Protocol Nr. 3615
The person in question has given us the following information: Around the middle of June, 1944, two Slovakian boys escaped from Auschwitz. In Budapest they submitted two protocols, one 24-page-long the other 16, which were the first authentic descriptions of the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Having transformed these minutes into a single document we translated it into English, German, French and Italian. The local heads of the Somér Hacajir sent them to the Pope, to the Swedish and English kings, to Roosevelt, and to Erec Jiszroel partly through Istanbul, partly through Switzerland. The Hungarian version of the protocol was copied and presented to the Regent, to the members of the government and to some prominent members of the Hungarian political life. Meanwhile, Rezső Kasztner started negotiations with the Germans. He offered to get foreign Jews pay either money or war material for each Jew who was not sent to death camps but were let leave for a neutral country through Germany. (This meant the preparation of the first so-called “alia”, which resulted in the privileged state of prisoners: 24,000 in Strasshof and 1,750 in Bergen-Belsen.) Miklós Krausz, who was the secretary of the Palestine Office, and got asylum thanks to his contacts in the “Department for Foreign Interests” of the Swiss Embassy of Szabadság Square, started negotiations regarding the emigration with Consul Lutz, and using his political relations, also with head of police Batiszfalvy. The 30th of June, 1944, the group of 1,750 people meant for Bergen-Belsen left. The following day, we started to register the next transports with the guide of Ottó Komoly and Rezső Kasztner in 12 Síp Street. These transports were ready by the 17th of July, but, to be more precise, we did not receive the permission of Eichmann’s people. 17th of July, in the evening, Miklós Krausz invited us for a secret council. Others who participated were Ottó Komoly, Rafi, Pill, Albert Geier, Mihály Salamon, Dr. Fábián Herskovits and me. On this meeting Miklós Krausz presented the following: The minutes we sent out at the end of June did reach their destination. As a result Roosevelt sent a memorial to the Hungarian government, demanding they made possible the emigration of those Jews who had a valid entry permit. This demand was answered by Prime Minister Sztójay, who agreed to set up an office coordinating the process of emigration as a part of the Swiss Embassy. On the top of that, at the end of June Miklós Krausz managed to make Ferenczy believe what was indeed happening in Auschwitz, and achieved that there would be a meeting organised between Ferenczy, his assistant Lullay, Batiszfalvy, Samu Stern, Károly Wilhelm and Ernő Pető in the flat of Samu Stern. At this meeting they agreed that in case the Regent (as the supreme commander) instructed the gendarmes of the countryside to come to Budapest, these would resist Germans even if they used force to deport the Jews on the 5th of July, which was the agreed date. That is what preceded the opening of the office in Vadász Street on the 24th of July. Consul Lutz requested that the office lay not far from the Swiss Embassy on Szabadság Square. We chose the office of the Weiss company in 29 Vadász Street. We made an appeal for this place in agreement with Artur Weiss to the Housing Office of the government. Arthur Weiss asked us to set up the office as soon as possible since the building would have been soon demanded also by his business rivals, and to preserve his dignity towards these rivals he also wanted to obtain a chief position there. Miklós Krausz as the head of the office entrusted him to be the administrative head. The office opened the 24th of July. The first days Ferenczy and Batiszfalvy came to control whether the office functioned according to the intentions of the Hungarian government. The job of this office was to register everyone who applied for a permission to emigrate to Palestine. Already in the first days, moreover, before the office was opened, we agreed in the emigration of several thousands of Jews scheduled for the first few weeks, who were to be transported in groups of 2,000 in personal vehicles, with collective passports through Romania. Ferency and Krausz singled out the Palatinus-houses in Pozsonyi Road designated as a gathering place for the transports, from where they could collectively depart. These were the seeds of what later became the protected houses. The office in Vadász Street was clearly a Zionist institution or at least it started like that. We accepted the applications for passport mostly from Zionists. In the beginning of August, the fist collective passport was ready. It had two volumes. We immediately received the Hungarian exit permit and the Romanian transit permit. They did not want to give us the German exit permit though, because it was their goal to concentrate the rest of the Jews in the Western part of Hungary after the first transit left. Nevertheless, the Germans gave the permit in October, which was valid until the 1st of January, 1945. This was what legally happened in Vadász Street, and it was already heavily criticised by the journals, for example by “Déli Magyar Szó" (“Southern Hungarian Word”), where attention was directed to our activity twice in August. It was however the most important to find a neutral place for illegal activity where there was no chance to be caught. The Embassy was an excellent place for that, which had naturally extraterritorial rights. Evidently, we moved our illegal activity already in the first days to Vadász Street. In part, this was the place where we produced and distributed documents proving Christianity. More importantly, this was the place where we organised illegal emigrations (“tijul”) into Romania and Czechoslovakia. Our well organised smugglers helped the way of several thousands of people from Szabadság Square to Arad, basically from house to house. I have to note that neither Arthur Weisz nor Miklós Krausz assisted our illegal activities, what is more, it happened also that they banned Rafi, Mimis, Pill and Efra to enter the building of Vadász Street. (Of course, they ignored it.) There was another important ongoing project in Vadász Street. There were several Zionist comrades kept in internment camps or jails not so much because they were Jews but because of forging documents still in those times when masses of people crossed the borders coming from Slovakia and other lands, and these people needed hiding places. These people were freed using original American letters of protection (which we stole, or rather I stole on Szabadság Square). This is what preceded 15th October. That morning we listened to Horty’s proclamation in Vadász Street. The day after we entered the building knowing we would not leave the place till the rule of the Arrow Cross lasted. The first day there were only 60 of us. The Swiss Embassy, which was the authority above us, declared that officers of the institute together with their families could stay in the building with respect to the urgency of the work to be done. Finally, by the day of the liberation the number of people living in the building raised to 2,750. Jewish houses came to be closed down and people were taken away. As a reaction young Zionists dressed in the uniform of the Arrow Cross started their mission from Vadász Street, and brought back bunches of Jews under the pretext that they were arrested. We were 500 already the third day. Day by day it was more difficult to put up with the lessening space, the lack of food and to cope with the problems of sanitation. Luckily, International Red Cross was established in Mérleg Street in August, where the head was Ottó Komoly, the administrators were our Zionist comrades, like Efra, the head of finances, who helped us overcome problems of food supply till the time also the office in Vadász Street set up its own financial department and kitchen, and became self-sufficient. The first attack from the part of the Arrow Cross occurred on the 17th of October. We managed to inform immediately Vice-Consul Steiner, who thwarted the action of the Arrow Cross bandits. The 20th of October, men between the age of 14 to 60 were taken away, and women were ordered to be called up for the labour service by the 23rd. The indicated place was the sports grounds of the National Centre for High School Sports Clubs. We phrased the text of the Schutzpass that day, we dated them to the 23rd of October, copied them on 16 typewriters by day and night, and started to distribute them to anyone who belonged to the Jewish religion and made an appeal for them. Since there were no signatures on the Schutzpass, we right away forged them. Unfortunately, even among people who found asylum in Vadász Street there were some who sold these stolen Schutzpasses for money. Since the permission to emigrate was given according to 7,800 certificates the government insisted that only 7,800 people could obtain Schutzpasses. This amount of people received their Schutzpasses basically already the first day, therefore our strategy was to declare that the 7,800 certificates regarded 7,800 families, which comprised at least 60,000 people. When the sad march of deportees was set off on the highway to Vienna, we received neither cars nor officers from the Swiss Embassy to follow them and bring them back as the Swedish had done. We bought a car pooling together the money, put a plate indicating diplomatic affiliation on it and our Zionist comrades went to the brick factories and everywhere until the border, Hegyeshalom, from where we had to bring back the people using the documents we had produced. Men were made to march on foot close to Budapest, and we had success in several cases in bringing them back the same way. The beginning of November they singled out the protected houses. At first, there were so few houses provided for the people protected by the Swiss that not even 7,800 people had enough place. Later, we managed to get more houses for this purpose using Ferenczy’s influence. Altogether we put accommodated around 35- 40,000 people in the protected houses. Meanwhile the government kept asking for the list of the 7,800, and we were working on it. Meanwhile the Housing Offices in 14 Szent István Park and 32 Pozsonyi Road were set up. The former was headed by professor Waldapfel, the latter by Márton Hirsch. Still in the beginning of November, when circumstances in Vadász Street became almost unbearable, Dr. Rezső Mezei decided that the place was not secure enough for him and his family any longer, and wanted to open another subordinate office, and received the permission of the Embassy to do so. Mezei had been an officer of a bank and got into Vadász Street only as a friend of Arthur Weiss. His only merit was that his great loquacity saved the situation when men of the Arrow Cross attacked us the 17th of October. This is why the 15th of November the office in Wekerle Sándor Street opened, where the so-called “elite”, that is, the capitalists lived in apparent security. It is part of Mezei’s story that he managed to save around 500 people living there. Although the office in Wekerle Sándor Street had no extraterritorial status he succeeded by using money and his suspicious connections. The 23rd of November, 5’o clock in the morning, gendarmes woke us up in Vadász Street. Arthur Weiss, who went through obvious changes under the heavy responsibilities he had, reacted in the most spirited way. I witnessed when he told the head of the gendarmes, a lieutenant, the following: "You’d better clear the house of the gendarmes in three minutes, otherwise unforeseeable consequences would follow this atrocity, since gendarmes seriously offended the rights of extraterritoriality." As a result gendarmes indeed left the house without proceeding with their search for weapons. After this event the 2,500-2,700 inhabitants of the house in Vadász Street enjoyed relative tranquillity if one disregards the identity checks done by detectives at the gate of the house for days on, or those masses that were arrested by the Arrow Cross, while waiting in front of the house to apply for a Schutzpass. Cellars, attics, and stores were all full of people. As a result sanitation got worse day after day, lice started to spread, therefore we needed to move a part of the people into the neighbouring headquarter of the Hungarian Football Association. We resolved this question by breaking through the wall between the two buildings, blocking the gate of the building of the Football Association opening to Vadász Street, hence, the two buildings looked as if they were one, and the Arrow Cross did never learn who stayed in the building of the Football Association. Until the 31st of December – although it was not possible to perform work regularly any more – we provided the food supplies of the protected houses from Vadász Street. We set up a hospital in Tátra Street, and we provided it medicine and lint. We were waiting and waiting for the liberation. December the 31st, around 2:30 pm, we heard gunfire from the direction of the courtyard. First we thought this came from airplanes that had machineguns on board but we realise this was untrue when we heard swears against Jews and obscene words coming from the street. As it turned out, 9 young Arrow Cross men broke in through the gates leading to the courtyard. Led by “brother” Balog they first fired a serious of shots into the cellar which was used as an air-raid shelter, where there were around 1,000 of us in dark. They also threw a grenade into the same cellar, and another one into the courtyard where the latrines were, which were naturally always surrounded by a great number of people. They broke into the house and forced some 1,500 people to get out to the street. They did not find however either the correctly disguised entry of the so-called Somér cellar or the entry of the Mizrahi attic or the entry of the Football Association. During this time Arthur Weisz, having bronchitis lay in bed in the flat of his parents, where he was continuously on the phone, calling Szabadság Square, city military headquarters, the headquarters of the police, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We called the same organisations from the so-called council hall, where the Arrow Cross men entered only at the end. By this time, I already had a document certifying our extraterritorial rights signed by a German commanding general. In the garage of the Glass House there was a guard made up of officer candidates with high school degree who took part in the resistance movement because this was the place where the cars of the Romanian Department of the Swiss Embassy were parked. However, I have to say that neither this guard nor the police patrolling in front of the building hindered the break-in of the Arrow Cross to the slightest extent. We were staying there in the street and knew our way would lead directly into the Danube. Now, Arthur Weisz showed the most remarkable example of courageous behaviour. Although his wife, his son, and his two old parents were also in the street, he did not get frightened even for a second, and while he had a gun pushed against his chest he told them to calm down and forcefully that the building belonged to the Swiss Embassy, and these people were officers and their relatives protected by the Swiss state, and if they treated us like that Hungarian citizens would be treated the same way in Switzerland. Here I have to stop for a minute to explain that regarding the protected houses we made contacts with two members of the Arrow Cross called Medgyesi and Bodor, furthermore with police chief Tarpataky, who made some concessions to the protected houses in return for bribery. Bodor was in particular benign with us. When he was informed about the atrocity of the Arrow Cross, he came to our place immediately and started walking up and down in front of our lines with an automatic machinegun, ensuring us that nothing bad would happen. In fact, backing arrived and we could return to the house. The Arrow Cross shooting led to the death of four (Mrs Vilmos Scheiber, Jónás Fenákel, Ármin Schwartz) and seriously injured many. The next after, around 1:30 pm the well known “brother” Balog appeared, who showed us at the gate an order, which obliged 29 Vadász Street to hand over food supply for 50 people for three days. Arthur Weisz called Miklós Krausz, who told him to give them the desired goods. We gave them 50 loaves, 35 cans, and 7 bottles of wine. I was standing at the gate, Balog remained outside, and next to me there was Arthur Weisz. All of a sudden Lieutenant László Fábry turned up, who was the head of the so-called VÁP-team in charge of protecting Wekerle Sándor Street and Vadász Street and started to talk with Arthur Weisz. I do not know what it was about as I was engaged in counting the loaves and the cans. What attracted my attention was Fábry telling Arthur Weisz: "Take it easy and come with me Sir Weiss", to what I reacted in Hebrew telling Arthur Weisz not to go. He made a gesture in an offhand manner. Fábry then put Arthur Weiss in his car, while Balog left in the opposite direction. He came back in 10 minutes claiming that Arthur Weiss would be back by 5 pm giving his word of honour as an officer of the army. As we found out later, he gave Weiss to Balog who took him to 14 Városház Street and from there presumably into the Danube. When Fábry went to fetch him in Városház Street, as he claimed to have done, he was told that Arthur Weiss had been already let go. This increased panic in Vadász Street day by day, which culminated after two days only to fade away completely when the new anxieties of the siege took its place. Further on, the Arrow Cross came to us maybe two other times to fetch food, but started shouting already at the gate that no Jews would be hurt, they only wanted to get food. Naturally, we showed no reluctance as we did not want to get hurt. The 6th of January, in the afternoon, Jenő Fränkl sent a courier out for some reason, whose identity was checked by the detective of the Arrow Cross Pálóczy, once an actor, in front of the house. During the identity check the boy was shouting that he just came out of the building of Vadász Street, that he was a courier. In this minute the car of the Embassy stopped and officers Andor Gedeon and Tibor Szemere jumped out. Comrade Szimcha Hunwald, whose pseudonym as an officer of the Embassy was János Kühne stayed in the car. Gedeon entered the gate, the same second Szemere noticed that the courier was running towards the Embassy. There was a shot and the cry “I am shot”, and the boy fell in the arms of Szemere. The detective of the Arrow Cross was already at the car – the driver could just get out in time – and took Kühne and Szemere with himself to the police headquarters, and handed them over to the Germans, who put them into the cellar of the royal palace. Thanks to his language knowledge Tibor Szemere was occupied as a translator and got freed when the castle was liberated after 40 days of jail, while Szimcha Hunwald was shot in the basement of the Ministry of Interior. Naturally, this case generated panic again in Vadász Street, but there were no more Arrow Cross atrocities in the house or in the street in the last twelve days until the liberation. There was one exception when Iván Dénes courier was shot during the service he did for the protected houses.