Escaping The Nazi Death Camp

World War II was a time of terror that brought
out the worst in many. Yet even in the darkest, most desperate times
people joined together to fight against the wicked in positions of authority, even when
the consequence they would face was often certain death. Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler are two such
men who fought for what was right even when all of the odds were stacked against them. They wanted to save others from execution,
but first they’d have to escape from the Nazis camp they were imprisoned in. They knew that if they were caught they’d
be executed, because they were trying to escape from a Nazi Death Camp. Today you can say the word Auschwitz and pretty
much everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about. The concentration camp in Europe, the biggest
of those used by Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. A site of unspeakable horror. The unsuspecting Jewish population from surrounding
areas was systematically brought to Auschwitz in the cattle cars of trains. Here, in this death camp, they were murdered
in gas chambers by the thousands upon thousands. As the Nazi’s expanded their territory over
the war, so too did the concentration camp’s operation to accommodate the further influx
of victims. It’s estimated that in 1944, up to 12,000
Jewish people were killed at Auschwitz every day. These were men, women, and children. Husbands and wives and sons and daughters,
all surrounded by barbed wire and Nazi guards and killed mercilessly and without hesitation. Those who made a run for it but failed were
publicly executed. Many people entered Auschwitz. Few would leave alive. What’s hard to grasp now is that even as
late as 1944, many of the details of what went on in the concentration camps wasn’t
well or widely known by the outside world. In fact, massacres carried out in concentration
camps were kept secret from almost everyone except those who directly participated in
them. Much of the world had no idea just how evil
Hitler’s Final Solution was. As Jewish prisoners though, Vrba and Wetzler,
knew exactly what was happening. They had watched as innocent Czechs were brutally
and systematically slaughtered right in front of them. Then came rumors that the Nazis wanted to
start exterminating Jewish Hungarians. Vrba and Wetzler vowed to prevent this. They believed it was their duty to spread
word of the mass killing and to stop the Nazi’s genocidal plans. They wanted to warn people the people boarding
the trains to Auschwitz who often had no idea what awaited them inside the barbed wire fencing. But how would they be able to escape and tell
the world what they knew? They searched the camp for a point of weakness
and explored plan after plan. Unfortunately, none seemed even remotely likely
to succeed. Until one day, Wetzler told Vrba of a possible
way to escape based off of the ideas of four other prisoners. These four intended to hide inside a hollowed
out place in a pile of wood in an area where construction was being done on the camp, where
they would wait out the three days that the guards would be searching for them. Then, once the coast was clear, the prisoners
would run towards the south and over the Slovakian border. The four prisoners put their plan in action. It went seamlessly and they fled Auschwitz
into the country. However, they were caught in a village to
the south. Still, it proved that hiding in the wood worked. Wetzler and Vrba bided their time, waiting
to see if the men who were captured would reveal their exit strategy and set them back
to square one. In time, it became obvious that they hadn’t. The stack of wood remained untouched and unnoticed. So, two weeks later Wetzler and Vrba made
their own attempt. Once inside the stack of wood, Vrba scratched
off a message left by the men who had used it in the escape before. The note they had etched in the wood, of “kiss
our [you know what]” would certainly get them executed. The scratching also helped serve as a minor
distraction while waiting out the three days. Roll call took place at five-thirty, at which
time they expected to be missed and to have the guards come looking for them. They waited in the darkness, concealed completely. Then five-thirty came and no siren went off
signaling that anyone was missing. Five forty-five passed and then time ticked
on further to six. The two men began to fearfully consider what
this could mean for them. They wondered if their location had been given
up and those in charge knew exactly where they were hiding. Nervously, they waited longer as the silence
continued. Then, finally, much later then they had expected,
the siren ripped through the night. They heard the sounds of men running and of
dogs scampering on the wood piled on top of them. It was a while before it was silent again. They stayed in the wood for a full three days
and nights without eating or drinking, growing sore from never moving. Finally, the third day was done and they heard
the guards giving up on their search. Now was their chance, and they eagerly pushed
on the wood. It refused to move. They frantically pushed some more and shoved
on it as hard as they could. As they grew frantic it finally gave way and
they lifted it up off of them. They were free in the night but this was only
the very beginning. Over eighty miles of enemy held territory
lay before them before they could make it to their final destination. They took off and promptly got lost in a hostile
area. Their plan was to cross the Beskid Mountains
to the south of the camp. They ran into a village instead. Day was almost breaking before they could
find their way out again, and as it grew light, they found themselves in another small inhabited
area. They were out in the open without any shelter
so they were forced to turn to someone living there for help. They knocked on a door and a Polish peasant
came who knew exactly who they were and what they wanted. She fed them and gave them advice on how to
find the mountains they were searching for. One of her sons was in a concentration camp
and she gave the men what little money she had to spare, which amounted to only about
a single British pound. She also wished them luck, which she knew
they’d need more than anything. They soon found themselves walking close to
Porebka, a village filled with soldiers and where the men who escaped before them had
been caught. Shots suddenly rang out and bullets hit all
around them. They realized that they, too, had been spotted. The Nazis gave chase and pursued them, their
dogs howling alongside them. Wetzler and Vrba ran for their lives along
the mountainside until they ran into a stream. Despite its freezing temperatures they jumped
into the water, hoping it would conceal their smell. In time, as the two prisoners hid in terror
in a ditch, the sounds of the search grew fainter and eventually stopped. It had been a very close call but they had
to continue on. Soon they came face to face with another peasant. All could be lost in a minute if she chose
to turn them in to the Nazis instead of helping them. They had no choice but to trust her though,
as they needed directions. With their fate in her hands, she left them
and promised a man would return to help them later that night. As she walked away, they waited uneasily. They had no way of knowing her true intentions. They hoped they hadn’t just made a big mistake
that would cost them everything. Finally, under the cover of darkness, a man
appeared. He was carrying a gun and was accompanied
by the same woman. The two prisoners eyed his weapon uneasily. Then the woman presented Wetzler and Vrba
with food and they unabashedly dug in, having hardly eaten since they left the camp. They were confused when the man started laughing. He explained that judging by the way they
ate he was convinced they really were prisoners who escaped the camp, and not undercover Nazis
trying to test their loyalty. Wetzler and Vrba followed the couple home
and that night, Vrba had to cut his boots off as his feet had become so incredibly swollen. The man who had taken them in offered him
slippers and then led the duo, including the slipper-clad Vrba right to the edge of the
Slovakian border. They thanked the man for all he had done to
help them and he wished them luck and said he hoped the slippers would last for the rest
of their journey. They waited until a German patrol passed before
they made a run for safety. It was two weeks after their escape from Auschwitz
before they made it to Slovakian territory. Here, a third peasant put them in contact
with a well-known doctor who listened to their story and agreed to take them to the Jewish
leadership of another town who, he believed, would handle the matter in the best way possible. He couldn’t have been more incorrect. Vrba and Wetzler, who had braved eighty miles
of treacherous terrain and undoubtedly risked their lives, soon found out that the message
they so badly wanted to share would not be heard after all. Both men told the Jewish Council of the atrocities
being committed at Auschwitz. Their goal was for the official documentation
of their story that became known as the Vrba-Wetzler Report to be given to those in positions of
power. In the hands of the right people, they believed
the deportations and executions would be stopped. So, it was sent to Allies. Copies were given to the British, the Americans,
and even the Pope. Change, however, did not come. This was for many reasons. Some copies of the report didn’t make it
to their intended destinations for months. There was also the problem that the head of
the Hungarian Jewish underground actually failed to share the report with the right
people as he was in the process of making an agreement with the Nazis and he believed
its contents would destroy his chances. His train to freedom did end up saving 1,600
people, however, without the contents of the report being known it also resulted in the
deaths of what is suspected to be multiple hundreds of thousands. Vrba and Wetzler had escaped in April of 1944. As time passed, they waited in frustration
and disbelief as the weeks and months passed and still nothing was done. It was not until June when British Intelligence
finally got ahold of their report. That same month the BBC aired its contents
and days later it made headlines in the New York Times. The world was in shock. Allied forces threatened action against those
deporting Jewish Hungarians and the Pope gave his condemnation. However, the admiral in charge of Hungary
allowed deportations to continue nonetheless, having no intention of going against Hitler’s
wishes. It was just a coincidence that the US Air
Force attacked Hungary in July, as it was not intended to specifically send the admiral
a message. He took it that way though and the trains
to Auschwitz finally came to a stop. It’s estimated that three hundred thousand
Hungarian Jews had been gassed to death by this point and just twenty thousand were rescued. This was many, many more than were saved by
the freedom train agreement that delayed the message that Wetzler and Vrba risked their
lives to deliver. Together, Wetzler and Vrba are credited with
saving more Jews at one time than any other person during the war. However, they had to accept the haunting fact
that due to the interference of others, thousands more who could have been saved were not. The total death toll was staggering with estimates
being that as many as one-and-a-half million people died at Auschwitz. Wetzler and Vrba are heroes but they couldn’t
have done what they did alone. It took the four men who had escaped before
them and the three peasants who helped guide, shelter, and feed them for their ultimate
success. Not to mention the British Intelligence who
helped finally spread the message to the rest of the world. War is a cruel and many people do cruel things. But as we have seen in this true account,
when people come together despite the obstacles, there is always a chance. A chance for good that’s worth fighting
and even dying for. But these were not the only men who turned
things around to become heroes. Are there people you know of who did amazing
things for the benefit of others in the face of almost inevitable failure? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
The Nazi Psycho Doctor – Josef Mengele! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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