Escape from Auschwitz: told for first time in English
Alfred Wetzler, a Slovak Jew, was one of the tiny number of people to escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau, Europe's heart of darkness during the Second World War, where an estimated 1.1 million Jews arrived of whom scarcely 7,000 survived the onslaught of the Nazis.
Wetzler and his companion Rudolf Vrba, also a Slovak Jew, were arrested by the Nazis in 1942 in Slovakia and sent to the death camp for slave labour. Wetzler was 24 and Vrba was just 18. Wetzler spent two years in the camp, witnessing some of the worst atrocities known to man. It was this experience that founded the basis for the memoirs he would later write: "It is incredible how tough human life can be, how quickly a person, even with a broken arm, a dislocated foot, a broken head and bitten by dogs, will do what is asked of him when over him hangs the cudgel waved by the goodwill of the Reich."
It was in the spring of 1944, with the assistance of other prisoners, that the pair managed to escape, initially by hiding under a huge woodpile for four days in the corner of the camp until the search for them was called off. The duo then escaped through a hole under a fence at nightfall. But it was what they did afterwards that was truly heroic. The two men had also smuggled out damning evidence - a ground plan of the camp, construction details of the gas chambers, crematoriums and, most convincingly, a label from a canister of Zyklon gas...
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