Interviewed by VGT Community News, a news outlet near his home on the grounds of the University of British Columbia, Rudolf Vrba referred to the Vrba-Wetzler Report as “my first scientific document.” It’s an important remark. It shows that the complete lack of emotion in the document was purposeful. While it is tempting to credit Vrba and Wetzler for retaining the presence of mind to refrain from any editorializing or personal remarks, having just endured one of the greatest feats of escapology in the twentieth century, the truth is somewhat more complicated. Yes, it was indeed an extraordinary show of restraint on their part not to editorialize or predict, but they were sternly advised to err on the side of facts by their hosts in Zilina.

Some of the establishment Israeli historians later tried to discredit Vrba by alleging that he ought have more explicitly included intense warnings about the imminent mass murder of Hungarian Jews, rather than simply mentioning he had overheard Nazis joking about the imminent arrival of “Hungarian salami.” The original version of the report, in Slovakian, cannot be found. Such warnings could have easily been expunged in the translated versions that quickly followed. Far more likely, the teenaged Vrba and Wetzler obeyed the dictates of his elders who gave them refuge. By avoiding predictions and opinions, as well as refraining from anecdotes that would distress their readers, Vrba and Wetzler succeeded in sounding an alarm that gained meaningful responses from world leaders. Every other reportage about the Holocaust prior to the Vrba-Wetzler Report had failed to do so.

Here, below, is an easily legible version of the Vrba-Wetzler Report:


This is in progress



On the 13th April 1942 our group. consisting of 1,000 men, was loaded into railroad cars at the assembly camp of SERED. The doors were shut so that nothing would reveal the direction of the journey and when they were open after a long while we realized that we had crossed the Slovak frontier and were in ZWARDON. The train had until then been guarded by Hlinka men but was now taken over by SS guards. After a few of the cars had been uncoupled from our convoy we continued on our way arriving at night at AUSCHWITZ, where we stopped on side-track. The reason the other cars were left behind was apparently the lack of room at AUSCHWITZ. They joined us, however, a few days later. Upon arrival we were placed in rows of five and counted. There were 643 of us. After a walk of about 20 minutes with our heavy packs {we had left Slovakia well equipped) we reached the concentration camp of AUSCHWITZ.

We were at once led into a huge barrack where on the one aide we had to deposit all our luggage and on the other side completely undress, leaving our clothes and valuables behind. Naked, we then proceeded to an adjoining barrack where our heads and bodies were shaved and disinfected with Lysol. At the exit every man was given a number which began with 28,600 in consecutive order. With this number in hand we were then herded to a third barrack where so-called registration took place. This consisted of tattooing the numbers we had received in the second barrack on the left side of our chest. The extreme brutality with which this was effected made many of us faint. The particulars of our identity were also recorded. Then we were led in groups of a hundred into a cellar, and later to a. barrack where we were issued striped prisoners clothes and wooden clogs. This lasted until 10 a.m. In the afternoon our prisoner’s outfit was taken away from us again and replaced by the ragged and dirty remains of Russian uniforms. Thus equipped we were marched off to BIRKENAU.

AUSCHWITZ is a concentration camp for political prisoners under so-called “protective custody”. At the time of my arrival, that is in April of 1942, there were about 15,000 prisoners in the camp the majority of whom were Poles, Germans and civilian Russians under protective custody. A small number of prisoners came under the categories of criminals and “work-shirkers”.

AUSCHWITZ camp headquarters controls at the same time the work-camp of BI RKENAU as well as the farm labor camp of HARMENSE. All the prisoners arrive first at AUSCHWITZ where they are provided with a prisoner’s admittance number and then are either kept there, sent to BIRKENAU or, in very small numbers, to HARMENSE . The prisoners receive consecutive numbers upon arrival. Every number is only used once so that the last number always corresponds to


  1. Description of the Auschwitz camp.

the number of prisoners actually in the camp. At the time of our escape, that is to say at the beginning of April 1944, the number had risen up to 180,000. At the outset the numbers were tattooed on the left breast, but later, due to their becoming blurred, on the left fora-arm.

All prisoners, irrespective of category or nationality, are treated the same. However, to facilitate identification, they are distinguished. by various coloured triangles sewed on the clothing on the left breast under the immatriculation number. The first letter indicates the nationality of the prisoner. This letter (for instance “P” for Poles) appears in the middle of the triangle. The coloured triangles have the following meaning :

red triangle                political prisoners under protective custody.
green                           professional criminals
black                           “dodgers” (labor slackers), “anti-socials” (mostly Russians).
pink                             homosexuals
violet                           Members of the religious sect of “Bibelforscher”. (Bible students. Usually Jehovah’s Witnesses)

The Jewish prisoners differ from the Aryan prisoners in that their triangle (which in the majority of cases is red) is turned into a David’s star by adding yellow points.

Within the enclosure of the camp of AUSCHWITZ there are several factories : a war production plant, Deutscher Aufrüstungswerk (DAW) a factory belonging to the KRUPP works and one to the SIEMENS concern. Outside the boundary of the camp is a tremendous plant covering several square kilometers named “BUNA”. The prisoners work in all the aforementioned factories.

The prisoners actual living quarters, if such a term may at all be used, inside the camp proper cover an area of approximately 500 by 300 meters surrounded by a double row of concrete posts about 3 meters high which are connected (both inside and outside) to one another by a dense netting of high-tension wires fixed into the posts by insulators. Between these two rows of posts, at intervals of 150 meters, there are 5 meter high watch-towers, equipped with machine-guns and searchlights. In front of the inner high-tension circle there is further an ordinary wire fence. Merely touching this fence is answered by a stream of bullets from the watch-towers. This system is called the small or inner chain of sentry posts”. The camp itself is composed of three rows of houses. Between the first and second row is the camp street and between the second and third. there used to be a wall. The Jewish girls deported from Slovakia in March and April 1942, over 7,000 of them lived in the houses separated by this wall up to the middle


of August 1942. After these girls had been removed to BIRKENAU the wall between the second and third row of houses was removed. The camp entry road cuts across the row of houses while over the entrance gate, which is of course always heavily guarded, stands the ironic inscription, “Work Brings Freedom.”

At a radius of some 2,000 meters the whole camp is encircled by a second line called “The big or outer chain of sentry posts” also with watchtowers every 150 meters. Between the inner and outer chain of sentry posts are the factories and other workshops. The towers of the inner chain are only manned at night when the high-tension current is switched into the double row of wires. During daytime the garrison of the inner chain of sentry posts is withdrawn, and the men take up duty in the outer chain. Escape through these sentry posts – and many attempts have been made – is practically impossible. Getting through the inner circle of posts at night is completely impossible, and the towers f the outer chain are so close to one another (one every 150 meters, i.e. giving each tower a sector with a 75 meter radius to watch), that approaching unnoticed is out of the question. The guards shoot without warning. The garrison of the outer chain is withdrawn at twilight, but only after it has bee ascertained that all the prisoners are within the inner circle. If the roll-call reveals that a prisoner is missing, sirens immediately sound the alarm.

Auschwitz Camp Layout

Auschwiz and area


The men in the outer chain remain in their towers on the look-out, the inner chain is manned, and a systematic search is begun by hundreds of SS guards and bloodhounds. The siren brings the whole surrounding countryside to a state of alarm so that if by a miracle the escapee has been successful in getting through the outer chain he is nearly certain to be caught by one of the numerous German police and SS. patrols. The escapee is furthermore handicapped by his clean-shaven head, his striped prisoner’s outfit or red patches sewn on his clothing, and the passiveness of the thoroughly intimidated inhabitants. The mere fact of neglecting to give information on the whereabouts of a prisoner, not to speak of extending help, is punished by death. Provided that the prisoner has not been caught sooner, the garrison of the outer chain of sentry posts remains on the watch for three days and nights after which delay it is presumed that the escapee has succeeded in breaking through the double circle. The following night the outer guard is withdrawn. If the escapee is caught alive he is hanged in the presence of the whole camp but if he is found dead, his body – wherever it may have been located- is brought back to camp (it is easy to identify the corpse by means of the tattooed number) and seated at the entrance gate, a small notice clasped in his hands, reading : “Here I am”. During our two years imprisonment many attempts to escape were made by prisoners but, with the excepti on of two or three, all were brought back dead or alive. It is not known whether the 2 or 3 escapees who were not caught actually managed to get away. It can however be asserted that among the Jews who were deported from SLOVAKIA to AUSCHWITZ or BIRKENAU, we are the only two who were lucky enough to save ourselves.

As stated previously, we were transferred from AUSCHWITZ to BIRKENAU on the day of our arrival.

Actually there is no such district as BIRKENAU. Even the word BIRKENAU is new in that it has teen “adopted” from the nearby birch forest (BREZINSKY). The district now called BIRKENAU was and is still called “RAJSKA” by the local population. The existing camp center of BIRKENAU
lies 4 kilometers distant from AUSCHWITZ. The outer control zones of both BIRKENAU and AUSCHWITZ meet and are merely separated by a rail way track. We never found anything out about NEW-BERUN, probably about 30 to 40 kilometers away which, oddly enough, we had to indicate as postal district for BIRKENAU.

At the time of our arrival in BIRKENAU we found there only one huge kitchen for 15,000 people and three stone buildings, two of which were completed and one under construction. The buildings were surrounded by an ordinary barbed wire fence. The prisoners were housed in these buildings and in others later constructed. All are built according to a. standard model. Each house is about 30 meters long and 8 t o 10 meters wide. Whereas the height


of the walls hardly exceeds a meters the roof is disproportionately high – about 5 meters  so that the house gives the impression of a stable surmounted by a large bay-loft. There is no inner ceiling, so that the room reaches a height of 7 meters in the center; in other words the pointed roofing rests directly on the four walls.  The room is divided in two by a partition running its whole length down the middle and fitted with an opening to enable communication between the two parts thus separated.  Along both side-walls as well as along the middle partition, two parallel floors, some 80 centimeters apart, have been built which are in turn divided into small cells by vertical partition. Thus there are 3 floors: the ground floor and the two built in the side-walls.  Normally 3 people live in each cubicle.  As can be judged from the dimensions indicated, these cubicles are too narrow for a man to lie stretched. out and not high enough for him to sit upright.  There is no question of having enough apace to stand upright. In this way some 4 to 500 people are accommodated in one house or “Block,” as they are also called.

The present camp of BIRKENAU covers an area of some l6OO by 500 meters which is surrounded – similar to AUSCHWITZ – by a so-called small or inner chain of sentry posts . Work is now proceeding on a still larger compound which is to be added later on to the already existing camp. The purpose if this extensive planning is not known to us.

Within a radius of 2 kilometers as with AUSCHWITZ, BIRKENAU, is also surrounded by an outer chain of sentry posts with the same type of watch system as at AUSCHWITZ.

The buildings we found on our arrival had been erected by 12,000 Russian prisoners of war brought there in December 1941. In severe winter weather they had to work under inhuman conditions as a result of which most of them, with the exception of a small number employed in the kitchen, died of exposure. They were numbered from 1 to 12,000 in a series which had no connection with the ordinary camp numbering system previously described. Whenever fresh convoys of Russian prisoners arrived, they were not issued the current AUSCHWITZ prisoner numbers, but received those of deceased Russians in the 1 to 12,000 series. It is therefore difficult to estimate how many prisoners of this category passed through the camp, Apparently Russians were transferred to AUSCHWITZ or BIRKENAU on disciplinary grounds from regular prisoner of war camps. We found what remained of the Russians in a terrible state of destitution and neglect living in the unfinished building: without the slightest protection against cold or rain. They died “en masse.” Hundreds and thousands of their bodies were buried superficially spreading a stench of pestilence. Later we had to exhume and burn the corpses.


A week before our arrival in AUSCHWITZ, the first group of Jews reached the camp : (the women were dealt with separately and received numbers parallel to those of the men; the Slovak women received serial numbers from 1 to 8,000) 1,320 naturalized French Jews from Paris. They were numbered from 27,000 onwards. lt is clear, therefore, that between this French group and our convoy, no other men arrived in AUSCHWITZ, since we have already pointed out that our numbers started with 28,600. We found the 700 French Jews who were still alive in terrible condition, the missing 600 having died within a week after their arrival.

The following categories were housed in the three completed buildings:
I. The so-called “prominencia”: professional criminals and older Polish political prisoners who were in charge of the administration of the camp.
II. The remainder of the French Jews, namely some 700.
III. The 643 original Slovak-Jews to whom were added a few days later those who had been left at ZWARDON.
iv. Those Russians who were still alive and housed in the unfinished building as well as in the open air and whose numbers diminished so rapidly that as a group they are scarcely worth mentioning.

Together with the remaining Russian prisoners the Slovak Jews worked at the construction of buildings, where­ as the French Jews had to do spade work. After 3 days, I was ordered, together with 200 other Slovak Jews, to work in the German armament factories at AUSCHWITZ but we continued to be housed in BIRKENAU. We left early in the morning returning at night and worked in the carpentry shop as well as on road construction. Our food consisted of 1 1itre of turnip-soup at midday and 300 grams of bad bread in the evening. Working conditions were inconceivably hard, so that the majority of us, weakened by starvation and the inedible food, could not stand it. The mortality was so high that every day our group of 200 had 30 to 35 dead. Many were simply beaten to death by the overseers – the “Capos” – during; work, without the slightest provocation. The gaps in our ranks caused by these deaths were replaced daily by prisoners from BIRKENAU. Our return at night was extremely painful and dangerous, as we had to drag along over a distance of 5 kilometers, our tools, firewood, heavy cauldrons and the bodies of those who had died or been killed during the working day. With these heavy loads we were forced to maintain a brisk pace and anyone incurring the displeasure of one of the “Capoes” was cruelly knocked down, if not beaten to death. Until the arrival of the second group of Slovak men some 14 days later, our original number had dropped to 150. At night we were counted, the bodies of the dead were loaded onto flat narrow gauge cars


or in a truck and brought to the birch forest (BREZINSKY) where they were burnt in the trench several meters deep and about 15 meters long. Every day on our way to work we met a working party of 300 Jewish girls from Slovakia who were employed on ground work in the vicinity. They were dressed in old Russian uniform rags and wore wooden clogs. Their heads were shaven and unfortunately we could not speak to them.

Until the middle of May 1942, a total of 4 convoys of male Jews from Slovakia, arrived at BlRKENAU and all received similar treatment to ours.

From the lst and 2nd transport 120 men were chosen (including myself) and placed at the disposal of the administration of the camp of AUSCHWI TZ which was in need of doctors, dentists, intellectuals and clerks. This group consisted of 90 Slovak and 30 French Jews. As I
had in the meantime managed to work my way up to a good position in BIRKENAU- being in command of a group of 50 men, which bad brought me consider able advantage – I at first felt reluctant to leave for AUSCHWITZ. However, I was finally persuaded to go end left. After 8 days, 18
doctors and attendants as well as three further persons were selected from this group of 120 intellectuals. The doctors were used in the ” sick building” or “hospital” at AU!SCHWITZ, while we three were sent back to BIRKENAU. My 2 comrades, Ladislav Braun from Trnava and Gross from Vrbové (7), both of whom have since died, were sent to the Slovak block while I was ordered to the French section where we were employed at collecting personal data and at “nursing the sick.” The remaining 99 persons were sent to work in the gravel pit where they all died within a short time.

Shortly thereafter a so-called “sick-building” (Krankenbau) was set up. It was destined to become the much dreaded “Block 7” where at first, I was chief attendant and later administrator. The chief of this “infirmary” was a Pole named Viktor Mordarki, prisoner No. 3550. Actually this building was nothing else than an assembly centre for death candidates. All prisoners incapable of working were sent there. There was no question of any medical attention or care. We had some 150 dead daily and their bodies were sent to cremation to AUSCHWITZ

At the same time the so-called “selections” were introduced. Twice weekly, Mondays and Thursdays, the camp doctor indicated the number of prisoners who were to be gassed and then burned. These “selectees” were loaded into trucks and grought to the Birch Forst. Those still alive upon arrival were gassed in a big barrack erected near the trench used for burning the bodies. The weekly “draft” in dead from “Block 7” was about 2,000, of whom 1,200 died of natural “death” and about 800 through “selection.” For those who had not been “selected” a death


certificate was issued and sent to the central administration at ORANINNBURG, whereas for the “selectees” a special register was kept with the indication “S.B.”  “Sonderbehandelt” special treatment). Until January 15, 1943, up to which time I was administrator of Block 7 and therefore in a position to directly observe happenings, some 50,000 prisoners died of natural death” or by “selection.”

As previously described, the prisoners were numbered consecutively so that we are able to reconstruct fairly clearly their order of succession and the fate which befell each separate convoy on arrival.

The first male  Jewish transport  reaching  AUSCHWITZ for BIRKENAU, was composed, as mentioned, of 1,330 naturalized French Jews bearing approximately the following numbers :

Numbers Transports
c. 27,400 – 28,600 First transport of naturalized French Jews.
c. 28,600 – 29,600 First Jews from Slovakia, our own transport.*
c. 29,600 – 29,700 100 Gentile men from various transit camps.
c. 29,700 – 32,700 Three complete Slovak Jewish transports, 3000 men.
c. 32,700 – 33,100 400 habitual criminals (Gentiles) from Warsaw.
c. 33,100 – 35,000 Approximately 2000 Jews from Cracow.
c. 35,000 – 36,000 Gentile Poles, political prisoners in protective custody.
c. 36,000 – 37,300 1330 Slovak Jews arriving from Lublin-Maidenek in May 1942.
c. 37,300 – 37,900 600 Gentile Poles, with few Jews, coming from Radom.
c. 37,900 – 38,000 100 Gentile Poles arriving from the Dachau reception center.
c. 38,000 – 38,400 400 naturalized French Jews with their families, the entire transport numbering about 1600 people. Of these only about 400 men and 200 women were assigned to the camp. The remaining thousand, including women and older men, were sent directly to the birchwood, where they were gassed and cremated without being entered on the records and assigned numbers.

This whole convoy consisted of about 1,600 individuals of whom approximately 200 girls and 400 men were admitted to the camp, while the remaining 1,000 persons (women, old people, children as well as men) were went without further procedure from the railroad siding directly to the Birch forest, and there gassed and burnt. From this moment on all Jewish convoys were dealt with in the same manner. Approximately 10%- of the men and 6% of the women were allotted to the camps and the remaining members were immediately gassed. This process of extermination had already been applied earlier to the Polish Jews. During the long months• without interruption, trucks brought thousands of Jews from t.he various “ghettos” direct to the pit in the “Birkenwald”.

38,400 – 39,200 8OO naturalized French Jews, the remainder of the convoy was, as previously described, gassed.


c. 38,400 – 39,200 8OO naturalized French Jews, the remainder of the convoy was, as previously described, gassed.
c. 39,200 – 40,000 800 Gentile Poles, political prisoners in protective custody.
c. 40,000 – 40,150 150 Slovak Jews with their families. With the exception of 50 women, who were sent to the women’s camp, the majority of the transport was gassed in the birchwood. Among the 150 men were Zucker and Vilmos Sonnenschein, both from Eastern Slovakia.
c. 40,150 – 43,800 Almost 4000 naturalized French Jews, mostly intellectuals. About 1000 women of this transport went to the camp and 3000 persons were gassed in the birchwood.
c. 43,800 – 44,200 400 Slovak Jews from the Lublin camp, including Matyas Klein and Meilech Laufer, both from Eastern Slovakia. This transport arrived on 30 June 1942.
c. 44,200 – 45,000 This transport contained 1000 persons. A few women were sent to the women’s camp and all others went to the birchwood. Among the men sent to the camp were Jozsef Zelmanovies, from Snina; Adolf Kahan, from Bratislava; Walter Reichmann, from Sucany; and Eszter Kahan from Bratislava. I had occasion to speak with the latter on 1 April 1944. She is block-inspector in the women’s camp.
c. 45,000 – 47,000 2000 French Gentiles, including communists and other political prisoners, among them the brothers of Thorez and Leon Blum. The latter were specially tortured, and then gassed and cremated.
c. 47,000 – 47,500 500 Dutch Jews, among them many German emigres. About 250 persons from this transport went to the birchwood.
c. 47,500 – 47,800 About 300 Russian civilians (Schutzrussen).
c. 48,300 (sic) – 48,620 320 Slovak Jews. About 70 women went to the camp and
the remainder of the transport of 650 persons were sent to the birchwood. This transport contained 80 persons who were deported to Sered n/V. by the Hungarian police. In this group were:
Dr. Zoltan Mandel of Presov, who later died; Holz (first name unknown), a butcher from Pistany who was later sent to Warsaw; Miklos Engel of Zilina; Chaim Katz of Snina, whose wife and six children have been gassed, and who at the present time works at the morgue.
c. 49,000 – 64,800 15,000 naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. This number accounts for no more than ten percent of the transports arriving between 1 June and 15 September 1942. Most of these were large family transports, many of their members being sent directly to the birchwood. The Sonderkommando* which did the gassing and cremating worked day and night shifts. At this time Jews were gassed and burned by hundreds of thousands.
c. 64,800 – 65,000 About 200 Slovak Jews. Some 100 women were sent to the women’s camp, the others going to the birchwoods. Among those coming to the camp were:
Lajos Katz from Zilina;
Avri Burger (his wife died) from Bratislava-Poprad;
Miklos Steiner, from Bystrica n/V.;
Gyorgy Fried, from Trencin; Buchwald [sic];
Jozsef Rosenwasser, from Eastern Slovakia;
Gyula Neumann, from Bardejov;
Sandor and Mihaly Wertheimer, from Verbo; and
Bela Blau, from Zilina.
c. 65,000 – 68,000 Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. About 1000 women were sent to the women’s camp and a minimum of 3000 persons were gassed.
c. 68,000 – 70,500 2500 German Jews from the Sachsenhaus reception-center.
c. 71,000 – 80,000 Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. Not more than ten percent of those arriving were sent to the camp. The number exterminated is conservatively estimated at 65,000-70,000.

* Labor gangs with special assignments – footnote in original document.


  1. Description of the Extermination Crew.

On 17 December 1942, 200 young Slovak Jews were executed in Birkenau. They had been engaged as Sonderkommandos in the gassing and cremating crews. Their plan to revolt and escape was betrayed and the executions followed. Among those executed were:

Sandor Weisz
Oszkar Steiner
Aladar Spitzer
Ferenc Wagner
Dezso Wetzler
Bela Weisz

All these men came from Nagyzombat. Two hundred Polish Jews, who had just arrived from Makow, replaced the executed Sonderkommandos.

We lost our direct contact with this “working place” after the elimination of the Slovak Jewish Sonderkommandos, and this brought a deterioration in our supply situation. Transports arriving at the birchwood brought with them, although they had to leave their luggage in Auschwitz, large amounts of foreign currency, mostly dollars in banknotes or gold, tremendous quantities of gold and precious stones, and even foodstuffs. Although these valuables had to be handed in, it was unavoidable that a great deal, especially gold dollars, went into the pockets of the boys who were working in the extermination crews and had to go through the clothes of those who had been gassed.

In this way a considerable amount of wealth and foodstuffs got into the camp. One could buy nothing for money in the camp officially, of course. But one could make a deal with the SS men and with civilian workers who were employed in the camp at various skilled jobs and so could smuggle in some food and cigarettes. Prices were naturally abnormal; a few hundred cigarettes cost twenty dollars in gold. Barter also flourished. But the high prices did not disturb us since we had more than enough money. We obtained clothing from the Sonderkommandos and so were able to change our rags for good clothes which had belonged to those gassed. For instance, the coat I am now wearing belonged to a Dutch Jew.

The Sonderkommandos were segregated. We did not associate with them because of the horrid smell they spread. They were always filthy, in rags, totally brutalized, and became violent savages. It was no rarity for one to club another to death. Such an occurrence was nothing sensational among other prisoners as well, since the murder of a prisoner is not considered a crime. It is simply recorded that prisoner number so and so died; the cause of death is immaterial. I was present when a young Polish Jew named Jossel explained the fine art of “expert murder” to an SS man and, to demonstrate his point, killed another Jew with his bare hands, without using any weapon.


  1. Transport Arrivals at Auschwitz-Birkenau, January – February 1943.

At about the number 80,000, the systematic extermination of those from the Polish ghettos began.

Numbers Transports
c. 80,000 – 85,000 About 5000 Jews from various Polish ghettos, including Mljawa, Makow, Zichenow, Lomzsa, Grodno, Byalistok. Transports arrived continuously for thirty days. Only 5000 persons were assigned to camp; the remainder was gassed immediately. The Sonderkommandos worked feverishly in two shifts twenty-four hours a day, but they could hardly cope with the task of gassing and burning. It can be estimated without exaggeration that between 80,000 and 90,000 persons were exterminated. These transports brought with them particularly large sums of [Polish?] money, foreign currency, and precious stones.
c. 85,000 – 92,000 6000 Jews from Grodno, Byalistok, and Cracow, and an additional 1000 Gentile Poles. The large majority of the Jews went to the birchwood directly. An average of 4000 Jews were driven into the gas chamber daily.
In the middle of January 1943, three transports of 2000 persons each arrived from Teresin [Theresienstadt Czechoslovakia]. The markings of these transports were, “CU”, “CR”, and “R”, which were incomprehensible to us. All parcels belonging to these transports were similarly marked. Of these 6000 persons, only 600 men and 300 women were sent to the camp, the remainder being gassed.
c. 99,000 (sic) – 100,000 Large Dutch and French Jewish transports arrived at the end of January 1943. Only a fraction went to the camp, the remainder being gassed.
c. 100,000 – 102,000 2000 Gentile Poles, mostly intellectuals, arrived in February 1943.
c. 102,000 – 103,000 700 Gentile Czechs, the survivors of whom were later sent to Buchenwald.
c. 103,000-108,000 3000 French and Dutch Jews and 2000 Gentile Poles.

An average of two transports of Polish, French, and Dutch Jews arrived daily during February 1943. In most cases entire transports were gassed. The number of those gassed in this month alone can be estimated at about 90,000.


  1. The New Birkenau Crematoria and Gas Chambers.

At the end of February 1943 the newly-built crematoria and gas chambers were opened in Birkenau. The practice of gassing and burning corpses in the birchwood was stopped and bodies were taken to the four new crematoria built for the purpose. Ashes had been utilized as fertilizer previously on the Harmansee Estate, so that it is difficult to find traces of the mass murders.

There are four crematoria at work in Birkenau at the present time, two larger ones (models I and II) and two smaller (models III and IV). Models I and II consist of a waiting hall, gas chambers, and incinerators. The large waiting hall, which is equipped to resemble the hall of a bath, can accommodate 2000 persons. There is reported to be another waiting hall, equally large, below this one. A few steps lead from the big hall (on the ground level) into a very long and narrow gas chamber. False showers are built into the walls of the gas chamber so as to give the impression of a very large washroom. Three skylights in the ceiling of the chamber can be hermetically sealed by valves. A narrow-gauge track runs from the gas chambers through the waiting hall to the incinerators.

There is a high smoke-stack in the center of the hall where the incinerators are located. Nine incinerators are built around it, each having four doors. Each door will admit three average corpses at one time. Each incinerator will burn twelve bodies in one and a half hours, giving a total capacity of approximately 2000 corpses each twenty-four hours.

The victims are first led to the waiting hall, where they are told they will go to the bathhouse. They undress and, in order to support their delusion that they are going to bathe, two attendants clad in white distribute a towel and a piece of soap to each. Then they are squeezed into the gas chamber. Two thousand persons will pack the chamber to such an extent that all must stand up. The attendants often fire into the chamber to force those inside to make room for others. When everybody is in the chamber, the doors are sealed from the outside. There is a short wait, presumably to allow the temperature inside to rise to a certain degree. Then SS men with gasmasks go up on the roof, open the valves on the windows, and pour a powder-like substance into the chamber. The cans containing this substance carry the inscription: “Cyklon zur Schaedlingsbekaempfung“* and the trademark of a Hamburg factory. These cans evidently contain a cyanide preparation that gassifies when the temperature rises to a certain degree. Everyone in the chamber dies within three minutes. Up to the present, there has been no case of anyone showing signs of life when the chamber was opened – a phenomena not so rare in the birchwood, where the procedure was more primitive. The chamber is ventilated after being opened and the Sonderkommandos move the corpses to the incinerators on flat cars. The crematoria designated models III and IV operate in about the same manner, but their turnover is only about half as large. The total capacity of the four crematoria, therefore, is 6000 corpses per day.

* Cyclon for exterminating criminals – footnote in original document.


In principle only Jews are gassed. Gentiles are usually shot, being gassed only in exceptional cases. Before the establishment of the crematoria, Gentiles were executed in the birchwood and their bodies burned there. Later, however, such executions were carried out in the hall of the crematoria, which was especially equipped for the purpose, by shooting in the nape of the neck.

Inauguration of the first crematorium occurred in March 1943 and was celebrated by the gassing and cremation of 8000 Jews from Cracow. Prominent guests from Berlin, including high-ranking officers and civilian personalities, attended and expressed their highest satisfaction with the performance of the gas chamber. They diligently used the spy hole in the door of the gas chamber.

  1. Transport Arrivals March – September 1943.
Number Transport
c. 109,000 – (sic) 119,000 Early in March 1943, 45,000 Jews arrived from Salonika. Ten thousand men and a much smaller number of women were sent to the camp. The remainder, at least 30,000 people, were sent to the crematoria. Of the 10,000 men in the camp, nearly everyone, perhaps all, died shortly afterwards. Most of them fell victims to an epidemic disease similar to malaria, many died of typhus, and others could not stand the hard conditions in the camp.

In view of the great mortality among the Greek Jews, resulting from malaria and typhus, selections were temporarily halted. Sick Greek Jews were told to report. We warned them not to do so, but many reported nevertheless. All were killed by intercordial injections of phenol. Such injections were administered by a medical noncommissioned officer who was assisted by two Czech doctors, Cespira Honza and Zdenedk Stich, both of Prague. These doctors are at present in the Buchenwald reception center. Both doctors did everything they could to help the unfortunates, and when they could do nothing else, eased their pain.

Approximately 1000 survivors of the 10,000 Greek Jews were sent with another 500 Jews to build fortifications in Warsaw. A few hundred of these returned several weeks later in a hopeless condition and were immediately gassed. Four hundred Greeks suffering from malaria were sent to Lublin for “further treatment,” following the suppression of the phenol injections. We received news of their arrival in Lublin, but we know nothing about their fate. It is certain that not one of the 10,000 remains in the camp.


Following the suppression of the “selection” system, the murder of prisoners was also forbidden. The following Reichsgermans were flogged for multiple murder:

Alexander Neumann, professional criminal
Alexander Zimmer, professional criminal
Albert Haemmerle, ” ”
Rudolf Osteringer, ” ”
Alfred Klein, political prisoner
Alois Stahler, ” ”

These notorious murderers also had to sign a statement admitting the killing of a certain number of their fellow-prisoners.

Early in 1943, 50,000 discharge forms were received by the Auschwitz political department. This news caused great joy among us, as we hoped that some of us at least might be released. But these forms were filled in with the personal data of those gassed and were placed in the archives.

Numbers Transports
c. 119,000 – 120,000 1000 Gentile Poles from the Pawiak prison in Warsaw.
c. 120,000 – 123,000 3000 Greek Jews, part of whom were sent to Warsaw to replace their dead compatriots. Those who stayed behind died off quickly.
c. 123,000 – 124,000 1000 Gentile Poles from Radom and Tarnow.
c. 124,000 – 126,000 2000 men from various Gentile transports.

In the meantime, Polish, Belgian, and French Jewish transports arrived continually, and their members were gassed without even a fraction going to the camp. One of these consisted of 1000 Polish Jews coming from Lublin-Maidenek. Among them were three Slovaks, including one named Spira from Stropko or Varanno.


At the end of July 1943, transports abruptly stopped coming. There was a short respite while the crematoria were thoroughly cleaned and prepared for further activities. The work started again on 3 August. Transports of Jews from Benzburg and Sossnowitz came first, and were followed by others without interruption during the whole month of August.

c. 132;000 (sic) – 136,000 Jews from Benzburg and Sossnowitz. Only 4000 men and few women went to the camp. Over 35,000 were taken to the crematoria directly. Most of these died in the so-called quarantine camp from exceptionally inhuman treatment, starvation, various diseases, and last but not least, murders in their own ranks. Those chiefly responsible for the crimes committed against them are Tlyn, a professional criminal of German nationality who came here from the Sachsenhausen reception center, and Mieczislaw Katerzinski, a Polish political prisoner from Warsaw.

At this time “selections” were started again on a particularly large scale in the women’s camp. The camp doctor, an SS Sturmfuehrer and son or nephew of the Berlin police director, acted with a brutality which stood out even in this camp. The practice of “selection” was carried out without respite from this time until our escape.

c. 137,000 (sic) – 138,000 1000 Gentile Poles from the Pawiak prison in Warsaw and about 80 Greek Jews arrived at the end of August.
c. 138,000 – 142,000 3000 Gentiles from various transports.
c. 142,000 – 145,000 3000 Jews from various Polish labor camps and a group of
Russian POWs arrived at the beginning of September 1943.
c. 148,000 (sic) – 152,000 Family transports from Teresin (Theresienstadt), which arrived during the week following 7 September 1943.
  1. Treatment of the Theresienstadt Czechs, September 1943 – March 1944.

For some reason unknown to us, the Theresienstadt transport enjoyed exceptional treatment. Nobody was gassed or even shaved, members kept their belongings and were billeted by families in a separate section of the camp. The men did not have to work, members were allowed to send mail to relatives, and a special school for the children was permitted under the leadership of Fredy Hirsch, at one time youth leader of the Makabi of Prague.*

* The largest Jewish sports club in Czechoslovakia – footnote in original document.


However, members of these transports had to endure the sadistic tortures of a “camp inspector” named Arno Boehm, a professional criminal of German nationality who was, by the way, one of the most abject individuals in the entire camp. Our astonishment increased when we had an occasion to see the official roster of the transport. This roster bore the peculiar title, “Specially treated Czech Jews for six months’ quarantine.”* We knew very well what the “SB” marking meant, but we could not find an explanation for the exceptional treatment and the extraordinarily long quarantine. According to our experience up to that time, the quarantine never lasted longer than three weeks. We became suspicious as the end of the six months’ quarantine period approached, and were convinced that these Jews would also end up in the gas chamber. Looking for an opportunity to make contact with the leaders of the group, we explained their situation and did not leave them in any doubt as to their fate. A few of them, especially Fredy Hirsch, who obviously enjoyed the full confidence of his companions, told us that they would resist if our suspicions should materialize. Men of the Sonderkommandos promised that they would join immediately if the Czech Jews put up active resistance. Many hoped that a general uprising could be instigated in the camp.

We learned on 6 March 1944 that the crematoria had been put into condition for the Czech Jews. I went to see Fredy Hirsch without delay to inform him, and appealed to him to act immediately. He replied, “I know what my duty is.” I sneaked to the Czech camp again before dawn and heard that Fredy Hirsch was dying. He had poisoned himself with luminol. The following day, 7 March 1944, he was transferred in a state of coma, with 3791 of his companions with whom he arrived in Birkenau after 7 September 1943, to the crematorium, on trucks where all were gassed.** The youths went to their death singing. The resistance did not come off. Determined men of the Sonderkommando had waited in vain.

About 500 elderly Czechs died during the six months’ quarantine period. Of the whole group, the only ones left alive were eleven sets of twins taken to Auschwitz for biological experiments. When we left Birkenau these children were still alive. Rozsi Fuerst, a girl from Sered n/V., was among those executed. All were forced to inform their relatives that they were all right one week before their execution, that is, during the first days of March. The letters had to be dated 23 or 25 March. They were also told to ask for parcels from relatives abroad.

* “S[onder] B[ehandlung] – Transport tschechische Juden mit monatlicher Quarantaene” – footnote in original document.
** March 7, the day chosen by the Germans for this execution, is an outstanding Czechoslovak national holiday, the birthday of President Masaryk – footnote in original document.


  1. Transport Arrivals, September 1943 – April 1944.
c. 153,000 (sic) – 154,000 1000 Gentile Poles from the Warsaw Pawiak prison.
c. 155,000 (sic) – 159,000 4000 men from various prisons, Jews who had been in hiding and were captured around Benzburg, and a group of Russians (Schutzrussen) arrived in October 1943. At the same time, Russian POWs also came in and received numbers 1-12,000.
c. 160,000 (sic) – 165,000 About 5000 men, mostly Dutch and Belgian Jews, and the first transport of Italian Jews came from Fiume, Trieste, and Rome. Not less than 30,000 persons from these transports were taken directly to the gas chamber.

Mortality among the Jews assigned to camp was particularly high. The method of selection took its toll at an increased rate. Selection reached its peak between 10 – 24 January 1944, when the strongest and healthiest Jews were taken regardless of their labor assignment or profession. Only doctors were spared. Everyone had to line up for the “selection,” and a close check was made to ascertain that all were present. The “selection” was then made by the camp doctor (the son or nephew of the police chief of Berlin) and by the Birkenau camp commandant, SS Untersturmfuehrer Schwarzhuber. All Jews transferred from Block No. 7 to the “hospital” (Krankenbau), which was located in another part of the camp, were gassed without exception. In addition to these, another 2500 men and 6000 women were sent to the gas chamber through “selection.”

c. 165,000 – 168,000 3000 Jews arrived from Teresin on 20 December 1943. This roster had the same title as the one which had come in September. They were billeted with the September arrivals and enjoyed the same privileges. Twenty-four hours before the extermination of the first group the later arrivals were segregated in an adjoining part of the camp which happened to be empty. They are still living in this quarter. In view of their knowledge of the fate of the first group, they are already preparing to resist. Resistance has been organized by Ruzenka Laufer and Hugo Langsfeld, both of Prague. They are collecting easily inflammable material and want to set their blocks on fire. Their quarantine will be over on 20 June 1944.
c. 169,000 (sic) – 170,000 1000 persons, including Poles, Russians, and Jews in smaller groups.
c. 170,000 – 171,000 1000 Gentile Poles and Russians, and a smaller number of Yugoslavs.
c. 171,000 – 174,000 3000 Dutch, Belgian, and native French Jews arrived in late February and early March 1944. This was the first shipment of native as distinguished from naturalized French Jews. They came from the unoccupied zone. An overwhelming majority of these were immediately gassed.


In the middle of March 1944 a smaller group of Benzburg Jews, who had been found in hiding, arrived. We learned from them that many Polish Jews had escaped to Slovakia and from there to Hungary, and that these had been helped by Jews still living in Slovakia.

After the extermination of the Teresin Jews, no reinforcements arrived until 15 March. As a consequence, the number at the camp was substantially reduced, for which reason all men arriving in later transports, mostly Dutch Jews, were assigned to the camp. We had just learned of the arrival of large Greek Jewish transports when we left the camp on 7 April 1944.

  1. Organization and Population of the Birkenau Camp, April 1944.

The Birkenau camp consists of three sections (see plan no. 3) At the present time, only sections I and II are surrounded by the inner guard belt, as section III is still in the process of building and is not inhabited.

When we left Birkenau at the beginning of April 1944, the number of inmates of the camp was as follows:

Place Slovak Jews Other Jews Gentiles Remarks
I Section c. 300 c. 7000 c. 6000 In addition to 300 Slovak girls, 100 girls are employed in the staff building.
Women’s reception centers Ia and Ib
II Section
a. Quarantine camp 2 c. 200 c. 800 Dr. Endre Mueller from Podolinec, one of the two Slovak Jews, is block-inspector.
b.Camp of the [sic] c. 3500 With six months quarantine.
c. Not occupied at present
d. Staff camp c. 58 c. 4000 c. 6000
e. Gypsy camp c. 4500 Remnant of 16,000 Gypsies. They are not performing labor and are dying out quickly.
f. Hospital 6 c. 1000 c. 500 The six Slovak Jews are engaged in hospital administration.*
g. [Shown on plan, but not accounted for.]


Number Name Place of Origin Duties
36,832 Walter Spitzer Nemsova Block inspector
29,867 Josef Neumann Snina “Capo” of corpses
44,989 Josef Zelmanovics Snina Personnel
32,407 Lajos Eisenstaedter Korompa Tattooer
30,049 Lajos Solmann Kezmarok Clerk
Chaim Katz Snina Personnel


The internal administration of the Birkenau camp is carried out by prisoners assigned to that work. Prisoners are not billeted by nationality, but by their labor assignment, that is, by Kommandos. Each block has five functionaries:

1 Block Inspector (Blockaeltester)
1 Block Clerk (Blockschreiber)
1 Block Nurse
2 Block Handymen

The block inspector wears on his left arm a white band showing the number of his block. He is responsible for order in his block, where he is, so to speak, master of life and death. Up to February 1944 almost half of all block inspectors were Jews. At that time an order from Berlin prohibited filling this office with Jews, following which the Jews were relieved from duty. Three Slovak Jews, however, are carrying on to this day. They are:

Name Place of Origin Duties
Ernest Rosim Zilina Inspector, Block No: 25, (cleaning crews, plus artisans from Benzburg)
Dr. Endre Mueller Podolinec Inspector, Block No. 15, quarantine camp
Walter Spitzer Nemsova Inspector, Block No. 14, hospital area

The block clerk is the executive assistant of the block inspector. He does all clerical work, keeps the roster up to date, and is in charge of a large file. His work is loaded with great responsibility since the roster has to be kept in order in a painstaking manner. Prisoners are recorded by their numbers only, not by their names, and consequently an error is easily made. Mistakes of this kind may be fatal. If by mistake the clerk reports an individual number dead by mistake, which can easily occur in view of the high mortality rate – and has in fact happened – such a mistake is simply corrected by executing the wearer of the number later. Once a report is forwarded, it cannot be corrected, and the reported roll must agree with the actual roster. The post of clerk confers great power within the block. Unfortunately there are often abuses.

The nurse and handymen perform manual work around the block. Naturally there can be no question of any nursing.

The camp inspector (Lageraeltester) is over the whole camp. He is also a prisoner. The present camp inspector is Franz Danisch, No. 11,182, a political prisoner from Koenigshuette, Upper Silesia. The camp inspector is absolute master of the entire camp. He is entitled to appoint and remove block inspectors and clerks, and can also assign men to labor crews, etc. Danisch is fair even to Jews; he is objective and incorruptible.

The camp clerk, who actually has the greatest power in the camp, is assigned to the camp inspector. He is the only man in direct contact with the camp command, receiving orders and handing in reports. As a result, he has a certain amount of influence with the camp command. Block clerks are his direct subordinates and make their reports to him. The present camp clerk is Casimir Gork, No. 30,029, a Polish political prisoner who was formerly a bank clerk. Although Gork has anti-semitic views, he does not molest the Jews.

Principal supervision of the blocks is exercised by six to eight SS block leaders. They call the roll nightly and report to the commander, Untersturmfuehrer Schwarzhuber, a Tyrolean whose title is camp leader (Lagerfuehrer). Schwarzhuber is a drunkard and a sadist.

The camp commandant is the superior of camp leaders of the Birkenau and Auschwitz camps, as well as the leader of the Auschwitz reception center. The name of the present camp commandant is Hoess.


The capo heads each labor detachment (Arbeitskommando); larger detachments have several capos. A capo can dispose of the prisoners at will during working hours, and he often beats them to death. In the past, Jews were often capos, but this was forbidden by the order from Berlin already mentioned (February 1944). One Jew, a mechanic named Roth from Nagymihaly, still holds such an office.

Supreme control of the work is entrusted to German experts.


  1. Internment at Maidenek camp at Lublin, June 1942.

We left Novaky on 14 June 1942, passed through Zilina, and arrived at Zwardon at 5 p.m. Here we detrained and were counted. The transport was taken over by SS men, who expressed loudly their indignation at the fact that we were traveling without any water. “Those Slovak barbarians would not even furnish water,” they said. We continued and arrived at Lublin in two days. As soon as the train stopped, the following order was given. “Those between 15-50 years old who are fit for work will leave the train; children and old people will stay in the cars.” We got out. The station was surrounded by Lithuanian SS men armed with machine pistols. The railroad cars containing the children and old people were sealed and the train started off. We do not know where the train went or what happened to the passengers.

An SS Schaarfuehrer took over command at the station and told us that we have a long trip ahead. Those who wished to take their parcels with them could do so; those who thought they could not carry them might load their parcels on a truck ready for the purpose. This truck would arrive without fail. Some of my companions took their luggage with them while others loaded theirs on the truck. We found a factory which bore the sign “Bekleidungswerke” (Clothing factory) just behind the town. There were about a thousand persons, dressed in dirty striped prisoners’ uniforms, lined up in the factory court. They were obviously waiting for dinner. This spectacle was not very encouraging, as we recognized the people as Jews. When we reached the hill, we suddenly saw the very large camp of Maidenek, surrounded by a barbed wire fence three meters high.

As soon as I entered the gate of the camp, I saw Maco Winkler, who is from Nagyszombat (Trnava). He warned me that all my parcels and clothes would be taken away. Slovak Jews who had arrived earlier surrounded us. They were dressed in rags of prisoners’ uniforms, had shaven heads, were barefoot or in wooden clogs, and many had swollen legs. They begged for food or other small items. We distributed almost anything we had, since we knew that anything we kept would be taken away anyhow. We were then led to the warehouse where we had to hand in all our belongings. Then we were driven on the double to another barracks where we stripped, had our heads shaved, were put under a shower, and finally received our underwear and prisoners’ uniforms, a pair of wooden shoes, and a cap.

I was attached to the so-called Labor Section II. The whole camp consisted of three such labor sections, separated from each other by wire fences. Slovak and Czech Jews billeted in Labor Section II. We were trained for two days how to lift our cap when we met a German, and were drilled for hours in the soaking rain. Barracks installations were very peculiar; our furniture consisted of three very long tables on top of one another. Prisoners had to sleep under and on the tables.


We received soup in the morning. It was so thick that we had to eat it with our hands. A similar soup was served at noon, and in the evening we had so-called “tea” with 30 dekagrams of indigestible bread and two or three dekagrams of marmalade or synthetic fat, both of the worst quality. (A decagram = 10 grams. 30 decagrams = 10.5 oz)

In the early days we were taught to sing the camp hymn in an excellent manner, and had to stand around for hours and practice. The hymn is as follows:


Aus ganz Europa kamen
Wir Juden nach Lublin.
Viel Arbeit gibt’s zu leisten
Und dies ist der Beginn.


From all of Europe came
We Jews to Lublin.
There is much work to do,
And this is the beginning.


Um diese Pflicht zu meistern
Vergiss Vergangenheit
Denn in der Pflichterfuellung
Liegt die Gemeinsamkeit.


In order to master this duty
Forget the past,
For in the fulfillment of duty
Lies community feeling.


Drum ruestig an die Arbeit
Ein jeder halte mit
Gemeinsam wollen wir schaffen
Im gleichen Arbeitsschritt.


So actively at work,
Let each one hold his own,
Together we want to labor
At the same work-pace.


Nicht alle wollen begreifen
Wozu in Reihen wir stehen.
Die muessen wir dann zwingen
Dies alles zu verstehen.


Not all want to understand
Why we stand in ranks.
We must then force them
To understand all this.


Die neue Zeit muss alle
Uns alle stets belehren
Dass wir schon nur die Arbeit
Der Arbeit angehoeren.


The new era must teach us –
All of us – forever
That we now only to labor,
Only to labor belong.


Drum ruestig an die Arbeit
Ein jeder halte mit
Gemeinsam wollen wir schaffen
Im gleichen Arbeitsschritt.


So actively at work,
Let each one hold his own,
Together we want to labor
At the same work-pace.


Billeting was as follows: Labor Section I, Slovak Jews; Labor Section II, Slovak and Czech Jews; Labor Section III, partisans. Sections IV and V were being constructed by those billeted in sections I and II. Partisans billeted in section III were shut up in their barracks. They did not work and were not allowed to leave their quarters; their food was thrown down in front of the door and taken inside from there. The guards shot at them whenever possible.

The capos were Reichsgermans and Czechs. The former treated prisoners brutally, while the Czechs tried to assist them whenever possible. A gypsy named Galbavy, from Holies, was camp inspector, and his substitute was a Jew named Mittler from Sered n/V. Mittler evidently obtained his position as a result of his brutality, since he used his power to torture his fellow-Jews, who were already suffering enough indignities. He never missed an opportunity to commit some mean act.

We were mistreated by SS men every night when the Order of the Day was read. After the day’s hard work, we had to stand for hours and sing the camp hymn. This singing was led by an old Jewish conductor from the roof of a near-by building, while the SS men had their fun using their sticks and whips. Rabbi Eckstein of Sered n/V. died in tragic circumstances. On one occasion he arrived a little late for the reading of the Order of the Day, as he was ill in the latrine. The Schaarfuehrer thereupon had him dipped into the latrine twice suspended by his feet, drenched him with cold water, and finally shot him.

The crematorium was located between the first and second labor section. Corpses were burned here. The mortality rate per section of 6000 to 8000 was about 30 daily, but this number increased five and six-fold shortly afterwards. Later ten to twelve sick men were taken daily to the crematorium, from whence they never returned. The crematorium had electric heating installations which were handled by Russian prisoners.

Bad nourishment and unbearable conditions caused various diseases among us. Grave stomach ailments were the most widespread, and an incurable disease that resulted in swollen feet also took its toll. People’s legs were so swollen that they could not move them at all. More and more of these were taken to the crematorium, where they were murdered by methods unknown to me. When on 26 June 1942 the number of these unfortunates had been reduced to 70, I decided to take the first opportunity and to volunteer for transfer to Auschwitz.


  1. Internment at Auschwitz, 30 June 1942 – September or October 1942.

I handed in my prisoner’s uniform on 27 June 1942, received civilian clothes, and traveled in a transport to Auschwitz. We traveled forty-eight hours in sealed boxcars, without water or food, and arrived at Auschwitz half dead. There we were greeted by the sign over the gate, “Arbeit macht frei.” (Work sets you free) The court was clean and neat, and the brick buildings and the lawns made a good impression on us after the primitive and dirty barracks at Lublin-Maidenek. We thought that we had made a good change. First we were led to a cellar where we received tea and bread. Next day they took away our clothes, shaved us, tattooed our number on the left arm over the wrist and issued prisoners’ uniforms similar to those we had had at Lublin. After our personal data were taken, we became regular political prisoners of the Auschwitz reception center.

We were billeted in Block No. 17, where we slept on the ground. Slovak girls were quartered in the next row of buildings, separated from us by a wall. They had been deported from Slovakia in March and April 1942. We were put to work on the construction of the enormous “Buna” plant. Work began at 3 a.m. Food consisted of potato or carrot soup at noon and 30 dekagrams of bread in the evening. We were cruelly beaten during work. Since our place of work was situated outside the outer guard belt, the area was divided into squares 10 meters by ten meters. Each square was guarded by one SS man, and anyone crossing the borders of his square during work was instantly shot as “attempting to escape.” It often happened that an SS man ordered a prisoner to fetch some object from outside his square. If the prisoner obeyed and stepped over the line, he was shot. The work was very hard. We were scarcely permitted to rest and had to march back to the camp in military order. Whoever did not keep in step or broke ranks was cruelly beaten or sometimes shot. When I joined this labor crew, about 3000 men were working, of whom 2000 were Slovak Jews. Very few of us could stand the hard work because of the poor food. Many attempted to escape, although they had no hope to success. We witnessed several hangings each week.

After a few weeks of painful labor, a typhus epidemic broke out in camp. The weak prisoners died off by the hundreds. Construction on the “Buna” plant stopped and the camp was closed. Those who remained alive at their place of work were sent to the quarry at the end of July 1942. Work here was even more difficult, if that was possible, than at the “Buna” plant. We could never accomplish as much as was wanted by our supervisors since we were too weak. Most of us had swollen legs. Our labor gang was reported for laziness and negligence, and a commission came to examine each one of us thoroughly. All those with swollen legs or whom the commission found to be unfit were segregated. Although my legs hurt badly, I mastered my pain and stepped out smartly when called before the commission. I was found fit. About 200 of the 300 persons were declared ill. They were immediately sent to Birkenau where they were gassed.


After this I was detailed to work at the DAW. My job was painting ski boards. We had to finish a minimum of 110 pieces per day; anyone who could not complete that amount was flogged in the evening. We had to work very hard to avoid the evening punishment. Another group manufactured boxes for shells. On one occasion 15,000 such boxes when finished were found to be a few centimeters shorter than ordered. Thereupon several Jewish prisoners, among them one Erdelyi (who was said to have relatives in Trencin-Ban), were shot for sabotage.

The Jewish girls from Slovakia who lived beyond our wall had been transferred to Birkenau in August 1942. I had occasion to talk to them briefly. They were starved, dressed in old rags of Russian uniforms, and were barefoot or wore wooden shoes. Their hair was shorn and they were completely neglected.

We underwent a very severe physical examination on the same day (sic). All those suspected of typhus were sent to the birchwood (Birkenau), while we who had been declared fit were sent stark naked into the evacuated and disinfected barracks. We were again shaved, bathed, and given new clothes. I learned by accident that there was a vacancy in the cleaning squad (Aufräumungskommando), volunteered, and received the assignment.

A hundred prisoners, all Jews, worked in this cleaning squad. We worked in a completely isolated part of the camp where mountains of luggage, consisting of rucksacks, suitcases, and other such pieces were stacked in warehouses. Our job was to open this luggage and to sort the objects found. We filled suitcases with combs, mirrors, sugar, cans of food, chocolate, drugs, and so forth. The suitcases were stored according to their contents. Clothes and underwear were taken to a large barrack where they were sorted and packed by the Slovak Jewish girls. These goods were then loaded into railroad cars and shipped out. Unusable clothing was sent to a textile factory in Memel, while good garments were sent to a Berlin welfare association. Valuables, such as money, gold, foreign currency, and precious stones, were supposed to be handed in to the political division. SS supervisors stole a substantial part of these valuables, and much was also taken by the prisoners working there. The boss of this assortment detail, who is recognized as an expert in the field, is Albert Davidovics, from Iglo (Jihlava?). He occupies the same post to this day.

SS Sturmfuehrer Wikleff, commander of this detachment, was a brute who often beat the girls. These girls came daily from Birkenau to work. They told us unbelievable stories about conditions prevailing there. They were beaten and tortured. Mortality was higher among them than it was among men. “Selections” were made twice weekly, and there were new girls daily to replace those who had been “selected” or had died in some other way.


On my first nightshift I had occasion to see how transports coming to Auschwitz were treated. A transport consisting of Polish Jews arrived. They had traveled without water and about a hundred were dead on their arrival. When the doors of the cars were opened, the Jews, completely weakened by the long journey and privations, were driven out wailing. Quick beating by SS men speeded up the unloading. Then the unfortunates were lined up in rows of five. Our task was to remove the corpses, those half dead, and parcels from the railroad cars. We placed the bodies at a collecting point. All those unable to stand on their feet were declared dead. Parcels were thrown into one stack. The cars had to be thoroughly cleaned so that no trace of the transport remained. A commission of the political division then selected ten percent of the men and five percent of the women, who were assigned to camp. The remainder was loaded on trucks and taken to the birchwood, where they were gassed. Corpses and those half dead were also loaded on trucks. These were burned in the birchwood without being gassed first. Small children were often thrown on the truck with the corpses. Parcels were moved by truck to the warehouses, where they were sorted as described above.

Typhus raged during July and September 1942 in the Birkenau and Auschwitz camps, especially among the women. Those who were ill were not treated at all. At first typhus suspects were killed by means of phenol injections, later they were gassed in large numbers. Within two months 15 – 20,000 prisoners perished, most of them Jews. The women’s camp suffered particularly. They had no sanitary installations at all and the girls were full of lice. Big “selections” were held weekly. Regardless of the weather, the girls were forced to line up naked for these “selections,” and to wait in deadly fear to see whether they would be “selected” on that occasion or would have a week’s grace.

Many men and women committed suicide. They simply touched the high-tension wire of the inner guard belt. So many women perished that not more than five percent [sic] of the original number survived. There are 400 girls at Auschwitz and Birkenau at this time, the remainder of the original 7000. The majority of these have secured camp administration jobs for themselves. One of them named Kata (I do not know her family name), from Bystrica n/V., fills the high position of camp clerk. About a hundred Slovak girls are employed in the Auschwitz staff building. They do clerical work for both camps and interpret for interrogators who interview prisoners. Some of the girls work in the kitchen and laundry of the staff building. Lately the Slovak girls are better dressed, as they have been able to complete their wardrobe from the stocks of the Aufräumungskommando. Many even wear silk stockings. They are now letting their hair grow and altogether are much better off than in the past. This does not apply, of course, to the several thousand other prisoners in the women’s camp. The Slovak Jewish girls are the oldest inmates of the women’s camp and thus have a somewhat privileged position.


I soon lost my comparatively comfortable job [October 1942?] with the Aufräumungskommando, and as punishment was transferred to Birkenau, where I spent one and a half years. On 7 April 1944 I succeeded in escaping with my companion.


Poland (shipped by trucks) c. 300,000
Poland (shipped by trains) 600,000
Holland 100,000
Greece 45,000
France 150,000
Belgium 50,000
Germany 60,000
Yugoslavia, Italy, Norway 50,000
Lithuania 50,000
Bohemia, Moravia, Austria 30,000
Slovakia 30,000
Various camps of foreign Jews in Poland 300,000
TOTAL c. 1,765,000

[Source of English translation: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD, Record Group 226, Records of the Office of Strategic Services, Entry 19, Box 119, File XL 8883.]


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