Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Ben Zion and Clara Colb Collection

by Michael Dorf

Last week was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Accordingly, this seems like a fitting time to announce that an important historical document thought to have been lost has been recovered. I refer to the so-called "Auschwitz Protocols," also known as the Vrba-Wetzler report--drawings, maps, and detailed descriptions of the camp's operations created by two men who escaped from Auschwitz and passed on their information to a resistance and rescue network that in turn sought to publicize the details of the Final Solution in order to induce the Allied Powers to end it. The original version was written in Slovak and was generally thought, as the Wikipedia page says, "not preserved."

But it was. My brother-in-law, Dr. A. Mark Colb, safeguarded it among the papers of his late father, Ben Zion Colb, who would have been my father-in-law had he lived longer. I was lucky enough to know his widow, my mother-in-law Clara Colb, for nearly 20 years.

How did an original Slovak version of the Vrba-Wetzler report come to be in Ben Zion's possession? Ben Zion was a key figure in an effort of European Jews to rescue as many of their fellow Jews from the Nazis as possible. At great risk to himself, he smuggled over a thousand Jews (many of them children) over the border from Nazi-occupied lands. Below is a short video promoting a collection and projected exhibit at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum that will tell his story. (If you are viewing on a device or in a format that does not support embedded video, you can simply click here.)


David Ricardo said...


Although nothing can ever remove the horrific stain of Auschwitz and the other atrocities from the fabric of history, stories like this can ameliorate the pain.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Joe said...

Trivially, this was well placed since I'm reading this book:


More seriously, thanks for that special bit of history. Your wife has in some of her writing touched upon her family history.

But, I didn't know about this.

John Q. Barrett said...

Thank you, Colb family, for this contribution to vital history, teaching and inspiration.

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