Rudolf Vrba is one of the five (5!!) Jews who managed to escape Auschwitz. He spent most of his adult life as an academic – Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Canada. He died today, at the age of 82. As an escapee, he went to the Allies and informed them about the genocidal systematic killing at Auschwitz. He did so just before the vast majority of Hungarian Jewry was deported, but thanks to him at least 100,000 Jews were prevented from going.

Rudolf Vrba was born as Walter Rosenberg in Topolcany, Czechoslovakia in 1924 as the son of Elias Rosenberg (owner of a steam saw-mill in Jaklovce near Margecany in Slovakia), and Helena neé Grunfeldova of Zbehy, Slovakia. At the age of fifteen he was excluded from the High School (Gymnasium) of Bratislava under the so-called “Slovak State’s” version of the Nuremberg anti-Jewish laws. He worked as a labourer in Trnava until 1942. In March 1942 he was arrested for being Jewish, and on June 14th, 1942, he was deported first to Maidanek and from there he was then transferred to Auschwitz on June 30, 1942. He remained Auschwitz prisoner no.44070 for almost two years. He escaped from the Auschwitz death camp (together with Alfred Wetzler) on April 7th, 1944 and under his “nom de guerre” as Rudolf Vrba he co-authored (with A. Wetzler) the Report on Auschwitz death camps on April 25th, 1944 in Zilina, Slovakia. This report became known in the historiography of the Holocaust as the “Vrba-Wetzler Report” or “Auschwitz Protocols”, and contains a precise description of: 1-the geography of the Auschwitz annihilation camp; 2-the methodology of the mass murder in gas chambers practiced in Auschwitz already for two years; 3-a history of events that took place in Auschwitz since April 1942. The Vrba-Wetzler Report reached the Governments of the Allies in June 1944.

And the impact of the report (from Wikipedia)?

Once they’d crossed the Slovakian border, the men traveled straight to the Slovak Jewish Council to tell them what was happening inside the camps, dictating a detailed 40-page report on every aspect of the Auschwitz camp and its workings. The report was initially sent to Slovakia, Hungary, and Switzerland, but was not passed immediately to the Jewish population in Hungary. The circumstances surrounding this have been the topic of a bitter debate ever since (see Rudolf Kasztner). John Conway, professor of history at UBC, has written:

A month later, nearly half a million Jews were deported to their deaths. None of them knew what was in store for them. As a result, Vrba and Wetzler concluded that their information had been suppressed. Vrba, for one, remains convinced that if the intended victims had been warned, they would have resisted or hid or fled. (Globe and Mail, March 31, 2006)

The report reached the British and U.S. governments by the middle of 1944, when it received wide publicity. At the beginning of July, the international outcry caused by the report apparently played a major part in the decision of the Hungarian leader Admiral Miklos Horthy to halt the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Thus, Vrba and Wetzler are widely given credit for saving 100,000 lives.

Vrba accused the Hungarian Jewish leadership — and even the Slovak Jewish leadership, which are rarely so accused — of squandering the opportunity given by the report to save a very large number of lives. His biographer Linn believes that Vrba’s stance on this issue has led to the memory of his heroism being actively suppressed.

The Canadian Jewish News offers the most informative article of the three sources in this post about this brave (he became a partisan fighter after his escape and met with some success fighting the Nazis), resourceful man who saved tens of thousands of Jews – and almost hundreds of thousands -from certain death.

Alav hashalom (may peace be upon him).

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  • Vrba’s news went to a number of places and that included Rabbi Dov Ber Weissmandl of the Agudath Israel and Gizi Fleischman. It was then given to Recha Sternbuch in Switzerland, who sent to Gerhardt Reigner, (remember the reigner cable?) Stephen Weiss and others. Vrba’s report led to the the freeing of the Kastner transport (my mother was a POLISH Jew on that train). Weiss sat on the report, and when the rabbis got so upset they went to march on DC, and Weiss told FDR not to meet with them. FDR went to an local airport to “bless” some planes for the slovaks, and the rabbis met with Henry Morgenthau, who then wrote the “message to the president.” (yes, he’s the DA’s dad).
    The real expert on this is a guy named David Kranzler…he’s tough to read, but the research is all there.

  • Dr. Vrba is the greatest Jewish Hero in modern times although he is unsung and little known.Because of him hundreds of thousands of jews were saved from the nazis. It was because of his bravery and heroism that even alerted Raoul Wallenberg about the “goings on in Auschwitz” and enabled Mr. Wallenberg himself to heroically save thousands of Jews. Thus Dr. Vrba has his part in all of Wallenbergs Heroic deeds as well.
    It is clear from Dr. Vrbas experience which he reports in detail in his book “the conspiracy of the 20th century” that without the cooperation of the Zionist Representative in Hungary, Dr. Rudolf Kastner, who fooled hungarian Jewry into believing that their deportation was harmless,the Nazis would not of succeeded so easily in murdering the hundreds of thousand of Jews of Hungary. Among these murdered Jews were my own grandparents o.b.m.
    This the Nazis were able to do because Dr. Kastner supressed Dr. Vrbas’ “Auschwitz Protocal” when it was delivered to him. This Protocal was, as is now well know, Dr. Vrbas fully credible and most detailed report of the nazi murders in Auschwitz, which he successfully managed to bring to the world because of his decision to risk his life and escape from Auschwitz under the most heroic and dangerous circumstances at the time in April of 1944. Dr.Vrbas sole intention of risking his life in escaping ,was only to save the remainder of hungarian jewry that was earmarked,unbeknownst to them,for destruction by the Nazis. He decided it was worth it to try and save hundreds of thousands of jews who would surely resist the nazis,as was done in the Warsaw Ghetto,if they only knew the truth about their destination and what would happened to them when they arrived.Thus he prepared a very credible and detailed report with facts and accurate numbers to prove his credibility and planned and executed a well prepared, daring and dangerous escape.
    Despite his clear thinking,heroic actions and succesful escape, his report was,nevertheless,not released to the doomed jews of hungary and they thus willingly cooperated with the transportations for a few months in their ignorance.This was so because as mentioned above unbeknownst to Dr. Vrba his report was repressed by above mentioned Dr. Rudolph Kastner. Nevertheless after a few months the report did break through to other channels which was then used by those channelst to put the right pressure in the right places and stop the deportations.
    Being a man with an intimate knowledge of the failings of the zionist leadership at the time it is no wonder that his heroism was supressed in Israel and that he never visited Israel.
    However for the Jewish Nation Dr. Rudolph (Rudi) Vrba is the greatest of Jewish heros and it will take some time but he will surely get the place he deserves in the history of the Jewish nation.
    May his memory be an inspiration for jews and gentiles the world over. he will be sorely missed.
    I invite all descendants of the survivors of the hungarian transports and other individuals interested to email me and lets see how we can work together to perpetuate this great jewish heros memory
    Rabbi Moshe G. ([email protected])

  • Dr. Vrba was my hero. I read “I Cannot Forgive” as a young teen, and it opened the history of the Shoah to me as nothing had before. I am so grateful to him for that!

    May his memory be for a blessing.

  • I agree with all of this. There is a concerted attempt today with the Anna Porter book on ‘Kastner’s train’ and a similar book by a Prof. Loeb, who happened to be on the train of the ‘Prominents’ to rehabilitate Kastner. But how do you rehabilitate a man who kept the news of Auschwitz from half a million Jews and who testified for at least 4 major Nazi War Criminals at Nuremburg after the war?

    Vrba was a true hero and anti-fascist, hence why he is reviled by Zionists like Yehuda Bauer. And of course he wasn’t a Zionist.

  • Just totally admire this person. having had four children . two girls two boys, all grown up, I would be so so proud of them if they had achieved what that wonderful boy(he was just a boy at that time) had achieved.
    I am enormously proud of my children, they have never ever let me down, and I read this Rudi Vrba’s book a few years ago, but now this time around it has had a much greater impact upon me, so thank you Rudi! I can only see you as that resilient young man determined to survive against all the odds, and tell the world what was really happening. I was only about seven years old when I read a book about the holocaust, my dad had left it around, and because I was a good reader I read it, and it affected me profoundly, gave me nightmares, etc…well it was not so long after the end of the second world war, and I still thought the german army might come tramping across the marshes near our home, and invade us, How silly, a childs way of thinking.
    Rudi Vrba was little more than a child when he was exposed to the horrors of Auschwitz”and yet he displayed superb survival skills, and went on to attempt to help his fellow men who were imprisoned unjustly. He was only a very young man at the time about 19 or so. What a hero!! I would be so proud to know bim !