Four Jewish heroes escaped Auschwitz to tell the world what the Nazis were doing
(Jerusalem, Israel) — On January 27, 1945, the Nazi death camp in southern Poland known as “Auschwitz-Birkenau” was finally liberated.
It happened just months before Adolf Hitler committed suicide and the U.S., British, Soviets, and all of our allies heroically liberated Germany and all of Europe.
We must never forget the one million souls who were exterminated at Auschwitz, members of the six million Jews murdered as part of the Nazi’s so-called “Final Solution.”
But I believe there are four specific names we should also remember. They are the names of four Jewish men — truly extraordinary men. They did not die at Auschwitz, and that’s why their names should be remembered and their stories should be told.
Almost a year before it was liberated, these four men actually escaped from Auschwitz — not simply to save their own lives but to tell the world the truth about what was really happening behind those high walls and barbed wire.
Truly the greatest escape in all of human history.
Several years go, I wrote a book called The Auschwitz Escape to help people rediscover what these men did and why. I also wrote this column for the same purpose. On this #HolocaustRemembranceDay, I hope you and your family will take some time to read their stories, learn their names and honor their heroism.
By Joel C. Rosenberg
To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.
In 1933, the world was blindsided by the rise of Adolf Hitler.
In 1939, it was stunned by the German invasion of Poland and the Nazi leader’s bloodthirsty quest for global domination. Perhaps most tragically, most of the world did not understand Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jews until it was almost too late.
Today, we face dangerous new threats from Iran, North Korea, and a rising czar in Russia, not from Germany. Yet curiously, in recent weeks [various world leaders] have each warned that as we confront current challenges we must be careful to learn the lessons of history regarding how the world failed to understand the threat posed by Hitler and the Nazis and deal with it decisively, before events spun out of control.
I agree, and as an example, I would point the extraordinary events that occurred in the spring of 1944.
Four men pulled off the greatest escapes in all of human history, from a Nazi death camp in southern Poland. They did not simply escape to save their own lives. Nor did they escape merely to tell the world about a terrible crime against humanity that had been – and was being – committed. What set these true heroes apart is that they planned and executed their escapes in the hope of stopping a horrific crime before it was committed – the extermination of the Jews of Hungary.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of these escapes, and to draw attention to the significance these unknown – or unremembered – events, and the lessons they have to teach us, I recently wrote a work of historical fiction, The Auschwitz Escape. I changed the names of key figures involved so as not to put words in their mouths that cannot be verified to be their own. But it is my deepest hope that the book will cause many to dig into the real history of these remarkable heroes.
Their real names were Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler — they were Slovak Jews. They escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944.
Arnost Rosin was also a Slovak Jew. Czeslaw Mordowicz was a Polish Jew. These are more real names. Together these men escaped from Auschwitz on May 27, 1944.
Upon making it safely to Czechoslovakia, Vrba, only 19 years old, and Wetzler, 25, linked up with the Jewish underground. They explained Auschwitz was not simply a labor camp, as most thought, but rather a death camp. The Nazis were systematically murdering prisoners, mostly Jews, using poison gas called “Zyklon B,” then burning their bodies in enormous ovens.
The men explained the Nazis were dramatically enlarging an expansion camp a few miles from Auschwitz called “Birkenau,” building new train tracks, enormous new gas chambers, and massive new crematoria. They had also completed ramps leading all those arriving in the cattle cars directly into the gas chambers.
Vrba and Wetzler said they had heard SS guards talking about Hungarian “salami” that would soon be arriving. They knew from their jobs as clerks in the camp that none of Hungary’s nearly 450,000 Jews had yet arrived, even though Jews from most of Europe had come already.
They urged the Czech Jewish leaders to warn Hungarian Jews immediately so they would revolt and not get on the trains. They also urged that the Allied leaders be notified so they would mount an operation to liberate Auschwitz.
Both men were asked to separately draft detailed eyewitness reports. Their reports were then cross-checked, compiled into a single report, and then simultaneously translated into multiple languages.
Eventually, Mordowicz, 23, and Rosin, 30, escaped as well. When they got to Czechoslovakia, they wrote up reports of their own, which were added to the existing document. But all this took precious time the Hungarian Jews did not have.
The report, known as “The Auschwitz Protocol,” was sent to Jewish and Allied leaders in early June 1944. Excerpts were leaked to the press, creating an international uproar. But the Germans had begun deporting Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in massive numbers on May 15th. And “The Auschwitz Protocol” landed in the hands of President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and their top aides just as the Allies were executing the D-Day invasion of Normandy and trying to liberate France.
On July 2nd, the U.S. began bombing Budapest. Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Nazi-backed Regent of Hungary, feared the air raid was in reprisal for the Jewish deportations. He ordered the trains halted. Thus, while, more than 300,000 Hungarian Jews had already been sent to Auschwitz and gassed, 120,000 more Hungarian Jews were saved from deportation and certain death.
Sir Martin Gilbert, the British historian, would later note, “The Auschwitz Protocol” was responsible for “the largest single greatest rescue of Jews in the Second World War.”
That said, neither the U.S. nor the British military took direct action to liberate Auschwitz during the war. Nor did they bomb the train lines to the death camps, or bomb the camps themselves, as Jewish leaders had implored.
When the Soviets finally entered Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, only 7,000 prisoners remained alive. More than 1.1 million had already been exterminated.
Why didn’t Washington and London take decisive action upon receiving detailed, inside intelligence? Couldn’t they have at least tried to stop the Holocaust, or at least disrupt it, knowing the hellish nightmare people in the camps were experiencing?
Historians have been debating this for years. Yet the issues are not academic. Today, our leaders also face urgent questions.
Let’s consider just one. Iran has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” It has threatened to create world without the “Great Satan” (aka, the U.S.), as well. The mullahs are actively developing the ability to build nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.
Do we currently have inside sources giving us accurate intelligence on the state of Iran’s nuclear program? If diplomacy and sanctions fail, should the West take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities before the mullahs can set into motion a Second Holocaust?
Rather than attack ourselves, should the U.S. support an Israeli preemptive strike? What are the risks of launching such a strike? What are the risks of delay?
Would history forgive us if we wait too long and Iran strikes first?
The moral courage that Rudolf Vrba, Alfred Wetzler, Arnost Rosin, and Czeslaw Mordowicz demonstrated seventy years ago was extraordinary. They understood the nature and threat of evil, and they risked their lives to tell the world the truth.
They deserve to be remembered and heralded by Jews and Christians and all who care about freedom and human dignity.
We must never forget what they did, and why they did it. But we must also be ready to act wisely, bravely and decisively if a mortal threat rises again. For if we learn nothing else from the history of the Holocaust, we had better learn this: Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide.
Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of 10 novels and five non-fiction books, with more than 3 million copies sold. He is also the Founder and Chairman of The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com), a non-profit educational and charitable organization he and his wife launched in 2006 to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.” He and his wife have four sons. They made Aliyah in 2014 and now live in Israel and the United States.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
David – the comforter
King David brings some of us much comfort. He was called “a man after God’s own heart.” His name means ‘beloved,’ and he was beloved by God. And yet when we look at David’s life we see a man of great passions and weaknesses, not unlike ourselves, zealous for the kingdom of God, but a flawed human being.
He was a brave and vicious warrior, an outlaw persecuted by the royal authorities, and also a sensitive poet and musician, writing many of the psalms sung for the last three thousand years in synagogues and churches around the world unto this day. He was loved by some, and hated by others, as may be the case with some of us as well. At times his own lusts overcame his better judgment and his own great knowledge of God’s Law, which led to adultery and even murder, sins for which he suffered the consequences.
His life was filled with triumphs and defeats, with family dysfunction as his own son betraying and rebelling against him, and even another defiling his own half-sister which led to a son murdering his brother, and he thus suffered the anguish of two sons dying in disrepute. But all this did not stop David from his personal relationship with YHVH, his heart remaining sensitive and tender despite his rough exterior. On the contrary, unlike King Saul who justified his own transgressions and was dethroned in favor of David, David poured out the details of his own in writing for the whole world to see, translated for all generations to behold. He openly admitted his sins and wept before God and man, asking forgiveness, even as king of a nation. Perhaps this is part of his greatness, and why he remained beloved by God who made promises to him and his descendants forever, and from who would come the King Messiah.
David is an example and an encouragement for us all who stumble at times in our human weaknesses and passions. His life gives us the comfort of knowing that our sins may be forgiven when brought to light and humbly and honestly confessed to God and man. His example to emulate also teaches us that it is better to bring them to light now for forgiveness, rather than to conceal them, only to have them broadly exposed in the light and time of God’s judgment.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
PARASHAT YITRO (JETHRO)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 18:1–20:23
In this week’s parasha, we encounter a very famous portion of Scripture known as the “Ten Commandments”. There is no doubt that the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact not only for the Jewish people, but also many gentile believers from around the world, throughout the millennia.
Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Often when I hear people speak about the Ten Commandments, there is an emphasis on the commandments themselves. However, as I was rereading the portion above, I realized how important the first two verses are:
Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the LORD your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
God Himself was the one who spoke these words, which is something that we must pay attention to. He declared that HE Himself is the LORD God and that He was the one who delivered Israel out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Why might God mention this?
I believe the reason is to emphasize that redemption must come first, followed by obedience. In other words, God was reminding Israel that He is the One who redeemed them and as a result, they are now to walk with Him in a very specific way.
As I am writing, I am thinking about Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul’s) words to the Ephesians when he wrote,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Our works will not lead us to salvation! However, if we truly understand our salvation, then we should walk in a manner pleasing to God — and not just pleasing to ourselves.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
God’s heart in the last days
Sitting in a mountain field as a new believer, I read words that altered the course of my life. “When He saw the multitudes…He said to His disciples ‘Truly the harvest is great but the laborers are few. Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37, 38). At that moment I knew that the Lord was calling me to leave our beautiful mountain home—far from the rat race of the city—and re-enter society as a laborer amidst a harvest field of lost people.
End of the Age Harvest
What is on God’s heart as history careens toward the climax of this age? I believe that the first thing on His heart is the lost condition of His human children everywhere. Yeshua speaks elsewhere about the harvest, using this image to describe the end of the age (Matthew 13:39). The Lord declares that He “…desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Messiah was sent to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). And we are likewise sent by Him, just as He was sent into the world by the Father (John 20:21; 1 John 4:17).
The unfathomable breadth and depth of God’s heart for mankind—for every living soul—is what brought His Son to this earth. Yet His saving activity continues through us as His messengers, His agents. Can we begin to identify with the intensity of God’s longing for every man, woman and child on every continent to come to Him, to be forgiven, to be born into His kingdom, to be adopted? To be gathered together into his “barn” as ripened, harvested wheat?
Inextricably connected with God’s passion for the harvest, is His heart to unite all of us together in Messiah (Ephesians 1:10). Listen to one of Yeshua’s last prayers. In it He links our capacity to make Him known (sowing seed unto harvest) with our Heaven-granted brotherhood. He prayed “…the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one. I in them and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:22,23).
Is there a key to this brotherhood that God is so intent on establishing? Several. But for me, a prime example of restored brotherhood is the account of Jacob meeting his brother Esau. Some 20 years had passed since Jacob deceived his father and stole Esau’s first son blessing. Now a repentant Jacob bows seven times before Esau. That was an act of faith and a gesture of true humility. Jacob, using a posture of servant-hood rather than defense, demonstrated with eloquence beyond words, that he was serious about restoring true brotherhood.
In Psalm 133 the psalmist likens our brotherhood to the priestly anointing and to eternal blessing. I believe that restored brotherhood by means of Messiah’s shed blood is at the top of God’s last days agenda. He wants to show the world HIS peace plan, HIS remedy for war and oppression.
May these twin passions of our Father—the Harvest and Brotherhood—motivate us and guide our priorities as we consider how to live in the last days.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, January 8, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Pray for renewed aliyah in 2019
Israel’s interim Aliyah results for 2018 showed a 1% drop in numbers from January to August, due especially to fewer immigrants from large Jewish communities in USA and France.
Aliyah is immigration to Israel, literally meaning ‘to go up’ and the process has its foundation in Scripture.
In Deuteronomy chapter 28, before the people of Israel enter the land covenanted to Abraham and his descendants, God outlines the conditions for entry. In short, if the people follow God they will be blessed in every way and will remain in the land. If they disobey God they will be cursed in the opposite way and ultimately will not remain in the land, because it is a land dedicated to the worship of the Lord and idolatry is not tolerated:
Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods. Deuteronomy 28:64
The Jewish people have been scattered amongst the nations since the year AD70, following the destruction of Jerusalem under Roman General Titus.
In Deuteronomy 29, Israel renews its covenant with the Lord before entering the land. Then in chapter 30:2-6, the Lord promises full restoration in response to disobedience, scattering and true repentance:
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it.
This is the process the world has been watching for over 100 years, beginning even before the founding of the state of Israel. It is a process so important to God’s heart, that it is the only thing the Bible states He cares about with ‘all His heart and soul’:
I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul. Jeremiah 32:41
The discipline of God is in a way stronger than that of human fathers, but His tenderness and compassion far greater. He is more interested in restoring the hearts of His people than restoring territory or other blessings. Land has value, but hearts far more, and God is patient enough to wait.
Not only is Aliyah key to the restoration of Israel, but also a sign to the nations of God’s holiness. The phrase ‘then the nations will know that I am the Lord’ is repeated many times in Ezekiel – the writer himself part of the Old Testament singular Jewish diaspora in Babylon, but prophesying the End Time global Aliyah from many nations.
Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you [restored Israel] before their eyes.
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:23-28
Aliyah is about both hearts and numbers – ‘new hearts’ in Yeshua for all Israel, following the return of literally all Jewish people, whether through obedience, persecution or poverty – “I shall most certainly assemble all of you, O Jacob” Micah 2:12.
When Israel is restored both in numbers and in heart, our people will cry out “Baruch HaBa be shem Adonai” (Matthew 23:39) and Yeshua will return to cast the devil out and fully restore not only Israel, but the whole earth.
So, pray for restored Aliyah in 2019. Also, if you have slipped away from the Lord in 2018, test Him to see how great His restoring grace is for you personally through the cross, and make your own Aliyah back to Him.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, January 23, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Joni has worked in education and management and has been a writer for Kehila News Israel since 2016. He holds an MBA, as well as teaching qualifications. He lives in Israel with his family.