On 18 June 1944, Swiss media outlets began a worldwide press campaign publicizing the Vrba-Wetzler report by Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp survivors Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzle. The document provided an overview of the systematic genocide at the camp, with the hope of preventing further deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz.
In April 1944, Vrba and Wetzler successfully escaped the infamous extermination camp at Auschwitz, fleeing to Slovakia where they contacted Erwin Steiner. At Steiner's home they gave detailed testimony about how the camp worked, the number of Jews who had already been killed, and the Germans’ plans to deport and exterminate 800,000 Jews of Hungary and 3,000 Czech Jews who had been transferred to Auschwitz six months earlier. With Steiner’s assistance, the pair wrote their report, which provided rare eyewitness details previously known only to Nazis or to prisoners - including sketches and information about the layout of the gas chambers - and which would be one of the first documents to estimate the death toll in the camp.
In late May, two more Jews, Czeslaw Mordowicz and Arnost Rosin, also escaped Auschwitz and subsequently added new information about Auschwitz to the initial report. The news reached the US State Department on June 16, while the BBC broadcast parts of the report on June 18.
While the Nazi atrocities against European Jews and other groups deemed unworthy was reported by 1943, the report marked a turning point, as it provided Allied forces increasingly explicit information about the process of mass murder at the death camp. At roughly the same time, between late April and early July 1944, approximately 426,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz, where approximately 320,000 of them were sent directly to the gas chambers by SS forces.
The Vrba–Wetzler report is sometimes referred to as the Auschwitz Protocols, although the Protocols incorporated information from two other documents. The report was published in full in English in November 1944 by the United States War Refugee Board.
On 27 January 1945, the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp located in Oświęcim, Nazi-occupied Poland, freeing about 7,000 prisoners. The liberation took place as World War II was coming to an end, as it seemed inevitable that Nazi Germany would be defeated.
It is estimated that at least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of those, at least 1.1 million were murdered, including approximately one million Jews, approximately 74,000 Poles, approximately 21,000 Roma and approximately 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war.