In the first interview clip, Vancouver novelist and two-time Czech ambassador, Jan Drabek describes a remarkable, little-known event:
When his father Jaroslav Drabek returned to Auschwitz to be a prosecution witness for the trial of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hoess, Drabek’s father (Jaroslav Drabek) was with Vrba’s co-escapee Wetzler in a vehicle when Wetzler was astonished to realize they were driving past the house of a woman who had saved their lives during the escape. Wetzler excitedly asked for the car to stop, he knocked on the door and a highly emotional reunion occurred.
Jan Drabek is a Vancouver novelist who wrote a biography of Czech Resistance leader Vladimir Krajina and twice served as a foreign ambassador for Vaclav Havel’s government in the Czech Republic. He has also translated his father’s substantial World War II memoir into English and produced the 1985 documentary film directed by Czech-born Ivan Horsky, Father’s Return to Auschwitz. Although a non-Jew, Jan Drabek’s father Jaroslav Drabek was incarcerated in Auschwitz and later served on President Jimmy Carter’s 34-member President’s Commission on the Holocaust, chaired by Eli Wiesel, that submitted its report to Carter on September 27, 1979 that led to the creation of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Next, Jan Drabek recounts how Vrba told him that the plan of hiding in the woodpile and waiting three days was put to him by Alfred Wetzler (but other members of the camp underground had prepared the hiding place so it cannot be assumed Wetzler was the sole instigator). Once they were free, it was Vrba who took the initiative in getting them safely over the mountains. The movie “Escape from Auschwitz” contorts the story in favour of Wetzler. The duo developed political differences after the war and seemingly maintained a respectful distance. [Research pertaining to this subject still needs to be undertaken in Vrba’s private papers that are now stored, somewhat ironically, in the Roosevelt Library in New York City.]
Drabek offers more speculative comments on Alfred Wetzler’s political beliefs and on their different roles in the escape. He describes Vrba as a very practical man.
Here is the link to the documentary video that Jan Drabek helped to create and write called “Father’s Return to Auschwitz.”
You may watch it on YouTube or you may watch it here.