The War Refugee Board and the destruction of Hungarian Jewry / by Dorottya Halasz.
On January 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board as a rescue and relief agency to aid the oppressed people of Europe, including the Jews. At the time, Hitler's fury had not yet reached the Hungarian Jewry, which featured as the largest surviving Jewish community on the war-torn continent. Although, by the end of 1945, two-thirds of the Hungarians, more than half a million souls, had perished, the remnant still constituted the largest Jewish bloc in post-war Europe. The new American organization was instrumental in preventing the community's total annihilation. On March 19, 1944, German troops occupied Hungary, and Adolf Eichmann, the “expert” on how to solve the Jewish question, instantly set in motion his machinery of destruction against the country's Jewish population. Because of its inexperience and the sudden turn of events—Hungary had been a haven for Jewish refugees until recently—the WRB could not adequately deal with the problem during the first phase of the Hungarian crisis between March and July 1944. Subsequently, more than 400,000 persons were deported to the Reich between May 15 and July 8, most of whom met instant death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Yet, during the same period, the WRB devised and started to use the procedures, both legal and illegal, that ultimately saved the remnant of Hungarian Jewry. These included psychological warfare, cooperation with neutral governments and international and American private agencies, the use of foreign protection documents as well as participation in the underground rescue of Hungarians and in ransom talks. These endeavors brought success between July 1944 and January 1945, the second phase of the Hungarian holocaust. In the end, the WRB frustrated Hitler's plan to destroy completely the Hungarian Jewish community.
Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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