A few escaped and were heroes. A few helped them. They were heroes, too.
A startling statistic follows this post . . .
Alfréd Israel Wetzler (May 10, 1918 -February 8, 1988) was a Slovak Jew and later wrote under the alias Jozef Lánik. Wetzler was one of a very small number of Jews known to have escaped from Auschwitz during the Holocaust. (April 10, 1944)
Wetzler is known for the report that he and his fellow escapee, Rudolf "Rudi" Vrba compiled about the inner workings of the Auschwitz camp, a ground plan of the camp, construction details of the gas chambers, crematoriums and, most convincingly, a label from a canister of Zyklon B. The 32-page Vrba-Wetzler report, as it became known, was the first detailed report about Auschwitz to reach the West that the Allies regarded as credible. The evidence eventually led to the bombing of several government buildings in Hungary, killing Nazi officials who were instrumental in the railway deportations of Jews to Auschwitz. The deportations halted, saving up to 120,000 Hungarian Jews.
Historian Sir Martin Gilbert said, "Alfred Wetzler was a true hero. His escape from Auschwitz, and the report he helped compile, telling for the first time the truth about the camp as a place of mass murder, led directly to saving the lives of thousands of Jews, the Jews of Budapest who were about to be deported to their deaths. No other single act in the Second World War saved so many Jews from the fate that Hitler had determined for them.
Rudolf Vrba, (September 11, 1924 - March 27, 2006) originally from Slovakia, and Wetzler managed to flee Auschwitz three weeks after German forces invaded Hungary, a German ally, and began deporting the country's Jewish population to Auschwitz. The 40 pages of information the men passed to Jewish officials when they arrived in Slovakia on April 24, which included the information that arrivals were being gassed and not resettled, was included in the Vrba-Wetzler report. While it confirmed material in earlier reports from Polish and other escapees, Miroslaw Karny writes that it was unique in its "unflinching detail."
There was a delay of several weeks before information from the report was distributed widely enough to gain the attention of governments. Mass transports of Hungary's Jews to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944, at a rate of 12,000 people a day; most of them were sent straight to the gas chambers. Vrba argued until the end of his life that the deportees would have refused to board the trains had they known they were not being resettled. His position is generally not accepted by Holocaust historians.
Material from the Vrba–Wetzler and earlier reports appeared in newspapers and radio broadcasts in the United States and Europe, particularly in Switzerland, throughout June and into July 1944, prompting world leaders to appeal to Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy to halt the deportations. On July 7 he ordered an end to them, possibly fearing he would be held responsible after the war. By then 437,000 Jews had been deported, constituting almost the entire Jewish population of the Hungarian countryside, but another 200,000 living in Budapest were saved.
Jerzy Tabeau (December 18, 1918 - May 11, 2012) was a Polish medical student who was one of the first escapees from Auschwitz to give a fully detailed report on the genocide there to the outside world. First reports in early 1942 had been made by the Polish officer Witold Pilecki. Tabeau's report was known as that of the "Polish major" in the Auschwitz Protocols.
In March, on orders of the Underground, Tabeau left Kraków on a mission to get to London in person to give testimony regarding the Polish resistance and confirm to the Allies the truth about the Nazi genocide. The journey took place without dramatic incident. After returning to Poland he went to Sądecczyznę to create a "Socialist Death Battalion." During one of the battles near Jordanow in October 1944, Tabeau was wounded in the head, leaving him partially paralyzed. However he lived to see the end of the war. After 1945 he settled in Kraków, completing his medical studies and graduating from the Jagiellonian University. He became an assistant professor of medical science, and a well-known cardiologist in Kraków.
Below are reports, documentation, and clippings of the activities in Auschwitz and Berkinau. They aren't large enough to read, but they do show how the word finally 'got out' about this place and what was happening.
Below the panel says: Thanks to the courage and self-sacrifice of the camp resistance liaison groups, permanent contact with the free world was maintained.
Below the panel says: Despite the terror, the inhabitants at Oswiecim region were organizing resistance for the prisoners of Auschwitz.
The photo below is of leaders and some activists of the national resistance groups in Auschwitz.
Józef Garliński (Oct0ber 14, 1913 - November 29, 2005) was a Polish historian and prose writer. He wrote many notable books on the history of World War II, some of which were translated into English. In particular, his book Fighting Auschwitz, translated into English in 1975, became a best-seller. Garliński was prisoner number 121421 at the Auschwitz camp and had arrived on May 13, 1943, on the same transport as Jerzy Chmielewski.
When I think of a concentration camp, several come to mind. Of course, Auschwitz and Dachau are the first. Then, Plaszow, best known for it's part in "Schindler's List," the camp being commanded by Amon Göth. Until now, I had NO IDEA of how many there were !
According to statistics by the German Ministry of Justice, about 1,200 camps and sub-camps were run in countries occupied by Nazi Germany, while the Jewish Virtual Library estimates that the number of Nazi camps was closer to 15,000 in all of occupied Europe.
FIFTEEN THOUSAND !