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May 27: Another Escape from Auschwitz

May 31, 2013

0000023877_1_webCzesław Mordowicz from Poland and Arnost Rosin (pictured at left) from Slovakia began their escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau on this date in 1944 — two of only eighty prisoners of all nationalities who succeeded at escaping the labor-and-death camp over the course of its existence. After reaching Slovakia on D-Day, June 6, they reported to secret officials from the Slovakia Jewish Council about their witness of the first ten days of transports of Hungarian Jews, the last major community of Jews to be destroyed by the Nazis. Rosin had been a functionary in the same barracks as Alfred Wetzler, who had escaped the camp with Rudolf Vrba on April 7th; Rosin was then tortured and sent to hard labor in a gravel pit, where he met Mordowicz. “The gravel pit was a nightmare,” writes Allan J. Levine in Captivity, Flight, and Survival in World War II, “but the two . . . found a ‘bunker’ — a short, narrow bay in the side of the pit. It had been filled with stones after being used by other prisoners for an escape. They emptied it out and, on May 27, hid in it. After waiting for three days, they got out of the ‘bunker,’ despite a cave-in, and passed through the outer guard line,” and swam the Sola River. Their report, like that of Wetzler and Vrba, went out to the world, including the World Jewish Congress, the Vatican, and the British and U.S. governments and media. Hungary would stop deporting Jews to Auschwitz in July, under threat of Allied bombing of Budapest; nevertheless, 400,000 Hungarian Jews had been exterminated by the war’s end.

Months after their escape, “Mordowicz had the misfortune of being discovered; he was retransported to Auschwitz under a different name but successfully concealed his previous identity and thus escaped death.” —John S. Conway