John Simkin Posted April 24, 2006 Share Posted April 24, 2006 Rudolf Vrba, the son of a sawmill owner, was born in Slovakia on 11th September, 1924. At the age of fifteen he was expelled from his high school in Bratislava, under the Slovak puppet state's version of the Nazis' anti-Jewish Nuremberg laws. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Vrba, like other Jews in countries occupied in Nazi Germany, was rounded up and sent to concentration camps. In 1942 Vrba arrived in Auschwitz. On 9th April 1944, Vrba and his friend, Alfred Wetzler, managed to escape. The two men spent eleven days walking and hiding before they got back to Slovakia. Vrba and Wetzler made contact with the local Jewish Council. They provided details of the Holocaust that was taking place in Eastern Europe. They also gave an estimate of the number of Jews killed in Auschwitz between June 1942 and April 1944: about 1.75 million. In June, 1944, the 32-page Vrba-Wetzler Report was published. It was the first information about the extermination camps to reach the free world and to be accepted as credible. In September 1944 Vrba joined the Czechoslovak partisans and was later decorated for bravery. After the war he read biology and chemistry at Charles University, Prague, took a doctorate and then escaped to the west. He worked in Israel from 1958 to 1960 at the biological research institute in Beit Dagan. He then moved to Britain and worked for the Medical Research Council. Vrba's memoirs, I Cannot Forgive, appeared in 1963. They were later republished as I Escaped from Auschwitz. In 1967 Vrba became professor of biochemistry in the pharmacology department of the medical school of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. Rudolf Vrba died of cancer on 26th March, 2006. I thought teachers might be able to use this extract from his biography: I Cannot Forgive: Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz camp again in January 1943. This time I was glad to see him arrive, though not because I still nursed any faint hope that he would improve our lot through benevolence or any sense of justice. His presence was welcome to us all merely because it meant that for one day there would be no unscheduled beatings or killings. He was to watch the world's first conveyor-belt killing, the inauguration of Commandant Hoess's brand new toy, his crematorium. It was truly a splendid affair, 100 yards long and 50 yards wide, containing 15 ovens which could burn three bodies each simultaneously in 20 minutes, a monument in concrete, indeed, to its builder, Herr Walter Dejaco. Himmler certainly saw an impressive demonstration, marred only by a timetable that would have caused concern in many a small German railway station. Commandant Hoess, anxious to display his new toy at its most efficient, had arranged for a special transport of 3,000 Polish Jews to be present for slaughter in the modern, German way. Himmler arrived at eight o'clock that morning and the show was to start an hour later. By 8.45, the new gas chambers, with their clever dummy showers and their notices - "Keep Clean", "Keep Quiet" and so on - were packed to capacity. The SS guards, indeed, had made sure that not an inch of space would be wasted by firing a few shots at the entrance. An SS man, wearing a heavy service gas mask, stood on the roof of the chamber, waiting to drop in the Zyklon B pellets, which released a hydrogen cyanide gas. His was a post of honour that day, for seldom would he have had such a distinguished audience, and he probably felt as tense as the starter of the Derby. By 8.55, the tension was almost unbearable. The man in the gas mask was fidgeting with his boxes of pellets. Somewhere a phone rang. Every head turned towards it. A junior NCO clattered over to the officer in charge of the operation, saluted hastily, and panted out a message. The officer's face stiffened, but he said not a word. The message was: "The Reichsführer has not finished his breakfast yet." At last, however, everything was ready for action. A sharp command was given to the SS man on the roof. He opened a circular lid and dropped the pellets quickly on to the heads below him. He knew, everyone knew, that the heat of those packed bodies would cause these pellets to release their gases in a few minutes; and so he closed the lid quickly. The gassing had begun. Having waited for a while so that the poison would have circulated properly, Hoess courteously invited his guest to have another peep through the observation window. For some minutes Himmler peered into the death chamber, obviously impressed, and then turned with new interest to his commandant with a fresh batch of questions. Special lifts took the bodies to the crematorium, but the burning did not follow immediately. Gold teeth had to be removed. Hair, which was used to make the warheads of torpedoes watertight, had to be cut from the heads of the women. The bodies of wealthy Jews, noted early for their potential, had to be set aside for dissection in case any of them had been cunning enough to conceal jewellery - diamonds, perhaps - about their person. Himmler waited until the smoke began to thicken over the chimneys and glanced at his watch. It was one o'clock. Lunchtime, in fact. He shook hands with the senior officers, returned the salutes of the lower ranks casually and cheerfully, and climbed back into the car with Hoess. Auschwitz was in business. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWvrba.htm Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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