear them speak Polish among themselves and I could see they were putting up tripods with theodolites, carrying around calibrated rods, and recording measurements like land surveyors before a new building project is started. I soon became aware that the capo who was at the head of this group of prisoners was Capo Yup whom I had met while a prisoner in Auschwitz I. The capo recognized me, approached the electric fence and (in a conversation across the barbed wire of the fence) first expressed great surprise to see me, then expressed his pleasure at seeing that I was still alive and "looking well," and then wondered whether I could provide ("organize," in camp slang) some cigarettes, as indeed I could. Thereafter, I asked him what he and "his men" were doing here, and he told me (emphasizing that it was a secret) that they were building a new railway line leading straight to the crematoria.

15 Ibid.

{p. 386} I expressed surprise and I mentioned that not so long ago the existing ("old") ramp had been repaired. Capo Yup then told me that he overheard from the SS that about a million Hungarian Jews would be arriving soon and that the system on the old ramp would not be able to handle such masses of people quickly enough. I immediately believed this piece of information. From my past experience I knew that the annihilation of such an enormous number of victims within a very short time would necessitate some changes of the well-established procedures on the ramp. We knew in Birkenau that Hungary was the only possible and indeed last major community of Jews in Europe, whose rapid annihilation would indeed require modification of the routine procedures used in Auschwitz at that time. Principally, the relatively minor change of extending the railway connection about two kilometers - from the "old" ramp directly to the crematoria - would eliminate the need to transport a million victims from the ramp to the crematoria on many thousands of separate truck rides accompanied by armed guards on motorcycles.

In my mind I immediately accepted as a fact that the Germans ere then preparing the mass murder of Hungarian Jews and that Yup was giving me perfectly truthful and reliable information. Many historians still do not appear to appreciate that the Germans had planned the mass murder of Hungarian Jews well in advance of the so-called "occupation" of Hungary on March 19,1944. As we know now, Eichmann and his henchmen arrived in Budapest immediately thereafter, with detailed plans on whom to contact among the Jewish dignitaries and notables in Hungary.l6 They expected to use the files and connections of these Jews and their organizations as well as those of the Hungarian authorities for a rapid administrative ghettoization of the Jewish masses, followed by their rapid deportation to the mass murder machinery in Auschwitz. Obviously, they planned the "occupation" of Hungary well in advance and the role of Auschwitz was an important part of this planning.

After my meeting with Capo Yup on January 15,1944, I was daily reminded of the fate impending for the Hungarian Jews,

16 Fulop Freudiger, Five Months in The Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry, op. cit., p. 237.

{p. 387} as Yup's working group was soon followed by hundreds of other prisoners, now mainly locals from Birkenau, who were put to work on the new ramp. It was soon clear, even to an untrained eye, that a railway section was being built that would extend directly to the crematoria.

The news about the fate awaiting the Hungarian Jews also reached me by other channels. In Quarantine Camp BIIa there was an active group of mostly criminal capos (German prisoners identified by Green Triangles, denoting Berufsverbrecher, "professional criminals") organized by a Lagerdlteste (camp elder, the highest prisoner rank in a camp section) named Tyn, a German professional criminal with a Black Triangle (denoting an "anti-social element"). This Tyn and his cronies in the camp kept close contact with the two SS-Unterscharfuhrers named Buntrock and Kurpanikl7 who represented the SS in the Quarantine Camp. Both Buntrock and Kurpanik were alcoholics; the money for their expensive habits was provided by Tyn and his cronies, who terrorized the newly arrived prisoners (the Zugang) to extort gold and money that some of them had managed to retain secretly on their bodies. These SS NCO's were talkative when inebriated - which was often the case - and I soon learned by this confidential grapevine that "Hungarian salami" was coming soon. It was a fact of Auschwitz that transports from various countries were characterized by certain country-specific long-lasting edible provisions in the deportees' luggage that reflected what kind of food was still available in various countries in war-torn German-occupied Europe. This food was taken from the new arrivals along with all the rest of the luggage, as described earlier, and from the "Canada" storage areas the perishable as well as canned foods found their way to the dining rooms of the SS officers and SS NCO's. Some of the food was also, at great risk, smuggled by prisoners into the camp. When a series of transports of Jews from the Netherlands arrived, cheeses enriched the wartime rations. It was sardines when series of transports of French Jews arrived, it was halva and olives when transports of Jews from Greece reached the camp, and now the SS were talking of "Hungarian salami," a well-known Hungarian provision suitable for taking along on a long journey.

{p. 388} Secrecy as to the true purpose of Auschwitz and of the industry of death practiced there for almost two years was of course very important for the continuing "business" of Auschwitz but remarkably, within the confines of Auschwitz-Birkenau itself secrecy was not strictly guarded. The SS assumed that in spite of an active "grapevine communication" inside the camp, which they could not stop, no information would leak out of the camp. Obviously this assumption was quite justified, inasmuch as until my and Wetzler's escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau in April 1944 the real purpose of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the capital of the mass murder and robbery machinery organized by the Nazis, remained a secret to the outside world. This incredible preservation of the secrecy of Auschwitz to the outside world has been well-documented after the war by various historians.l8 Inside of Auschwitz, virtually all prisoners knew that most newly arrived Jews would be killed in the gas chambers. However, throughout my stay in Auschwitz from June 1942 until April 1944, during which time hundreds of transports of Jews arrived from all over Europe, I never met a single prisoner who had own anything about the gas chambers of Auschwitz before he arrived. The puzzling ignorance about their true destination by all the new arrivals over such a long period was astonishing not only for me but for all other prisoners living in Auschwitz at that time, and has remained well-established in the subsequent writings of many survivors of Auschwitz.l9

18 Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies, pp. 339-41; Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret. Suppression of the Truth About Hitler's "Final Solution" (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980), p. 145; Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews, p. 288. See also note 19.

19 Langbein collected testimonies of numerous survivors of various nationalities who arrived in Auschwitz at various dates in the period 1942-1944. They all testify not to have heard about Auschwitz and its meaning until they arrived there. See his Menschen in Auschwitz pp. 140-42; A. Fiderkiewicz, formerly a Polish prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau, describes in his memoirs the numerous talks he had with newly arrived Jewish prisoners from Hungary in May-June 1944. He was still astonished by the fact that even at that time the new prisoners from Hungary had not the slightest suspicion that their children and parents would be murdered on arrival in the resettlement area. See his Brzezinka, Birkenau (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1962), p. 246. ...

{p. 389} The preservation of the secrecy of the Auschwitz death factory was the cornerstone of the success of the mass murder and robbery routinely practiced in Auschwitz virtually daily over a period of two years. The alleged passivity of hundreds of thousands of Jewish mothers and fathers who brought their children to their sordid execution in the gas chambers in Auschwitz was not the result of "Jewish inferiority," as the Nazi's claimed. Neither was it their "inability to comprehend the truth," as the Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer suggests.20 Nevertheless, I learned from the Jewish prisoners who were not murdered on arrival that before they left home they had been gravely worried about their sinister, unknown destination. Until the Nazi rule was established in their hometowns, they had spent their lives in a normal civilized society. After the Nazi or pro-Nazi administrations were set up, they were subjected to a total deprivation of civil liberties and systematically terrorized by Nazi and pro-Nazi gangs in all German-occupied or semi-occupied countries. The fascist and pro-Nazi regimes in Europe protected murderous gangs such as the Hlinka Guards in Slovakia or the Ustashas in Croatia. Similar paramilitary anti-Semitic terrorist organizations were active throughout the whole of German-occupied Europe, where with the help of the ruling authorities - sometimes disguised in priestly habits like Josef Tiso in Slovakia, or

{390} veiled in nationalistic fervor like Henri Philippe Petain in France, or Ante Pavelic in Croatia - they created a pogrom-type atmosphere. The Jews were inclined to hope that by obedience they might escape the increasing violence in their hometowns. They even optimistically believed that they would be safer if moved to less dangerous "resettlement areas" or hoped that their children at least would have a chance to survive the war in some sort of Jewish reservation in the East. Against this background the Jews were hoodwinked into going willy-nilly into the deportation trains. When they arrived in Auschwitz and realized that they had been swindled, they were already inside the confines of the mass murder camps (sometimes also called "extermination camps" in line with the Nazi imagery likening Jews to insects), in most cases at the very gates of the gas chambers and crematoria. Their only choice at that point was between being wounded and tortured to death or dying less elaborately. Often they were killed before they had time to contemplate the alternatives, because speed was the vital part of the mass murder technique practiced by the Nazis in Auschwitz and other death camps.

I believed that if I escaped the confines of Auschwitz and managed to get back into the world outside and spread the news about the fate awaiting potential candidates for "resettlement" I could make some significant difference by breaking the comerstone of the streamlined mass murder in Auschwitz, i.e., its secrecy. I had no doubts whatever as to my abilities to communicate the realities of Auschwitz to the outside world, since I was relatively very well acquainted with the machinery of Auschwitz including its detailed geography and operational principles as well as with what went on there during my imprisonment. Because in Auschwitz we prisoners were frequently subjected to meticulous inspection of our assigned work and habitation spaces as well as to bodily searches, I avoided making any notes whatever and relied exclusively on my reasonably reliable memory - the slightest evidence or suspicion that I was keeping track of events for possible communication to anyone outside the camp would have immediately condemned me to a difficult way of dying.

{p. 391} I first planned to escape on January 26, 1944 together with Charles Unglick, a Jewish prisoner from Poland, born in Czestochova in 1911, who had lived in France before his arrest and been a prisoner in Auschwitz since June 1942. But on January 26, due to a technical hitch, I could not get to the place where we were supposed to meet on time. Faced with the dilemma of going alone or waiting for another opportunity, he chose to try it alone and was killed the same day.2l

The next plan to escape was worked out with another Jewish prisoner from Slovakia, Alfred Wetzler, bom in 1918 in Trnava. Wetzler had been in Birkenau since April 1942 (his prisoner no. was 29162). He worked as a Schreiber der Leichenkammer (pen pusher in the morgue) in Birkenau BIb and later, after the reorganization of the camp in June 1943, as Blockschreiber in Block 9 in BIId, which became the main male camp at that time. I knew Wetzler from Tmava, where I had lived (although I was born in Topolcany), before my deportation from Slovakia in 1942. Well over six hundred Jewish men from Trnava were deported to Auschwitz from Slovakia in 1942 (including Wetzler's father and two brothers). Of all these people, only Alfred Wetzler and I were still alive in the spring of 1944. With all our friends and acquaintances from Trnava murdered outright or slowly succumbed to the camp conditions (mainly in 1942), we became close friends and trusted one another. This mutual trust was the fundamental link in the chain of many small step-by-step operations needed to prepare the escape. I want to stress that there was no resistance "group" or "organization" of any sort which decided that we two should escape22 or where we should go or what we should do ...

{p. 411} Controversial Aspects Relevant to the Holocaust in Hungary

At the time of writing this article, more than fifty years have elapsed since the events described, and much has been written about them. There are some controversies with respect to the contents of the Vrba-Wetzler Report as well as its handling after it was written. Some salient points need further clarification. The Czech historian M. Karny wrote43 in 1992 that neither I nor Wetzler had known anything about the preparations made in

{p. 412} Auschwitz for the mass murder of Hungarian Jews: "In the whole Report of Wetzler and Vrba there is no mention whatever about what supposedly was a public secret in Auschwitz - namely that it was the turn of the Hungarian Jews and that preparations were already being made in Auschwitz for their murder. If such a public secret had existed in the camp, certainly t escaped prisoners from Auschwitz would have considered it necessary to place special emphasis on these preparations in their Report." Karny further claims to have found evidence for my and Wetzler's ignorance about these preparations by quoting verbatim the end of the chronological part of the Vrba-Wetzler Report, which stated:

"Small groups of Jews from Benzburg and Sosnovitz, who had been dragged from hiding, arrived in the middle of March. One of them told me that many Polish Jews were crossing over to Slovakia and from there to Hungary and that the Slovak Jews helped them on their way through Slovakia. After the gassing of the Theresienstadt transport there were no further arrivals until March 15,1944. The effective strength of the camp rapidly dimished and 'selected' men of transports arriving later, especially Dutch Jews, were directed to the camp. When we left on April 7,1944 we heard that large convoys of Greek Jews were expected."

M. Karny further develops his ideas by saying: "If Wetzler and Vrba considered it necessary to record rumors about the expected transports of Greek Jews, why would they have not put on record that transports of hundreds of thousands Hungarian Jews were expected, if their expected arrival was indeed a public secret in Auschwitz? If they recorded the help of Slovak Jews to the Polish Jews escaping to Hungary, why would they not wam these Polish escapees of the danger threatening them immediately, particularly in Hungary?"

And, he claims, "[Wetzler and Vrba] ... did not know that the Final Solution in Hungary was imminent." In other words, Karny implies that preparations for the Holocaust of Hungarian Jews were not passed along because they were not revealed by us at the time.

To my present knowledge a copy of the Slovak original text of the Vrba-Wetzler Report has not been preserved, so that I cannot state categorically whether the warning about the imminent

{p. 413} Holocaust in Hungary was or was not recorded in the original Slovak version of the Report. However, I clearly remember that, during the checking of the final version of the Report, I had a discussion with Krasnyanski on this very point. I insisted the warning should be included, whereas Krasnyanski was of the opinion that only murders which had already taken place in Auschwitz should be recorded so that the final report would be a record of facts only that would not be weakened by "forecasts" and "prophesies." I do not remember whose opinion prevailed. But I do recall very well that Krasnyanski reassured me that the Jewish as well as other authorities would be immediately acquainted with all of the details I and Wetzler had provided about the preparations made in Auschwitz for the mass murder of the Hungarian Jews.

Indeed, there is incontrovertible evidence showing that these preparations in Auschwitz, as described by Wetzler and myself, were made known to the leading Jewish authorities in Slovakia, and subsequently to their partners in Hungary. Furthermore, this information was later passed on to the above-mentioned Jewish contacts in western countries, specifically in Switzerland shortly thereafter. The above-mentioned letter by Rabbi Weissmandel and Gisi Fleischmann, dated May 22,1944,44 was written one month after Wetzler and I arrived in Slovakia from Auschwitz but well before the escape from Auschwitz and arrival in Slovakia of Mordowicz and Rosin (June 6,1944), i.e., could not have been based on their later information. This letter (5 ledger-size pages, single-space typed) was sent by a reliable courier to Switzerland, with the original addressed to the general office of Hechalutz in Bern.

This letter starts with twelve paragraphs, labeled (a) through (m), giving detailed information about the practices at Auschwitz. Paragraph (1) states:

"(1) In December and January [1944] a special railway line [in Birkenau; R.V.] has already been built leading into the halls of annihilation, in order to prepare the new work of annihilation of Hungarian Jews [italics added - R.V.]. That was said by knowledgeable people there in that hell; there they discuss it without scruples, without suspecting that someone outside will learn

{p. 414} about it since they assume, in general, that no one in the country knows anything whatever about the work in this hell."

In paragraph (m) Rabbi Weissmandel stated: "This is their system in Auschwitz, where since yesterday they are deporting [from Hungary] 12,000 Jewish souls daily; men, women, old people, children, sick persons and healthy people, and there every day they are asphyxiated and burned and converted into fertilizer for the fields."

In other parts of this letter the Rabbi and Gisi Fleischmann describe the inhuman methods of transporting the deportees to Auschwitz and their immediate fate afterwards as follows:

"(e) These transports arrive in Auschwitz after 2-3 days of travel without air, without food and without water, body pressed upon body. In this manner a considerable number of persons already die during the journey; the survivors go naked into special compartments of large halls, believing that they are going to have a bath. There they - 2,000 souls per section - will be gassed by cyanide."

In paragraphs (f) and (g) they state: "According to an authenic message from a few witnesses, there were in Auschwitz at the end of February [1944] four such annihilation halls and according to rumors these facilities are being expanded.... The bodies are bumed in ovens specially built for this purpose...."

Not surprisingly, Rabbi Weissmandel's letter did not name his sources of this crucial information, but he says on page 3 of his letter that "two Jews recently escaped from Auschwitz" are the source. We can therefore be certain that his despatch was based on the fact that he had studied our Report at some time between April 28 and May 22. The presumption must be that this was the case, for no other eyewitnesses escaped from Auschwitz during this period, and no alternative source has ever been suggested. And, as noted above, when I met the Rabbi toward the end of June 1944, he was well acquainted with the details of our report. In view of the facts evidenced by the May 22 letter, there can be little doubt that the Rabbi based his appeal to Switzerland on the information about Auschwitz provided by Wetzler and me. No other explanation is credible.

It follows that those historians are mistaken who have recently sought to show that Wetzler and I knenothing before our escape about the preparations being made in Auschwitz for

{p. 415} the mass murder of the Hungarian Jews. We in fact did know about these preparations and we explained it clearly; the post-war testimony of the chairman of the Jewish Council in Slovakia, Oskar Neumann, provides an eloquent confirmation of this.45

It is of interest to note that the Rabbi was well-informed about many details of the deportations of Jews then in progress in Hungary, although he lived in Bratislava, Slovakia. He says in his letter that the deportation of Hungarian Jews began east of the river Tisa (Theiss), that 12,000 are being deported daily, that each freight car contains 60 or more people, that each train contains 45 freight cars, etc. This demonstrates that the Jewish leadership in Bratislava and Budapest was in regular contact and that channels for rapid exchange of information from distant parts of Hungary were available to the Jewish Council in Bratislava, and from provincial Czechoslovakia to that of Budapest, before and during the deportations of Hungarian Jews in spring 1944, even though Jews were forbidden to travel.

The Catholic and Protestant churches also had no difficulty, relatively speaking, in obtaining the same information about the progress of deportation of Jews from Hungary; there is plenty of evidence showing that they were all perfectly aware of these events in detail, as a very recent monograph again describes.46 The inevitable conclusion is that in May 1944 at the latest the representatives of all major denominations (Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant) knew that the deported Hungarian Jews were being taken for slaughter, and that for some reason all religious representatives chose not to wam the masses about

45 In this connection, the testimony of Oskar Neumann is of great importance, because Neumann was the Chairman of the Jewish Council in Slovakia and it was under his aegis, and with the technical assistance of Krasnyanski and Mrs. Steiner, that the Vrba-Wetzler Report was prepared. In his postwar memoirs, Neumann describes my and Wetzler's escape from Auschwitz without identifying us by name, claiming, among other things, that it was his organization that helped us cross the Slovak border. However, he also stated: "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. " See his Im Schatten des Todes (Tel Aviv: Olamenu, 1956), pp. 178-81. See also notes 22 and 28.

46 F. Baron and Sandor Szenes, Von Ungarn nach Auschwitz, op. cit.

{p. 416} the scheduled fate of the deportees. The Jewish authorities, for their part, duly informed their contacts in Switzerland about the preparations made in Auschwitz for the Holocaust of Hungarian Jews and about the progress of the deportations, but this vital information was withheld from those who were actually being deported.

The interpretation of all these events is of course a painful affair and my interpretation - as could be gathered from what I have said above - is very different from the interpretation given by Yehuda Bauer, Asher Cohen, and other mainly Israel-based Holocaust scholars who extol the "meritorious work" of Weissmandel, Dr. Kastzner, and other "negotiators." I am forced to regard these interpretations as the product of scholars who would like to improve not only the Jewish future but also the Jewish past. Perhaps part of this problem lies elsewhere: it may be that many of those who did not have direct experience with the Nazis at that time are unable to comprehend the truly pernicious nature of Nazism and the absolute futility of any negotiations unless the negotiator could prove that the group he represented was physically as strong or stronger than the Nazis. For those of us who saw the Nazis in action in Auschwitz, this basic precondition is easier to understand. If the Nazis entered into any "negotiations" with Jews in Bratislava or Budapest, to me it merely means that they had their own deceitful plans as to how to use the Jewish Councils for their own objectives, which were very simple: to rob the Jews swiftly of their personal property, to prepare lists of those to be deported on the basis of names and addresses supplied by the Jewish Councils, to make those on the lists enter the deportation trains without causing difficulties, and to kill the deportees economically and efficiently in Auschwitz, all the while preserving the secret of their murderous empire. The fact that the Nazis in Budapest also took personal bribes from a Jewish notable, Fulop von Freudiger47 and from other prominent Jews in Budapest and elsewhere means very little as far as their dedication to the general objectives of the Final Solution was concerned. For instance, it is well-known that in Auschwitz all SS without exception were dedicated not only to killing Jews but also pilfering, from

47 Freudiger,"Five Months," op.cit., p.266.

{p. 417} camp commander Rudolf Ferdinand Hoss to the lowliest SS-man serving in the camp. Indeed, this was an unofficial part of their reward for their murderous activity. To the SS robbing, pilfering, and cheating Jews - or for that matter any other non-Germans in a weak and vulnerable position - was as natural as murdering them. Blackmailing the Jewish "negotiators" and taking large sums as bribes did not really oblige the Nazis to anything and was part of their cynical game. In this connection I would like to point out a few relevant facts recorded by other participants in the drama of the extremely swift mass murder of Hungarian Jews.

Rabbi Weissmandel's close contact in Hungary and his confidant was an important member of the Jewish Council of Hungary, Fulop von Freudiger, who was also the son-in-law of the late Chief Rabbi of Bratislava (Akiba Schreiber) and had studied at a Yeshiva in Slovakia.48 In a subsequent report, Freudiger noted that on March 19, 1944, the very day the German troops crossed the Western border of Hungary, Eichmann's Sondereinsatzkommando contacted the Jewish Council and various influential Jewish notables. These officers of Eichmann's staff were SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Hermann Krumey, SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Otto Hunsche, SS-Standartenfuhrer Kurt Becher, and the above-mentioned Dieter Wisliceny. Wisliceny even brought with him a letter written in Hebrew by Rabbi Weissmandel to Freudiger, stating that "they could trust Wisliceny."49 Freudiger also states that he quite regularly received mail from Bratislava (mainly from Rabbi Weissmandel) via a courier of the Hungarian Legation who traveled from Bratislava with the evening express trainS° (the distance is only about 100 miles). Freudiger also stated that during the second week of May 1944 Weissmandel had informed him that, according to information obtained from the Slovak Ministry of Transportation, permission had already been granted to transport 310,000 Hungarian Jews through Slovakia on their way to Auschwitz. Of course, by that time, more than three weeks after

48 id., p.238. 49 id., pp.239,245 50 id., p.262.

{p. 418} Wetzler and I released our Report in Slovakia, Rabbi Weissmndel must have known not only what Auschwitz meant but also about the special preparations made there for the reception and mass murder of the Zugang from Hungary. Freudiger confirms that the copy of the Report he received from Rabbi Weissmandel contained information not only about the history of events in Auschwitz, but also about the special preparations made for the mass murder of Hungarian Jews.5l Freudiger also claims that subsequently members of the Jewish Council spread the information contained in the Report to Members of Parliament, Bishops and even Horthy.s2 However, it is a fact that between May 15 and July 9,1944, those earmarked for deportation, i.e., those who most needed the information contained in the Vrba-Wetzler Report, were kept in the dark about their destination.

On the other hand, the negotiations of the Jewish Council members (particularly of the Zionist faction led by Kasztner) did obtain a limited success. In August 1944 a transport of aboout 1,800 Jewish people from Hungary was sent by Eichmann not to Auschwitz but to Switzerland, albeit by a long route. Obviously, those traveling in this transport were not the poverty-stricken Jews of Hungary. Freudiger records53 that, as a partial payment for this transport, the Economic Department of the SS under SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Kurt Becher received cash, foreign currency, 18 kilograms of gold, and 180 carats of diamonds plus 1,000 or 2,000 U.S. dollars per person, an incredible cash fortune for an average person in Hungary in 1944 when the black-market value of a dollar was astronomical. Whether the preservation of secrecy about the death-mills in Auschwitz was self-imposed by the Jewish Councils or was also part of the payment for the release of a small number of privileged Jews cannot be documented, for obvious reasons; but it is surely not far-fetched to suggest that it was well worth Eichmann's while to grant the release of those 2,000 relatively rich and/or well-connected Jews to Switzerland as a reward for keeping what was happening at Auschwitz a secret to the remainder of their fellow Jews. It is clear tthese prominent

51 Ibid. 52 Ibid., p. 263. 53 Ibid., p. 269.

{p. 419} Jews themselves had already become acquainted with the information contained in our Report. Andreas Biss, a close collaborator of Kasztner and von Freudiger, describes a remarkable episode on this journey when the train on its way westward was switched towards Auspitz (not Auschwitz). A terrible panic occurred, because the passengers did not understand the difference between the two.54 Thus while there were 437,000 Jews in Hungary who were not given any information about the nature of Auschwitz or about the preparations made there for their murder, a tiny minority of 1,800 Jews who traveled to Switzerland knew very well what the implications of the name Auschwitz meant. The simultaneous existence in one small country of these two contrasting groups is amazing but well documented.

Further evidence of the collaboration between the Nazis and certain favored groups of Jews can be seen from the fact when the deportation of Hungarian Jews was stopped by Horthy in July 1944, and the Jewish Council became useless for the Germans, Wisliceny advised Freudiger to flee to Romania, which he did.55 Yehuda Bauer writes that shortly before the Russians liberated Bratislava from the Nazis (April 4, 1945), through Becher's efforts a group of 69 people, most of them from Bratislava, left the city on March 31,1945 and reached Vienna on April 3 and then traveled to Switzerland. Among them was Rabbi Weissmandel.56 The Becher referred to is the same SS-Colonel Kurt Becher mentioned above. Res ipsa loquitur.

It appears that during these critical times the Jewish masses in Slovakia and Hungary generally placed their trust either in the "Zionist leadership" (e.g., Kasztner, Biss) or in Orthodox and Rabbinical Jewish leaders (such as Rabbi Weissmandel, von Freudiger). The Nazis were aware of this and therefore chose exactly these circles for "negotiations." That the negotiators and their families were in fact pathetic, albeit voluntary, hostages in the hands of Nazi power was an important part of these "deals." From the testimony of survivors such as Elie Wiesel, it seems

54 Andreas Biss, A Million Jews to Save (London: New English Library, 1973), p. 81. 55 Freudiger, "Five Months," op. cit., pp. 277-78. 56 Yehuda Bauer, American Jewry and the Holocaust (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 449.

{p. 420} clear that the Jewish masses assumed that if something truly horrible was in store for them, these respectable leaders would know about it and would share their knowledge. But as detailed above, these leaders did in fact learn what Auschwitz meant but did not share this new knowledge with the Jews earmarked for deportation. The puzzlingly passive trip of enormous masses of Hungarian Jews into the sordid gas chambers of Birkenau was in fact the result of a successful confidence trick by the Nazis that resulted in a death toll three to four times larger than that recorded after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This was an incredible and unprecedented organizational success, even for Auschwitz. It is my contention that a small group of informed people, by their silence, deprived others of the possibility or privilege of making their own decisions in the face of mortal danger. ...

(7) Vrba's Testimony at the first Zundel trial (1985)

VRBA's TESTIMONY: [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ]



VRBA's TESTIMONY: [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ] [ 6 ]


p. 1607


p. 1447

I have a dictaphone to ---

Q. But I suggest you have a good imagination, so I suggest you created the words.

A. You can call it imagination or you can call it good memory.

Q. Yeah.

A. In other words, I have created the situation in an artistic way, if you allow me to count myself on account of this book as an artist or as an artistic attempt.

Q. I suggest, also, that you falsified to some extent as well, because throughout the book you referred to someone by the name of Rudolf Vrba, and you attribute the name Vrba to the conversations, and Rudi, meaning you, and in fact, there was nobody by that name in the camp, sir. Is that right?

A. That is perfectly so, but I would take a great objection against your word "falsify", because I would say, then, that the artist drawn my moustache in a different way has falsified something. This is not a document, but literature, and literature has been meant mainly for young people and it would be for young people a considerable confusion to explain to them all the methods of clandestine work and how it came that the names have to be changed.

Moreover, I would have to explain my real ground and reasons why I changed my German name to the name of my native language, and this would have transferred, perhaps, a national hatred to the reader, which I wanted to avoid, against the Germans.

In other words, I used my licence of

p. 1448

a poet, it is called licensia poetarium, to put in the book only those facts and events which will enable a young person to understand the general situation.

Q. Mm-hmmm. So for you it's poetic licence?

A. Poetic licence in this particular case.

Q. Yeah.

A. In other words, I am not bound to make of it a document, but re-creates the situation as close as possible to the truth without complicating it. ==

p. 1636

THE COURT: Mr Griffiths, do you wish to re-examine now?


THE COURT: Go ahead.



Q. Just a couple of things, Doctor.

A. Yes, please.

Q. You told Mr Christie several times in discussing your book, "I Cannot Forgive" that you used poetic licence in writing that book. Have you used poetic licence in your testimony?

A. No. This is not a book. This is under oath.

(8) Faurisson says Vrba is #1 witness but admits "poetic license" ie errors & lies

Witnesses to the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz[*]

Robert Faurisson {a chapter in Dissecting the Holocaust, ed Germar Rudolf}

... 4. The Unraveling of the Witnesses at the First Zündel Trial (1985) ...

5. Jewish Witnesses Finally Cross-Examined: Arnold Friedman and Dr. Rudolf Vrba

For those persons interested in the technical and documentary means by which we were nevertheless in a position to severely cross-examine the two principal Jewish witnesses, Arnold Friedman and Dr. Rudolf Vrba, I can do no better than to recommend a reading of the trial transcript.[8] Pages 304-371 cover the questioning and cross-examination of Arnold Friedman; the latter breaks down on pages 445-446 when he ends by acknowledging that he in fact saw nothing, that he had spoken from hearsay because, according to him, he had met persons who were convincing; perhaps, he added, he would have adopted the position of Mr. Christie rather than that of these other persons if only Mr. Christie had been able to tell him back then what he was telling him now!

Dr. Vrba was a witness of exceptional importance. One might even say about this trial in Toronto that the prosecution had found the means of recruiting 'Holocaust' expert number one in the person of Dr. Raul Hilberg, and witness number one in the person of Dr. Rudolf Vrba. The testimony of this latter gentleman had been one of the principal sources of the famous War Refugee Board Report on the German Extermination Camps - Auschwitz and Birkenau, published in November 1944 by the Executive Office of President Roosevelt. Dr. R. Vrba was also the author of I Cannot Forgive,[9] written in collaboration with Alan Bestic who, in his preface, declares with regard to him:

"Indeed I would like to pay tribute to him for the immense trouble he took over every detail; for the meticulous, almost fanatical respect he revealed for accuracy." (p.2).

Never perhaps, had a court of justice seen a witness express himself with more assurance on the Auschwitz gas chambers. Yet, by the end of the cross-examination, the situation had reversed itself to the point where Dr. R. Vrba was left with only one explanation for his errors and his lies: in his book he had, he confessed, resorted to "poetic license" or, as he was wont to say in Latin, to "licentia poetarum"!

In the end, a bit of drama unfolded: Mr. Griffiths, the prosecutor who had himself solicited the presence of this witness numero uno and yet now apparently exasperated by Dr. Vrba's lies, fired off the following question:

"You told Mr. Christie several times in discussing your book I Cannot Forgive that you used poetic license in writing that book. Have you used poetic license in your testimony?" (p. 1636).

The false witness tried to parry the blow but prosecutor Griffiths hit him with a second question equally treacherous, this time concerning the number of gassing victims which Vrba had given; the witness responded with garrulous nonsense; Griffiths was getting ready to ask him a third and final question when suddenly, the matter was cut short and one heard the prosecutor say to the judge:

"I have no further questions for Dr. Vrba" (p. 1643).

Crestfallen, the witness left the dock. Dr. Vrba's initial questioning, cross-examination and final questioning filled 400 pages of transcripts (pp. 1244-1643). These pages could readily be used in an encyclopedia of law under a chapter on the detection of false witnesses. ...

(9) Vrba "a liar" on account of "poetic licence"

Rudolf Vrba exposes himself as a liar

By Ernst Bruun

In his book, Pietà,[1] Professor Georg Klein, Stockholm,[2] relates a conversation he had with Rudolf Vrba in Vancouver in 1987. Professor Vrba is notorious for being the only one of the hundreds of Auschwitz escapees[3] who wrote a famous report[4] in 1944 and later also a book about the camp.[5] When Klein met Vrba in 1987, they naturally talked also about the film Shoah, which Claude Lanzmann had made a few years before.[6] Vrba was one of the survivors interviewed by Lanzmann in his film. During the first Zündel trial in Toronto in 1985, Vrba admitted that when he wrote his book he had "used my licence of poet".[7] In the book, however, the same Vrba claims that his report on the camp and the figures concerning Jews gassed was the truth and a very accurate account. ...


First published in German in Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 6(4) (2003), pp. 447f.

[1] Stockholm 1989, p. 141. [2] G. Klein is a Jew who was born in Hungary from where he emigrated to Sweden in 1947. There he studied medicine and became active in cancer research in subsequent years. He is now retired. [3] Krystof Duni-Wascowicz, Resistance in the Nazi concentration camps 1933-1945, Warsaw 1982, p. 213. [4] Together with Alfred Wetzler; cf. Heiner Lichtenstein, Warum Auschwitz nicht bombardiert wurde, Cologne 1980, pp. 133-181. [5] Rudolf Vrba, I Cannot Forgive, London 1963. [6] Claude Lanzmann, Shoah, Paris 1985. [7] Cf. protocol, Queen versus Zündel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, starting Jan. 7, 1985, pp. 1244-1643, especially pp. 1447f. and 1636; see online ...

Source: The Revisionist 1(2) (2003), pp. 169f.

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