Rudolf Vrba

Rudolf Vrba

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Rudolf Vrba (Walter Rosenberg), the son of a sawmill owner, was born in Slovakia on 11th September, 1924. At the age of fifteen he was expelled from his high school in Bratislava, under the Slovak puppet state's version of the Nazis' Nuremberg Laws.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Vrba, like other Jews in countries occupied in Nazi Germany, was rounded up and sent to concentration camps. In 1942 Vrba arrived in Auschwitz. On 9th April 1944, Vrba and his friend, Alfred Wetzler, managed to escape. The two men spent eleven days walking and hiding before they got back to Slovakia.

Vrba and Wetzler made contact with the local Jewish Council. They provided details of the Holocaust that was taking place in Eastern Europe. They also gave an estimate of the number of Jews killed in Auschwitz between June 1942 and April 1944: about 1.75 million. In June, 1944, the 32-page Vrba-Wetzler Report was published. It was the first information about the extermination camps to reach the free world and to be accepted as credible.

In September 1944 Vrba joined the Czechoslovak partisans and was later decorated for bravery. After the war he read biology and chemistry at Charles University, Prague, took a doctorate and then escaped to the west. He worked in Israel from 1958 to 1960 at the biological research institute in Beit Dagan. He then moved to Britain and worked for the Medical Research Council.

Vrba's memoirs, I Cannot Forgive, appeared in 1963. They were later republished as I Escaped from Auschwitz. In 1967 Vrba became professor of biochemistry in the pharmacology department of the medical school of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada.

Rudolf Vrba died of cancer on 26th March, 2006.

The crematorium contains a large hall, a gas chamber and a furnace. People are assembled in the hall, which holds 2,000. They have to undress and are given a piece of soap and a towel as if they were going to the baths. Then they are crowded into the gas chamber which is hermetically sealed. Several SS men in gas masks then pour into the gas chamber through three openings in the ceiling a preparation of the poison gas maga-cyclon. At the end of three minutes all the persons are dead. The dead bodies are then taken away in carts to the furnace to be burnt.

We marched into the commercial heart of Auschwitz, warehouses of the body-snachers where hundreds of prisoners worked frantically to sort, segregate and classify the clothes and the food and the valuables of those whose bodies were still burning, whose ashes would soon be used as a fertilizer.

It was an incredible sight, an enormous rectangular yard with a watchtower at each corner and surrounded by barbed wire. There were several huge storerooms and a block of what seemed like offices with a square, open balcony at one corner. Yet what first struck me was a mountain of trunks, cases, rucksacks, kitbags and parcels stacked in the middle of the yard.

Nearby was another mountain, of blankets this time, fifty thousand of them, maybe one hundred thousand. I was so staggered by the sight of these twin peaks of personal possessions that I never thought at that moment where their owners might be. In fact I did not have much time to think, for every step brought some new shock.

Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz camp again in January 1943. This time I was glad to see him arrive, though not because I still nursed any faint hope that he would improve our lot through benevolence or any sense of justice. His presence was welcome to us all merely because it meant that for one day there would be no unscheduled beatings or killings.

He was to watch the world's first conveyor-belt killing, the inauguration of Commandant Hoess's brand new toy, his crematorium. It was truly a splendid affair, 100 yards long and 50 yards wide, containing 15 ovens which could burn three bodies each simultaneously in 20 minutes, a monument in concrete, indeed, to its builder, Herr Walter Dejaco.

Himmler certainly saw an impressive demonstration, marred only by a timetable that would have caused concern in many a small German railway station. Commandant Hoess, anxious to display his new toy at its most efficient, had arranged for a special transport of 3,000 Polish Jews to be present for slaughter in the modern, German way.

Himmler arrived at eight o'clock that morning and the show was to start an hour later. By 8.45, the new gas chambers, with their clever dummy showers and their notices - "Keep Clean", "Keep Quiet" and so on - were packed to capacity. The SS guards, indeed, had made sure that not an inch of space would be wasted by firing a few shots at the entrance. An SS man, wearing a heavy service gas mask, stood on the roof of the chamber, waiting to drop in the Zyklon B pellets, which released a hydrogen cyanide gas. His was a post of honour that day, for seldom would he have had such a distinguished audience, and he probably felt as tense as the starter of the Derby. By 8.55, the tension was almost unbearable. The man in the gas mask was fidgeting with his boxes of pellets. Somewhere a phone rang. Every head turned towards it. A junior NCO clattered over to the officer in charge of the operation, saluted hastily, and panted out a message. The officer's face stiffened, but he said not a word. The message was: "The Reichsführer has not finished his breakfast yet." At last, however, everything was ready for action. A sharp command was given to the SS man on the roof. He opened a circular lid and dropped the pellets quickly on to the heads below him. He knew, everyone knew, that the heat of those packed bodies would cause these pellets to release their gases in a few minutes; and so he closed the lid quickly. The gassing had begun. Having waited for a while so that the poison would have circulated properly, Hoess courteously invited his guest to have another peep through the observation window. For some minutes Himmler peered into the death chamber, obviously impressed, and then turned with new interest to his commandant with a fresh batch of questions. Special lifts took the bodies to the crematorium, but the burning did not follow immediately. Gold teeth had to be removed. Hair, which was used to make the warheads of torpedoes watertight, had to be cut from the heads of the women. The bodies of wealthy Jews, noted early for their potential, had to be set aside for dissection in case any of them had been cunning enough to conceal jewellery - diamonds, perhaps - about their person.

Himmler waited until the smoke began to thicken over the chimneys and glanced at his watch. It was one o'clock. Lunchtime, in fact. He shook hands with the senior officers, returned the salutes of the lower ranks casually and cheerfully, and climbed back into the car with Hoess. Auschwitz was in business.

Early in March 1942, in rebellion against the deportation laws, Vrba ripped the yellow Star of David off his clothes and left his Czechoslovakian home in a taxi, heading for Britain via Hungary. Later, having been intercepted by frontier guards, he was first sent to the Novaky transition camp in Slovakia, where he tried to escape, but again was caught and beaten. On June 14 1942 he was deported to the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland and two weeks later, on June 30, to Auschwitz. After six months in Auschwitz, he was transferred to Birkenau (Auschwitz II) and had the number 44070 tattooed on his arm.

From August 1942 until June 1943 Vrba was assigned - both in Auschwitz and in Birkenau - to work in the special slave labour unit that handled the property of those who had been gassed. In camp slang, the unit was known as "Canada" because of the food and the gold and other precious materials that the Germans confiscated from the luggage of the incoming "resettlement" deportees. The Auschwitz treasures from "Canada" were packaged for Germany, and the gold was quickly melted into ingots and deposited in the Reichsbank.

A major aspect of Vrba's duties during 1942 and 1943 was to be present at the arrival of most transports of deportees and to sort the belongings of the gassed victims. From this vantage point he was able to assess how little the deportees knew about Auschwitz when they entered the camp. Their luggage contained clothing for all seasons and basic utensils, a clear sign of their naive preparation for a new life in the area of "resettlement" in the east.

In the summer of 1943, Vrba improved his position for collecting information when he was appointed registrar in the quarantine camp for men. At the beginning of 1944, he noticed that preparations were under way for an additional railway line, for an expected transports of Jews who, in the SS camp language were called "Hungarian salami". Transports from different countries, Vrba would later explain, were characterised by certain long lasting provisions packed in the prisoners' luggage for the final journey into the unknown.

As he subsequently wrote: "When a series of transports of Jews from the Netherlands arrived, cheeses enriched the wartime rations. It was sardines when a series of transports of French Jews arrived, 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."

For almost two years he had thought of escape, at first selfishly, because he had merely wanted his freedom, but now, "I had an imperative reason. It was no longer a question of reporting a crime but of preventing one." He began his first scientific study: to assess every unsuccessful escape attempt, to analyse its flaws and to correct them.

On Friday, April 7 1944, (the eve of Passover), Vrba and Wetzler sneaked into a previously used hideout sprinkled with gasoline-soaked tobacco to prevent the dogs from sniffing them out. They stayed there for three nights, until the camp authorities assumed that the two men had already got beyond the outer perimeter. When the cordon of SS guards that had surrounded that perimeter was withdrawn, Vrba and Wetzler were ready to sneak out.

They knew one thing for certain: as shaven-headed inmates, clad in striped pyjamas and with numbers tattooed on their arms, there was no point in relying on any help in the world outside Auschwitz. "At the moment of our escape," explained Vrba, "all connections with whatever friends and social contacts we had in Auschwitz were severed, and we had absolutely no connection waiting for us outside the death camp where we had spent the past two years." As he later phrased it: "We were de facto written off by the world from the moment we were loaded into a deportation train in the spring of 1942. To start with, we had to step into a complete 'social vacuum' outside Auschwitz. The only administrative evidence of our existence was an international warrant about us, issued telegraphically and distributed to all stations of the Gestapo."

The Vrba-Wetzler report continues to generate historical debate to this day. Many, including Vrba himself, have questioned whether the report was disseminated and acted upon as rapidly and as forcefully as it should have been. In an unanswerable "what if", Vrba continued to question to his last day whether more victims could have been saved had the allied and the Jewish leadership of the time pursued a more vigorous course of action in light of his report. This line of thought has at times made his ideas somewhat incongruent with the predominant Israeli historical narrative concerning the events of that time. Whereas the two escapees accurately predicted the fate of the Hungarian Jews, what they could not have foreseen was that their postwar memoirs and documented report would be kept from the Israeli Hebrew-reading public.

Rudolf Vrba – one of the first to report on the horrors of Auschwitz

Rudolf Vrba was one of the first people to escape from Auschwitz concentration camp and report what was happening there to the authorities.

Rudolf was born in Czechoslovakia in 1924. He left home and wanted to join the army at the age of 17, as World War Two was underway. He removed the Star of David from his sleeve, which identified him as a Jew, and went across the border into Hungary, but he was soon arrested and was taken to a concentration camp near Lublin. Rudolf undertook farm work and was transferred to Auschwitz in 1942.

He would see how new arrivals were divided into those who could work, and those who were sent straight to the gas chambers. When it was discovered that he could speak German, Rudolf got a job in the stores sorting the belongings of the dead and imprisoned. The stores were a good place to work as he had access to food, soap and water. He eventually became a camp registrar.

Rudolf remembered the four ovens at Birkenau, where the gas killings happened. He said the chambers would hold 2,000 people. He said they would increase the temperature of the chamber, then drop the poisonous powder through shoots in the roof, which turned into gas. He said it would take three minutes and everyone in the chamber would be dead. After a while and the chamber’s gases had subsided they would send in slave labourers to remove the bodies and take them to the furnace.

Rudolf managed to escape with his friend Wetzel in 1944. They hid under a pile of logs, and crept out at night. They headed for Slovakia, hiding out with Polish peasants along the way, The Telegraph reports.

They reached Zilina, and started to write up what they had seen, heard and experienced at Auschwitz. They drew the building plansand wrote up their experiences. It served as solid evidence to what had happened there. This was one of the first reports that proved the Nazis were systematically killing Jews. It was formed into the Wetzler-Vrba report and was circulated to all the Allied and Jewish authorities, as well as international press.

When the report made headlines in the news by July of 1944, the deportation of 50,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz was stopped.

After the war, Rudolf went on to take a career in academia, studying Chemistry and Biology and went on to work for the University of British Columbia and Harvard Medical School. He wrote amemoir about his war experiences titled, I Cannot Forgive.

Rudolf died in 2006, and is still to this day recognisedtelling the world of the atrocities at Auschwitz.

Rudolf Vrba - History

Date: Sat, 2 Nov 1996 00:40:01 CST
From: rudolf vrba
Subject: BBC &testimony
To Stephen Feinstein
Professor of History
University of Wisconsin

I read in H-Holocaust of Oct.31 your short message which contains some inaccuracies relevant to my person. I an not and never was a practising physician in Vancouver however, I live in Vancouver since 1967 as Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1X4.

As far as the genesis of the Vrba-Wetzler Report is concerned, I published recently a study on the subject, cf. Rudolf Vrba, "Die missachtete Warnung,Betrachtungen ueber den Auschwitz Bericht 1944" Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, Heft 1/1996, p.1-25.

In this connection I would like to remind you of the previous studies on this subject by J.S.Conway ("Fruehe Augenzeugenberichte aus Auschwitz.Glaubwuerdigkeit und Wirkungsgeschichte") published in Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, Heft 2 /1979,p 263-284 an English version of this article may be found in Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual,vol.1,p 133-151 ("The First Report About Auschwitz").

Anybody who wishes to learn about Dora, The Nordhausen Camp and the real activities of Crimes against Humanity committed by the German experts in Rockets Development (von Braun et al) should read the truly masterly description of the German system as practiced at that time in Dora and left to the knowledge of future generation by Professor Charles Sadron.

Charles Sadron was born May 12th, 1902 and became Professor of Physics ( Faculte de Science de Strassbourg). He was arrested by the Gestapo on November 25th, 1943 in Clermont-Ferrand. By that time he was an internationally known expert in the field of rocketry. He was deported to Buchenwald in January 1944 ( as a member of the French Resistance, not for religious or "racial" reasons) and as he refused to join the team of von Braun as a research expert, he spent the time from February 1944 to April 1945 as a prisoner in Dora wearing the Buchenwald matriculation No.42013.

After evacuation of Dora he was liberated on May 3rd 1945 in the region Mecklembourg and became again Professor of Physics at the University of Strasbourg.

He authored his memoires of Dora under the title "A L'USINE DE DORA" , published lately in " De l'Universite aux Camps de Concen- tration. Temoignages Strasbourgeois", Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 3e edition, Strasbourg 1989.pp 177-231.

In the same volume are also to be found the recollections of Dora by a former student of Medicine in Strasbourg, later Dr. P.-Andre Lobstein , born in 1923. He was in Dora from September 1944 until April 5, 1945 and worked as a medical orderly there, Buchenwald No. 31307.His memoirs of Dora: "Le BLOCK 39A DU REVIER DE DORA",ibid, pp.233-236.

Also Greff Eugene, born in 1920, formerly etudiant a l'Ecole superieure d'electricite (Strasbourg) published his memoirs from Dora, where he was prisoner No.40811 from 10th February 1944 and was liberated by the British on April 16th, 1945 ( "A ELLRICH, PRES DORA",ibid,pp.237-245).

The memoirs of Professor Charles Sadron have in my opinion a great merit not only as a historical document of immense value but also as a piece of excellect art and literature. It is high time to translate this work into other languages for those who cannot read French, particularly an English and German translation is highly desirable and long time overdue, particularly as it was written by a so called "non-jewish" witness, survivor and an outstanding scientist.

Rudolf Vrba, 81, Auschwitz Witness, Dies

Rudolf Vrba, who as a young man escaped from Auschwitz and provided the first eyewitness evidence not only of the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding at the death camp but also of the exact mechanics of Nazi mass extermination, died on March 27 at a hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 81.

His wife, Robin, said he died of cancer.

Dr. Vrba went on to become a distinguished medical researcher in Israel, England, the United States and Canada, writing dozens of papers.

But his greatest importance is as an author of a much different paper -- one with diagrams of gas chambers and crematories. With remarkable specificity gained from camp jobs that gave him unusual access to various corners of Auschwitz, including the gas chambers, Dr. Vrba told the unknown truth about it.

The report became known as the Auschwitz Protocol. When part of it were released in the summer of 1944, the United States government endorsed it as true. Neither Dr. Vrba's name -- he was born Walter Rosenberg -- nor that of his fellow escapee, Alfred Wetzler, was given, in order to protect their safety.

The names of two other escapees and a Polish Army major whose information was added to the final protocol also went unidentified. Many history books still omit the names, although the document itself is central to many discussions of the Holocaust. It was used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials.

Dr. Vrba's wife said his name, virtually unpronounceable in English, is generally mispronounced as VER-ba. But he made it known by telling his story, most notably in his 1963 autobiography, "Escape from Auschwitz: I Cannot Forgive." His influence grew even more after he appeared in Claude Lanzmann's 1985 documentary, "Shoah."

"The strength of the Final Solution was its secrecy, its impossibility," he said in an interview in 2005 with The Ottawa Citizen. "I escaped to break that belief that it was not possible. And to stop more killings."

As the Holocaust enveloped European Jews and other groups vilified by the Nazis, news of the outrage seeped only gradually to the outside world. By early 1941, however, the British had learned about massacres, and later that year, Jan Karski, a leader of the Polish underground, informed President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the unfolding horror.

On Dec. 17, 1942, the Allies issued a statement saying Jews were being taken to the camp and killed.

But the specifics of what was happening at Birkenau, the part of Auschwitz devoted to extermination, began to come to general attention only in January 1944, when a report prepared by the underground there was smuggled out and reached officials in Washington and London. No action was taken, however.

Then, on April 4, an Allied spy plane over Poland happened to photograph Auschwitz while documenting construction of a synthetic-fuels plant. The next day, Siegfried Lederer escaped to warn Czech Jews.

On April 7, Mr. Vrba and Mr. Wetzler, who died in 1988, escaped. On April 24, they reached Zilina, in northern Slovakia, where they worked with Jewish leaders on their report. The two men each provided details with the other not present. Factual assertions were checked against records whenever possible.

The 32-page report was sent to the British and United States governments, the Vatican and the International Red Cross. Most important, it went to the leadership of Hungary's Jews, next on Hitler's list.

It had been the construction of a new rail spur to the gas chambers that prompted Mr. Vrba and Mr. Wetzler to risk their lives to try to warn Hungarian Jews, the last major intact Jewish community in Europe. They had heard Nazis talking about "Hungarian sausage" coming.

But Hungarian Jewish leaders did not issue a warning, a failure that has been long debated. It has been suggested that the leaders feared jeopardizing an ultimately unsuccessful deal they were then negotiating with Adolph Eichmann to save at least some Jews. There was also concern that there was too little time for effective action.

Soon, it was too late by any measure. On June 6, two more Auschwitz inmates, Arnost Rosin and Czeslaw Mordowicz, arrived in Zilina. They reported that trainloads of Hungarian Jews were being massacred.

"Already 200,000 of these I had tried to save, those whom I thought, indeed, I had saved, were already dead," Dr. Vrba wrote. That total would more than double.

Still, the escapees' alarms saved some Jews, at least 100,000 by most estimates. Allied pressure, especially threats to hold Hungary's leadership responsible, prompted Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary's regent, to stop deportations on July 9, 1944.

Mr. Vrba was born Walter Rosenberg in Topolcany, Czechoslovakia, on Sept. 11, 1924. Rudolf Vrba was the nom de guerre he adopted after joining the Czechoslovakian resistance. He later made the change legal.

The young Walter Rosenberg was barred from school at 15 because he was a Jew. He worked as a laborer until 1942, when he was arrested and deported, first to the Maidanek concentration camp and then to Auschwitz. His escape was harrowing: he hid under a woodpile while guard dogs sniffed just inches away.

After World War II, he earned his doctorate and did postdoctoral work in Prague. After his various posts as a medical researcher, he became a professor of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia from 1976 until the early 1990's.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Zuza Vrbova Jackson of Cambridge, England, and two grandchildren.

Dr. Vrba said that he had devoted 95 percent of his time to science and 5 percent to the Holocaust. In both, he pushed beyond facts toward larger interpretations.

He told The Jerusalem Post in 1998, for example, that he could understand why some people doubted the true dimensions of the Holocaust. There was nothing in their experience remotely comparable, he said.

Correction: May 6, 2006, Saturday An obituary on April 7 about Rudolf Vrba, who escaped from Auschwitz to tell the world of its horrors in 1944, misstated the year the Polish liaison officer Jan Karski met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to deliver an account of the Holocaust. It was 1943, not 1941.

Rudolf Vrba - History

Administrative/Biographical History Rudolf Vrba (subject) (birth name Walter Rosenberg, b. September 11, 1924, in Topoľčany, Slovakia) was a Slovak Jewish survivor, one of the few prisoners to escape from Auschwitz, and an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

He was born to Elias Rosenberg and Helena Rosenberg (née Gruenfeldová). In March 1939, the newly formed Slovak Republic, a client state of Germany, enacted restrictions and measures against Jews, limiting their employment in military and government positions. In 1941, a new Jewish Code was enacted, forcing Slovak Jews to wear yellow armbands, excluding them from many jobs and limiting their education. Because of these restraints, Vrba could not attend high school and worked as a labourer.

In 1942, Vrba set out to join the Czechoslovak government-in-exile army in England but was arrested by Hungarian guards and was sent back to Slovakia. After a short time in a transition concentration camp for Jews, on June 15, 1942, Vrba was deported to the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland. Fifteen days later he was sent to Auschwitz I camp. He was allocated to work in the Aufräumungskommando (order commandos) in Auschwitz II&ndashBirkenau, where he cataloged assets confiscated from prisoners. Vrba worked from August 18, 1942, to June 7, 1943, repacking properties stolen from prisoners to be sent to Germany.

For a short time, he was moved to Auschwitz II&ndashBirkenau camp. In June 1943 he was given the job of registrar in the quarantine section at Birkenau sector B II. Working at Birkenau sector B II, he met Alfréd Wetzler, another Slovak Jewish prisoner and together the two men planned to escape from the concentration camp. On April 7, 1944, helped by two other prisoners, Vrba and Wetzler hid inside a pile of wood in the camp, sprinkling the area with tobacco soaked in gasoline to mask their smell from guard dogs.

On April 10, Vrba and Wetzler left their hiding place and headed south, crossing the Polish&ndashSlovakian border they eventually reached the city of Bratislava, where they were hidden by the local Jewish Council. Here they wrote in Slovak the &ldquoVrba&ndashWetzler report,&rdquo a document that described the organization and structure of Auschwitz, which was also translated into German and Hungarian and distributed clandestinely.

In April of 1944, after escaping Auschwitz, Walter Rosenberg changed his name to Rudolf Vrba he kept that name until his death. In September 1944 Vrba joined the Czechoslovak partisans&rsquo fight against the Nazi army at this time he married his first wife, Gerta.

After the war the couple moved to Prague, where Vrba graduated with a degree in medicine. In 1949 he received a degree in chemistry and two years later, a doctorate. Working as researcher at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Vrba achieved a Kandidat Nauk (the first of two levels of scientific doctoral degrees in former Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries).

From 1953 to 1958 he worked at Charles University Medical School in Prague. In 1958, Vrba traveled to Israel for an international conference and defected. He lived in Israel for two years, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. In 1960, he moved to England, where he worked for two years at the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit in Carshalton, Surrey, and for seven years at the Medical Research Council (UK branch).

In the 1960s, following the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel, Vrba told his survival story to the British journalist Alan Bestic, who in 1964 co-authored Vrba&rsquos biography I Cannot Forgive (published by Grove Press in New York). In that same year, Vrba testified at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in Germany.

In 1967 he moved to Canada, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1972. From 1967 to 1973 Vrba worked for the Medical Research Council of Canada. For two years he was a research fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, where he met his second wife, Robin (née Lipson). In 1975, the couple moved to Vancouver, where Vrba worked as associate professor of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia until the early 1990s.
Vrba dedicated himself to fighting the neo-Nazi movement in Canada.

Rudolf Vrba died March 27, 2006, in Vancouver.

John S. Conway (collector) (b. December 31, 1929 in London, England) was Professor Emeritus of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He completed his BA, MA and PhD degrees in history at St. John's College in Cambridge. In 1955 he moved to Canada, where he taught history and international relations at the University of Manitoba for two years. In 1957 he joined the Department of History at UBC, teaching modern European history and international relations until 1995. In 1957 he married Ann, who he met on the ship to Canada in 1955 the couple had three children: David, Jane and Alison.

Conway&rsquos research focused on the role of German churches and the Vatican during the Third Reich, and on Christian-Jewish relations during the twentieth century. In 1968 he wrote The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933&ndash1945, first published in Britain, then translated into German, French and Spanish, and reissued in 1997. In the 1970s, Conway was a founding member of the Scholars&rsquo Conference on the German Church and the Holocaust.

John Conway visited Israel three times he lectured at the Yad Vashem Memorial Foundation in Jerusalem in 1993. In 1995 he became Director of the Association of Contemporary Church Historians and edited its monthly newsletter. He was member of the editorial boards of the German journal Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte and The Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In 1998 he was appointed the Smallman Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario. In the mid-2000s, Conway worked to establish an endowment fund and memorial lecture named after Rudolf Vrba at UBC.

John S. Conway died June 23, 2017.

Collection has been arranged into the following series: Vierteljahrshefre für Zeitgelchichte correspondence series (1997&ndash2010) Vrba memorial lecture series (2006&ndash2014) Biographical material series (1987&ndash2010) Vrba correspondence series (2004&ndash2007) and Articles and lectures series (1992&ndash2013).

Rudolf Vrba - History

Toronto, January 25, 1985

Holocaust victim accused of lying by Zündel lawyer


A concentration-camp survivor at the Ernst Zündel trial approached true rage for the first time in his testimony yesterday as Mr. Zündel's lawyer accused him of lying about his experiences to bolster the "hoax" of the Holocaust.

"I am saying to you that to consider a person who fought the Nazis is a liar is a misuse of the free courts of Canada," Professor Rudolf Vrba furiously told lawyer Douglas Christie (left), who had just suggested that the witness must employ complex memory techniques to keep his lies straight.

"Should I bring you six million bodies here that are the proof?" Prof. Vrba asked.

"I'd be content with just one autopsy report," Mr. Christie replied, setting off a ripple of scornful laughter from observers which drew a stern warning from County Court Judge Hugh Locke .

"You, as counsel, must know that it is not the habit of murderers to make reports of the murder", Prof. Vrba said. "Your request, therefore, is nonsensical."

Asked if he had ever actually seen people being gassed, Prof. Vrba said he saw them being taken to the buildings, at which point SS officers tossed gas canisters in and no one ever emerged.

"Therefore, I concluded it was not a kitchen or a bakery, but it was a gas chamber. . It is possible they are still there or that there is a tunnel and they are now in China. Otherwise, they were gassed."

To suggest that six million Jews were not annihilated makes as much sense as arguing the earth is flat or that photographs of astronauts walking on the moon were from a Star Trek movie, said Prof. Vrba, who spent two years at Auschwitz.

Prof. Vrba was equally contemptuous of the lawyer's suggestion that every prisoner who arrived at Auschwitz was given a camp number. Most didn't, he said, meaning they were marked for the gas chambers within a few hours.

If there was a big line-up in the forested area by the crematorium, soothing Gypsy music would be played while the victims-to-be milled around, unaware that their hours were numbered, he said.

The exchanges brought an end to several hours of acerbic sparring over technicalities and focussed Dr. Vrba's testimony on the broad aspect of the Zündel trial: Did six million Jews die during the Second World War?

According to a pamphlet published by the 46-year-old defendant, the Holocaust was greatly inflated. A second pamphlet says there is an international conspiracy of Zionists, bankers, secret societies and Communists. Mr. Zündel has pleaded not guilty to knowingly publishing false news which caused or was likely to cause harm to racial or social tolerance.

Judge Locke had his hands full during the cross-examination separating the verbal combatants. At one point yesterday, the lawyer from Victoria was scathing about Prof. Vrba's account of escaping Auschwitz by night without instruments or food.

"Perhaps in Girl Guides or Boy Scouts in Victoria they didn't teach you how this can be done, but it can," Prof. Vrba said.

Prof. Vrba has testified he kept a remarkably accurate account of the rail cars and the truckloads of Jews he saw transported to the gas chambers during his time at Auschwitz. He has even broken them down into nationalities.

Mr. Christie appeared to draw some blood yesterday when he quoted a figure from a book indicating that 75,721 Jews were deported from France during the war. Prof. Vrba had just testified that almost double that number -- about 150,000 French Jews -- were gassed at Auschwitz while he was there.

"Where do you have that figure -- from a Nazi newspaper?" Prof. Vrba asked.

No, Mr. Christie replied: It was from a French Nazi-hunter.

Prof. Vrba explained that he was able to calculate the nationalities of victims accurately by various means, such as the language they spoke when they were uploaded at the train station, or the kind of possessions they brought.

Pictures courtesy of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)

Related stories: Toronto Star version of this story testimonies of Raul Hilberg (1985) A Friedman (1985)

IT IS WORTH COMMENTING that Rudolf Vrba , alias Walter Rosenberg , is not just any survivor: he and a certain Wetzler claimed to have escaped the camp in the spring of 1944, and it was their horrific eye-witness account, edited by the Slovakian Jewish community leaders, which was released in November 1944 by the War Refugee Board in Washington (in fact by Henry Morgenthau acting behind the back of, and against the wishes of, the two other Board members Henry Stimson and Cordell Hull ).

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Rudolf Vrba (originally Walter Rosenberg, 1924-2006) and Alfred Wetzler (1918-1988) were both Slovak Jews who had been arrested in 1942 and ended up in the Auschwitz II camp, also known as Birkenau. They recognized one another from home, and decided to escape together.

In the memoirs that Vrba wrote after the war, he explained how he had attempted to commit to memory the numbers of transports arriving in Auschwitz, and their places of origin, how he had discussed the way in which Jews were killed with Sonderkommandos who worked in the camp, and how, in early 1944, a Polish kapo told him that the camp was expecting the imminent arrival of one million Hungarian Jews, for whom a new rail line, heading directly to the gas chambers, was being constructed. He also heard German SS troops saying how they looked forward to receiving Hungarian salami from the anticipated arrivals, who would be told they were coming to work at a labor camp, could be expected to arrive with provisions.

On April 7, the two men snuck into the area between the two fences marking off the camp’s inner and outer perimeters. They knew from others' earlier escape attempts that guards would continue to search for an escaped prisoner for three days after his reported disappearance. For that reason, Vrba and Wetzler hid for the next two days under a woodpile, emerging only on April 10.

Rudolf Vrba. Wikimedia Commons

They then headed by foot toward the Polish-Slovakian border, 130 kms away. Crossing into Slovakia on April 21, they got in touch with the local Judenrat (Jewish council), whose head, Dr. Oscar Neumann, interviewed them separately over three days, extracting every detail they could recall about Auschwitz. By April 27, they had prepared an extensive and carefully edited document in German and Hungarian. It included sketches of the layout of the various camps that made up Auschwitz-Birkenau, lists detailing the arrival of transports they had witnessed, and the operation of the gas chambers and crematoria. Most of what they reported was later corroborated by Holocaust historians.

On November 26, 1944, the Vrba-Wetzler Report, together with two other eyewitness accounts from Auschwitz – that of Arnost Rosin and Czeslaw Mordowicz and the “Polish Major’s report” of Jerzy Tabeau – were published by the U.S. War Refugee Board, in a document that became known as the “Auschwitz Protocols.” The same day, it received detailed coverage in the New York Times. Long before then, however, the Hungarian government had begun deporting the country’s Jews, 100,000 of whom were sent to Auschwitz between May 15 and May 27, most of whom were killed on arrival.

There is disagreement about exactly who within the Hungarian Jewish community received early notice of the Vrba-Wetzler Report, but it seems clear that Rudolf Kastner, of the Budapest Rescue and Aid Committee, had a copy of it in hand by early May. At the time, Kastner was negotiating with Adolf Eichmann for the ransoming of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis – the country’s Jewish community was 800,000-strong. Neither Kastner nor other members of the Hungarian Jewish Council made the Vrba-Wetzler Report public, presumably because they didn’t want to jeopardize negotiations with the Germans. In the end, Kastner and Eichmann arranged for the release of 1,684 Jews, and their safe passage to Switzerland.

Only after Rosin and Mordowicz, also Slovakian prisoners, escaped from Auschwitz, on May 27, and the full Auschwitz Protocols were smuggled into Switzerland, did pressure begin to mount on the pro-Nazi Hungarian head of state Miklos Horthy not to cooperate with the German demands for the Jews’ deportation. Requests from Washington and the Vatican apparently led to Horthy’s decision on July 7 to halt the deportations of the Jews of Budapest (by then Jews from the rest of the country had already been murdered). The halt was only temporary, however, since Horthy’s government was overthrown by the Arrow Cross Party in October, which established a Nazi puppet government.

Alfred Wetzler. Wikimedia Commons

After the war, Vrba received a doctorate in chemistry and biochemistry, and eventually made his way to Vancouver, Canada, where he died in 2006. He published journalistic accounts of his experiences in 1961, but when he offered to testify at the trial of Adolf Eichmann that same year, the Israeli government declined, saying it could not pay his travel expenses. Instead, he submitted written testimony.

Wetzler returned to Bratislava, Slovakia, after the war, where he worked as an editor and later on a farm. He also wrote up his memoirs, under the pen name of Jozef Lanik. He died in 1988.

European History, Backwards

Born Walter Rosenberg in Slovakia, 1924, Rudolf Vrba was taken into custody by Nazi soldiers when he was only 18 years old, for trying to flee to England in 1942. For the next two years, he suffered imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps. First, he was incarcerated at Majdanek camp, but then soon transferred to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, he worked as a registrar and sorted through the confiscated from arriving prisoners. This position gave him ample opportunity to talk to many different people and to watch the incoming transports and gain information about them. Vrba determined that he would memorize as much specific information about the workings of Auschwitz, so he could escape and inform other eastern European Jews.

After earlier, abandoned escape plans, Vrba and his companion Alfred Wetzler decided that they must escape or die trying. On April 7, 1944, they hid in a wood pile near the outer fences, in an area where the newest section of Auschwitz, Birkenau was being constructed for the anticipated arrival of Jews from Hungary. A few inmate accomplices helped to hide them by sprinkling "petrol soaks and tobacco" around the woodpile, to throw off the dogs that the Germans used to try and track down prisoners. After four days, when the search within the camp was called off, the two slipped out and headed south, eventually making it to Slovakia. Once there, they contact the remaining Jewish officials, reporting to them all the horrific facts about Auschwitz. While the place was formerly known as a labor camp for unemployed Jews, Vrba and Wetzler revealed its true purpose, as a Nazi death camp.

The Vrba-Wetzler Report is still a matter of controversy. Though the Hungarian government possessed the report in Apri land May of 1944, they did not release the information to the public, and thousands of Jews went to Auschwitz with little resistance, thinking they were only being placed in labor camps, and would later be allowed to return home. Vrba stance on this has always been that the government purposely ignored a huge opportunity to save lives and undermine the workings of Nazi Germany by allowing this to happen.

After this harrowing ordeal, Vrba went on to become educated in chemistry and biochemistry at Prague Technical University in 1951 and the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1956. He moved to Britain and became a citizen there, earning membership on the British Medical Research Council from 1960-1967. He also published his personal memoir I Cannot Forgive in 1963. Later he move to Canada, and is currently working at the University of British Columbia as associate professor of pharmecology.

The Holocaust: The Vrba-Wetzler Report (Auschwitz Protocols)

The Vrba-Wetzler report, also known as the Auschwitz Protocols, the Auschwitz Report, and the Auschwitz notebook, is a 40-page document about the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Holocaust. It was written by hand or dictated in Slovak between April 25-27, 1944, by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, two Slovak Jews who had escaped from Auschwitz on April 10, then typed up by Oscar Krasniansky of the Slovak Jewish Council, who simultaneously translated it into German. The report represents one of the first attempts to estimate the numbers being killed in the camp, and one of the earliest and most detailed description of the gas chambers. The first full English-language publication of the report was in November 1944 by the United States War Refugee Board. The original is kept in the War Refugee Board archives of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in New York.[1]


The report is often referred to as the Auschwitz Protocols, although in fact the Protocols incorporated information from three reports, including the Vrba-Wetzler report. The text of the report, under the title "German Extermination Camps-Auschwitz and Birkenau," was first published in full in English on 25 November 1944 by the Executive Office of the United States War Refugee Board.[2] The document combined the material from Vrba and Wetzler with two other reports, which came to be known jointly as the Auschwitz Protocols. They were submitted together in evidence at the Nuremberg Trials as document number 022-L.[1] The Protocols included the seven-page report from Arnost Rosin and Czeslaw Mordowicz, who escaped from Auschwitz on 27 May 1944, and an earlier report, known as the "Polish Major's report," written by Jerzy Tabeau, who escaped on 19 November 1943 and compiled his report between December 1943 and January 1944.[3] This was presented in the Protocols as the 19-page "Transport (The Polish Major's Report)".[2] The full text of the English translation of the Protocols is in the archives of the War Refugee Board at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in New York.[4]


The report was first written in Slovak by Vrba and Wetzler, beginning on 25 April 1944, and simultaneously translated into German by Oscar Krasniansky of the Slovakian Jewish Council in Zilina. It was written and re-written several times. Wetzler wrote the first part, Vrba the third, and the two wrote the second part together. They then worked on the whole thing together.[5] Oscar Krasniansky, an engineer and stenographer, translated it from Slovak into German with the help of Gisela Steiner.[5] They produced a 40-page report in German, which was completed by Thursday, 27 April. Vrba wrote that the report was also translated into Hungarian.[6] The original Slovak version of the report was not preserved.[5] The report contained a detailed description of the geography and management of the camps, and of how the prisoners lived and died. It listed the transports that had arrived at Auschwitz since 1942, their place of origin, and the numbers "selected" for work or the gas chambers.[7] Karny writes that the report is an invaluable historical document because it provides details that were known only to prisoners, most of whom died, including, for example, that discharge forms were filled out for prisoners who were gassed, indicating that death rates in the camp were actively falsified.[8]


It also contained sketches and information about the layout of the gas chambers. In a deposition for the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, and in his book I Cannot Forgive (1964), Vrba said that he and Wetzler obtained the information about the gas chambers and crematoria from the Sonderkommando Filip Muller and his colleagues, who worked there. Muller confirmed Vrba's story in his Eyewitness Auschwitz (1979).[9] The report offered the following description:

At present there are four crematoria in operation at BIRKENAU, two large ones, I and II, and two smaller ones, III and IV. Those of type I and II consist of 3 parts, i.e. (A) the furnace room (B) the large halls and (C) the gas chamber. A huge chimney rises from the furnace room around which are grouped nine furnaces, each having four openings. Each opening can take three normal corpses at once and after an hour and a half the bodies are completely burned. This corresponds to a daily capacity of about 2,000 bodies. Next to this is a large "reception hall" which is arranged so as to give the impression of the antechamber of a bathing establishment. It holds 2,000 people and apparently there is a similar waiting room of the floor below. From there a door and a few steps lead down into the very long and narrow gas chamber. The walls of this chamber are also camouflaged with simulated entries to shower rooms in order to mislead the victims. This roof is fitted with three traps which can be hermetically closed from the outside. A track leads from the gas chamber to the furnace room.

The gassing takes place as follows: the unfortunate victims are brought into hall (B) where they are told to undress. To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued by two men clad in white coats. They are then crowded into the gas chamber (C) in such numbers there is, of course, only standing room. To compress this crowd into the narrow space, shots are often fired to induce those already at the far end to huddle still closer together.

When everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then there is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature to rise to a certain level, after which SS men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labeled "CYKLON" "For use against vermin," which is manufactured by a Hamburg concern. It is presumed that this is a "CYANIDE" mixture of some sort which turns into gas at a certain temperature. After three minutes everyone in the chamber is dead. No one is known to have survived this ordeal, although it was not uncommon to discover signs of life after the primitive measures employed in the Birch Wood. The chamber is then opened, aired, and the "special squad" carts the bodies on flat trucks to the furnace rooms where the burning takes place. Crematoria III and IV work on nearly the same principle, but their capacity is only half as large. Thus the total capacity of the four cremating and gassing plants at BIRKENAU amounts to about 6,000 daily.[10]

Jean-Claude Pressac, a French specialist on the gas chambers, concluded in 1989 that, while the report was wrong about certain issues, it "has the merit of describing exactly the gassing process in type II/III Krematorien as from mid-March 1943. It made the mistake of generalizing internal and external descriptions and the operating method to Krematorien IV and V. Far from invalidating it, the discrepancies confirm its authenticity, as the descriptions are clearly based on what the witnesses could actually have seen and heard."[11] Auschwitz scholar Robert Jan van Pelt agreed, writing in 2002: "The description of the crematoria in the War Refugee Board report contains errors, but given the conditions under which information was obtained, the lack of architectural training of Vrba and Wetzlar [sic], and the situation in which the report was compiled, one would become suspicious if it did not contain errors. . Given the circumstances, the composite "crematorium" reconstructed by two escapees without any architectural training is as good as one could expect."[12]


The dates on which the report was passed to certain individuals has become a matter of importance within Holocaust historiography. This is partly because of the issue of whether the Hungarian government was aware of the gas chambers in Auschwitz before it facilitated the mass deportations, which began on 15 May, and partly because Vrba alleged that the report was not distributed quickly enough by Jewish leaders, particularly Rudolf Kastner of the Budapest Aid and Rescue Committee, and that lives were lost as a result.[13]

Although from 1943, the BBC Polish Service was broadcasting about the exterminations, the BBC Hungarian Service had not mentioned Jews at all. After the German invasion in March 1944, the Hungarian Service did then broadcast warnings, But by then it was too late. However, according to Professor Cesarani and to Gotz Aly, although Jews who survived the deportations claimed that they had not been informed by their leaders, that no one had told them, "there's plenty of evidence that [the Hungarian Jews] could have known."[14][15]

Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer writes that Oscar Krasniansky of the Jewish Council, who translated it into German from Slovak as Vrba and Wetzler were writing and dictating it, made conflicting statements about the report after the war. In the first, he said he handed the report to Kastner on 26 April during the latter's visit to Bratislava, but Bauer writes that the report was not finished until 27 April. In another statement, he said he gave it to Kastner on 28 April in Bratislava, but Hansi Brand, Kastner's lover and the wife of Joel Brand, said that Kastner was not in Bratislava until August. Bauer writes that it is nevertheless clear from Kastner's post-war statements that he had early access to the report, though perhaps not in April.[16] Randolph L. Braham writes that Kastner had a copy by 3 May when he paid a visit to Kolozsvar (Cluj), his home town.[17]

Kastner's reasons for not making the document public are unknown, but Vrba believed until the end of his life that Kastner withheld it in order not to jeopardize negotiations between the Aid and Rescue Committee and Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of the transport of Jews out of Hungary. Shortly after Vrba arrived in Slovakia from Auschwitz in April 1944, Eichmann proposed a deal to Kastner and others in Budapest that the Nazis would trade up to one million Hungarian Jews in exchange for 10,000 trucks and other goods from the Western Allies (see Joel Brand). The proposal came to nothing, but Kastner did obtain safe passage to Switzerland for 1,684 Jews on what became known as the Kastner train. Vrba believed that his report was suppressed in order not to damage these negotiations.[18]

Bauer writes that Kastner seems to have given a copy of the report in German to Geza Soos, a Hungarian Foreign Ministry official who ran a resistance group. Soos gave it to Jozsef Elias, head of the Good Shepherd Mission, and Elias's secretary, Maria Szekely, translated it into Hungarian and prepared six copies. These copies made their way to various Hungarian and particularly Christian church officials, including Miklos Horthy's daughter-in-law.[19] Braham writes that this distribution occurred before 15 May.[20] According to Bauer, Erno Peto, a member of the Budapest Jewish Council, said he gave copies to Horthy's son, the papal nuntius Angelo Rotta, and the finance minister Lajos Remenyi-Schneller.[19]

The Jewish Council in Budapest did hand the report out to individuals, but told at least one person not to discuss it widely. The Hungarian biologist, George Klein, as a teenager in Budapest, was working for the Jewish Council as a junior secretary at the time. One day in late May or early June, his boss, Dr. Zoltan Kohn, gave him a carbon copy of the report, and told him that he should tell only his closest family and friends about it. He wrote that he told his uncle, a well-known physician, who "became so angry that he nearly hit me," and asked how he could believe such nonsense. It was the same with other relatives and friends. The older ones refused to believe it, while the younger ones believed it and wanted to act. When it came time for Klein to get on the train, he chose to run instead, and that saved his life.[21]


On 6 June 1944, the day of the Normandy landings, Arnost Rosin and Czelaw Mordowicz arrived in Slovakia, having escaped from Auschwitz on 27 May. Hearing about the Battle of Normandy and believing the war was over, they got drunk using dollars they had smuggled out of Auschwitz. As a result they were arrested for violating the currency laws, and spent time in jail before the Jewish Council paid their fines.[23] On 15 June, the men were interviewed by Oscar Krasniansky. They told him that, between 15 and 27 May, 100,000 Hungarian Jews had arrived at Birkenau, and that most were killed on arrival, apparently with no knowledge of what was about to happen to them. John Conway writes that Vrba and Wetzler concluded that their report had been suppressed.[22]


Braham writes that the report was taken to Switzerland by Florian Manoliu of the Romanian Legation in Bern, and given to George Mantello, a Jewish businessman from Transylvania who was working as the first secretary of the El Salvador consulate in Geneva. Mantello sent his friend, a diplomat from Romania, Florian Manoliu, to Hungary, in order to find out what happens there. Manoliu went to Budapest, obtained reports from the Jewish leader Mosher Krausz at the 19 June 1944, and immediately returned with the reports to Geneva[24] One of the reports was probably Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandl's 5 page abridged version of the 33 pages full Auschwitz Protocols: both the Vrba-Wetzler report and Rosin- Mordowicz report. The reports described in detail the operations of the Auschwitz-Birkenau murdering factory.[25]

The second one was a 6 page Hungarian report, that detailed the ghettoization and deportation of the 435,000 already deported Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, updated to 19 June 1944, town by town.[24] Braham writes that it was thanks to Mantello that the report received, in the Swiss press, its first wide coverage.[26] According to David Kranzler, Mantello asked for the help of the Swiss-Hungarian Students' League to make around 50 mimeographed copies of the Vrba-Wetzler and other Auschwitz reports (the Auschwitz Protocols), which by 23 June he had distributed to the Swiss government and Jewish groups. The students went on to make thousands of other copies, which were passed to other students and MPs.[27]

On 19 June, Richard Lichtheim of the Jewish Agency in Geneva, who had received a copy of the report from Mantello, wrote to the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem to say that they knew "what has happened and where it has happened," and reported the Vrba-Wetzler figure that 90 per cent of Jews arriving at Birkenau were being killed.[28] Vrba and Oscar Krasniasnky met Vatican Swiss legate Monsignor Mario Martilotti at the Svalty Jur monastery in Bratislava on 20 June. Martilotti had seen the report and questioned Vrba about it for six hours.[29] According to Bauer, Martilotti said he was travelling to Switzerland the next day, and on 25 June the Pope appealed to Horthy to stop further suffering. Bauer writes that, as of 2002, the Vatican had not made its archives for the period available, and so the connection, if any, between the Vrba-Wetzler report and the appeal to Horthy remains unclear.[30]

As a result of the coverage given to the report in the Swiss press, details began to appear elsewhere, including in The New York Times on 4 June, the BBC World Service on 15 June, and The New York Times on 20 June, which carried a 22-line story that 7,000 Jews had been "dragged to gas chambers in the notorious German concentration camps at Birkenau and Oswiecim [Auschwitz]." Daniel Brigham, the New York Times correspondent in Geneva, published a longer story on 3 July, "Inquiry Confirms Nazi Death Camps," and on 6 July a second, "Two Death Camps Places of Horror German Establishments for Mass Killings of Jews Described by Swiss."[31]


Braham writes that, shortly after the Swiss coverage, several appeals were made to Horthy, including by the Swiss government, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gustaf V of Sweden and, on 25 June, Pope Pius XII, possibly after Martilotti passed on the report.[32] On 26 June, Richard Lichtheim of the Jewish Agency in Geneva sent a telegram to England calling on the Allies to hold members of the Hungarian government personally responsible for the killings. The cable was intercepted by the Hungarian government and shown to Prime Minister Dome Sztojay, who passed it to Horthy. Horthy ordered an end to the deportations on 7 July, and they stopped two days later.[33]

Hitler was infuriated by Horthy's decision and instructed the Nazi representative to Hungary, Edmund Veesenmayer, to relay an angry message to the Admiral.[34] Hitler's ultimatum to Horthy read: "The Fuhrer 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."[35]

Horthy resisted Hitler's threats and Budapest's 200,000-260,000 Jews were temporarily spared from being deported to Auschwitz until the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party seized power in Hungary in a coup on 15 October 1944.[36] Henceforth, the deportations of some of Budapest's Jews to German death and labour camps resumed but, by this time, the heavy diplomatic involvement of the Swedish, Swiss, Spanish and Portuguese embassies at Budapest, as well as that of the Vatican's papal nuncio, Angelo Rotta, saved tens of thousands of the city's Jews from being expelled and/or murdered.[37] The Swedish delegation under Raoul Wallenberg saved 70,000 Jews until the arrival of the Red Army in Budapest in January 1945.[38]


  1. Conway (2002), Appendix I, p. 292-293, footnote 3.
  2. Gilbert (1989), p. 305
  3. Karny writes that the full report was published on 25 November 1944, the same day the last 13 prisoners, all women, were gassed or shot in crematorium II in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Karny (1998), p. 564).
  4. Szabo (2011), pp. 90-91
  5. vanden Heuvel (2011), p. v
  6. This description of how the report was written was recorded in the first post-war Slovak edition, Oswiecim, hrobka styroch milionov ludi ("Auschwitz, the tomb of four million"), Bratislava, 1946, p. 74. Wetzler also confirmed it in a letter to Miroslav Karny, dated April 14, 1982. See Karny (1998), p. 564, footnote 5.
  7. Vrba (2002), pp. 402-403
  8. Karny (1998), p. 554 van Pelt (2011), p. 123.
  9. Karny (1998), p. 555
  10. van Pelt (2002), p. 149
  11. Swiebocki (1997), pp. 218, 220, 224 also see "The Vrba-Wetzler Report", part 2.
  12. Note: Swiebocki (1997), in his reproduction of the Vrba-Wetzler report, presents this material without paragraph breaks. For ease of reading, two paragraph breaks have been inserted into the text above.
  13. Pressac (1989), p. 464
  14. van Pelt (2002), p. 151
  15. For Vrba's allegations, see Braham (2000), p. 276, footnote 50
  16. Mike Thomson (13 November 2012). "Could the BBC have done more to help Hungarian Jews?". BBC (British broadcasting service). the BBC broadcast every day, giving updates on the war, general news and opinion pieces on Hungarian politics. But among all these broadcasts, there were crucial things that were not being said, things that might have warned thousands of Hungarian Jews of the horrors to come in the event of a German occupation. A memo setting out policy for the BBC Hungarian Service in 1942 states: "We shouldn't mention the Jews at all." By 1943, the BBC Polish Service was broadcasting about the exterminations And yet his policy of silence on the Jews was followed right up until the German invasion in March 1944. After the tanks rolled in, the Hungarian Service did then broadcast warnings. But by then it was too late "Many Hungarian Jews who survived the deportations claimed that they had not been informed by their leaders, that no one had told them. But there's plenty of evidence that they could have known," said David Cesarani, Professor of History at Royal Holloway, University of London.
  17. Kathryn Berman and Asaf Tal. ""The Uneasy Closeness to Ourselves" Interview with Dr. Gotz Aly, German Historian and Journalist". Yad Vashem, The International School for Holocaust Studies. the Hungarian Jews in 1944 knew all about it. They had a lot of information because there were Jewish refugees coming to Hungary, in 1942 and 1943, giving reports about what was happening in Poland, and what was the reaction from the Jews? "This is Hungary. This might be happening in Galicia to Polish Jews, but this can't happen in our very cultivated Hungarian state. It is impossible that even early in 1944, the Jewish leadership there didn't have some information about what was happening. There were people escaping from the extermination camps just 80 km from the Hungarian border and there were letters and reports and of course the BBC. I think part of the problem of the Holocaust was that potential victims couldn't believe the information. The idea that something so atrocious would come from Germany and from European civilized environment was so unimaginable that they didn't take it for real, even when they received overwhelming reports from the death camps.
  18. Bauer (2002), p. 231
  19. Braham (2000), p. 95
  20. Vrba (2002), pp. 419-420
  21. Bauer (1994), p. 157 Braham (2000), p. 95
  22. Braham (2000), p. 97
  23. Klein (2011), pp. 258-263.
  24. Vrba (2002), p. 406
  25. David Kranzler (2000). The Man Who Stopped the Trains to Auschwitz: George Mantello, El Salvador, and Switzerland's Finest Hour. Syracuse University Press. p. 87. ISBN978-0-8156-2873-6. The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
  26. Braham (2000) pp. 95, 214
  27. Kranzler (2000), pp. 98-99
  28. van Pelt (2002), p. 152
  29. That Lichtheim received the report from Mantello, see Kranzler (2000), p. 104. Kranzler places the cable to Jerusalem on 26 June, and writes that Lichtheim referred in the cable to 12,000 Jews being deported daily from Budapest.
  30. Karny (1998), pp. 556-557
  31. Bauer (2002), p. 230
  32. van Pelt (2002), pp. 153-154 Brigham (6 July 1944).
  33. Braham (2000), pp. 95, 214 Bauer (2002), p. 230
  34. Rees (2006), pp. 242-243
  35. Dwork and van Pelt (2002), p. 314
  36. German ultimatum to Horthy, 17 July 1944, see Levai (1987), p. 125
  37. Dwork and van Pelt (2002), p. 314, say the figure was 260,000 Jews in Budapest.
  38. Dwork & van Pelt, p. 317
  39. Dwork & van Pelt, p. 318

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