NOTE: In this video, at the 3:30 minute-mark, there is some graphic imagery of the Holocaust, which is not permitted by Youtube.
Hence some footage in this video has been blurred while the audio continues for 30 seconds.
HOW THE REPORT WAS MADE AND CIRCULATED
After crossing the border into Slovakia on April 21, 1944, Vrba and Wetzler met a farmer named Canecky, near the village of Skalite, who fed them and gave them shelter as well as some unsoiled peasant clothing. On the fourth day, the pair set off with him, driving ten pigs in front of the them. After the pigs were successfully sold at the market, Canecky guided them to the office a Jewish doctor, Dr. Pollack. The two grateful escapees refused to accept the farmer’s parting gift of money.
Dr. Pollack knew a member of the local Jewish Council, Adre Steiner. He insisted they stay in the village of Cadca, either at his home or that of a Mrs. Baeck, who was a relative of Rabbi Leo Baeck [accounts differ]. The following day, on April 24, 1944, the pair were taken to the headquarters of the local Jewish Council, or Judenrat, known as the Working Group, in the town of Zilina. The group’s headquarters were in a former Jewish old folks home. There, on April 25th, they had a sumptuous meal with the leader of the Working Group, Oskar Neumann, a German-speaking lawyer, as well as Oscar Krasniansky, Erwin Steiner and a man named Hexner.
Dubious, Neumann had them placed in different rooms and interviewed separately for three days. Vrba later claimed, at the end of these interrogations, he repeated the same words he had spoken to them upon first meeting, “One million Hungarians are going to die. Auschwitz is ready for them. But if you tell them now, they will rebel, they will never go to the ovens. Your turn is coming. But now it is the Hungarians’ hour. You must tell them immediately.”
The Vrba-Wetzler Report proved to be stunningly accurate, as evidenced by this excerpt:
“At present, there are four crematoria in operation at BIRKENAU, two large ones, I and II, and two smaller ones, III and IV. Those of type I and II consist of 3 parts, i. e.,: (A) the furnace room; (B) the large halls; and (C) the gas chamber. A huge chimney rises from the furnace room around which are grouped nine furnaces, each having four openings. Each opening can take three normal corpses at once and after an hour and a half the bodies are completely burned. This corresponds to a daily capacity of about 2,000 bodies. Next to this is a large “reception hall” which is arranged so as to give the impression of the antechamber of a bathing establishment. It holds 2,000 people and apparently there is a similar waiting room of the floor below. From there a door and a few steps lead down into the very long and narrow gas chamber. The walls of this chamber are also camouflaged with simulated entries to shower rooms in order to mislead the victims. This roof is fitted with three traps which can be hermetically closed from the outside. A track leads from the gas chamber to the furnace room.
“The gassing takes place as follows: The unfortunate victims are brought into hall (B), where they are told to undress. To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued by two men clad in white coats. They are then crowded into the gas chamber (C) in such numbers there is, of course, only standing room. To compress this crowd into the narrow space, shots are often fired to induce those already at the far end to huddle still closer together.
“When everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then there is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature to rise to a certain level, after which SS men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labeled ‘CYKLON For use against vermin’, which is manufactured by a Hamburg concern. It is presumed that this is a ‘CYANIDE’ mixture of some sort which turns into gas at a certain temperature. After three minutes everyone in the chamber is dead. No one is known to have survived this ordeal, although it was not uncommon to discover signs of life after the primitive measures employed in the Birch Wood [Birkenau]. The chamber is then opened, aired, and the ‘special squad’ carts the bodies on flat trucks to the furnace rooms, where the burning takes place. Crematoria III and IV work on nearly the same principle, but their capacity is only half as large. Thus, the total capacity of the four cremating and gassing plants at BIRKENAU amounts to about 6,000 daily.”
Vrba was told not to worry; the original report in Slovakian [since lost], completed on April 27, was translated into German by Krasniansky, an engineer and stenographer, with assistance from Gisela Steiner, and it would soon be in the hands of Hungarian Jewish leaders the next day. Wetzler ostensibly had written the first part; Vrba the third; and the second part together–but Vrba later said this was an over-simplification that struck him as immaterial. It was far more vital to get the word out than bother with writing credits. (It is frequently overlooked that the first post-war publication of their reportage would appear in a Slovak version, Oswiecim, hrobka štyroch miliónov ľudí (“Auschwitz, the tomb of four million”), published in Bratislava in 1946.)
Krasniansky later claimed he gave the report to Rudolf Kasztner the following day when Kasztner was visiting Bratislava, although Kasztner’s love at the time, Hansi Brand (wife of Kasztner’s cohort Joel Brand), denied that. Regardless, it is known for certain that Kasztner had a copy of the report with him on May 3 when he visited his hometown of Cluj, Romania. By this stage of his life, Rudolf Vrba had already learned not to entirely trust authorities. He and Wetzler would take further steps to distribute the report themselves.
Historians have mostly thus far failed to mention that Rudolf Vrba’s wife-to-be, Gerta Sidon, trained as a stenographer, who also worked for the underground, typed one of the earliest versions of the report for him in Bratislava. She had an office job and had permission from her boss to use her typewriter after office hours. As she outlined in one of her two memoirs, “He told me that it needed to be typed urgently. Somehow, with the help of friends, a meeting had been arranged between the Papal Nuncio and the two escapees from Auschwitz, namely himself and Fredi Wetzler. The meeting took place and the report was handed to the Papal Nuncio. Walter [Rudi] told me later that the Papal Nuncio was moved to tears on hearing their story and promised to do all he could do help.”
Vrba doesn’t mention Gerta’s role in his memoirs possibly because he did not wish to jeopardize her position as the courageous mother of his two daughters who had illegally crossed international borders in order reach England–without his help.
The aforementioned meeting actually occurred with a Swiss representative of the The Papal Nuncio in Slovakia, Msgr. Mario Martilotti, at the Svaty Jur monastery near Bratislava. This representative asked questions about its contents and Vrba assumed this must be the Papal Nuncio himself. Mordowicz was present, as a representative of the recent, follow-up report on Auschwitz. Wetzler was not present. He apparently remained outside, on guard.
Here is Vrba’s version of what happened concerning the Papal Nuncio etc, as later recorded for posterity by John Conway.
“Shortly after their arrival in Bratislava, they were summoned by Oskar Krasnansky, who informed them that, as decided, he had supplied a copy of Vrba’s report to the Papal Apostolic Delegate in Slovakia, Monsignor Angelo Burzio, and arranged a secret meeting to be held in the Piarist monastery near Svaty Jur, some twenty miles outside Bratislava. In order not to attract attention, only Vrba, Morclowicz, Krasnansky and his interpreter Kalb went in the middle of June to Svaty jur, where they were courteously received.
“At the time, Vrba believed he was speaking with the Papal Nuncio himself. In fact, the interview was handled by Msgr. Mario Martilotti, a member of the Vatican’s nunciature in Switzerland, who had been temporarily posted to Bratislava. For six hours, Vrba states, Martilotti cross-examined the young Slovak in German with the skill of an experienced lawyer; he used a German translation of the report to satisfy himself about its authenticity and that of its authors.
“As an independent witness who had escaped later, Mordowicz added further evidence that the massacres in Auschwitz were indeed taking place as Vrba had predicted. Both men were insistent that the secrecy surrounding the extermination processes in Auschwitz ensured its success. Therefore, the widest publicity must be given at once to the facts. Not only would the Germans be faced with a worldwide outburst of indignation, but also their prospective victims could be warned to escape in time. Furthermore, in Hungary itself, where the Catholic Church was strong, its representatives could be instructed to give all possible assistance to their Jewish fellow citizens.
“In Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas and Bratislava, Vrba clandestinely distributed further copies of his report, without the knowledge of the Jewish Council, to other Jews in Slovakia who were in contact with Hungary. These copies were prepared secretly with the assistance of one of Vrba’s friends, Josef Weiss, who was then employed by the Ministry of Health in Bratislava. Four copies were made at a time in Slovakian from the original, which had been retained by the four escapees and kept hidden behind a devotional picture of the Virgin Mary in their rented Bratislava apartment. These copies were then translated into Hungarian for dissemination in Hungary.”
It should be noted the John Conway’s contradicts another version of events that alleges Mordowicz did most of the talking rather than Vrba, because Mordowicz was more fluent in French. Quite possibly the Swiss papal representative they met spoke both German and French. This would makes if he was given a German translation of the report, as alleged. Regardless, the Papal Nuncio’s representative kept a promise he made that day and took the report to the International Red Cross in Geneva. Precisely two months after the report was commenced, the Papal Nuncio in Hungary, Monsignor Angelo Rotta, handed a letter of protest from the Pope directly to the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Horthy. The son of this Roman Catholic leader of Hungary had recently married a Jewess so Horthy was not entirely unsympathetic. He was asked to stop the deportation of Jews by U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the King of Sweden and the President of the International Red Cross. Ultimately, however, Admiral Horthy would claim it was the Vrba-Wetzler Report that convinced him to stop the shipments of Jews to Auschwitz, resulting in at least 200,000 Jews lives being spared.
The pair’s emotionless rendering of the vast scale of mass murder at Auschwitz enabled the truth to finally reach Geneva in neutral Switzerland on June 13, 1944. Now–finally–The Final Solution was not a secret.
The recipient of the report was Dr. Jaromir Kopecky, the Geneva representative of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile, who showed it to Gerhard Reigner of the World Jewish Congress, who telephoned a member of the British Legation in Berne, Elizabeth Wiskemann, and sent a follow-up message to her: “Here are the details of the urgent message about the group of Jews in danger in Birkenau. Please do what you can so that the details are sent back as quickly as possible and broadcast at once over the BBC, etc. But it will be necessary to avoid mentioning the source. One could say simply over the radio, ‘We have received this from a reliable source.'”
In his telegram-styled synopsis based on the Vrba-Wetzler Report, Reigner chose to emphasize the imminent murder of the 3,000 Czechoslovakian Jews in the so-called “Family Camp” that was designed to deceive any possible visit by the Red Cross–in the same way a “model camp” had been established at Theresienstadt. [During a mission to photograph the nearby Buna-Monowitz synthetic oil plant on May 31, 1944, an Allied reconnaissance plane, flown by a South African pilot, had accidentally photographed the so-called “Czech family camp” huts at Auschwitz-Birkenau but military experts in Italy and/or England had presumed these were “workers huts.”] According to the testimonies of “two Slovakian Jews… whose reliability is assured by Jewish leaders,” Reigner stressed that some 3,000 Jews brought to Birkenau on December 20, 1943 were scheduled to be gassed after exactly six months of “quarantine” on June 20, 1943. The alarm was heightened by Vrba and Wetzler’s knowledge, included in their report, that 4,000 Czechoslovakian Jews had previously arrived from Terezin beginning in September of 1943 and had been similarly gassed en masse after six months.
Details from Reigner’s telegraphic summary were shared with the British public by the BBC on June 18, 1944.
The following day the Czech Government-in-Exile issued a warning and the Zionist leader Richard Lichtheim in Geneva sent a full summary to the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem. “We now know exactly what has happened,” he wrote, “and where it has happened.” To further corroborate the warning, Lichtheim was able to reference the reportage of a Polish medical student, Jerzy Tabeau, who had escaped several months earlier. Inaccurately dubbed the Polish Major’s Report, Tabeau’s eyewitness account had estimated that one-and-a-half million Jews had been murdered at Auschwitz since the spring of 1942.
The New York Times followed suit with some Auschwitz coverage arising from the Vrba-Wetzler Report on June 20, 1944.
Even though details about the horrors of Auschwitz-Birikenau were extensively spread in Switzerland, the significance of the duo’s reportage would be essentially ignored and/or suppressed by FDR’s antisemitic War Refugee Board in Washington, D.C. [as outlined at length in the DESK MURDERER section of this site.]
Four days after a copy of the Vrba-Wetzler Report was sent by Moshe Krausz, Director of the Palestine Office in Budapest, on June 19, it was received by Dr. Chaim Pozner, Co-Director of the Palestine Office in Geneva, along with a second enclosure that included the hitherto unknown details of the deportation of at least 435,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz between May 15 and June 19. Hence, Pozner received confirmation of the horrific, mass murder of Hungary’s Jews at Auschwitz as predicted in their report by Vrba and Wetzler. Pozner not only immediately alerted British and American authorities in Switzerland; he also sent a message to Jerusalem, via Istanbul, requesting “necessary speedy action” to get the Allies to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz, and, if possible, the crematoria themselves.
Unbeknownst to Pozner, Rabbi Weissmandel of Slovakia had already put forth a similar proposal on May 16 that was rejected by the U.S. War Department and War Refugee Board [John McCloy] on June 23.
In essence, by the time Gerhard Riegner gave a summary of the Vrba-Wetzler Report to the American representative in Berne, Roswell McClelland, on June 24, Washington D.C. had already decided not to intervene.
Vrba claimed he had first learned of the impending slaughter of Hungarian Jews around 10 a.m. on January 15, 1944.
Vrba maintained to the end of his days that none of 437,000 Hungarian Jews deported between May 15 and July 9, 1944 to Auschwitz were given the information that he and Wetzler had supplied in the Vrba-Wetzler Report.
Vrba further alleged that the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry proceeded more quickly and the genocides inflicted on Jews of other European countries. Hence, in the chess game that was played between Adolf Eichmann and Jewish representatives such Rudolf Kasztner and, to a lesser degree, Rabbi Michael Beer Weissmandel, the victor was indisputably Eichmann.
“There can be no doubt that the failure of the Jewish official representatives in Hungary to inform the Hungarian Jewish population about the death-mills in Auschwitz contributed to Adolf Eichmann’s stunning success in organizing so rapidly the deportation of the majority of the Hungarian Jews,” writes Vrba in Appendix V (I Escaped etc., Robson Books 2006).
“It is my contention that this tragedy could have been greatly impeded if our warnings had been effectively and swiftly communicated to the intended victims.”
Having survived in Auschwitz and Birkenau from June of 1942 to April of 1944, Vrba put it more succinctly, for posterity, with a simple declaration: “I never met a single prisoner who had known anything about the gas chambers of Auschwitz before he arrived.”
One of the intended victims was a Jew named Elie Wiesel who later corroborated Vrba’s contention that Jewish leadership in Hungary had failed to relay the contents of the Vrba-Wetzler Report to Eichmann’s intended victims.
“We were taken just two weeks before D-Day and we did not know that Auschwitz existed,” Wiesel said, according to W. Nicholls’ A History of the Holocaust (Franklin Watts 1982). “How is it possible? Everyone knew, except the victims. Nobody cared enough to tell us: Don’t go.”
It is important to note that some academic historians have alleged that Rudolf Kasztner did promptly deliver a copy of the Vrba-Wetzler Report, as soon as possible, to members of the Jewish Council in Budapest on April 29 during a meeting held at their headquarters at 12 Síp Street and the Jewish Council seemingly made no use of the information. According to Zoltán Tibori Szabó, the members of that Jewish Council were Samu Stern, president (merchant, banker, president of the Hungarian National Israelite Office and of the Neolog Israelite Community of Pest), Ernő Pető (lawyer, vice president of the Neolog Israelite Community of Pest), Ernő Boda (lawyer, vice president of the Neolog Israelite Community of Pest), Károly Wilhelm (lawyer and leader of the Neolog Israelite Community of Pest), Samu Csobádi (president of the Neolog Israelite Community of Buda), Samu Kahán-Frankl (rabbi, president of the Central Orthodox Israelite Office), Fülöp Freudiger (president of the Independent Orthodox Israelite Community of Budapest), Niszon Kahán (lawyer and leader of the Hungarian Zionist Organization).
Next: THE COVER UP