Jerusalem Working Group
for Recognition of Major Jewish Rescuers during the Shoah
POB 23718 Jerusalem 91236


Switzerland Awakens


Background: Bratislava, Slovakia (Pozsony, Pressburg)

Daily deportation of 12,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944. Shortly thereafter a desperate Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl of the Bratislava Working Group - co-headed by Mrs Gizi Fleishmann -(background portraits) sent copies of two atrocity reports to all Jewish factions in Switzerland and other countries. One report, the detailed "Auschwitz Report" (written by the Working Group), was based on testimony of two escapees from Auschwitz (Wetzler and Rosenberg, later called Vrba) and included Rabbi Weissmandlís plea for the Allies to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz and the crematoria. The Working Group had extremely high impact on rescue since its formation in 1942.


Foreground: War time Switzerland

Little was done until George Mantello (Mandl Gyuri) Jewish First Secretary of the Salvadoran Consulate in Switzerland, obtained the "Auschwitz Report" via Budapest from Romanian diplomat Florian Manoliu. With the help of Swiss Pastor Paul Vogt (to left of Mantello) he immediately initiated an extraordinary dual Swiss press and church campaign supported by Swiss newspapers which ignored strict Swiss censorship rules. There were about 440 articles in 120 papers. Large number of Swiss churches held sermons on the same theme.

This critical Swiss publicity about the atrocities quickly evoked the first major public response by leaders of the free world, such as Pope Pius XI, President Roosevelt (via Cordell Hull), Churchill (via Anthony Eden), and the King of Sweden. By July 7, 1944 this pressured Hungaryís Regent Admiral Horthy, who had cooperated with the Nazi deportations, into halting the deportations. Due to international threats Horthy also sent Eichmann back to Germany.

The Swiss government had a cruel and bureaucratic attitude to the fate of Jews, however after the Mantello initiated publicity campaign many among the Swiss people as well as university students, members of labor unions and womenís leagues staged street demonstrations in Swiss cities. Due to this pressure finally the Swiss government and the Red Cross went into action in Budapest. Despite Eichmannís renewed attempts to deport the Jews Raoul Wallenberg, Carl Lutz and the other neutral diplomats were able to rescue an estimated 140,000 Jews in Budapest.


The Budapest Jewish youth rescue underground had a significant role in this.


Painting created for International Rescuer Day 2006

Hanalisa Omer
Rechov HaNerd 32a, Jerusalem 96626
Tel: (02) 643-2120 and (052) 305-6505


The Jerusalem Working Group White Paper  provides additional historic background

Jun 24, 2006