When Rudolph Vrba fled Auschwitz in the spring of 1944, he made what may have been the most monumental escape of all time, slipping past Nazi guards and attack dogs that were trained to rip prisoners to pieces.Google the name Rudolph Vrba and less than a thousand sites appear. Now try Elie Wiesel. Over two million. After the holocaust, Elie Wiesel joined the Irgun. You see Vrba sought to alert Hungarian Jews to the holocaust but the zionists had other ideas.
Although his life ended quietly this week in Vancouver, where he succumbed to cancer at age 82, his escape shook the world 62 years ago because of the secret he and a fellow prisoner revealed.
They told the world about Auschwitz.
Dr. Vrba's feat was remarkable not merely because of what he did -- managing, with prisoner Alfred Wetzler, to confound a Nazi security system that killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Jewish prisoners -- but because of why he did it.
He did not flee to save his own life. He made the suicidal escape bid, which succeeded against all odds, to warn Hungarian Jews that they were about to be rounded up by the SS and sent to the gas chambers.
He and Mr. Wetzler, who died in Slovakia in 1988, brought the first eyewitness accounts of Auschwitz-Birkenau, writing a shocking and detailed report about what was taking place in the death camp.
Although their warning, which became known as the Auschwitz Protocols, was delayed in its release until after mass transports of Hungarian Jews had started, Dr. Vrba and Mr. Wetzler are widely credited with sounding an alarm that saved 100,000 lives.
When Rudolf Vrba escaped from Auschwitz in April 1944, he did so not only to save his and co-escapee Alfred Wetzler's life, but also to warn the more than half of a million Hungarian Jews of their impending fate.Widely documented maybe, but widely publicised? Not just yet.
As Nazi Germany occupied Hungary in 1944, the SS staff at Auschwitz began making intensive preparations for the arrival of Hungarian Jews. Knowing perfectly well that it was the secrecy surrounding their actions that allowed the Nazis to herd unsuspecting Jews and transport them like sheep to slaughter, Vrba and Wetzler - as soon as they got in touch with Jewish community representatives in their native Slovakia - compiled a detailed report. They wrote about Auschwitz and what awaited Hungarian Jews once they arrived: immediate death by gassing.
This was the first reliable eyewitness account, and it was delivered with haste to the Vatican, as well as to the US and British authorities and the International Red Cross. On Vrba and Wetzler's insistence, it was also delivered to the Hungarian Jewish leadership. The idea, as Vrba would later explain, was that once informed about the Nazis' plan, Hungarian Jews would resist. If each and every one of them cast a stone, there would be a hail of stones, Vrba said.
Unfortunately, this never happened. Just as they were reading the Auschwitz Protocol - as the Vrba-Wetzler report would become known - the Hungarian Jewish leaders were involved in delicate negotiations with Mr. Final Solution himself - Adolf Eichmann.
On the surface, they were trying to get a deal that would allow them, their families and their friends to leave Hungary unscathed, with most of their worldly possessions, and in exchange the Nazis would get trucks and other such non-lethal material from the Allies.
Some of the Hungarian Jewish leaders would later acknowledge that the talks were described by both sides as "blood for trucks." This in itself indicates that Eichmann knew he was letting Hungary's Jewish leaders leave in exchange for their silence.
As Eichmann himself would say later, he tried to avoid irritants that would delay the Final Solution.
In any case, the result was that about 1,700 Hungarian Jewish leaders, with their families and friends, ended up in Switzerland, while almost half a million unsuspecting Hungarian Jews ended up dead in Auschwitz.
This story has been widely documented throughout Europe and North America. But it was completely unknown to the Hebrew-speaking citizens of Israel until the end of the last millennium.
Even now Rudolph Kasztner has his defenders.
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