Friday, May 15, 2009

Beginning of the Deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau - May 15, 1944

Auschwitz Selection, May / June 1944, of Hungarian Jews.
Auschwitz "Selection", May / June 1944. To be sent to the right meant slave labor; to the left, the gas chambers. This image shows the arrival of Hungarian Jews. It was taken by the SS. Courtesy of Yad Vashem, The Auschwitz Album."

On March 19, 1944, the German army occupied Hungary.

On April 14, 1944, the quisling government of Hungary and Eichmann decided to deport all the Jews of Hungary to Auschwitz.

Adolf Eichmann, whose duties included supervising the extermination of Jews, set up his staff in the Majestic Hotel and proceeded rapidly in rounding up Jews from the Hungarian provinces outside of Budapest and its suburbs. The Yellow Star and Ghettoization laws, and Deportation were accomplished in less than 8 weeks with the enthusiastic help of the Hungarian authorities, particularly the gendarmerie (csendőrség). The first transports to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944. Even as Soviet troops were rapidly approaching the Hungarian border, and Eichmann and his staff knew that Germany had by then lost the war, the trains continued to roll to Auschwitz.

By July 8, 437,402 Jews had been deported in 151 trains, according to official German reports. One hundred and thirty six trains were sent to Auschwitz, where 90% of the people were exterminated on arrival. Because the crematoria couldn't cope with the number of corpses, special pits were dug near them, where bodies were simply burned. It has been estimated that one third of the murdered victims at Auschwitz were Hungarian. For most of this time period, 12,000 Jews were delivered to Auschwitz in a typical day, among them the future writer and Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel, at age 15. The devotion to the cause of the "final solution" of the Hungarian gendarmes surprised even Eichmann himself, who supervised the operation with only twenty officers and a staff of 100, which included drivers, cooks, etc.

According to Winston Churchill, in a letter to his Foreign Secretary dated July 11, 1944, "There is no doubt that this persecution of Jews in Hungary and their expulsion from enemy territory is probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world...." (Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: Volume VI, Triumph and Tragedy, Appendix C, page 597).

The deportation of the Jews of Budapest was halted on July 8 after international pressure, and as a result almost 100,000 Jews of Budapest survived. Most of them were, however, concentrated under inhuman conditions in the Budapest ghetto. Some other areas were also designated as "houses with stars" and some were under the protecion of neutral powers. The names of some diplomats, Raoul Wallenberg, Carl Lutz, Giorgio Perlasca deserve mentioning, as well as some members of the army and police who saved people (Fewnczy, Pál Szalai, Károly Szabó, and other officers who took Jews out from camps with fake papers) and some church institutions and personalities.

Soviet troops liberated the Budapest ghetto on January 18, 1945.

By the end of the war in Hungary on April 4, 1945, from an original population of almost 900,000 people considered Jewish inside the borders of 1941-44 Hingary, only about 255,000 survived.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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