Photographic Exhibition of the Jews of Hungary at Birkenau
Photographic Exhibition of the Jews of Hungary at Birkenau
The last days of the Jews
of Carpathian Ruthenia
Jews from Carpathio Ruthenia waiting in Birkenau’s Birch Forest before they are gassed. They will have had nothing to drink for the 2-3 days of the journey
The selection by SS doctors, notably SS Dr Mengele at Birkenau
These Jews, from Carpathian
Ruthenia, which Hungary seized in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939,
were deported from May 15th 1944 onwards. Despite being fully aware of the extermination
of the Hungarian Jews, the last major Jewish community in Europe, the Zionist leadership
in Palestine, chose not to publicise what was happening or the Auschwitz
Protocols which gave specific details of Auschwitz and the extermination of European
The deportations were
halted on July 7th because of pressure from the neutral European states,
Switzerland and Sweden and the threat of retribution, following the heavy
bombing of Budapest on July 2nd,
from Roosevelt. Although criticisms have
often been made about the role of the Catholic Church, sometimes justified, and
its refusal to speak out, its role in preventing the deportations of the final quarter
of a million of Hungary’s Jews was infinitely superior to that of the Zionist
leaders and the Jewish Agency who did absolutely nothing. Pope Pius XII repeatedly sent telegrams and
placed pressure, both directly and via the Papal Nuncio in Hungary, Angelo
Rotta, on Hungarian ruler Admiral Horthy to put an end to the deportations.
Jewish children going to the gas chamber (Carbon Monoxide at Chelmno – the first death camp)
When the Swiss press
publicised the Hungarian holocaust and the BBC followed up, the mood changed in
the Nazi imposed Hungary government against the deportations, which were never
Jews have just got off the cattle wagons at the back
Photos offer unique glimpse at arrival of Subcarpathian Rus residents at
Auschwitz in 1944
A new exhibition will features copies of all of the
almost 200 photographs from the Auschwitz Album, a unique document from 1944.
Although most of the people in the photographs are citizens of pre-war
Czechoslovakia from Carpathian Ruthenia, this album has not previously been
shown in the Czech Republic.
On the ramp at Birkenau – a new rail spur had been recently built for the Hungarian Jews
The Auschwitz Album
When: May 19–Sept 20; Tue–Sun 10 a.m.–6
p.m., Thu 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Where: House of Photography
Revoluční 1006/5, Prague 1
The exhibition also describes how the album was created,
how it was found by the Auschwitz survivor Lili Jacob and what happened to it
after the war. A major role in its post-war fate was played by the Czech
capital city and the Jewish Museum in Prague, where in 1947 copies were made of
the photographs in the album. The original album was donated to Yad
Vashem in 1980, according to exhibit curator Martin Jelínek.
Thousands of shoes from Hungarian Jews
The exhibition also presents previously unpublished
findings about the album and about Lily Jacob. Above all, it draws attention to
the fact that although the album is usually talked about in connection with the
transports of Hungarian Jews, the photographs actually depict citizens of
Lili Jacob, who found the album in the Mittelbau-Dora
concentration camp after the liberation, was a Czechoslovak citizen, spoke
Czech fluently and lived in what was then Czechoslovakia for three years after
The money that she received in 1947 from the then State
Jewish Museum – for allowing it to make copies of images from the album –
enabled her to move with her husband and first-born daughter to the United
States in 1948, where they began a new life.
The Auschwitz Album also played an important role as
supporting evidence in war crime trials in Germany and Israel.
The exhibition is being held to mark the 70th
anniversary of the end of World War II.
Jews in Budapests Jewish Ghetoo
The Auschwitz Album the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in
the spring of 1944. Apart from an album that shows the camp being built in
1942–43 and three photographs that were taken secretly by inmates, there is no
other authentic pictorial document that captures life in Auschwitz.
Historians consider the Auschwitz Album to be one of the
most important testimonies on the fate of the millions who were murdered.
Without the Auschwitz Album we would have to rely solely on the reminiscences
and accounts of survivors, Jelínek stated.
The Auschwitz Album documents the arrival, selection and
processing of the so-called “Hungarian Transports” that came to
Auschwitz-Birkenau at the end of May or the start of June 1944. According to
some sources, the photographs were taken on a single day; according to others,
over a period of several weeks. Many of the trains came from Berehove,
Mukachevo and Uzhhorod in Carpathian Ruthenia, a former part of Czechoslovakia
that was ceded to Hungary in November 1938, just as the Sudetenland had been
ceded to Germany under the Munich Agreement.
The rest of Carpathian Ruthenia was annexed by Hungary
on 18 March 1939, three days after the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by the
German army. As is evident from the recorded testimonies of survivors, many of
the deportees in the photographs spoke Yiddish at home. Nonetheless, they
considered themselves to be Czechoslovak.
Unlike the previous deportation trains, the Hungarian
transports arriving at Auschwitz went directly into the Birkenau camp – on a
newly built track that was completed in May 1944. The railway track was
extended in order to speed up the selection process, so that the prisoners
could be quickly divided into those capable of work and those to be
exterminated immediately, and to make the sorting of their belongings more
effective. Most of those deemed fit to work were soon taken to forced labor
camps in the German Reich, so that they could be used by the German military
industry, which was at risk of air raids. The others – mostly the elderly and
women with children – were immediately sent to the gas chambers upon arrival.
Carpathio Ruthernian Jews Waiting for Selections – men on bottom left in stripes are members of the Sonderkommando who pulled the bodies out of the gas chambers and put them in the crematoria
More than a million European Jews perished at
Auschwitz-Birkenau, including at least 75,000 from Carpathian Ruthenia. More
than a quarter of a million Jews from the former Czechoslovakia were murdered
by the Nazis.