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1944: Desperate Acts
 pg. 505 
    After tremendous research, Holocaust scholar Danuta Czech compiled Auschwitz Chronicle 1939-1945. Her 855-page book documents in overwhelming detail the destruction of more than one million men, women, and children--90 percent of them Jews--who were killed at the infamous death camp.

Czech's entry for May 24, 1944, refers to 2000 Jewish prisoners who were deported to Auschwitz from Hungary. They received individual identification numbers: A-5729 through A-7728. One of those numbers--A-7713--was tattooed on the left arm of a Jewish teenager from Sighet, a Romanian town of 26,000 people that came under Hungarian control in 1940. That boy, Elie Wiesel, survived Auschwitz, became an important writer, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. "At Auschwitz," Wiesel has said, "not only man died, but also the idea of man....It was its own heart the world incinerated at Auschwitz."

Wiesel is the author of Night, one of the two most widely read books about the Holocaust. Recalling the horrific months he spent in Auschwitz during 1944, the memoir states that Wiesel and his father, mother, and little sister, Tzipora, were deported from Sighet on a Sunday. Their train was one of four that sent Sighet's Jews to Auschwitz from May 16 to May 22. The Sighet transports were part of a massive deportation of Jews from Hungary, whose large Jewish population, 725,000 as of 1941, had been spared the worst of the Holocaust's devastation.

The situation changed drastically on March 19, when German forces occupied Hungary to prevent their faltering collaborators from negotiating an armistice with the Allies. More than 60,000 Jews living in Hungary had been killed before the German occupation.

Adolf Eichmann supervised the onslaught. In a few weeks, with time running against the Nazis as their military effort on the Eastern Front deteriorated, all of Hungary's Jews except those in Budapest were ghettoized. Their property was expropriated and deportations were under way. From May 15 to July 9, more than 140 trains carried 437,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. The vast majority, including Wiesel's mother and little sister, were gassed

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An Auschwitz prisoner lies beside the electrified barbed-wire fence that ended his life.
Photo: Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes in Poland / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

1944: Desperate Acts
 pg. 505 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.