Ceslaw Mordowicz

Ceslav Mordowicz 1947. He was a 24-year-old Polish Jew.

“While Vrba and Wetzler are known, Mordowicz and Rosin are almost unknown.” — Dr. Jan Hlavinka, Institute of History at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, co-editor of Uncovering the Shoah: Resistance of Jews and Their Efforts to Inform the World on Genocide


When it comes to making history by escaping from Auschwitz-Birkenau, bizarrely, not unlike a beauty contest, there is little to be gained by coming in second.

When they buried themselves within a gravel pit, Ceslav Mordowicz and Arnošt Rosin had less oxygen than Vrba and Wetzler, as well as less provisions, and their freedom of movement in the camp had been severely limited in the aftermath of the Vrba and Wetzler escape, and yet the Mordowicz-Rosin escape remains a hundred times more obscure than the Vrba-Wetzler escape commenced 49 days earlier.

Each escape would prove essential for enabling the Allies to understand the escalating murder rates at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Whereas Vrba & Wetzler had outlined the expansion of the camp infrastructure in anticipation of the influx of Hungarian Jews, it was the Mordowicz-Rosin reportage that confirmed the arrival of Hungarian transports in Auschwitz-Birkenau as of May 12, 1944. [Czech Jew Siegfried Lederer had escaped two days prior to Vrba and Wetzler, but he is not credited with any reportage that altered history.] After Mordowicz and Rosin arrived in Slovakia, they, too, were interviewed by Oskar Krasňanský, this time in the home of Rabbi Boby Reich, a Jewish leader in Liptovský Mikuláš. On July 10, in Bratislava, Krasňanský then drafted a German-language report for the Allies, including their testimonial that deported Hungarian Jews had arrived in Auschwitz on May 10, 1944. That first transport of Hungarians were assigned for labour detail. Thereafter, between May 15 and 27, between 14,000 and 15,000 Hungarian Jews were arriving daily; 90% were sent immediately to the gas chambers.


Arnost Rosin 1946

Arnošt Rosin 1946. He was a 29-year-old Slovakian Jew.

The harrowing escapes by both duos benefited from the roulette wheel of fate–but an argument can be made that the Mordowicz-Rosin escape was even more unlikely and difficult. As soon as Vrba and Wetzler had succeeded, Nazi officials implemented stricter surveillance protocols. Realizing that Vrba and Wetzler must have taken advantage of their jobs as roving clerks, better able to gauge the camp procedures, the Nazis first interrogated and tortured the eight remaining Jewish clerks, or schreibers, including Czeslaw Mordowicz. All were forced to lower their pants, bend over a table, step into foot stirrups and be repeatedly struck with a wooden club. Mordowicz and several others eventually passed out. Then they all lost their jobs as clerks.

Although he was not a clerk, Arnošt Rosin was suspected of being a co-conspirator and lost his job as blockleader of Block 24 (where he had necessarily met Wetzler). “Fredo” Wetzler had managed to get himself transferred from Block 24 to Barrack 9 about two months prior to his escape, to minimize the possible repercussions on associates, but the Nazis were determined to ensure there could not be another humiliating escape that served to raise the morale of their prisoners. Consequently, Rosin was also interrogated, beaten and tortured. He managed to save his skin by pretending to be angry that he was not asked by the pair to escape with them.

The Nazis increased the number of guards who watched the prisoners and they implemented a new system whereby there was a roll call every two hours.

Mordowicz knew Wetzler in Auschwitz. He recalled first meeting Wetzler when the latter was warming himself over a small fire, brewing some coffee in an aluminum pot, surrounded by cadavers. Wetzler had invited him to have a coffee while he waited for a truck to arrive and take the latest batch of corpses to the crematorium. According to Mordowicz, Wetzler was calmly using a frozen corpse as a bench. Hence, Mordowicz and Rosin both knew Wetzler before they knew one another. Mordowicz was age 23 when he met Wetzler and Wetzler was 24.

Mordowicz and Rosin met one another working in a gravel pit. The fact that two gravel pit labourers managed to escape from Birkenau is rarely noted, let alone celebrated, even though, logistically, Czeslaw Mordowicz and Arnošt Rosin had to overcome even greater odds than their predecessors. (It should be noted that Rosin was not part of organizing any of the logistics for his escape and he was essentially a “last minute” substitute.) Both pairs survived a prolonged and harrowing journey to Slovakia, both made contact with the same Jewish Council and both generated their own reports that became integral to the Auschwitz Protocols–but the equally and harrowing escape made by the latter pair has never received equal billing on the marquee of history.

There are at least eight parallels about the dual escapes that have gone largely unnoticed.

  • For both escapes, one escapee was approximately six years older than the other.
  • For both escapes, mobility of camp schreibers proved essential for calculating logistics.
  • For both escapes, tobacco soaked in petrol was essential for discouraging the Alsatian search dogs.
  • For both escapes, the escapees utilized hidden enclosures that were pre-built by other prisoners.
  • For both escapes, the younger of each pair would become better-known decades later.
  • For both escapes, it was Oskar Krasniansky of the Slovakian Jewish Council who officially processed their reports.
  • For both escapes, the younger of each pair met secretly with the Pope’s representative at a monastery near Bratislava (to commence the diplomatic process that finally halted the mass exportation of Hungarian Jews in July of 1944).
  • The younger of each pair became Canadians.

After the local Jewish underground had amalgamated the Mordowicz-Rosin Report with the preceding Vrba-Wetzler Report for the Auschwitz Protocols, and after Mordowicz and Vrba met with someone that they had incorrectly presumed was the Papal Nuncio at the monastery in Svätý Jur–it was Vrba and Rosin who lived together in one apartment in Bratislava while Mordowicz and Wetzler lived together, first on the outskirts of Bratislava in the home of a Catholic family. The escapes from Auschwitz did not serve as a reprieve from complications.

Arnošt Rosin, the eldest, adopted the alias Stefan Rohac.

Wetzler, the second-eldest, adopted his future pen name Josef Lanik.

Czeslaw Mordowicz adopted the alias Peter Matus (or Petr Pudlka). He later altered his first name to Ceslav when reverting to Mordowicz. [This site uses both Czeslaw and Ceslav. – A.T.]

Much younger Walter Rosenberg became Rudolf Vrba and legalized that new name in 1946, retaining it until his death in 2006 in Vancouver, Canada.


Mordowicz and Rosin escape telegram.

Mordowicz and Rosin escape telegram. 

Initially, they were like a brotherhood. Who else in Slovakia could possibly understand what they had experienced in Auschwitz. In September of 1944, when Wetzler decided he would risk a visit to the western Slovakian town of Nitra to see his brother and his family, Mordowicz opted to join him for the excursion. Mordowicz’ own family had perished in Auschwitz. His mother and sister were most likely gassed upon arrival and father had died as result of exhaustion from forced labour not long after his arrival. Mordowicz never went anywhere without a revolver in his trench coat.

Officials on the train to Nitra were easily fooled by their fake IDs. After the pair slept in the Nitra train station (due to the curfew), they set off around dawn only to be stopped by two Slovakian policemen in a park. They were curious about why the duo was out so early in the day. When Mordowicz and Wetzler provided their identification papers, claiming to be clerks, the two policemen became more suspicious and ordered the pair to walk towards the main square, at gunpoint. Their identification papers were withheld, pending closer scrutiny at the police station. Before they got that far, Mordowicz whispered to Wetzler in French, “We go as far as the next corner, not one step more.”

Mordowicz pulled out his revolver and fired into the air. The two guards panicked as Mordowicz fled in one direction and Wetzler fled in another. Mordowicz shed his distinctive trenchcoat and ran up the hill towards a monastery where he spotted some stairs leading to a belltower. There he hid behind some scaffolding that was surrounding the church. When the bells pealed at the end of mass, his ears ached. He nonetheless hid near the top of the church for a long time. News that two dangerous partisans were loose in town spread throughout Nitra. Mordowicz eventually risked shielding his face with a newspaper and walking to the train station only to discover that trains would not stop that day at Nitra due to the emergency situation.

Mordowicz walked fifteen miles to the next rail stop at Leopoldov, caught a train, and made it back to Bratislava. There he pleaded with Rudolf Vrba to go to the apartment of Wetzler’s brother in Nitra and try to find out what had happened to Wetzler. Risking his own life, Vrba obtained a new set of false identification papers for Wetzler. Vrba located Wetzler hiding in a mountain cabin (or at the brother’s apartment; accounts differ). With new ID, Wetzler and Vrba managed to escape a second time–this time from the police in Nitra–and made it safely back to Bratislava.

Almost two decades later, Vrba’s fellow escapees felt themselves to be conspicuously absent from Vrba’s memoir published in 1963.  Given that Vrba had the most outgoing personality, he was the only one who was fluent in English, and he soon gained the limelight when he was extensively featured in the documentary Shoah, he was invited to appear at trials to verify the Holocaust. The trio of Wetzler, Mordowicz and Rosin felt they had solid grounds for resenting modern history’s tendency to cast them in Vrba’s shadow, even though they were living behind the Iron Curtain or in Israel. In retrospect, it appears both obvious and inevitable that if Wetzler, Mordowicz and Rosin were less capable of speaking frankly and frequently about the Holocaust, due to language and geographical and politics barriers, it is only human nature to envy Vrba’s bravado for being able to hold centre stage.

The release of a much-needed biography of Mordowicz by retired Wall Street Journal reporter Fred B. Bleakley in 2022, The Auschwitz Protocols: Ceslav Mordowicz and the Race to Save Hungary’s Jews, helps to clarify the schism and examines why Mordowicz felt more aggrieved than the others. According to Bleakley’s account, Mordowicz’ well-meaning daughter came to Vancouver and met with Vrba several times, hoping to heal the rift, but her attempts at reconciliation fell on stoney ground.

It helpful to know that Mordowicz only began to learn English upon his arrival in Canada in 1985. Earlier, when Mordowicz was residing in Israel, establishment Jews were not keen to publicize either of the two aforementioned remarkable escapes because both feats of heroism gave rise to an exceedingly uncomfortable question: Why didn’t Jewish Councils forewarn the Jews of Hungary about the contents of the escapees’ two reports?

Mordowicz went to his death resenting Vrba’s relative fame compared to his own place in the shadows of history. But there are at least ten more good reasons why Vrba did not deserve the enmity of Mordowicz or his comrades. [As well, Mordowicz or Rosin are also not mentioned in Oskar Neumann’s autobiography, In the Shadow of Death: A Factual Account of the Fateful Struggle of Slovak Jewry /Im Schatten des Todes (Tel Aviv, 1956), a rare memoir by one of the leaders of the Slovak Judenrat.]


Refuting Charges that Vrba Unfairly Stole the Limelight

1. At a conference in Žilina in 2015, historian Eduard Nižňanský of Bratislava University provided a basic and yet oft-overlooked explanation as to why the audacious and heroic escape of Mordowicz (prisoner #84216) and Rosin (prisoner #29858) has long remained obscure: “Unlike the case of Alfréd Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba, the story of the escape of A. Rosin and C. Mordowicz is virtually unknown. In my opinion, one of the reasons is that they, unlike the two previously mentioned, never wrote about it.”

2.  In 1963, the general public still knew precious little about the Holocaust. Rudolf Vrba did not yet have the English skills to write his own memoir. Vrba therefore told his stories to a veteran journalist, Alan Bestic, who skillfully edited the material to get readers in England to the end of every article, and then to the end of their remarkable book. Although he had visited Poland soon after the war ended, Bestic was a journalist, not an historian. He quite sensibly chose not to over-complicate a story that was significantly entitled I Cannot Forgive. Bestic wisely limited the perspective to one protagonist.

3.  Wetzler’s wife Eta is on record saying that her husband refused to talk to any Western journalists. At the same time, knowing his three friends were trapped behind the Iron Curtain, where being Jewish was a disadvantage, Vrba erred on the side of caution and shrewdly refrained from drawing attention to two of his comrades. It was not feasible for him to eliminate Wetzler from the story, but Vrba chose not to draw attention to Mordowicz and Rosin by name. It is relevant to note that Ceslav Mordowicz and his wife Ester did not tell their own daughter she was Jewish until 1965 (when she was a teenager).

Mordowicz and Rosin escape route.

Mordowicz and Rosin escape route. 

4. Not “naming names” was in keeping with the standards of extreme secrecy that had been prevalent inside Auschwitz for survival. Vrba’s resolve in this matter was mirrored by Wetzler’s own reticence to identify any of the escapees by their real names when he produced a novelized version of his own escape, according fictitious names to himself and Vrba.

5. When Wetzler novelized his story, he brazenly added events that had occurred during Mordowicz & Rosin’s adventures and he generated a portrait of his protagonist’s co-escapee—named Val instead of Vrba—that is consistently derogatory and demeaning. Wetzler never asked permission for these literary trespasses. In contrast, Wetzler is depicted I Cannot Forgive as faultless. If Vrba’s intention was to hog the limelight, he would never have painted such a flattering portrait of his colleague.

6. Vrba saved Wetzler’s life when all four were living in Bratislava. The information is in Fred R. Bleakley’s biography of Mordowicz, published in 2022. Vrba never wrote about that, or even mentioned it. If Vrba was a man who was motivated by self-glorification, he would have drawn attention to his selfless heroism. He did precisely the opposite.

7. Vrba is easily one of most riveting and physically impressive interviewees in Claude Lantzmann’s epic documentary, Shoah. His screen time is only matched by his Slovak colleague Filip Müller. Vrba continued to shine as a “star witness” for trials of war criminals and Holocaust deniers. If Wetzler and Mordowicz were jealous of Vrba, Vrba can hardly be blamed for being charismatic, provocative and handsome.

8. Vrba chose Rosin to be his best man for his wedding, not Wetzler or Mordowicz, both of whom were present. (Rosin was akin to the affable Ringo, the fourth Beatle, also the eldest, who was far less keen to pick fights.) Although Rosin did recognize that he and Mordowicz could have been featured in Vrba’s memoir, there were less complaints about Vrba from Rosin than from Mordowicz. It is worth noting that Mordowicz, imprisoned in Auschwitz twice, suffered far more prolonged and intense physical torture than his colleagues. After Vrba and Wetzler escaped, Mordowicz and Rosin were brutalized by the Nazis and demoted to hard labour. If Mordowiz consciously or subconsciously blamed any of his physical or psychological suffering on Vrba and Wetzler, possibly all of that blame was shifted to Vrba after Wetzler died in 1988.

Alfred Wetzler

Alfréd Wetzler. 

Wetzler 1948 book jacket

Wetzler 1948 book jacket

9. It is important to note that when Wetzler published a short book about Auschwitz as soon as World War II had ended, he did not give any credit for cumulative findings to his other three friends. Vrba never objected. Vrba understood that his friend was not stealing his thunder; rather, if anything, by not naming the three others he was protecting them. “I discussed this matter with Rudi,” says researcher Ruth Linn, when approached by this website, “and he said he didn’t care about getting credit. He just wanted to see the information get out.”

In English, if translated, the title for Wetzler’s 80-page book would be Oswiecim: Tomb of Four Million People. The first Slovak language edition was printed in Kosice in 1945 by the Information Ministry of the Slovak Republic. It was assembled (“sostavil”) rather than written (“napisal”)  by Jozko (or Josef) Lánik, the pseudonym for Alfréd Wetzler. He did not credit or divulge the names of the three other main eyewitnesses whose testimonies and experiences had helped him describe in detail the horrors of Auschwitz from page 5 to 73. Obviously, he was particularly indebted to Mordowicz and Rosin because they were able to give him information about Auschwitz after Wetzler and Vrba had escaped in April of 1944. The short but authoritative book details Auschwitz Birkenau from 1942 to 1945.

On page 3, Wetzler describes the rise of fascism and racism; he also cites the misinformation about Auschwitz that appeared in Slovak newspapers . On page 4, he describes how the truth about the killing machinery was kept secret–thereby emphasizing to the reader the importance of his small book based on eyewitness reportage. It is noteworthy that in the last two sentences on page 4, Wetzler asks for revenge to be taken. On page 5, he mentions “two Slovak boys” who were deported from Slovakia in 1942. Later, he refers two other runaways from the concentration camp, one Slovak and one Polish.

One of Vrba’s closest friends in Vancouver, Helen Karsai, recalls Rosin telling her the book had been translated into four other languages. Mordowicz had mentioned this book to her but she cannot recall Rudi’s reaction when this book was mentioned. It is her understanding that when the contents of this book were largely disbelieved, Wetzler became melancholic. The fact that the contents of Oswiecim: Grave of Four Million People were not taken seriously in the late 1940s served as a motivator for Vrba to make his own attempt, using a different style, incorporating storytelling, in 1963.

10. Mordowicz’s primary complaint concerned Vrba’s decision not to praise him in his memoir when describing an important meeting with a representative of Vatican, “an elegant man of about forty,” at a monastery near Svätý Jurwho, about five miles outside of Bratislava. They assumed the person they were summoned to meet was the ‘Papal Nuncio’ but, in fact, it was a lesser Catholic official later identified as Mario Martilloti, “a handsome man who looked to be in his thirties.” Vrba not only fails to credit Mordowicz’s leading role in their prolonged meeting, he also does not mention this meeting included the Jewish Council representative Krasňanský, a French translator identified as Mikulan Holländer and Wetzler, who, according to Mordowicz, remained outside standing guard, with a gun.

Apparently, according to his biographer, Mordowicz did most of the talking to the Catholic official because he was more adept at French. Mordowicz accuses Vrba of accepting a cigar in the red-carpeted lounge and laughing, “as if they were at a party.” At nineteen, in Mordowicz’ eyes, Vrba was showing his age. These petty details perhaps tell us as much about Mordowicz as they do about Vrba. There is a much deeper grievance at play.

Mordowicz told his biographer that their conversations with the “Monsignor” continued for five-and-a-half hours, while the Pope’s representative took copious notes but remained seemingly incredulous. Fearful that the “nuncio” might leave the meeting at any minute, Ceslav tried a final gambit. “Monsignor, listen to me. Not only are Jews being murdered, even people wearing” — and he pointed to the white collar on the nuncio’s neck — “but the murder of priests is not like the Jews gassed in the ovens at Auschwitz.” Mordowicz elaborated. He said the Nazis were killing priests elsewhere, in Krakow and other European cities.

At this juncture, according to Mordowicz, the nuncio screamed and fainted, falling to the floor. Hundreds of priests had been disappearing and, according to Mordowicz, the Catholic Church did not know why. Hence, it was Mordowicz who finally succeeded in galvanizing the attention of Pope’s representative who, hitherto, had not been suffused with distress about the mass murder of Jews. Again, according to Mordowicz, he was the one who urged the Catholic Church to send their combined 60 pages of eye-witness testimonies to statesmen in England, America, Sweden, the Red Cross and the Pope. The nuncio promised to comply.

In this version of history, it is Ceslav Mordowicz who mobilized international leaders and the Pope to put the necessary pressure on Admiral Horthy, the leader of Hungary, to finally stop the train transports of Jews to Auschwitz. This was Mordowicz’ festering grievance at Vrba. Monsignor Martilotti did alert Pope Pius XII, all due to Mordowicz, and Rudolf Vrba had failed to give him his due.

Responding to Mordowicz’ grievance, Vrba tried to make amends with a footnote in a subsequent edition, but Mordowicz held a grudge to the end of his days. The newest edition of I Escaped From Auschwitz therefore contains two clarifications pertaining to this matter (displayed in footnotes on page 309, not relegated to the back of the book):

“The Report was sent to Msgr. Angelo Burzio, who was not Papal Nuncio, but was in fact [the Papal] charge d’affaires in Slovakia (the lower rank or an apostolic delegation), since there was no nunciature in Slovakia at the time. But Krasňanský–by mistake–referred to him as Nuncio, and this is why the author referred to him as Nuncio as well. The author actually met with Msgr. Mario Martilloti, who came to Bratislava on an errand from Switzerland, and who was a member of the Vatican nuncio office.

“The author visited Svaty Jur with Czeslaw Mordowicz, the Birkenau prisoner who escaped six weeks after Vrba and was able to reach Slovakia. The author left him out from the book, which caused friction between them. Here is the author’s explanation why he excluded Mordowicz: ‘I did not mention Mordowicz at all because at the time of its writing (1963), I lived in England, having left Communist Czechoslovakia in 1958. Mordowicz at that time still lived in Bratislava under the neo-Stalinist regime of Antonin Novotny. To publicly describe in England a close connection between myself and Mordowicz might have caused him problems, including accusations of having been ‘a Vatican spy.’ or ‘closely connected with the exiled heretic R. Vrba.'”

Meanwhile, Vrba had become a beloved figure during the youth of Mordowicz’ daughter, Dagmar, as she was growing up abroad. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as an architect in Toronto, she was able to visit the West Coast of Canada on business and made numerous attempts to patch the rift, visiting Vrba, who she liked. Having lunch together at the  University of British Columbia faculty club, she told him, “You guys were like brothers and didn’t have anybody else.” She has recalled, “I tried to discuss the issues between Rudi and my father with no result. Rudi did not like to be challenged and my father was extremely proud and considered it beneath him to reach out to Rudi. They were both stubborn, conceited and affected by the Holocaust very much.”

Mordowicz’s wounded pride never healed. The two men never met during the whole time they were both living in Canada. They last met in Bratislava in 1958 when Vrba was en route to Israel.


Mordowicz as an older man

Mordowicz in 1995. A screen shot from his interviews for U.S. Holocaust Museum. His first inmate number was 84216. 

Born on Aug. 2, 1919, in the town of Mlawa, in central Poland, Czeslaw Mordowicz was the eldest of two children born to a grain merchant, Herman Mordowicz, and his wife, the former Anna Wicinska, who acted in the local Jewish theatre. Czeslaw had graduated from the Polish Gimnazium and was making his living as a tutor, hoping to pursue engineering, when, at age 20, he fled the German invasion with his family on a horse-drawn wagon to Warsaw.

Finding Warsaw dangerous and unwelcoming, the family set about trying to return home to Mlawa on foot. Stopping at Płońsk, Czeslaw remained to help some friends revitalize a grocery store that had been looted by Germans while his sister, Rachela, continued with her parents back to their hometown. In Płońsk, Czeslaw found a job as the manager of a fine furniture factory taken over from its Jewish owners by a German interloper who lacked expertise. Czeslaw married his Jewish hosts’ 19-year-old daughter, Szulamit, and tried to settle down in Płońsk, noteworthy as the birthplace of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.

When Jews in Płońsk were forced into a ghetto, Czeslaw was able to remain employed by the German furniture manufacturer as a truck driver. Shortly before the Jewish ghetto in Płońsk was to be destroyed and everyone was to be deported, Czeslaw’s employer asked him if would prefer to go into hiding but Czeslaw refused to abandon his wife and his in-laws. They were all deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Working as a slave labourer in Auschwitz, loading bricks and gravel onto wheelbarrows, Czeslaw Mordowicz was separated from his wife and in-laws—who he never saw again—until, like Vrba, his life was spared when it was learned that he was proficient in German. Able to survive in Auschwitz as a clerk, like Vrba, he gained greater mobility within the camp and was able to briefly re-unite with his father by speaking through a camp fence. He learned that his mother and sister had already been gassed. His father died soon after their conversation. Mordowicz’s first wife, Szulamit Perelmuter, whom he had married while in the Plonsk ghetto, had been gassed upon her arrival at Auschwitz in December, 1942.

Corpses of those who had tried to escape from Auschwitz were usually prominently displayed in order to dissuade others. When it became known to everyone in the camp that Vrba and Wetzler had succeeded escaping in early April of 1944, Mordowicz learned that Vrba and Wetzler had waited three days in a hideout, having taken the advice from a Russian about using tobacco previously soaked with petrol to deter the police dogs.

With support from his Polish kapo, Adam Rozycki, who was a former criminal (also one-legged), Mordowicz hatched an audacious plan to hide in plain sight within a bunker to be constructed in a gravel pit only 400 metres from the main arrivals ramp at Birkenau. For an escape partner, he first chose his friend Borenstein from Płońsk, until Borenstein was selected for Sonderkommando duty—a prolonged death sentence for almost everyone. Ruzycki agreed to the original choice of Borenstein and later to the last-minute selection of Rosin.

“Jews kept alive for forced labor were ordered to do a wide range of activities for the functioning of the camp and for the war effort and war economy. Those chosen for the Sonderkommandos were forced to participate in many tasks involving prisoners and their bodies before and after their deaths.

“Members of the Sonderkommandos were usually killed after a few months and replaced by new arrivals. There were very few survivors from these groups.” -Holocaust Encyclopedia

Just about the only people that Mordowicz knew who had ever formerly been selected for Sonderkommando duty and survived to not talk much about it were Rudolf Vrba, Filip Muller (both of whom are prominent in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah) and a much more obscure Slovak named Arnošt Rosin.

Ernest Rosin

Arnošt Rosin – early photo. He became prisoner #29858. 

Born on March 20, 1913 in Znina (or Snina), Czechoslovakia, but then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Rosin was originally a subject of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He had six older siblings. In 1939, Rosin was taking courses in Bratislava (known as Pressburg in German, Pozsony in Hungarian) in preparation for relocation in Palestine.

Ripper Distillery

Ripper Distillery

It is a little-known fact that Rosin did his Hachshara (a Hebrew term describing work in preparation for emigration Palestine) at the Ripper distillery owned by Moric Ripper before the war. After the distillery was Aryanized, the grandfather of Helen Karsai (she later befriended Vrba in Vancouver) had remained at the distillery as an advisor during the war. He would therefore be able to arrange for Rosin and his three co-escapees to work for the distillery in Bratislava in the summer of 1944–where, as the story goes, they consumed as much liquor as they sold.

Apprehended by Hlinka guards in April of 1942, while returning to visit his family for Passover, Rosin became one of approximately 58,000 Slovak Jews (out of approximately 89,000 in total) who were deported to “resettlement areas in the east.” After he was initially held in Snina with twenty other Jewish men, he was taken to Huménne, then brought to Žilina. There, he later claimed, “the Guard members in their black uniforms… taught us the first concentration camp lesson. They would swear, beat and kick us without reason, and rob us or our personal belongings.”

Sent to Auschwitz on April 17, 1942, Rosin was relocated to Birkenau two or three days later (accounts vary) where he would meet historian-to-be Erich Kulka and his friend Otto Kraus who, together, would publish Death Factory, generally regarded as the first book about Auschwitz-Birkenau. Published first in the Czech language in 1946, it would be translated into many languages. Twenty years later Rosin would provide an oral account of his ordeals when he was interviewed by Kulka, in Czech, in 1965, and this material would be held in the Yad Vashem Archives, subsequently made more widely available by Eduard Nižňanský:

“Together with about 1,000 men, I was taken to the Žilina train station where they put us into cattle cars. When the sliding doors were shut and locked with heavy padlocks, and numerous members of the Hlinka Guard were commanded to accompany the train, we began to sense that something bad was afoot. They drove us at night in the direction of Čadca and the train didn’t stop until it reached the Polish border station Zwardoń in the morning. We were commanded to get off the cars, opened by the Hlinka Guard members. We were counted and handed over to German soldiers who forced us into the cars again and accompanied us on our further journey. On 10 April we arrived at a station denoted Oswiecim – Auschwitz. SS soldiers in uniforms were waiting at the station and took us to the Auschwitz concentration camp…

“Only on the second day we began to sense how bad it was. The SS were marching us already from the station at an unusually fast pace and I was intrigued to see the inscription ´Arbeit macht frei´ over the gate through which we entered. I saw high fences with barbed wire all around, and inmates in striped clothes with shaved heads. What is going on here? Where are we? Prison clothes? We are not criminals, are we? […] In the twinkling of an eye we were undressed, shaved, our hair was cut and then the SS came and started to call us names, beat and kick us in a way which defies description…

“Birkenau was like hell. The camps were being filled up, new ones were opened, flames went up from the crematoria and the pits day and night. I could see that the end of the whole camp was drawing inescapably near and there was nothing to wait for. It would be better to die on the run! I knew it was the only chance but I did not know where to find a good ally.”

Among the 200 Jews who arrived in Rosin’s transport, Rosin was selected to dig pits in the forest in order to bury naked Jews who had been gassed in one of two farmhouses that been renovated into gas chambers.  For about twenty days he endured this grueling and macabre task, burying the mainly Jewish corpses hauled from the two renovated farmhouses (known as the little Red House and the little White House) for asphyxiations.

Little White House and Little Red house

Little White House and Little Red House locations. 

As improbable as a fairy tale, Rosin’s life was be saved by a loaf of bread. After a friend of his in the Sonderkommando brigade had gifted him some bread taken from a murder victim, Rosin was startled to discover within that gift of bread–unbeknownst to the person who had given it to him–there was a gold chain. This miraculous discovery enabled Rosin to bribe his block Schrieber, Leo Polak, to get him transferred to a different block, leading to safer work. Hence, Rosin would become of the precious few who ever survived a tenure within a Sonderkommando brigade. According to Kulka, he was the lone Slovakian Jew to survive his Sonderkommando brigade among the 300 Slovakian Jews who arrived with him in April of 1942.

Rosin rose in stature as the Blockleader of Block 24 where befriended the Schreiber Wetzler, leading to his acquaintance with Vrba. As a Slovakian Jew, he was then suspected of complicity in Wetzler’s escape even though Wetzler had seemingly taken the precautionary measure of getting himself transferred from Block 24 two months in advance of his escape attempt. Rosin was consequently interrogated and tortured before he was banished to work in the gravel pit. He managed to convince the Nazis he was angry at Wetzler for keeping him the dark because he had wanted to try escaping with him. The ruse worked.

Mordowicz asked the physically fit Arnošt Rosin to be his associate for his gravel pit escape attempt only as a last-minute replacement for his friend Borenstein, who was unexpectedly transferred to a different work detail. The narrow enclave within the gravel pit had been originally created by previous would-be escapees. Other prisoners were enlisted to help engineer Mordowicz’s plan to expand the small, interior cubicle inside a gravel pit, concealed with planks and grass.

On Saturday, May 27, around noon, Mordowicz and Rosin, dressed in electricians’ overalls, met at the water pump near the gravel pit, as planned. They quickly slid inside their narrow hideout, essentially a bunker inside the gravel pit, overlaid with wood, propped up with some improvised posts. The principle was to emulate the bunker that Vrba and Wetzler had fashioned within a lumber pile. The space measured approximately seven-feet long, six-feet wide and two-and-a-half feet high. Rosin, who was taller, squeezed into position first. The smaller Mordowicz, at five-foot-eight, had to bend his knees to fit alongside. Two Polish helpers secured wooden covering over the sloping entrance, while inserting a lead air pipe. As agreed, Mordowicz tested the air pipe and knocked twice twice on the wooden roof to signal the cramped pod was ventilated.

Bridge over the Sola River

Auschwitz – wooden bridge over the Sola River with an alarm siren on the roof of the theatre building on the right. 

Beforehand, emulating Vrba and Wetzler, the escapees had spread fuel-soaked tobacco to disperse Alsatian search dogs. They also expected to emulate Vrba and Wetzler by remaining hidden for three days. But things went wrong from the start. In the pitch-blackness, they spilled their can of water supply. When siren sounds and the search parties commenced around four o’clock in the afternoon, the pair huddled in fear and imagined they would be buried alive. All too soon they discovered the one-inch-thick, three-foot-long pipe inserted to ensure there would be fresh air was seemingly plugged. Perhaps it was clogged with gravel? Worried they would suffocate, they tried not to panic. It occurred to them that their two helpers, who were hoping to use the same escape plan if Mordowicz and Rosin succeeded, might have purposely blocked the airway in order to kill them. Afterwards, they could remove the bodies and use the hideout for themselves, therefore never needing to worry as to whether or not Mordowicz and Rosin had succeeded.

“The gravel pit was a nightmare,” writes Allan J. Levine in Captivity, Flight and Survival in World War II.  They could hear the search dogs barking and the SS guards shouting. With their ventilation opening clogged, Mordowicz managed to carefully create an airway about the width of two fingers to be keep them alive. Terrified and feeling weak, it did not strike them as feasible to stay in hiding for three days, as Vrba and Wetzler had done, until the search parties were called off. Even though they knew the search parties would continue for another day-and-a-half, they decided, before they fainted, they had to take the risk of digging themselves out of their gravel pit, having hidden there for only two days instead of three. Rosin recalled the details in an interview stored at the Yav Vashem archives:

“We were really scared. We were upset and our hearts were beating fast. We found it more and more difficult to breathe, we thought we would suffocate. After three hours of searching in vain for a ventilation opening, we resorted to a desperate and dangerous act. We pulled the propping beam from the bunker entrance inside. The gravel which covered the entrance penetrated inside and reduced the space in the bunker but at least we could breathe a little better.

“[…] On Sunday evening, we could not stand it anymore. Our hands and feet were numb, we could not move. We decided to crawl between two watchtowers which we could see from our bunker. […] We were lucky that evening. Several trains with Hungarian transports had arrived at the ramp. There was much commotion and confusion in the whole camp, we could hear the whistling of the locomotives, noise, shouting, barking of dogs, so that the watchmen did not hear us when we crawled beneath them. […] At the moment when the Birkenau death camp, no more than 400 metres from our bunker, was filled with transports and the selected deportees were being guided by the SS to the crematoria, accompanied by dogs barking, beating and shouting – we escaped from that hell, into the opposite direction.”

That night, as their extreme good luck would have it, two trainloads of Hungarian Jews were arriving almost simultaneously. There was potential chaos on the arrivals ramp. All the so-called “service dogs” were therefore diverted to ensure the smooth delivery of Hungarian Jews about to be murdered. They decided to push the roof off and crawl to the top of the quarry, forgetting to bring along their extra loaf of bread. With the SS diverted to manage the influx of Jewish murder victims, Mordowicz and Rosin took the extreme risk of simply crawling to freedom between two watchtowers. The pair used the flames from the crematoria as a landmark and managed to reach the Sola River about two miles away.

During their hideout, they had agreed to go towards Krakow, about thirty-miles away, and eventually reach Warsaw. They hoped to either join the Red Army or else reach Gdansk, cross the Baltic and end up in neutral Sweden. These conjectures were as fanciful as 17-year-old Walter Rosenberg’s plans to leave home in a taxi and somehow end up in London. But this scheme required them to first swim across the Sola River and Mordowicz could not swim. First, Rosin stripped off his clothes and carried them, with his boots, to the other bank of the river. Then he returned to assist Mordowicz who also held his clothes and boots aloft. During Rosin’s successful efforts to keep Mordowicz from being pulled downstream and drowning, his shoes fell into the river and were lost. Reaching the other side, they dressed and decided to share one of Rosin’s shoes each.  They improvised and wrapped their other foot with strips torn from their shirts. This detail would later be inserted in Wetzler’s novelistic account of his own escape with Vrba. Seven decades later, Slovakian filmmakers would not know the sufferings depicted in their film were inspired by Mordowicz and Rosin’s escape and depict Vrba and Wetzer suffering extreme distress with their feet.

Later, the pair traded a wristwatch with a boatman for his footwear. As recorded in a nuanced Globe & Mail article by reporter Tu Thanh Ha in 2018, their haphazard escape route was a blend of folly and good fortune. Once, when the saw German troops, they stood in their work overalls and pretended to examine some electricity wires overhead. After they met a Polish peasant woman who forewarned them that Nazi patrols were gathering young Poles to dig anti-tank trenches on the deadly Eastern Front, rife with fear, they turned south, hoping to somehow reach Rosin’s hometown in Slovakia. Hiding in forests, they were naïve innocents. At one point they were feeling so traumatized that they considered the prospect of returning to Auschwitz. At least, there they would have the skills to postpone death.

Rosin later recalled, “We lost all hope and did not have the strength to walk any further.” We imagined that if we got out of the camp, we would have a good job! Everyone we ask will help. But fear took over us outside, we saw that danger was lurking around every corner, that someone would betray us, that they would capture us and take us back to the camp. (…) When Mordowicz and I put our heads together in the evening, we admitted to each other that we were nowhere near as afraid in the camp as we were out here in the open air. In Birkenau, as experienced prisoners, we lived more calmly. We have become accustomed to the idea that death awaits us, and we have pushed its occurrence to the farthest possible limit. (…) Outside, however, the world was foreign. Lacking experience, afraid of light, space, people, we felt safe only with darkness. The enthusiasm that we managed to escape and that we were bringing news to the world gradually faded away in proportion to the loss of our physical strength.”

In desperation, they hopped a train they assumed would take them in the direction of Nowy Tag in Poland. While cowering on the roof of the train, they passed a sign telling them they were only twelve kilometres away from Auschwitz. Before the train reached any station, they alighted and eventually reached an area that was close to Spišská Stará Ves, a small town in the Prešov Region of north Slovakia. They knew they had reached Slovakia when they saw a matchbox on the ground with Slovak writing. By June 6, they had reached the Slovak village of Nedeca. Euphoric, Rosin went to buy beer and cigarettes at a kiosk but he was refused service.

When a peasant told them the date was June 6, 1944 and Allied forces had just invaded Normandy, they rejoiced to learn that victory could be at hand. Rosin immediately decided they must celebrate at the nearest tavern. Mordowicz only reluctantly consented. They were promptly arrested. The kiosk manager who had rebuffed Rosin earlier had promptly alerted local police as to the presence of two suspicious characters.  As they were arrested and taken to the courthouse at Spišská Stará Ves, Rosin recognized an acquaintance from his hometown of Snina, Juhas Aladar, who quickly brought word of their arrest to the leaders of the local Jewish community.

Two Jews named Alex Mangel and Moskovic managed to deliver dollar bills to the pair of incarcerated fugitives, whereupon they could be charged with smuggling foreign currency. The extent to which the local court system was complicit in this deception is not known. It is conceivable that bribery of local officials was involved.  The local Jewish community—what was left of it—succeeded in having the pair’s court case reassessed as a financial crime to be heard instead in the district capitol of Liptovský Mikuláš, in northern Slovakia, on the Váh River, about 285 kilometers from Bratislava.

Rosin on the left and Vrba on the right

Vrba on the right, and on the left, Arnošt Rosin, who escaped from Auschwitz on May 24, 1944. The man in the middle is Josef Weiss, who worked for the Bratislava Ministry of Health. Photo date approximately June-July 1944. 

One version of the story has it that to the surprise and relief of Rosin and Mordowicz, they were met on the platform of the Liptovský Mikuláš train station by none other than Rudolf Vrba. With their forged identity papers, both he and Wetzler were able to visit the fugitives in prison, awaiting trial. This detail is overlooked in Bleakley’s version of events. Each man received eight-day sentences and the Jewish community paid their fine of 5,000 Slovak crowns. Upon their release, Oscar Krasniansky arrived from Bratislava on behalf of the Working Group in Bratislava to take their statements about Auschwitz in the home of a local man named Boby Reich.

Both Bleakley and Erick Kukla confirm that the two sets of escapees met in a safe house in Liptovský Mikuláš. Mordowicz, according to Bleakley, had never met Vrba before. Either way, Rosin and Mordowicz confirmed the worst fears of Vrba and Wetzler. Between May 15 and May 27, they estimated that approximately 100,000 Hungarian Jews had been gassed upon their arrival.

“Wetzler and I saw the preparation for the slaughter,” Vrba would later write in the magazine Jewish Currents in 1966. “Mordowicz and Rosin saw the slaughter itself.”

The quartet of Auschwitz informants were literally on the same pages. To the 33-page report made by Vrba and Wetzler were added seven more pages from Mordowicz and Rosin in which they alleged that trains from Hungary were bringing 14,000 to 15,000 people daily to Auschwitz, most of whom were being sent to the gas chambers. “Never had so many Jews been gassed since the establishment of Birkenau,” their report said. Consequently, British historian Sir Martin Gilbert would credit their combined reportage in “The Auschwitz Protocols” for “the largest single greatest rescue of Jews in the Second World War.”

Rosin and Mordowicz had witnessed crematoria working day and night, at such a rate that it was impossible for the Nazis to cremate all the bodies. Large pits were dug for bonfires of putrifying corpses. Hearing this horrific news confirmed the worst fears of Vrba and Wetzler. They felt betrayed by the Jewish leadership in Slovakia who had adamantly assured them not to worry, it was certain that the Jewish leadership in Hungary would circulate their warnings.

Arnost Rosin Wedding

Arnošt Rosin‘s wedding 

After Mordowicz and Rosin were also fortified with fake papers and a monthly stipend, the foursome of Vrba, Wetzler, Mordowicz and Rosin opted to separate themselves from the paternalism of Krasniansky and the so-called “Working Group” and become a bachelor quartet in Bratislava, seeking female companionship while supposedly employed by a local brewery—and simultaneously adopting their own methods to spread the word about the Holocaust.

It was Rosin who had a previous connection with the local brewery. According to his friend, Vancouverite Helen Karsai (born in Žilina) Rosin did his Hachsara at Ripper’s distillery in Žilina in 1939 and 1940, until this company was Aryanized. Ripper distillery was originally owner by Moric Ripper and it was sold to Leopold Kulka, who was Helen Karsai’s maternal grandfather. In 1944, Kulka was still living in Žilina, as he and his family were exempted from 1942 Jewish deportations because he received his “Exemption from deportation for economically needed Jews” for Slovak fascist State. After the foursome had provided their reports on Auschwitz, the Žilina Jewish council asked Leopold Kulka to arrange for the co-patriots to work in Bratislava as representatives of Ripper company. But their troubles were far from over.

The foursome were no longer able to depend upon support and protection from the local Jewish leaders with the turmoil generated by the Slovak national uprising, giving rise to a second wave of deportations from the Sered concentration camp led by Alois Brunner began. Vrba left for Nagyszombat, where his mother was living, and found his way to the partisans, while Wetzler took refuge with his brother in Nitra. During this period of great suspicion and unrest in the autumn, Mordowicz was arrested by pro-Nazi militiamen, accused of being a Soviet spy and handed to the Germans. Initially, Mordowicz succeeded in using his false identity papers by covering his tattooed Auschwitz prisoner number with surgical tape. This was only a temporary ruse. The privations and beatings Mordowicz were summarized in an excellent article by historian Eduard Nižňanský in 2018.

Nižňanský EXCERPT

Mordowicz was arrested because he was sitting with Wetzler’s sister-in-law in the Palace restaurant, and it became suspicious that he was conversing with a Jewish woman. He tried to escape, but the guards caught him, and when he was arrested, they beat him so that he ended up unconscious at the command of the HG. He was interrogated by Jozef Vozár, who used to be the commander of the Jewish labor camp in Séred. During the interrogation, they thought he was a Soviet agent because he could not speak Slovak well. The guards also abused him during his interrogation: “To the questions about who I met, where I lived, where I stayed, I always gave negative answers, i.e. that I didn’t live anywhere, I didn’t meet anyone, etc., so I received a lot of cruel blows. They beat me up in such a way that Vozár himself handed me a mirror to see what I looked like, and said that I fainted at least twelve times during that one hour.” Above all, Mordowicz was careful not to dip Rosin. He eventually admitted that he was Jewish, but claimed to be Slovak. He had a document sewn into his trousers stating that his name was Koloman Altmann and that he was from Lőcse. However, Vozár did not believe him.

He was later handed over to the Gestapo. Mordowicz understood that he was indeed in deep trouble. “(…) I was ordered to strip naked. This was the culmination of everything: my tattooed number was glued over with leucoplast. I tried to stand so that the bottom of my right arm was not visible, I switched to German and emphasized that I was a simple Jew.” The tattooed number pasted over with leucoplast was not noticed by the Gestapo.

Years later, Mordowicz could not say exactly where he was detained and when he was transferred to Szered. However, he mentioned that at that time many Jewish residents were arrested in Bratislava. I can only assume that this may have taken place sometime at the end of September, when a large-scale anti-Jewish raid was held in Bratislava. In the camp in Srzed, he told the Jews that “the only way for everyone from here is to Oświęcim”.

His trials continued in the deportation car. “I was still isolated in a wagon, but I didn’t know where the transport was going. There was talk of going to Wiener Neustadt. This was in October 1944, after the uprising. I was in a terrible state: mentally, physically, morally exhausted, I was not viable. In the train, I used my last strength to warn the others about where the transport was going, that they couldn’t believe the Germans, because we were going to die – but they threw themselves at me, beat me, my own. (…) I kept repeating that we are going to die, let those who can escape, and I am willing to show the way. They beat me, kicked me, I lay unconscious, I was dead.”

Ceslaw Mordowicz shows the floral tattoo

Ceslaw Mordowicz shows the tattoo he had inked on his forearm to hide the scar where his prisoner’s number used to be, after he was recaptured by the Germans. The photo was taken in 1965 after Mr. Mordowicz immigrated to Israel. (Click)

As outlined above, when Mordowicz was deported back to Auschwitz from Ghetto Plonsk in Poland on the last transport on December 16, 1944, some people on the train to Auschwitz would not believe him when he tried to let them know what their destination was like. Others did believe him and there was panic on the train as some passengers tried to jump off to freedom, shouting and banging doors. This unrest resulted in a severe beating for Mordowicz as a trouble-maker.

After having been  beaten to a pulp, Mordowicz still had to prepare for the hell he knew was coming. It was entirely possible the SS would recognize him on the platform. He had only been gone from Auschwitz for five months. Worse, his tattoo would immediately identify him and he would surely be tortured and killed. He took the only possible precaution available to him. During this second train journey to Auschwitz, Mordowicz succeeded in chewing off much of the tattoo on his forearm. “I had nothing at my disposal,” he later recalled, “only my own teeth.”

The enormous wound filled with pus. That was the least of his worries. As soon as he stepped off the train, he knew nothing had changed. As the selection procedures began on the ramp, he vowed to grab a pistol from a Nazi and shoot himself, killing one Nazi first. Then someone on the ramp tapped him on the shoulder. Modowicz turned and saw a childhood friend from Mlawa, a Sonderkommando whose job was to seize and unload all the baggage. Ceslav followed him, as directed, and managed to circumvent the selection queue for Crematorium III. The friend took him past a wooded area, near the “sauna/bathhouse,” to meet a tattooist he knew. This tattooist named Lale Sokolov agreed to create a tattoo to conceal the damage done by his teeth. He also received a new tattoo number so he couldn’t be identified as an escapee. His new number was surrounded by a fish-shaped tattoo to disguise the damage done by his teeth. This ruse worked long enough for Mordowicz to disguise himself as a Slovak worker.

Years later, when the historian Martin Gilbert came to interview Mordowicz, the two-time survivor of Auschwitz said to him, “I suppose you want to see the fish.”

Respected and recognized by other prisoners as an escapee, Mordowicz was given dark glasses and placed on sick leave for two days, avoiding any labour detail. He was told his new name was Peter Reichmann and he was to be sent out of Auschwitz the next day on a train transport with fifty other Slovak workers bound for Germany. He therefore became an extreme rarity: a man who escaped from Auschwitz twice.

For the next six months, “Peter Reichmann” worked in a furniture factory in Friedland, in central Germany. As it became increasingly obvious from reports smuggled into the camp that Germany was losing the war, Mordowicz, unlike many other prison workers, was apprehensive. He knew the Nazis. He expected the Germans would kill all the prisoners before surrendering. Mordowicz decided he must escape–again–or die. He managed to secure an escape kit consisting of food, cigarettes and a revolver. “I did it once,” he said, “and I can do it again.”

On May 6, 1945, three days prior to the camp’s liberation, four other friends in the camp joined him. Security at the camp was becoming increasingly lax. Mordowicz and his group simply walked out of the camp after they had short-circuited some wire fencing in the camp. The surprised Germans in the towers thought they were Russians because the group started using Russian. The group walked into the surrounding woods where they remained until the official liberation three days later. He was free, 210 miles from Berlin… after nearly six years as a refugee, prison inmate and runaway.

Mordowicz stayed in Friedland for a few days (exact duration unknown) until he decided to return to Bratislava and look for Wetzler, Vrba and Rosin. He felt there was no reason to return to his native town of Mlawa in Poland because he knew his entire family was dead. He reached Bratislava and there he met the trio who were happy to see him. They knew nothing of his fate until then.

Auschwitz-Birkenau 1944

Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II) Aerial photo of gas chambers and crematoria 2 and 3 on August 25, 1944.

After the war, Mordowicz found a job as a clerk for an electronics company in Bratislava. He attended night school to pursue his economics degree from Komenskeho University and met a young dressmaker, Ester Golubowicz, a Polish Jew born in Lodz. As a fellow concentration camp survivor who had also lost her spouse in the camps and had opted to restart her life in Slovakia after liberation. They married in 1948. Mordowicz received a degree in Economics and gradually rose in his work eventually becoming Managing Director of Distribution for Technomat and later General Manager of a sister company Electroodbyt. Mordowicz worked in Barisalva until immigration to Israel in 1965. After his retirement, Morodwicz and his wife moved to Toronto in 1985 where Ester died in February of 1993. Mordowicz died in Toronto on October 28, 2001. He was survived by a daughter, Dagmar Wertheim, and a granddaughter. His daughter said he shunned publicity and therefore his life was known only to a few Holocaust scholars. Mordowicz did talk to historians and gave video testimonies for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the USC Shoah Foundation.

After the war, Mordowicz made a motorcyle trip with Rosin, retracing their escape route. Retaining his name Stefan Rohac, in order to avoid being identified as an Auschwitz escapee, Rosin  married a Czech woman in 1946. They lived in Palestine and Prague until 1949, when he returned to Bratislava. He eventually worked for the Czechoslovakian state television network from 1960 to 1966. Rosin moved to West Germany in 1968 and died in Düsseldorf, Germany in 2000, at age 87.


Fred R. Bleakley has since published The Auschwitz Protocols: Ceslav Mordowicz and the Race to Save Hungary’s Jews (Wicked Son $28 [U.S]). Bleakley first interviewed Mordowicz for an article in the Wall Street Journal, having spent much of his writing career as a financial editor. He received a Masters at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and he was living in Portland, Maine, with his wife Jane Berentson, when his 211-page book was published. Among its many worthwhile features are Mordowicz’s own drawing of the pair’s hideout within the gravel pit at Auschwitz as well as a photo of Mordowicz and Rosin, alongside their motorcycles, when they retraced their escape route from Auschwitz, in the Tatra mountain range, between Poland and Slovakia, in the late 1940s–a very unusual holiday adventure.

Click here for a podcast interview with Fred Bleakley.

It is worth noting that Bleakley has a footnote recognizing the work of the Slovakian historian Eduard Nižňanský who contributed the essay, ‘History of the Escape of Arnost Rosin and Czeslav Mordowicz from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp to Slovakia in 1944’, from Uncovering the Shoah: Resistance of Jews and their Efforts to Inform the World on Genocide, edited by Jan Hlavika and Hans Kubotova (Bratislava: Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences; Prague: International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, 2016).

It is important to note that Mordowicz undertook a project with the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles to commemorate Wetzler’s name and history because Mordowicz believed Wetzler had been unfairly overshadowed by Vrba. Possibly this explains why recognition for Vrba at the Wiesenthal Center remains paltry, almost non-existent. Mordowicz himself was no wallflower. His daughter Dagmar Wertheim points out that Mordowicz gave several interviews,  starting in the early 1950s, to Auschwitz Museum representatives who came to interview him in Bratislava. He also conferred with historians including Gideon Reif in Israel, Sir Martin Gilbert and professor Stephen Berg from Union College in Skenectady who was instrumental in bestowing upon him an honorary doctorate in Humanities.



Helen Karsai and Rosin in Dusseldorf

Helen Karsai and Rosin in Dusseldorf (Click)

VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH MORDOWICZ (in Polish), with a rough English transcript available, via U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (extensive, five hours)


ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH ROSIN (in German) in which Rosin recalls Vrba and Wetzler.


Further information:

London has been informed– Reports by Auschwitz escapees / edited by Henryk Świebocki ; [new translations, Michael Jacobs and Laurence Weinbaum] Published by Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 1997.


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