The Two Jews Who Escaped Auschwitz to Warn the World

Sept. 28 2022

On April 7, 1944, a nineteen-year-old named Walter Rosenberg and a twenty-five-year-old from the same town in Slovakia named Fred Wetzler became the first Jews to escape from Auschwitz. The two made their way through the Polish countryside and into their native country, where Rosenberg—taking the name Rudolf Vrba as cover—tried to get the story of what he saw to his fellow Jews, and to the world at large. Robert Philpot, reviewing a new biography of this forgotten hero, writes:

As soon as they crossed the border, Wetzler made contact with Slovakia’s Jewish council, the only communal organization the regime still allowed to function. The men were then subjected to a grueling 48-hour interview and cross-examination, both to establish their credibility and to record their story.

From their interviews, Oskar Krasnansky, one of the council’s most senior members, compiled a 32-page, single-spaced report, complete with professional drawings based on Vrba’s and Wetzler’s testimonies. The . . . report methodically detailed the horrors of Auschwitz and, crucially, the fictions deployed by the Nazis from the moment the cattle-truck doors were slammed on departure to that at which the gas-chamber doors were locked.

Reactions to the report in London and Washington also revealed that, despite the horrors it contained, old prejudices remained unshaken. The U.S. Army magazine, Yank, for instance, declined to use material from it in a feature on Nazi war crimes, requesting instead “a less Jewish account.” Meanwhile, in the UK Foreign Office, civil servants bemoaned the “usual Jewish exaggeration” and the amount of time expended on “these wailing Jews.”

But, alongside these responses, there was also a swirl of disbelief surrounding the report’s revelations: one which affected not only the Allies but even some Jews themselves. It was perhaps best captured by the words of the French-Jewish philosopher Raymond Aron: “I knew, but I didn’t believe it. And because I didn’t believe it, I didn’t know.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Auschwitz, Holocaust, Slovakia

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship