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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel

How 4 heroes who escaped Auschwitz
told the world of the atrocities


The sign "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) is pictured at the main gate of the former Auschwitz concentration camp.

The following is the raw story of the effect of four men who escaped from Auschwitz to tell the world about Hitler's final solution. Their stories came out of research done by Joel C. Rosenberg for his book Escape from Auschwitz.


Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were Slovak Jews. They escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944.

Arnost Rosin was also a Slovak Jew. Czeslaw Mordowicz was a Polish Jew. Together they escaped from Auschwitz on May 27, 1944.

Upon making it safely to Czechoslovakia, Vrba, only 19 years old, and Wetzler, 25, linked up with the Jewish underground. They explained Auschwitz was not simply a labor camp, as most thought, but rather a death camp. The Nazis were systematically murdering prisoners, mostly Jews, using poison gas called “Zyklon B,” then burning their bodies in enormous ovens.

The men explained the Nazis were dramatically enlarging an expansion camp a few miles from Auschwitz called “Birkenau,” building new train tracks, enormous new gas chambers, and massive new crematoria. They had also completed ramps leading all those arriving in the cattle cars directly into the gas chambers.

Vrba and Wetzler said they had heard SS guards talking about Hungarian “salami” that would soon be arriving. They knew from their jobs as clerks in the camp that none of Hungary’s nearly 450,000 Jews had yet arrived, even though Jews from most of Europe had come already.

They urged the Czech Jewish leaders to warn Hungarian Jews immediately so they would revolt and not get on the trains. They also urged that the Allied leaders be notified so they would mount an operation to liberate Auschwitz.

Both men were asked to separately draft detailed eyewitness reports. Their reports were then cross-checked, compiled into a single report, and then simultaneously translated into multiple languages.

Eventually, Mordowicz, 23, and Rosin, 30, escaped as well. When they got to Czechoslovakia, they wrote up reports of their own, which were added to the existing document. But all this took precious time the Hungarian Jews did not have.

The report, known as “The Auschwitz Protocol,” was sent to Jewish and Allied leaders in early June 1944. Excerpts were leaked to the press, creating an international uproar. But the Germans had begun deporting Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in massive numbers on May 15th. And “The Auschwitz Protocol” landed in the hands of President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and their top aides just as the Allies were executing the D-Day invasion of Normandy and trying to liberate France.

On July 2nd, the U.S. began bombing Budapest. Admiral Miklos Horthy’s, the Nazi-backed Regent of Hungary, feared the air raid was in reprisal for the Jewish deportations. He ordered the trains halted. Thus, while, more than 300,000 Hungarian Jews had already been sent to Auschwitz and gassed, 120,000 more Hungarian Jews were saved from deportation and certain death.

Sir Martin Gilbert, the British historian, would later note, “The Auschwitz Protocol” was responsible for “the largest single greatest rescue of Jews in the Second World War.”

That said, neither the U.S. nor the British military took direct action to liberate Auschwitz during the war. Nor did they bomb the train lines to the death camps, or bomb the camps themselves, as Jewish leaders had implored.

When the Soviets finally entered Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, only 7,000 prisoners remained alive. More than 1.1 million had already been exterminated.

Why didn’t Washington and London take decisive action upon receiving detailed, inside intelligence? Couldn’t they have at least tried to stop the Holocaust, or at least disrupt it, knowing the hellish nightmare people in the camps were experiencing?

Historians have been debating this for years.

The moral courage that Rudolf Vrba, Alfred Wetzler, Arnost Rosin, and Czeslaw Mordowicz demonstrated seventy years ago was extraordinary. They understood the nature and threat of evil, and they risked their lives to tell the world the truth.

They deserve to be remembered and heralded by Jews and Christians and all who care about freedom and human dignity.

We must never forget what they did, and why they did it. But we must also be ready to act wisely, bravely and decisively if a mortal threat rises again. For if we learn nothing else from the history of the Holocaust, we had better learn this: Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide.


Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author of novels and non-fiction books about the Middle East. His latest political thriller, The Third Target, centers on an ISIS plot to attack the U.S., Israel and Jordan.