The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz//auschwitz.07

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac - The Weczler-Vrba Report 
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Auschwitz,Eichmann,Himmler,Ho"ss,Weczler,Vrba

Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.07
Last-modified: 1993/05/26

   "On April 7, 1944, two Slovakian Jews, twenty-six-year-old Alfred
   Weczler and twenty-year-old Rudolf Vrba, escaped from Auschwitz.
   They provided the first eyewitness account of the concentration and
   extermination camp to the western world, an account that set off the
   chain of events that led to the Nuremberg trial.  ...  Escape from
   Auschwitz was made difficult not only by the physical barriers, but
   by the negative attitude of the general camp population, which
   suffered after every escape.  If an escapee somehow made his way
   beyond the two electrified barbed-wire fences and watchtowers,
   blaring sirens alerted the whole countryside.  Dogs were put into
   pursuit, and SS and military personnel began to comb the fields and
   woods.  With his shorn head and prison uniform, an inmate could
   expect no help from the local populace, for assisting an escapee
   meant death.

   Weczler and Vrba had, however, learned from the failures of others
   and been able to secrete civilian clothing, money, and food.  On
   April 7, 1944, they slipped through the cordon at Birkenau, and
   within a week they were in Bratislava, Slovakia.

   When, at first, they told their tale to members of the Jewish
   community remaining in that city, they were greeted with incredulity.
   The most common reaction to revelations of the Nazi plan to
   exterminate the Jews of Europe was that the informer was a lunatic.
   Not only did assertions of genocide (a word not yet coined) go
   against the grain of civilization and concept of self-survival, but
   the German emphasis on order and legality (an emphasis that the Nazis
   were superfically careful to preserve) served to put the stamp of
   fantasy on such reports.  It was not until Weczler produced one of
   the stereotyped cards dated 'Waldsee,' describing the idyllic
   conditions of 'resettlement' that the Czech Jews had been forced to
   send to relatives, that horrified acceptance of the truth replaced
   the disbelief.  Rabbi Weissmandel transcribed Weczler's and Vrba's
   detailed account, containing names, figures, and diagrams, into a
   sixty-page report that he smuggled to Budapest.  From there it was
   forwarded to Roswell D.  McClelland, whom President Franklin D.
   Roosevelt had dispatched to Switzerland as a representative of the
   War Refugee Board.  By early summer the document was in the hands of
   the President.

   The Weczler-Vrba report reached the White House* soon after the
   Germans initiated mass extermination of Hungarian Jews.  Until the
   spring of 1944, Hungary had escaped German occupation by following a
   policy of appeasement and alliance with Hitler.  In mid-March,
   however, as the Russians closed in on the Hungarian border, Hitler
   summoned Admiral Nicholas Horthy, the head of government, to
   Salzburg, Austria, and accused him of preparing to become 'another
   Italy' -- that is, to switch sides from Germany to the Allies.
   Horthy, after being kept incommunicado for three days, was forced to
   agree to the occupation of Hungary by German troops.

   The deportation of the Hungarian Jews began April 28.  Within two
   months, 470,000 people were taken to Auschwitz.  Of these, 330,000
   went directly into the gas chamber.  The other 140,000, deemed
   capable of work and designated 'transport Jews,' were shipped out to
   various concentration and labor camps, or assigned to details at

   But Hungary, still theoretically independent, was no sealed chamber
   like Germany; and news flowed out from Budepest as through a sieve.
   Copies of the Weczler-Vrba account went to the pope, the king of
   Sweden, and other leaders.  Weczler and Vrba even provided a detailed
   breakdown of the arriving transports, the number and nationality of
   the people they contained, and the fate of the transportees.  (By
   March 1944, 1,765,000 people had been put to death at the camp.) The
   world shuddered at the scandal of Auschwitz.  The European neutral
   nations -- mainly Sweden and Switzerland, but also Turkey and Spain
   -- provided passports that saved thousands of Jews from
   extermination.  The papal nuncio intervened on behalf of converted
   Jews.  In the United States there was a crescendo of outrage.  Jewish
   organizations, and leading American Jews like Secretary of the
   Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and Judge Samuel I.  Rosenman,
   personal advisor to the President, pressured Roosevelt to take
   action.  On June 12, Roosevelt declared:

   'This nation is appalled by the systematic persecution of helpless
   minority groups by the Nazis.  As the final defeat of the Hitlerite
   forces draws closer, the fury of their insane desire to wipe out the
   Jewish race in Europe continues undiminished.

   'To the Hitlerites, subordinates, functionaries, and satellites, to
   the German people and all other peoples under the Nazi yoke, we have
   made clear our determination to punish all participation in these
   acts of savagery.  In the name of humanity we have called upon them
   to spare the lives of these innocent people.

   'Hungary's fate,' Roosevelt threatened, 'will not be like any other
   civilized nation's ...  unless the deportations are stopped.' On July
   2 his words were reinforced by a heavy air raid on Budapest and its
   railroad facilities.**

   Horthy pulled himself together and ordered the deportation of
   Budepest Jews aborted.  With the Russian summer offensive sweeping
   into Romania and eastern Poland, Horthy's hand was strengthened, and
   when Hitler, two weeks later, demanded the resumption of the
   transportations, Horthy stalled him by agreeing to gather the
   remaining Jews in assembly areas, but only within Hungary.  He
   followed this up by insisting that Eichmann and his staff be
   withdrawn.  On August 25 Himmler ordered them out.  (Conot, 3, 7-9)

*  The executive director of the War Refugee Board, Pehle, released the
   report to the newspapers, who agreed to hold them for ten days.
   During this period, Elmer Davis, head of the Office of War
   Information in the Roosevelt government, demanded that the reports be
   recalled because publishing them would be counterproductive - and
   no-one would believe them anyway.  Davis was ignored, however, and
   the report published.  (Borkin, 112-113)

** In September, the British bombed the factories and railroad yards at
   Auschwitz.  Prisoners who were wounded were given first-class medical
   treatment and even received flowers and chocolate from the SS.  Then,
   with consistent incongruity, the Nazis exterminated the recovered
   inmates.  (Conot, 3, 7-9)

                           Work Cited

   Borkin, Joseph. The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. New York: 
   The Free Press, 1978, and London: Macmillan Publishing Company. 

   Conot, Robert. E. Justice at Nuremberg. New York: Harper and Row

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