Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 3: Knowledge about Auschwitz in Hungary in 1944

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The Hungarian historian Zoltán Szabó analyses how much Hungarian officials knew about Auschwitz in 1944.

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Zoltán Tibori Szabó: The Auschwitz reports: Who got them, and when?, in: The Auschwitz reports and the Holocaust in Hungary. Ed. by Randolph L. Braham/William J. Vanden Heuvel. Columbia University Press 2011, pp. 85–120 (extract).

Yehuda Bauer: Rescue Attempts: The case of the Auschwitz Protocols, in: Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, 213-241.

Yehuda Bauer: Anmerkungen zum „Auschwitz-Bericht" von Rudolf Vrba, in: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 45(2), 1997, pp. 297–307.

Yehuda Bauer: Rudolf Vrba und die Auschwitz-Protokolle. Eine Antwort auf John S. Conway, in: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 54(4), 2006, pp. 701–710. 

Who Informed Whom in the Outside World of the Horrors of Auschwitz?

Among the dozen situation reports, written by escapees from the Nazi concentration camps and managed to reach the West, there were those three named "Auschwitz Protocols" – all of them later in the Nuremberg Trial presented as evidence. These "Auschwitz Reports" include the so called Vrba-Wetzler-Report, written by two young Slowakian Jews:

Rudolf Vrba 1946Alfred Wetzler

Walter Rosenberg (1924–2006), who changed his name after his escape into Rudolf Vrba (left photo, taken in 1946), and Alfred Wetzler (1918–1988).

The 40-page report contained detailed descriptions of the geography, the management and the gaschambers of the camps, and of how the prisoners lived and died. Futhermore it listed the transports that had arrived at Auschwitz since 1942, their place of origin, and the numbers of the arriving persons, selected for work or the gas chambers.

The dates on which the report was passed to certain individuals has become a matter of importance within Holocaust historiography. There is the question, whether the Hungarian government was aware of the gas chambers in Auschwitz before it facilitated the mass deportations, which began on 15 May 1944. Also, Rudolf Vrba alleged that the report was not distributed quickly enough by Jewish leaders.

However, a lot of research has been done to find out, who, when and how Hungarian authorities (and others) got knowledge of these protocols, describing the conditions in Auschwitz and the logistics and numbers of the massmurdering, the German Nazis committed on European Jewry. It is proofed, that the Vrba-Wetzler-Report is the one, that definitely reached Hungary before the huge deportations in July 1944.

Photo from the Auschwitz album, Yad Vashem

The list of names, you will find in the download section, was compiled by the Hungarian historian Zoltán Tibori Szabó, based on the latest research of various historians. 

It should be mentioned, that his findings are not uncontradicted, as the Historian Paul Sander pointed out. Yehuda Bauer, one of the preeminent Holocaust scholars, dates the arrival of the Auschwitz Protocols in Budapest at 10–11 June. Also, Rudolf Kasztner might have access to a full copy of the Vrba-Wetzler report only later, and not at the end of April.

The Auschwitz Protocol (Vrba-Wetzler Report), transcribed from the original O.S.I report of the US Department of Justice & the War Refugee Board Archives, you can find on the Website of the Holocaust Research Project.  


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