The Deportation of the Hungarian Jews


The woman in the foreground is Geza Lajtbs from Budapest

The photo above, taken at Auschwitz on May 26, 1944, shows the selection process which took place immediately after the Hungarian Jews got off the train inside the Birkenau camp. The men and women had to line up in two separate lines to be examined by an SS officer who decided who would live and who would be sent immediately to the gas chamber. Note the yellow stars which the Hungarian Jews had been forced to wear on their coats.

Two transport trains inside the Birkenau camp, May 1944

The photo above shows two trains inside the Birkenau camp. At the end of the tracks on the right side is Crematorium No. 3, called Krema III, where Jews were killed in a gas chamber. The train on the left has brought Jews up to the Krema II gas chamber on the left side of the tracks at the western end of the camp.

The Auschwitz II camp, also known as Birkenau, had enough barracks to accommodate 200,000 prisoners and another section, called Mexico by the prisoners, was under construction. When finished, the new section would have provided housing for 50,000 more prisoners.

According to Daniel Goldhagen, the author of the best-selling book entitled "Hitler's Willing Executioners," the Nazis were in a frenzy to complete the genocide of the Jews before the end of the war. Even though they were desperate for workers in their munitions factories, it was more important to the Nazis to carry out the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, according to Goldhagen who wrote the following:

Finally, the fidelity of the Germans to their genocidal enterprise was so great as seeming to defy comprehension. Their world was disintegrating around them, yet they persisted in genocidal killing until the end.

Pictured in the photo below are members of the Pinkas and Gutmann families from Maramaros. Golda Pinkas Berkovics is pictured at the bottom right; Moshe Leib Pinkas is the child in the foreground. Behind him is Sheindele Pinkas. On the bottom left is Rivka Gutmann holding her daughter. They are waiting for their turn in the gas chambers at Birkenau, according to the Yad Vashem Museum which has the original of this photo from the Auschwitz Album.

Moshe Leib Pinkas is the child in the center

In June 1944, Adolf Eichmann deported 20,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz and then transferred them to the Strasshof labor camp near Vienna. This was an attempt to extort money from the Jewish community in Hungary, according to Laurence Rees who wrote in his book "Auschwitz, a New History," that Eichmann convinced the Jewish leaders that he was going against orders in making an exception for these Jews and then demanded money for food and medical care because he had saved 20,000 Jews from the gas chambers at Auschwitz. David Cesarani wrote in "The Last Days," that Jewish leader Rudolf Kastner was able to prod Eichmann into sending these Jews to Austria where three quarters of them survived the war.

The last mass transport of 14,491 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz arrived on July 9, 1944, according to a book entitled "Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz," by Franciszek Piper, the director of the Auschwitz Museum. After this mass transport of Jews left Hungary on July 8, 1944, Horthy ordered the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to stop.

By that time, a minimum of 435,000 Hungarian Jews, mostly those living in the villages and small towns, had been transported to Auschwitz, according to evidence given at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961 in which transportation lists compiled by Laszlo Ferenczy, the chief of police in Hungary, were introduced.

Hungarian Jews walk toward the gas chambers in Krema IV and Krema V

On July 14, 1944, Adolf Eichmann attempted to deport another 1,500 Jews, but Horthy ordered the train to turn around before it could make it past the Hungarian border. On July 19th, Eichmann ordered the 1,500 Jews to be loaded onto the train again and rushed out of the country.

On August 13, 1944, a small transport of 131 Jews arrived from Hungary at Auschwitz and on August 18, 1944, the last transport of 152 Jews arrived.

In a telegram sent to the Foreign Office in Berlin on July 11, 1944 by Edmund Veesenmayer, it was reported that 55,741 Jews had been deported from Zone V by July 9th, as planned, and that the total number of Jews deported from Zones I through V in Hungary was 437,402

In a book entitled "The World Must Know," which is the official book for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Michael Birnbaum wrote:

Between May 14 and July 8, 1944, 437,402 Jews from fifty-five Hungarian localities were deported to Auschwitz in 147 trains. Most were gassed at Birkenau soon after they arrived. The railroad system was stretched to its limits to keep up with the demand of the camp, where as many as 12,000 people a day were being gassed.

Robert E. Conot wrote in his book "Justice at Nuremberg" that 330,000 of the Hungarian Jews were sent directly to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust puts the total number of Hungarian Jews who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau between May and July 1944 at approximately 550,000, the majority of whom were gassed. Raul Hilberg stated in his book entitled "The Destruction of the European Jews" that over 180,000 Hungarian Jews died at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

According to Francizek Piper, the majority of the Hungarian Jews, who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, were gassed immediately. A booklet purchased from the Auschwitz Museum stated that 434,351 of the Hungarian Jews were gassed upon arrival. If these figures are correct, only 3,051 Hungarian Jews, out of the 437,402 who were sent to Auschwitz, were registered in the camp. However, Francizek Piper wrote that 28,000 Hungarian Jews were registered.

Hungarian men including two doctors with arm bands

Some of the same men after a shower and a change of clothes

The web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum confirms that over 100,000 Hungarian Jews were used for labor, as agreed upon by Hitler and Horthy on March 18, 1944, and that some of them were transferred to other camps within weeks of their arrival.

The following quote is from the USHMM web site:

Between late April and early July 1944, approximately 440,000 Hungarian Jews were deported, around 426,000 of them to Auschwitz. The SS sent approximately 320,000 of them directly to the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau and deployed approximately 110,000 at forced labor in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. The SS authorities transferred many of these Hungarian Jewish forced laborers within weeks of their arrival in Auschwitz to other concentration camps in Germany and Austria.

If only 28,000 Hungarian Jews were registered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, as stated by Franciszek Piper, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, this means that thousands were transferred from Auschwitz to labor camps without being registered.

According to records kept by the Germans at the Dachau concentration camp, between June 18, 1944 and March 9, 1945, a total of 28,838 Hungarian Jews were sent from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Dachau and then transferred to Landsberg am Lech to work on construction of underground factories in the eleven Kaufering subcamps of Dachau.

Nerin E. Gun was a Turkish journalist who was imprisoned at Dachau in 1944; his job was to take down the names and vital information from Hungarian Jewish women who were on their way to be gassed in the fake shower room in the Dachau crematorium.

In his book entitled "The Day of the Americans," published in 1966, Gun wrote the following regarding his work at Dachau:

I belonged to the team of prisoners in charge of sorting the pitiful herds of Hungarian Jewesses who were being directed to the gas chambers. My role was an insignificant one: I asked questions in Hungarian and entered the answers in German in a huge ledger. The administration of the camp was meticulous. It wanted a record of the name, address, weight, age, profession, school certificates, and so on, of all these women who in a few minutes were to be turned into corpses. I was not allowed in the crematorium, but I knew from the others what went on in there.

Some of the Jews who were selected for slave labor were sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria and its subcamps where they worked in German aircraft factories.

Others were sent to the Stutthof camp near Danzig, according to Martin Gilbert, who wrote the following in his book entitled "Holocaust":

On June 17 Veesenmayer telegraphed to Berlin that 340,142 Hungarian Jews had now been deported. A few were relatively fortunate to be selected for the barracks, or even moved out altogether to factories and camps in Germany. On June 19 some 500 Jews, and on June 22 a thousand, were sent to work in factories in the Munich area. [...] Ten days later, the first Jews, 2500 women, were deported from Birkenau to Stutthof concentration camp. From Stutthof, they were sent to several hundred factories in the Baltic region. But most Jews sent to Birkenau continued to be gassed.

According to the Museum at the former Theresienstadt ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic, there were 1,150 Hungarian Jews sent to Theresienstadt and 1,138 of them were still there on May 9, 1945. Other prominent Jews that were sent to Theresienstadt were transferred to Auschwitz in October 1944, including the famous psychiatrist Victor Frankl from Austria, who was not registered in Auschwitz, but was transferred again, after three days in the Birkenau camp, to Dachau and then sent to the Kaufering III sub-camp.

The Jews who were neither gassed nor registered at Auschwitz upon arrival, but instead were transferred to a labor camp, were called Durchgangsjuden because they were held in a transit camp in the Mexico section of the Birkenau camp for a short time.

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Rudolf Höss and the Hungarian Jews


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This page was last updated on June 25, 2008