Get £5 off on orders over £50 - Use Coupon 'Nifty Fifty'

Rudolf Vrba – Escapee from Auschwitz

Rudolf Vrba – Escapee from Auschwitz

Rudolf Vrba, born as Walter Rosenberg, was a Slovak-Jewish Holocaust survivor and one of the few individuals who escaped from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II. His daring escape, along with his subsequent testimony and reports about the atrocities being committed in the Nazi concentration camps, played a significant role in raising awareness about the Holocaust and ultimately saving lives.

Rudolf Vrba was born on September 11, 1924, in Topoľčany, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). He grew up in a middle-class Jewish family and received a well-rounded education. However, his life took a dark turn when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939 and implemented anti-Semitic laws that stripped Jewish people of their rights and freedoms.

In 1942, at the age of 18, Vrba and his family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. Upon arrival, Vrba’s parents and younger sister were sent to the gas chambers and murdered. Vrba, however, was selected for forced labor and given prisoner number 44070.

Despite the horrific conditions and constant threat of death, Vrba became determined to resist the Nazis and find a way to escape. In April 1944, along with his friend Alfred Wetzler, Vrba managed to slip out of the camp by hiding in a woodpile that was being transported outside of Auschwitz. They crawled through a hole in the fence and made their way to Slovakia.

After their escape, Vrba and Wetzler wrote a detailed report known as the “Auschwitz Protocols” or the “Vrba-Wetzler report,” which provided crucial information about the mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz, including details about the gas chambers, crematoria, and the estimated number of people killed. They managed to deliver the report to the Slovak Jewish Council and the Vatican, hoping it would reach the Allies and prompt action to stop the genocide.

Their report, which was the first eyewitness account of the horrors of Auschwitz, was a crucial piece of evidence that confirmed the existence of the Holocaust, as until then, the reports of mass killings were largely dismissed as rumors. It also led to an increase in resistance efforts and helped save thousands of lives by raising awareness among the Allied powers and Jewish organizations about the reality of the Holocaust.

Vrba’s escape and his courageous act of documenting the atrocities of Auschwitz put him at great risk. The Nazis launched a manhunt for him, and he had to go into hiding to avoid capture. After several close calls, Vrba managed to make his way to liberated territory and joined the Czechoslovak army-in-exile in Great Britain, where he changed his name from Walter Rosenberg to Rudolf Vrba to avoid detection.

In Britain, Vrba continued to work tirelessly to raise awareness about the Holocaust and advocate for the rescue of Jews still under Nazi occupation. He provided intelligence to the Allies and testified at various war crimes trials, including the Nuremberg Trials. His testimony and reports were critical in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice and holding them accountable for their horrific crimes.

After the war, Vrba settled in the United Kingdom and pursued a career in academia, obtaining a degree in biochemistry from the University of London. He went on to become a respected scholar and published numerous scientific papers. However, he remained committed to Holocaust education and continued to speak about his experiences and share his testimony to ensure that the atrocities of the Holocaust were never forgotten.

Rudolf Vrba’s unwavering courage, determination, and resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors are a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz II-Birkenau - May/June 1944
Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz II-Birkenau - May/June 1944


– The White Rose Movement (Article about German student resistance movement)

Timeline of World War II (Article with detailed timeline of WW II)

The Katyn Massacre 1940 (Article about massacre of Polish citizens by Soviet forces)



World War II Collection (World War II themed merch from High Speed History)


High Speed History

The History Store

Your cart is empty.