Saturday, April 01, 2006

Rudolf Vrba, Auschwitz Escapee, Dies Aged 82

Late breaking news: Rudolf Vrba, who escaped Auschwitz in 1944 bringing the first detailed reports of the camp to reach the Allies, has died in Vancouver aged 82.

We'll no doubt write more about this tomorrow, since both the report on Auschwitz that Vrba brought out with him, as well as his treatment at the hands of Holocaust deniers, are especially note-worthy. For now, I'd ask readers to avoid these controversies - there will be an opportunity to discuss them very soon - and simply think on this: hundreds of Poles, and dozens of Russians and other nationalities succeeded in escaping Auschwitz; but only five Jews succeeded in so doing. Vrba was one of those five. RIP.

Update: It has been pointed out to us that at least 9 Jews have escaped and survived.

12 comments:

Roman Werpachowski said...

Rudolf Vrba, who escaped Auschwitz in 1944 bringing the first detailed reports of the camp to reach the Allies, has died in Vancouver aged 82.

Wasn't the report by Witold Pilecki made earlier (in 1943)? What about Jan Karski?

simply think on this: hundreds of Poles, and dozens of Russians and other nationalities succeeded in escaping Auschwitz; but only five Jews succeeded in so doing

And how many Jews tried to escape? Sometimes I get the impression Jews resisted the Nazis much less than other nations. Don't take it as insult, I can find some sane reasons for their possible lack of activity. Maybe they didn't try because they knew they would have a hard time to survive "on the other side", much harder than a Pole would.

Sergey Romanov said...

Roman, is this it?

http://members.shaw.ca/escapinghell/witold.htm

I haven't seen a translation into English. Perhaps you could translate the excerpts you deem interesting, which I will post, giving you a credit?

> What about Jan Karski?

1) He wasn't in Auschwitz.

2) He wasn't in any extermination camp.

Roman Werpachowski said...

Wikipedia entry about Pilecki

Article about Pilecki

Fragment of Pilecki's Auschwitz diary is translated here

The link you gave is the report I've mentioned. I'm really not up to translating this, at least not today. But take my word for it, this a report written in 1945 by a man who escaped from Auschwitz in 1943 and immediately filed his report to Polish Home Army.

Sergey Romanov said...

Well, then his wasn't one of the first reports.

Actually, there was also Jerzy Tabeau. I'm not sure if his report reached the Allies earlier or later than Vrba and Wetzler's.

Roman Werpachowski said...

Sergey: maybe it wasn't the first, but if Vrba's was in 1944, then Pilecki's was earlier (1943).

Sergey Romanov said...

Roman, OK, 1945 in your comment was a typo then. There were other reports that were written earlier - Tabeau's, Chybinski's. The posting talks about the one which reached the Allies earlier, altough I am not sure if it is Vrba-Wetzler's.

Roman Werpachowski said...

No Sergey, it wasn't. There were two reports by Pilecki: one given in 1943 to Home Army authorities, the second -- which you linked to -- written in 1945.

Sergey Romanov said...

Roman, you wrote in the first posting:

"Wasn't the report by Witold Pilecki made earlier (in 1943)?"

I then asked:

"Roman, is this it?

http://members.shaw.ca/escapinghell/witold.htm"

You replied:

"The link you gave is the report I've mentioned. ... But take my word for it, this a report written in 1945..."

;-)

Roman Werpachowski said...

Sorry for the mixup. I wonder if the first report was published somewhere.

Scott Smith said...

Vrba's yarns were exploded with his 1985 cross-examination in the first Zündel trial. If one doubts this then one can read the transcript for himself.

http://www.vho.org/aaargh/engl/vrba1.html

This doesn't prevent the chutzpah of Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress claiming:

"There are very few stories from those that were actually there . . . [and] his story was breathtaking," Mr. Farber said yesterday.

"He had what's been described as a photographic memory. He was able to recall the numbers of those who were killed. He was able to give eyewitness testimony that was unshakable, and he played a pivotal role in Zundel's conviction. . . . He was able to tell the story with such clarity that people were able to understand the Holocaust."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060331.AUSCHWITZ31/TPStory/National

In his obituaries, Vrba is described as a great pharmocological neuroscientist, a great teacher, and a great guy. Those are certainly much nicer things than bearing false witness.

Sergey Romanov said...

There's much hype about Vrba (like the claims that he and Wetzler saved 100,000 lives), and there's also much underserved denigration of him by the deniers. He was a weak witness by himself - but his and Wetzler's report is an important document. We may write about his treatment in deniers' hands in the future. Then again, we may not.

PlazaLiz said...

This is many years after the original post, but someone may stumble on it as I did so I wanted to comment. It was the second site listed in my search. It only makes sense that more people from other nationalities escaped, especially the Poles. The camps were in Poland. Poles knew the language. They knew the territory. They had more connections within Poland. There was a huge a Polish resistance in Poland and within some camps. Non-Jews were not discriminated against nearly as much as the Jews and their chances of receiving assistance outside were much greater. The conditions for Jews inside the camps were much more severe. The last 18 months of the war, while surviving prisoners had had the time to become more familiar with the camps routines as well as prisoner support, making escape more probable, there was a tremendous surge in the extermination of Jews. The odds were much more in favor of other nationalities escaping then the Jews. The Jews had weathered centuries of persecution and they'd come through without anything near the atrocities they endured at the hands of the Nazis. Their religion may have made some of them more passive, but they had much more stacked against them than the others. I am not a Jew, but an intermediate WWII historian.