Letter by Rabbi Weissmandel to He-Haluts Headquarters in Geneva
With Gods help, ... in a cave near Lvov, 16.5.1944
Felicitations and greetings:
We hereby send you a special message to inform you:
(a) That as of yesterday they began to deport Jews from Hungary east of the River Theis, meaning the state of Zebenbirgen, Carpathian Russia, and the Kashoy District. This is the first part of the deportation of all Jews of Hungary—and the first part has come to 320,000 persons god will protect and save them.
(b) Twelve thousand people are deported every day, 65 to 70 people standing in every car, with neither bread nor water, unable to keep themselves clean, and sealed in—even the windows being sealed.
(c) And four transports of 45 cars such as these go out each day so that in 25 or 26 days all of this area will be deported.
(d) These are the transports that are setting out from Tshaff (near Ungver) via Kashoy, Presau, Erlov, and Mussina to Auschwitz (Oswiecim).
(e) They reach Auschwitz after a trip of two or three days, without air, food, water, and sanitation, their bodies pressed together and standing in such a way that many die on the way. The survivors are made to undress totally and are pushed into large chambers and halls. Through deceit and ruses, they are taken there to be murdered, and they are suffocated by use of cyanide vapor—2,000 people in each and every chamber, each and every day.
(f) According to several witnesses, there were four such chambers—and according to rumor, several more have been added since.
(g) The corpses are incinerated in specially designated crematoria. Each crematorium burns approximately twelve corpses per hour. As of the end of February, it is clear that there were 36 such crematoria, and according to rumor more have been added.
(h) Before, they strangled and incinerate [people] in the Brzezinski (Birkenwald) forest near Auschwitz, and now they strangle and incinerat [people] in strangulation and incineration chambers in Birkenau—as noted above in the sketch.
(i) The only ones they leave alive are a few exceptionally strong people for labor: arranging the clothing and belongings of the murdered people, searching through clothing and items for hidden valuables, working in the killing facilities and incinerating the bodies, and other hazardous tasks for the war effort that are performed there.
(j) Those left alive are marked with tattooed numbers on their forearms and a Star of David burned into their chest. A large majority of them die and are killed within a few weeks or months and are replaced by new people. Those who are led from the train straight to the suffocation chambers are not marked; there is no evidence [of what happens to them], and they account for some 95 percent of each and every transport.
(k) Back in December and January they built a special railroad track to the suffocation and incineration chambers for the new task of killing the Jews of Hungary. (Trustworthy people in the inferno, where the matters are discussed without any shame and inhibition, recounted this without any concern that outsiders would hear, just as the angels of destruction do not fear in real hell that earthly people will see what is being done there.)
(l) Several months ago, there were two additional extermination centers such as Auschwitz in Poland, one in Malkinia-Treblinka, near Bialystok, and the other at Belzec, on the River Bug. In Belzec for sure, and also in Malkinia according to rumor, the Germans already razed the facilities to the ground without leaving even the slightest trace by means of large bombs for five days as the front approached. They will surely do the same in Auschwitz when the time comes. In Malkinia, it is clear that 25,000 to 30,000 people were killed every day; in Belzec we have no firm knowledge. From Malkinia they already sent an eyewitness account to Switzerland about a year ago, and the witness's testimony was taken in a full-fledged investigation and probe by a three-member court. There were three witnesses in this case—two Jews and one non-Jew who witnessed this transport to Malkinia. From Belzec, too, we have already sent on some hearsay testimony and have done so several times from Auschwitz. Thus we send these two testimonies, one from a non-Jew, a Polish farmer who spent approximately eighteen months there, and the other from two Jews who escaped from there.
This is the regime of Auschwitz, to which the transports began yesterday—12,000 Jews, men, women, children, and the elderly, ill and healthy, each and every day, to be suffocated, incinerated, and used as fertilizer in the fields. In view of them, why are you, fellow Jews and government ministers in all the free countries, being silent about this slaughter, in which some six million Jews have been murdered thus far, and in which tens of thousands are now being murdered every day? In their desolation they cry out to you, the Jews who are being killed should be on your conscience, you brutes, you murderers, because of the brutal silence that you maintain as you twiddle your thumbs. Does it not give you satisfaction to refuse—and procrastinate—at this very time? Therefore, with the blood of the millions, and the tears of the many thousands, we ask, plead, and demand that the following actions be taken at once:
(a) Ministers in all countries, belligerents and non-belligerents, must issue immediately, loudly, and ringingly, so the entire world will hear, the gravest of warnings to the entire German people, and now, the entire Hungarian people, lest they continue to perpetrate this murder—and they must proclaim widely that they are aware of everything that has been and is being done.
(b) The Pope, in particular, should threaten and terrify the leaders and people of Hungary in this matter.
(c) To publicize widely, for days and weeks, over all radio stations and throughout the press—at least as vigorously as the Germans did in disseminating the falsehood concerning Katyn—the actions taken at Belzec, Malkinia, and Auschwitz. Have we not sent you these accounts? Spread this information vehemently and mightily.
(d) Persuade the International Red Cross to warn the Germans at once that, if they do not let the International Red Cross subject the camp of Auschwitz and Birkenau to constant inspection for eight days, on behalf of the Hungarian Jews who are being sent there, Germany will be expelled from the International Red Cross. (Perhaps this will prompt the Germans, in their fashion, to destroy the suffocation and incineration chambers and to stage a Potemkin action for a few days. That would be fine indeed; if only they would do it.)
(e) Subject the extermination facilities at Auschwitz to aerial bombardment. They are plainly visible, as noted in the attached sketch. This would deal the villains a serious setback because only in this clandestine manner can they go on killing.
(f) It is even more necessary to bombard all roads steadily and systematically—especially those from eastern Hungary to Poland and from Hungary to Germany, foremost that leading from Tshaff via Kashoy, Presau, and Medzilabarze.
(g) To bombard steadily and systematically the bridges and stations of Carpathian Russia in general, especially Kashoy, Tshaff, Presau, and Medzilabarze. Tens of thousands of soldiers are also led down the roads in these areas, each and every day, straight from Poland to Romania and back.
We make you swear that you will not procrastinate even for one moment, that you will immediately take notice and make an effort to have the requests in paragraphs f and g and in paragraph e honored at once. Drop everything else you are doing to take this action. Bear in mind that one day of inaction kills 12,000 people, and have everything required in paragraphs a-e done as well—do not waste even one moment.
Whatever you do in this regard, we warn you in every way not to mention, in all the accounts we have sent you, the name of any Jew, living or dead, whose name appears in the testimony that was taken. If he is alive, do not mention him because they will kill him at once. If he is dead, do not mention him because they will kill his family. Do not mention, when taking testimony of Jews in Auschwitz who escape, from what country they had been deported, when they were deported, and when they escaped. [This secrecy is needed] to make it impossible to take revenge against their families or against all Jews in their country who remain alive. Place all of these Jews' testimony in the mouths of the non-Jew who also escaped. Do not even mention the numbers of the Jews. Be very, very careful about this. Heaven forbid that you violate this instruction or speak about them in a way that reveals the country or the source of your information. Just put it all in the mouth of the non-Jew; attribute everything to him. After all, we have already overpaid our taxes in blood — and we are sending you this information to effect a cure, not to aggravate the illness.
Apart from all this, you must send money—thousands and thousands—for the following vital purposes:
(a) For bribes, because many wish to help at the present time if they get some money that they can use to save themselves when their time of affliction comes. For example, this money would be useful when the transports in Hungary are somewhat impeded by bombing the railroads, for this would make the postponement practical. In any case, the money would have the effect of slowing the speed and celerity [of the transports].
Bear in mind that when Hungary was first occupied, the brutes negotiated with the Jews to delay the deportations for reason of sheer greed. They asked for sixty million and we had only two. This infuriated them—and several responsible people believe that the rage currently being vented there traces to that source.
(b) Money makes it possible to save many thousands by means of false papers and hideouts.
(c) It can be used to build bunkers and hideouts stocked with enough food for several months.
(d) It can sustain hundreds of thousands who have no source of livelihood—in the camps, in hideouts, dying of starvation, and ill—in Poland and in Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
(e) For children: to place them in hiding with non-Jews.
(f) For refugees who are fleeing from country to country in this bloodstained region.
(g) To give to every policeman, great and small, to save someone's life.
(h) To acquire the practical wherewithal to impede the actions by disruptions, bombings, and forcible protests.
Do you know how much money all of this will require? If you send ten million Allied banknotes each and every month, you will not have sent much—and how much are you sending?
Fellow Jews, have you gone mad? Are you unaware of the kind of inferno we inhabit here? Do you not know to whom you are sending the money? Why do you wait until we send a courier from our hell to beseech and entreaty you? All of our entreaties are not even as effective as a beggar on the doorstep. You throw a few pennies at our feet after we plead several times. Crazy murderers! Who is it who gives charity—you who dispense pennies from the heights of your podiums, or we, who give blood and tears in the depths of the abyss? Who entitles you to ask me for an accounting, a budget, as one does when haggling over clothing and trifling objects, before you give us one ten-thousandth of what we need?
Only in one sense can we judge you favorably: you do not know. This is possible because even here a great majority of the Jews do not know. They believe they are going out for labor or for resettlement. The evildoer does his work so deceitfully and surreptitiously that only a few know, and here it is impossible for those few to speak with the masses—because no one comes into contact with more than a few. This villain order's individuals who are living in the extermination facilities of Auschwitz, Birkenau, Lublin, and so on, to write letters explaining that they are well and that everything is fine, and even the Jews here are fooled by it. Therefore they go into the cars and because they are tired of all the atrocities from the past five years, from the sickness and starvation.
It is a fact that we have already told you several times what is really happening. Can it be that you believe the murderous villain more than you believe us, the murdered? Is it possible? May God open your eyes and give you the merit and ability to rescue the last remnants at this last moment.
I have asked my friend, Rabbi Shlomo S.P., may he yet live, with whom I studied before he went to study in Slobodka—and here I am, in the place that he knows—that he visit the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England, to Lambet Palace and to his head, and tell them and show them everything that has reached the attention of non-Jews, and tell them that this outcry is issued by the same person who was with them in 1928 and 1929—who knows everything that is happening here.
After all of these remarks, do not forget the main thing, which is largely a practical matter, as written in paragraphs e and g above, and everything in paragraphs a-e several pages back. This is the essential action that should be taken at once; it is the chief action that can put paid to the villain's actions decisively. May the God who preserves the remnant of Israel have pity and mercy and provide deliverance, as this writer entreaties Him from the sea of tears that the congregation of Israel is shedding.
Awaiting redemption —
Source: L. Rotkirchen, The Destruction of Slovak Jewry, Jerusalem 1961 p. 236Yad Vashem