Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Four Escappes of Auschwitz that Saved 120,000 Hungarian Jews

Three of the Escapees

In November of 2011, I decided to go to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. I had never been there before. I did not particularly want to go. But I knew I had to. So, I invited several friends, including a pastor from the U.S. and his wife, and a pastor from Germany and his wife.
The trip had a profound effect on me. 
It’s difficult to describe the emotions of standing in an actual gas chamber where people were murdered, seeing the ovens where bodies were burned, walking through the cell blocks, seeing the guard towers and barbed wire and train tracks. It was haunting to realize that more than one million people were systematically murdered there, the vast majority of them Jews.

While at their bookstore, I purchased a thin volume, London Has Been Informed, that briefly noted there were some 800 escape attempts from Auschwitz, but only a handful of successful escapes. Escapes? I was stunned. My colleagues and I had hired a VIP guide to take us through the camp. He never mentioned anything about escapes.
As soon as I got home, I started tracking down every resource I could. Who were these men who had escaped? How had they succeeded? What was their plan? What did they do after they got out?
What I learned astounded me.

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It turns out that April 7, 1944, the greatest escape in human history took place. That was the day that two Slovak Jews – Rudolf Vrba, only 19 at the time, and Fred Wetzler, barely 25 – managed to break free from the worst of the Nazi death camps.
The following month – on May 27, 1944 – two more Jewish men were miraculously able to slip out of Auschwitz in the dead of night. Arnost Rosin, then 30 years old, was also from Slovakia. Czeslaw Mordowicz, 23, was from Poland.
The four not only planned their escapes together, they eventually linked up in Czechoslovakia. There they wrote a first-hand, detailed, eyewitness report of the mass murder underway inside the death camp.
The report, known as “The Auschwitz Protocol,” was translated into numerous languages and smuggled throughout Europe. Copies were sent to Hungary to warn the Jewish community of what the Nazis were really up to. Copies were also sent to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Washington and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London, urging both men to take decisive action to liberate Auschwitz or at least bomb it out of existence.
My journey led me to the Israeli Holocaust museum and research center. The team at Yad Vashem was very gracious. They allowed me to spend hours with their senior scholars, several of whom actually knew the men who escaped and had interviewed them at length. The scholars even took me down into their vaults and showed me an original copy of “The Auschwitz Protocol,” including hand-drawn maps of the camps made by the four escapees.
Tragically, the report these men wrote was not enough to stop the Hungarian Holocaust in time. The Germans had already begun the deportation of some 483,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 15th. This was well before “The Auschwitz Protocol” was written, much less before it reached the leaders of Hungarian Jewish community.
Meanwhile, Roosevelt and Churchill and their top aides apparently received the document just as they were launching the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6th. Thus, scant attention was initially given to the bombshell report.
Exasperated, Jewish leaders took the report to the U.S. War Refugee Board. They pleaded with members of the board to tell the world the information contained in “The Auschwitz Protocol.” On November 25, 1944, the Board finally did release the full report to the media. It sparked global headlines and outrage. Yet to their shame, neither the U.S. nor the British military took direct action to liberate Auschwitz. Nor did they bomb the train lines to the death camps or bomb the camps themselves.
That said, far more people know the names of these four heroes – Vrba, Wetzler, Rosin and Mordowicz.
Sir Martin Gilbert, the British historian, has noted that their “Auschwitz Protocol” was responsible for “the largest single greatest rescue of Jews in the Second World War.” True, some Hungarian 300,000 had already been gassed by the time the report came to light. 

Still, the four men are credited with ultimately helping save 120,000 Jews in Hungary.
In 2014, I wrote The Auschwitz Escape, a novel inspired by these remarkable men, hoping to draw more attention to them. But more books and articles and essays need to be written about them. Conferences need to be held about them. Better yet, documentary films and dramatic, narrative TV programs and movies need to bring their story to the world.
After all, this real-life Fantastic Four did not pull off the greatest escape in human history merely to save their own lives (though they would have been fully justified to do so). Nor did they want simply want to tell the world of the terrible crimes the Nazis had already committed. What drove these men to take such extraordinary risks was the hope that they might actually be able to stop a war crime they believed had not yet occurred: the wholesale slaughter of the Hungarian Jews.
They deserve our attention, and our eternal gratitude.


9th Av Committee said...

What's majorly missing in this report is that only 120k were saved while many perished because even among Yidden almost no one believed these dudes!

There were many reasons for that.

Baalei Musser wrote a century earlier that mankind in general does not want to believe something bad happened / will happen.

It was hard to imagine that modern, sophisticated & previously polite Germans were capable of such inhumanity not seen since Tach ve Tat.

When Germany invaded Eastern Europe in WWI they were in most cases nicer to the Yidden than the Yidden's own governments.

Many rabbonim made the mistake of trying to appease the Nazis like we do to Esav, not realizing that Amalek shel Esav is a whole different & out of control animal.

There was counter propaganda from Kapo Kasztner.

There was a gezeiras Hakosuv that many Yidden lose their minds when it is Toichocho & go like sheep to slaughter.

Even for those still on the ball, Nazi deceit covered up what would happen even when they first arraus'ed the Yidden from the trains in the middle of the lager.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was one of the first people in Auschwitz. In 1943 he escaped and ran to Hungary where he went around telling them what was happening and warning them. They called him the Meshiggener Poilisher.

frum but normal said...

Anonymous said...
My grandfather was one of the first people in Auschwitz. In 1943 he escaped and ran to Hungary where he went around telling them what was happening and warning them. They called him the Meshiggener Poilisher
if your story is true,then why not give us his name why remain anonymous? why not publicize such a hero grandfather.
I think it is you that needs to be called "the Poilisher SHAKREN"