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Vra-Wetzler report

One of the maps from the Vrba-Weztler report
Other names Auschwitz Protocols, Auschwitz notebook
Participants Rudolf Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler
Location Composed in Žilina, Slovakia
Date April 24, 1944 (1944-04-24)
Result Because of the report, the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz stopped on July 7, 1944, saving around 200,000 lives.
Website Full text of the report

The Vrba-Wetzler report, also known as the Vrba-Wetzler statement, the Auschwitz Protocols, and the Auschwitz notebook, is a 32-page document about the German Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland during the Holocaust. It was written by hand and dictated in Slovak between April 25 and April 27, 1944 by Rudolf Vrba and Alfréd Wetzler, two Slovakian Jews who had escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, and was typed up in the form of a report by Dr. Oscar Krasniansky of the Slovak Judenrat, or Jewish Council, who simultaneously translated it into German.

The report represents one of the first attempts to estimate the numbers of people being killed in the camp. Copies of it are held in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in the Hudson River Valley, New York, in the Vatican archives, and at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.[1]

Contents

Name

The report is often referred to as the Auschwitz Protocols, although in fact the protocols incorporated information from three reports, of which the Vrba-Wetzler report is only one.

The Vrba-Wetzler report was first written in Slovak by Vrba and Wetzler and simultaneously translated into German by Oscar Krasniansky. Details from the report were leaked to the press in June 1944, but the full text of the report, under the title "German Extermination Camps — Auschwitz and Birkenau," was first published in an English translation on November 26, 1944 by the Executive Office of the U.S. War Refugee Board.

It was this document that combined the testimony of Vrba-Wetzler with two other reports, and these came to be known jointly as the Auschwitz Protocols.[2] The protocols consisted of the Vrba-Wetzler report, and an earlier two-part report from August 10 and 12, 1943 written by Witold Pilecki who was a member of the Polish underground in Auschwitz, and sent to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (the forerunner to the CIA) in London. The August 1943 Polish report included details about the gas chambers, "selection" process, and sterilization experiments. It stated that there were three crematoria in Birkenau with the capacity to incinerate 10,000 bodies daily, and that 30,000 people had been gassed in one day. The author wrote: "History knows no parallel of such destruction of human life." Raul Hilberg writes that the report was filed away with a note that there was no indication as to the reliability of the source.[3] A four-to-seven page report based on information from Arnost Rosin and Czesław Mordowicz, two Jews who escaped from Auschwitz on May 27, shortly after Vrba and Wetzler, was also attached.

All three reports were submitted in evidence at the Nuremberg Trials and were assigned the document number 022-L. The full text is held in the archives of the War Refugee Board at the F.D. Roosevelt Library in New York. It is not known when the reports were first called the Auschwitz Protocols. R. Braham referred to them as the Auschwitz Protocols in The Politics of Genocide. The Holocaust in Hungary, volume 2, 1981, pp. 708–16.[2]

How the report was written

Two weeks after escaping from Auschwitz, on April 24, 1944, Vrba and Wetzler met up with members of the Slovakian underground Working Group, or Jewish Council.[4] The head of the Working Group, Dr. Oskar Neumann, a German-speaking lawyer, placed the men in separate rooms and asked them to begin writing down and describing their accounts.

The report was written and re-written several times. Wetzler wrote the first part, Vrba the third, and the two wrote the second part together. In all, the report was written and re-written six times. Czech historian Miroslav Kárný writes that this description of how the report was written was recorded in the first post-war edition, issued in 1946, Oswiecim, hrobka styroch milionov l'udi (Auschwitz, tomb of four milion people), Bratislava, p. 74. Wetzler also confirmed it in a letter to Miroslav Karny, dated April 14, 1982.[5] As they were writing it, Dr. Neumann's aide, Oscar Krasniansky,[6] an engineer and stenographer, translated it from Slovak into German with the help of Gisela Steiner,[5] producing a 32-page report in German, which was completed by April 27, 1944.

The original Slovak version of the report was not preserved, according to Karny.[5] The German version contained a precise description of the geography of the camps, its construction, the organization of the management and security, how the prisoners were numbered and categorized, their diet, how they lived, the selections, gassings, shootings, injections, and how the camp conditions themselves were causing deaths.[7][8] Karny writes that the report is an invaluable historical document because it provides details that were known only to prisoners, most of whom died — including, for example, that discharge forms were filled out for prisoners who were gassed, indicating that death rates in the camp were actively falsified.[7]

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The report's distribution

According to Miroslav Karny, the report was written and translated by April 28, 1944 at the latest.[9] Oscar Krasniansky had heard that Rudolf Kastner, a Jewish lawyer and journalist, and de facto head of the Zionist Aid and Rescue Committee (Va'adat Ezrah Vehatzalah) in Budapest, was about to visit Bratislava,[10] as he did regularly. According to one of Krasniansky's postwar statements, he personally handed a copy of the report to Kastner at the end of April.[10] According to British writer Laurence Rees, Kastner received a copy during his visit to Bratislava on April 28.[11][12]

Although Kastner did not make the report public, he did pass it on. Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer writes that Kastner gave a copy to Géza Soós, a Hungarian Foreign Ministry official who ran a resistance group, almost as soon as he received it on or around April 28.[13] Bauer writes that Soós, in turn, gave it to József Éliás, head of the Jó Pásztor Misszió, the Good Shepherd Mission, a Protestant missionary organization. Éliás's secretary, Mária Székely, translated the report into Hungarian and prepared six copies. These went to Soós; the daughter-in-law of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the Hungarian head of state; Cardinal Justinian Serédi; Bishop László Ravasz of the Calvinist Church; Bishop Sándor Raffay of the Lutheran Church; and Ottó Komoly, the de jure head of Kastner's Aid and Rescue Committee. Ernő Pető of the Judenrat said he gave other copies to Horthy's son; to Angelo Rotta, the papal nuntius; and to Lajos Reményi-Schneller, the Hungarian finance minister. All had received the report, according to Bauer, by the time the mass deportations began on May 14.[14]

A copy was sent to the Vatican on May 22, according to Israeli historian Israel Gutman,[15] although there is disagreement among the sources as to when and by which route the Vatican first received the information. Miroslav Karny writes that the Bratislava Working Group, led by Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandl and Gisi Fleishmann provided one copy of the report to Giuseppe Burzio, the Vatican chargé d'affaires in Bratislava, and that Burzio sent it to the Vatican on May 22. However, according to Karny, the report did not arrive at the Vatican until five months later, in the second half of October,[9] as he says is evident from the official Vatican edition of the document.[16]

Oscar Krasniansky arranged for Rudolf Vrba and Czesław Mordowicz, an Auschwitz inmate who had escaped from the camp on May 27, 1944, to meet Vatican legate Monsignor Mario Martilotti secretly on June 20 at the Svaty Jur monastery.[9] Vrba and Wetzler believed they had in fact met Monsignor Burzio,[17] but Burzio had arranged for Martilotti, who was his assistant, to attend the meeting. According to Ruth Linn, Martilotti said he would take the report back to Switzerland the next day, then would forward it to the Vatican, which Linn writes that he did.[18]

The Pope then issued an unprecedented appeal on June 25 in an open telegram to the Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy, addressing "the sufferings [...] endured on account of [...] national or racial origin"[19] and calling on Horthy to "spare so many unfortunate people further sufferings," but without mentioning Jews.[18] Karny, however, writes that there is no evidence that Martilotti's report of the meeting ever reached the Vatican, according to the Vatican's own papers on the report. Vatican State Secretary Domenico Tardini first asked one of the men working in his office to make a copy of the report on October 22, according to Karny. Karny writes that Vatican editors have concluded from this that the report did not arrive until on or just before this date.[20]

Historian Raul Hilberg writes that the report was also brought to Switzerland, where it was passed to Jaromír Kopecký (1899–1977), representative of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, on or around June 10. Kopecký passed it to Roswell McCelland, representative of the War Refugee Board, who sent it to the Board's executive director on June 16.[21]

The report is known to have reached the British and U.S. governments by mid-June. Elizabeth Wiskemann of the British Legation in Bern sent it to Allen Dulles, the head of U.S. intelligence, who sent it to the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 16.[15]

Broadcast of the report and impact

Details from the report were first broadcast by the BBC on June 15 1944, and on June 20, The New York Times published the first of three stories about the existence of "gas chambers in the notorious German concentration camps at Birkenau and Oświęcim [Auschwitz]."[11]

Several world leaders, including Pope Pius XII, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and King Gustaf V of Sweden, subsequently appealed to Admiral Horthy to stop the deportations.[11] On June 26 1944, Richard Lichtheim, a member of the Jewish Agency in Geneva, sent a telegram to England calling on the Allies to hold members of the Hungarian government personally responsible for the killings.[11] The cable was intercepted by Hungary and shown to Prime Minister Döme Sztójay, who passed it to Horthy, and the mass deportations stopped on July 9 1944,[11] after 437,402 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz in 147 trains, most of them to their deaths.[22] Hitler was infuriated by Horthy's decision and instructed the Nazi representative to Hungary, Edmund Veesenmayer, to relay an angry message to the Admiral.[23] Hitler's ultimatum to Horthy read:

"The Führer expects that the Hungarian Government will take measures against the Budapest Jewry without any further delay...[and would not tolerate anything] that could or would weaken their fighting spirit or that could possibly stab the fighting soldiers in the back."[24]

Horthy, however, resisted Hitler's threats and Budapest's 200,000-260,000 Jews were temporarily spared from being deported to Auschwitz until the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party seized power in Hungary in a coup on October 15, 1944.[25] Henceforth, the deportations of some of Budapest's Jews to German death and labour camps resumed but, by this time, the heavy diplomatic involvement of the Swedish, Swiss, Spanish, Portuguese embassies at Budapest as well as that of the Vatican's papal nuncio--Angelo Rotta--saved tens of thousands of the city's Jews from being expelled.[26] The Swedish delegation under Raoul Wallenberg saved 70,000 Jews until the arrival of the Red Army in Budapest in January 1945.[27]

Notes

  1. ^ "Vrba, Rudolf", BC Bookworld author bank.
  2. ^ a b John Conway. "The Significance of the Vrba-Wetzler Report on Auschwitz-Birkenau", in Rudolf Vrba. I escaped from Auschwitz, Appendix I, p. 292–3, footnote 3.
  3. ^ Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 1212.
  4. ^ Linn, Ruth. (2004) Escaping Auschwitz. A culture of forgetting, Cornell University Press.
  5. ^ a b c Karny, Miroslav. "The Vrba and Wetzler report," in Berenbaum, Michael & Gutman, Yisrael (eds). Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 564, footnote 5.
  6. ^ Holocaust History
  7. ^ a b Karny, Miroslav. "The Vrba and Wetzler report," in Berenbaum, Michael & Gutman, Yisrael (eds). Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press and the United States Holocaust Museum, 1994, p. 554.
  8. ^ "Rudolf Vrba: Curriculum Vitae", UBC Pharmacology & Therapeutics.
  9. ^ a b c Karny, Miroslav. "The Vrba and Wetzler report," in Berenbaum, Michael & Gutman, Yisrael (eds). Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 556.
  10. ^ a b Linn, Ruth. (2004) Escaping Auschwitz. A culture of forgetting, Cornell University Press, p. 27.
  11. ^ a b c d e Rees, Laurence. (2005). Auschwitz: A New History. Public Affairs, pp. 242-3.
  12. ^ Ruth Linn writes that Oscar Krasniansky quickly translated the report into Hungarian for Kastner's arrival in Bratislava on April 28, but Yehuda Bauer writes that Kastner gave a copy of the report, untranslated, to Géza Soós, a Hungarian Foreign Ministry official, that Soós gave it to József Éliás, head of the Jó Pásztor Misszió, and that it was Éliás's secretary, Mária Székely, who translated the report into Hungarian. (Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale? Nazi–Jewish Negotiations 1933–1945. Yale University Press, 1994, p. 157)
  13. ^ Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale? Nazi–Jewish Negotiations 1933–1945. Yale University Press, 1994, p. 157.
  14. ^ Szenes, Sándor. Befejezetlen múlt: Keresztények és zsidók, sorsok (Unfinished past: Christians and Jews, destinies), Budapest 1986, cited in Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale? Nazi–Jewish Negotiations 1933–1945. Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 157 and 279.
  15. ^ a b Gutman, Yisrael. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-02-896090-4
  16. ^ Karny, Miroslav. "The Vrba and Wetzler report," in Berenbaum, Michael & Gutman, Yisrael (eds). Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Indiana University Press and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1994); this edition 1998, p. 556 and footnote 13, p. 565, citing Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, vol. 10 (Vatican City 1980), document 204, p. 281.
  17. ^ This was Angelo Burzio, according to Ruth Linn, but it was Giuseppe Burzio, according to Karny.
  18. ^ a b Linn, Ruth. (2004) Escaping Auschwitz. A culture of forgetting, Cornell University Press, p. 28, citing Conway, John. "First report about Auschwitz," p. 145 in Conway 1979, 1984, 1986.
  19. ^ Margherita Marchione, "Yours is a Precious Witness, Memoirs of Jews and Catholics in Wartime Italy", Paulist Press 1997 p.147
  20. ^ Karny, Miroslav. "The Vrba and Wetzler report," in Berenbaum, Michael & Gutman, Yisrael (eds). Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp. Indiana University Press and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1994); this edition 1998, p. 556.
  21. ^ Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 1215.
  22. ^ Donald M. McKale, Hitler's Shadow War, The Holocaust and World War II, Cooper Square Press, 2002. p.367
  23. ^ Debórah Dwork & Robert Jan van Pelt, Holocaust: A History, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London, 2002. p.314
  24. ^ German ultimatum to Horthy, July 17, 1944 as edited by Jenö Lévai, Eichmann in Hungary: Documents (New York: Howard Fertig), 1987 p.125
  25. ^ Dwork & van Pelt say the figure was 260,000 Jews in Budapest on page 314 of their 2002 book "Holocaust: A History"
  26. ^ Dwork & van Pelt, p.317
  27. ^ Dwork & van Pelt, p.318

References


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